What Is Speciesism?
“Speciesism” is the belief that some animals’ lives and experiences are inferior to those of humans or other animals simply because they are members of a different species, and it underpins all the most widespread forms of animal abuse.
This deeply damaging mindset fails to acknowledge that all living beings have the ability to suffer in the same way and to the same degree – from the animals humans share our lives with to the ones who call the ocean home. Animals feel pain, pleasure, fear, frustration, loneliness, and familial love.
Did you know that entire wolf packs reportedly howl mournfully and show signs of depression following the loss of a pack member? That turkeys at sanctuaries single out their favourite visitors and will run to greet them upon their arrival? And that pigs enjoy listening to music, playing with footballs, receiving massages, and even playing video games?
Speciesism devalues the experiences, feelings, and relationships of other animals – merely because they’re different from humans. But just because they’re different, that doesn’t justify exploiting, abusing, and torturing them.
No matter how similar or different other animals are to humans, they all deserve respect, compassion, and empathy. In the words of Jeremy Bentham, “the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”.
In his book Animal Liberation, the philosopher Peter Singer states that the basic principle of equality doesn’t require equal treatment – it requires equal consideration. This is an important distinction when talking about animal rights. Animal rights are not about the right to vote or to drive a car. They’re about the right to live free from suffering and exploitation because all animals have an interest in doing so. That’s the difference between equal treatment and equal consideration.
All animals have an inherent worth – a value completely separate from their usefulness to humans.
Most people grew up eating animal flesh, wearing leather, and visiting zoos. Yet, just as many of us have made the transition towards a way of life that respects animals, so society as a whole must outgrow the unethical mindset of speciesism and stop abusing and killing animals.
Say No to Speciesism
There are easy ways to help end speciesism – we can all put the principle of equal consideration into practice every single day with the products we buy, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and how we choose to spend our time.
These choices are a form of non-violent protest that makes a real difference – both by reducing the profits of corporations that harm or kill animals and by creating a growing market for cruelty-free products, vegan food, compassionate fashion, and animal-free entertainment.