"There is no disease or condition of companion animals that takes more of their lives than euthanasia."
-Janet M. Scarlett, DVM, MPH, PhD, Professor of Epidemology at Cornell University, Director of Maddie's Fund Shelter Medicine Program
This quote has been floating around the 'net today, and I find it disturbing. Dr. Scarlett has a very impressive resume and seems to have spent a great and admirable portion of her career working to end the deaths of animals in shelters - certainly Maddie's Fund has been extremely important and influential in that respect. Assuming the quote is accurate, however, it's an exercise in defeatism.
Dr. Scarlett does not seem to be referring to euthanasia here, she is referring to shelter killing. Euthanasia is a term co-opted by apologists for shelter killing to make it seem more palatable to the general public - necessary and noble, even. It is language used to make the slaughter of innocents seem like a good and positive thing.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, euthanasia is defined as "the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy". Killing for space is not euthanasia. Killing because no one has adopted an animal in a predetermined length of time is not euthanasia. Killing because an animal has an easily treated disease, like kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection is not euthanasia. Killing for old age or minor behavioral issues is not euthanasia.
Dr. Scarlett has even written articles for an audience of fellow veterinariansdecrying the number of animals killed in shelters and asking for their help to try to reduce it as much as possible; but isn't a good first step towards that goal to stop using a term popularized in order to make the killing of animals more acceptable to the general public and calling killing what it is?
Language is important. If you want to make the point that the needless death of animals is, in fact, a bad thing, can we all stop using language designed to make it seem like a good thing?