‘Speciesism’ refers to the discrimination based on species membership. First originating in 1970, British psychologist Richard, D. Ryder , member of the nascent animal rights community discussed areas of concern over the speciesism term. Protesting against animal experimentation they argued that scientists have agreed that there is no ‘magical’ essential difference between humans and other animals. Ryder states “Why then do we make an almost total distinction morally? If all organisms are on one physical continuum, then we should also be on the same moral continuum.” Writing at height of the animal experimental craze, he uses the term again in his essay, “Experiments on Animals,” in Animals, Men and Morals (1971), writing;
“In as much as both “race” and “species” are vague terms used in the classification of living creatures according, largely, to physical appearance, an analogy can be made between them. Discrimination on grounds of race, although most universally condoned two centuries ago, is now widely condemned. Similarly, it may come to pass that enlightened minds may one day abhor “speciesism” as much as they now detest “racism.”
He then goes on to talk on the illogicality of both forms of prejudice as an identical sort. As If it is accepted as morally wrong to deliberately inflict suffering upon innocent human creatures, then it is only logical to also regard it as wrong to inflict suffering on innocent individuals of other species. The idea of speciesism looks at why someone can eat a pig while caring for a dog. It’s the reason we give humans a right to their lives, while denying other animals the same. It’s why we use the word “animal” solely for nonhuman animals, despite the fact that humans are animals too. It’s what enables us to cram thousands of chickens into a dark, filthy shed. It’s why some people are distressed about dolphins caught in fishing nets, but unperturbed by the fish. It’s what makes killing one individual “murder”, and another “sport”. It’s slaughterhouses.
An example of this glorification of animal suffering can be seen in the documentary “Earthlings” (2013). Earthlings’ key message is that we are not above other animals and compares our speciesism to other -isms, such as racism, sexism and Nazism. It demonstrates this through footage of animal cruelty in “food production, but entertainment, pet ownership, medical research and clothing” and has been described as a “hodgepodge of slaughterhouse CCTV videos”. Although the film was created with good intentions it did look to trivialise the issues it targeted by using extreme emotional tactics, placing human bias on a non-human issue and displaying animal cruelty in such a way that it not only exemplified, but glorified, the issue. If we are to tackle speciesism, the message delivered on behalf of non-human animals must be not only powerful, but also realistic and therefore, supportive of meaningful change.
We as humans have an alarming ability to switch off our empathy for individuals in a perceived “out-group”, especially when the welfare of our own “in-group” is threatened. Fortunately, we have made significant progress against many forms of such discrimination in the last few centuries. Ensuring that others are not discriminated against is a key concern in modern society, and we focus significant efforts on eliminating remaining inequity. As having a strong moral circle to expand humanity encompass all individuals who are capable of suffering.
- ANIMALS, MEN AND MORALS
In-text: (“Animals, Men And Morals”)
Your Bibliography: “Animals, Men And Morals”. ESDAW. N.p., 2017. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.
- THE CASE AGAINST SPECIESISM – SENTIENCE POLITICS
In-text: (“The Case Against Speciesism – Sentience Politics”)
Your Bibliography: “The Case Against Speciesism – Sentience Politics”. Sentience Politics. N.p., 2017. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.