Good thing animals can’t read (or can they?) because there’s a legal definition in Florida’s statutes that would certainly hurt their feelings. According to Florida Statute 828.27, an ordinance on animal cruelty, the term “animal” refers to “any living dumb creature.”
Calling any creature dumb, Homo sapien or not, doesn’t seem very nice. New Times reached out to PETA to hear its take on this contentious definition.
“Florida is not the only state that defines an animal as ‘any living dumb creature’,” Brittany Peet from PETA explains. “And by dumb, they’re not actually referring to intelligence.”
It turns out “dumb” has many definitions. One is “lacking intelligence." Another is “lacking the power of speech.” PETA says animals are not dumb according to either of those definitions.
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According to PETA, defining animals as “dumb” goes back to the 1800s. There was an animal welfare organization in England called the Dumb Friends League. The England organization, however, changed its name to the Blue Cross. Today, there is the Dumb Friends League based out of Denver that opened an outpost in Quebec. It’s one of the largest independent, nonprofit, community-based animal shelter/human societies in the country. The organization likes the history and has embraced its name. Its mission is to “speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
But according to PETA, animals can speak. Peet points to Titi monkeys that communicate through a predator call, dolphins and their distinct whistles, gorillas and their sign language, and elephants with their own vocabularies.
“They all can communicate amongst one another,” Peet says. “Just because humans can’t understand it doesn’t mean they don’t communicate. So referring to animals as dumb — as in lacking the power of speech — is actually not accurate. At PETA, we're not speciesist.”
The definition of speciesism? The belief that humans are superior to other animals, used as a justification for any kind of discrimination against nonhuman animal species.