Home » animal rights » “FOXY” said the sheep: the power of language

“FOXY” said the sheep: the power of language




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Emy Will

Emy Will

Greetings from Johannesburg, South Africa. Although I have a doctorate in psychotherapy, my main passion is advocating for nonhuman animal rights. I condemn all cruelty to nonhuman animals and therefore follow a vegan lifestyle. I would like to connect with other animal activists from all over the world. The fur trade is one of the most abhorrent practices on this planet. Innocent animals are subjected to prolonged suffering for a trivial fashion item. As the chairperson of Fur Free SA. we campaign towards ending the global fur industry. This might not happen in my lifetime, but even if I leave one footprint behind, that is one step closer to the goal. This blog is a forum to discuss all aspects of the fur industry. It also raises issues around animal activism in general. Johannesburg is a crazy city and I need to escape from time to time. This photo was taken next to the magnificent Zambezi river.

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AN APOLOGY FOR THE ANTI- SHEEP LANGUAGE IN MY LAST POST (i.e.sheepish).  According to vocabulary. com, sheep aren’t the smartest most confident creatures. They are meek and docile and always clustering together as  if they’re ashamed to be alone. When you’re sheepish you’re like a sheep – embarrassed or bashful, esp. for having done something wrong or foolish.

There are, however, different opinions. Professor Jenny Morton, a neuroscientist at University of Cambridge, claims that sheep have been greatly undervalued for their intelligence. See link below
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8335465/Sheep- are-far-smarter-than-previously-thought.hs

According to PeTA “sheep are gentle individuals who, like all animals, feel pain, fear, and loneliness. But because there is a market for their fleece and skins, they are treated as nothing more than wool-producing machines”(link below). Not to mention the meat market!       http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/wool-industry.aspx                                                                                                    Peta 


Given that I live in one of the most aggressive cities in the world, I think MEEK AND DOCILE ARE QUALITIES TO VALUE. Fellow Jo’burgers, imagine a meek taxi driver! Well that is in the same category as “if pigs could fly” or “ if fish could ride bicycles“.  Furthermore, if we looked down on creatures because of their stupidity a fair chunk of the human population would qualify (my friends and family excluded:).

Well, all this rumination (couldn’t resist) about “sheepish” led me to think about the word “foxy”, which is slang for sexy. Others, too have wondered about the word foxy, as indicated by the comment, “I’m foxed by the origins of the expression ‘foxy lady’. My own explanation is that it had something to do with  furs ladies wore that made them look sexy”.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       foxy 

Not to let my learned friends get the better of me, I checked Urban dictionary. com, which states that foxy evolved  from the ancient British word Foxismonitism, meaning attractive or sexually appealing. In other words, foxy refers to women and not foxes. So where did people get the idea that wearing fur is sexy? Clearly from his advertisement below, Fischer is trying to reinforce this idea.                                                                                                faHow sexist and offensive! 

 I can only think that designers, wanting to sell fur garments have promoted this image. What do you think?

For the record, I would rather be seen dead than wearing the skin of any murdered animal, but I do realise wearing a sheepskin jacket to a cocktail party is inappropriate. But wearing a mink or fox stole is totally unacceptable. I have even pledged not to buy woolen garments anymore. PeTA explains why above.

Still on the topic of sheep and foxes. Recently while having breakfast with an acquaintance the topic of fur came up – initiated by me of course. A good way to tell who your true friends are is to constantly talk about one’s particular bugbear (hope this isn’t anti-bug or anti-bear) and see who still calls. I was totally gobsmacked (another favourite word) when this person stated that she had a fox coat and did not see it as a problem given foxes were vermin and killed farmers’ lambs. My instinct was to spit into her cappuccino when I remembered causes are won by good argument and not vulgar acts. To be honest I did not  know what to say other than farmers should fence off their properties better. Also that foxes are in fact omnivores and do eat berries etc.

How would you have argued the point?  The  link below is research published in June 2013 on this issue.


In any case 85% of furs for commercial use come from fur-farms.  The cruelty in battery-farming foxes is recognised. In 1995 the Sweden’s Animal Protection Ordinance was amended. Foxes were required to be kept in a way that allowed for natural behaviours, such as digging. This legislative change rendered fox farming economically unviable and all Swedish fox farms closed by 2000. Denmark followed suit in 2009 and banned the farming of foxes. The Coalition Against Fur Farms unfortunately has traced numerous fox farms in North America – http://www.coalitionagainstfurfarms.com/

It was the word “vermin” that really got to me. Vermin is a term commonly applied to small predators—typically because they consume resources which humans consider theirs, such as livestock and crops. It seems that by labeling animals as vermin it gives certain people the right to exterminate them.

There are some days when I have to agree with Agent Smith from the Matrix        (a Science Fiction film for those who only watch Jane Austen)

Agent Smith, It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet “.



  1. Heather Howe says:

    Sheep stick together for protection. I show a film to students called “Let’s ask the animals” produced by Bristol university and shows the emotional lives of farm animals. In one clip a lamb is taken away from its mother in the pasture. Understandably the mother begins fretting and almost immediately another female sheep comes up to her and consoles her. So sheep are able to express empathy


    • Emy Wilhelm says:

      Exactly. Its people like you Heather, who will change the attitudes of the next generation. Thank you. You are the voice for the voiceless.


  2. Chris says:

    Assuming that your friends argument about “vermin” has any merit, refer her to http://www.thefoxwebsite.org for a comprehensive rebuttal of the concept that foxes are “vermin”. Foxes are beneficial to commercial agriculture by keeping wild rabbit populations in check. Yet another example of people making assumptions about animals without checking out all the facts,


    • Emy Wilhelm says:

      That is exactly what I mean by the power of language. The word “vermin” evokes a negative response without people checking out the facts. Thanks so much for the link. It is comprehensive and answers any question people might have about foxes. I will definitely use it for my next pro-fox debate, probably with a different “friend”, as I am off that breakfast list.

      The notion of “wild rabbits” being seen as vermin is a topic for another debate;)


  3. Alana Potter says:

    Agreed! Also the term “shark attack”. Just inaccurate. See nonsensehttp://www.newscastic.com/news/scientists-urges-ap-to-not-to-use-the-term-shark-attack-774345/


    • Emy Wilhelm says:

      There are so many misconceptions about animals and so many animals are blamed for things humans provoke. Remember the film “Jaws” and how that freaked people out? I think the director of Jaws later even apologised for giving sharks a bad name?


  4. Gator Woman says:

    Thank you for your compassionate heart!


    • Emy Wilhelm says:

      Thank you Gator Woman. This work can be heartbreaking at times and it is so important to have support. Together we can make a difference.


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