After they heard that the latest translation of the New International Version of the Bible will now use gender-inclusive language such as "he or she" instead of just "he", PETA saw an opportunity to change one other thing. The organization has petitioned the Committee on Bible Translation to suggest that its next translation remove "speciesist" language, by referring to animals as "he or she" instead of "it." “When the Bible moves toward inclusively in one area...it wasn’t much of a stretch to suggest they move toward inclusively in this area. Language matters. Calling an animal 'it' denies them something. They are beloved by God. They glorify God," Bruce Friedrich, PETA's vice president for policy, told CNN.
PETA said it hopes the switch to include more gender-inclusive language will spark translators to readdress the ways animals are referred to in the Bible. "Updating the Bible's language regarding animals would not only reflect modern writing trends but also reinforce the idea that animals are living beings valued by God, not inanimate objects. Jesus taught us the importance of mercy and compassion, and this update would encourage mercy and compassion for all God's creatures—including those who have feathers, fins, and fur," Friedrich wrote.
But David Berger, the dean of Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel graduate school of Jewish studies, said shifting the language would be difficult, given the original Hebrew: "In Hebrew all nouns are gender-specific. So the noun for chair is masculine and the noun for earth is feminine. There’s simply no such thing as a neutral noun. It’s unusual to have a noun that would indicate the sex of the animal."
David Lyle Jeffrey, a professor at Baylor University who teaches about ancient texts and the Bible's relationship to literature and the arts, sympathizes with PETA, but isn't sure if it would be true to the text: "When you get to the point when you say, 'Don’t say it, say he or she' when the text doesn’t, you’re both screwing up the text and missing the main point you addressed."