A quick excerpt (she's talking about her experience at a recent animal rights conference):
Which brings me to language. We, in the animal protection movement, still struggle with this issue. It pained me to hear otherwise enlightened animal activists refer to dogs, pigs, cats and other animals as "its" and "whats". They are not objects. We should call them "he", "she", "who" and never ever "it".Amen! I am behind this sentiment 1,000%. How can we, as a society, begin to bring the issue of animals' sentience and inherent worth to the forefront, while still referring to these complex beings as 'its'?
Personally, I have been using 'he,' 'she,' and 'they' for years now when referring to animals, and to be honest, it sounds totally wrong to me now when I hear someone do otherwise.
I encourage you to read Marji's entire post here.