Humans compare ourselves to animals in stupid ways, many of which reveal a lack of understanding for the animals and their behaviors being described. One such flawed zoomorphism that’s come into ubiquitous use in the pandemic is “herd immunity,” and it should stop.

The problem with the term “herd immunity” is that no one wants to think of themself as a member of a herd. Being associated with herds implies a lack of individual strength and resourcefulness, an eager willingness to go along with the crowd, falling in line with popular opinion, however lame and vacuous. Anyone who’s seen a herd of cattle harbors no ambitions to emulate their lifestyle. Sure, a herd of buffalo stampeding across the plains would be an intimidating and awe-inspiring sight, but then picture a sight in which a cavalry of colonizing crackers corrals that mighty herd and directs them in a frenzy to go careening off a cliff to their deaths in an act of genocide against buffalo as a species and against the indigenous peoples who rely upon them for subsistence.

Incidentally, “gang” and “obstinacy” are the preferred terms for a group of buffalo. “Gang immunity” sounds kind of cool, but confusing. And “Obstinacy immunity” is a mouthful, and sounds more like it describes a character trait for one who won’t abide stubbornness.

If we’re going to draw analogies between ourselves and animal communities, we can do better than herds.

A pride of lions. A cackle of hyenas. A band of gorillas. A conspiracy of lemurs. A murder of crows.

“Murder immunity” is a much better and more inspiring term than “herd immunity.” Plus, points for being an effective double entendre.

The best option is “pack,” as in a pack of wolves or dogs. Everyone who’s not a soulless monster loves canines and is happy to be associated with them at every opportunity. “Pack immunity” has a better ring and is far superior in imagery to “herd immunity.”

Herds trot and trudge along together, getting fat on grass and bugs, getting barked at by dogs and yelled at by ranchers, living their days in a perpetual state of blah until they’re herded onto the kill floor and slaughtered. A herd is at the mercy of the whims of others without autonomy or any say in their personal destiny.

Packs are extended family groups that hunt and travel together. They’re the adventurers of the animal kingdom. They are interdependent, each of them reliant on the actions and the well being of the others in the pack. For a pack to be strong and survive, each of its members must be strong, each must carry their own weight. If they don’t, they don’t share in the spoils and may be forced out of the pack.

The whole “lone wolf” narrative is another which is often applied inaccurately. Someone might call themself a lone wolf, thinking it sounds cool, but the fact is that a lone wolf is generally a weakling, a punk, or a castout. Either they challenged the alpha wolf or other stronger members of the pack, lost, and were left for dead, or they were too weak or sickly to keep up with the pack and were left behind.

The “lone wolf gunman” trope is bullshit too, because a lone wolf doesn’t kill a bunch of people. They don’t kill any people. A lone wolf would be lucky to find just enough rabbits and rats and trash to survive.

In human society, as regards vaccinations and other matters contributing to the general good, we should emulate the wolf pack. We should take care of ourselves and the others in our extended pack because that is how we will survive. One tweak in the analogy is that we should not “leave behind” the weak and the sick as a wolf pack might have to, because we’re not wild animals struggling for survival in harsh environments; we’re domestic animals with the ability to care for and protect everyone. However, those who do not pull their weight in the pack, who act only on selfish interests, those are the troublesome lone wolves we can force out of the pack. Those who refuse to aid and protect the safety of others, who would refuse a vaccine or the inconvenience of wearing a mask, for example, are a threat to the pack as a whole, better exiled and left for dead