Tag Archives: speciesism
A reasonable acid test as to whether you, regardless of your race, would have freed your slaves in the antebellum South is to ask whether you’re vegan for moral reasons now, or, if you’re not vegan, whether you would consider going vegan for life.
If you’re not an ethical vegan and wouldn’t even consider it, you almost certainly would not have freed your slaves in the antebellum South. It is very easy for most people to go vegan today. It was significantly more difficult (much more of a sacrifice, anyway) for most slave owners to free their slaves prior to 1865.
If you are an ethical vegan or would seriously consider it today (especially after learning why and how!), then you *might* have freed your slaves prior to 1865.
I look forward to the day when we’re as disgusted by speciesism as any other prejudice.
Interestingly, The Huffington Post banned me from commenting on their site this morning, June 26, 2010, after I signed up last night to post two comments in the article entitled, Meat or No Meat: Tell Us What You Think and Why.
I am re-posting my comments here to let readers see what apparently qualifies at “HuffPo” for “abusive, off-topic, excessive foul language” or other violations of their comment policy.
My first comment was the following:
An argument against human chattel slavery:
99.999% of our uses of human slaves are unnecessary by any coherent concept of the word necessary. 99% of our uses of human chattel slaves harm them. Unnecessary harm is morally wrong. Therefore, 99% of our uses of human slaves are morally wrong.
The same argument against nonhuman chattel slavery:
99.999% of our uses of animals are unnecessary by any coherent concept of the word necessary. 99% of our uses of animals harm them. Unnecessary harm is morally wrong. Therefore, 99% of our uses of animals are morally wrong.
All of the arguments for animal use can be applied with equal force and cogency to the use of human chattel slaves. When we defend animal use, we necessarily defend human chattel slavery.
Human chattel slavery benefitted many people greatly throughout human history, but 99.999% of it was not necessary; therefore morally wrong. The exact same argument holds for animal use.
To which a user named “SusanElizabeth1949” replied:
Your straw man argument that equates use of animals with humans slavery is based on the idea that animals are equal to humans, I think you discover that few humans will buy into that notion.
Most of us find the notion that “A Rat is a Dog is a Boy” to be utterly preposterous.
To which I replied:
There is no straw man fallacy in the argument by analogy, since I am not interpreting or countering a previous argument (the straw man fallacy is an attack on a weaker argument than was presented by an opponent).
Animals are equal to humans in sentience, which is the only characteristic that is relevant to an interest in not being owned as property, enslaved, exploited, harmed, or killed. So for the purposes of the argument above, equating the use of animals with human chattel slavery is valid.
Finally, racism and speciesism are both the same wrong of ignoring morally relevant characteristics, such as sentience, in favor of morally irrelevant characteristics, such as species or race membership. Just as racists find it very difficult to see anything wrong with their racism, speciesists find it very difficult to see anything wrong with their speciesism.
But let’s face it here, logic and consistency hold no weight when there is personal gain to be had from the status quo. We are repeating history: 200 years ago it was human chattel slavery and racism; today it is animal use and speciesism. Slaveholders ignored consistency then as animal exploiters ignore consistency now.
These are the only comments I have ever made on HuffPo. Apparently, one or both of these two comments caused me to be banned from the site without warning.
Although the comments are quite direct in comparing speciesism to racism, and therefore by implication, comparing speciesists to racists, and that might be offensive to people who are not aware of the similarities between the two prejudices, I did explain how they are similar, and the similarity explanation is cogent. Further, the argument I made is highly relevant to the topic, so a claim that the comments were “off-topic” is false. Perhaps they didn’t like the accusation of a lack of clear thinking caused by the perceived opportunity for personal gain, but that is simply another reasonable, and very likely true, point in the argument. I cannot think of how else these comments may have violated HuffPo’s comment policy. Therefore, I cannot understand how these comments, taken together or separately, would trigger such a strong reaction as a banning without warning.
There is one other possibility. Perhaps I was banned because the combination of the cogency of the arguments set forth in the above comments with how deeply prejudiced the moderators and average readers are at HuffPo generated such irrational resentment that they would no longer tolerate the bright light of a cogent and simple argument exposing their ignorance, self-centeredness, and prejudice. In other words, one of HuffPo’s unwritten comment policies is “if the light is too bright, we shut it off”.
One might wonder why I would complain about being banned from commenting on a site when I do not allow comments on this blog. The primary reason I don’t allow comments is that I do not have time to moderate and reply to them adequately. Further, this site is an animal advocacy site in an extremely speciesist society, the purpose of which is to publish a perspective on animal ethics that is widely and intentionally censored in mainstream media. Therefore, if I allowed comments, I would moderate the comments to clearly favor the view that animal exploitation should be abolished. I make no apologies for being “one-sided” for nonhuman animals in a human-dominated world that is so one-sided and downright bigoted against animals.
Back to the comments, if I’m missing anything regarding a legitimate reason for a ban without warning, please send me an email.
Compartmentalization is the separation of persons (including nonhuman persons), things, ideas, attitudes, or behavior into categories or compartments. Sometimes it is epistemically rational to compartmentalize (e.g. biology); other times it is epistemically irrational to compartmentalize (e.g. race or species prejudice).
Speciesism (like racism, sexism, and heterosexism) is the epistemically irrational prejudice of favoring one or more species over other species without a morally relevant characteristic providing justification. From the standpoint of irrational, unjustified prejudice, ignoring the morally relevant characteristic of intelligence in preventing certain classes of humans from obtaining an education is the same as ignoring the morally relevant characteristic of sentience in exploiting and killing nonhuman animals for food, clothing, research, and entertainment (all of which are unnecessary).
Speciesism is one form of irrational, prejudiced compartmentalization. An example of speciesist compartmentalization is when we pet and love a dog while a pig’s full body and head rotate over a fire pit. Why isn’t it the other way around? Better yet, why don’t we pet and love both the dog and the pig?
Other examples of speciesist compartmentalization are single issue campaigns. Why do we protest and publish “open letters” about fur, but ignore leather? Why do we have high-profile protests against seal “hunts”, aerial “hunts”, and canned “hunts”, but quiet down significantly about fishing and so many other “hunts” (all of which are unjust, one-sided, and cowardly)?
Since single issue campaigns are cases of speciesist compartmentalization themselves, such campaigns obviously reinforce prejudiced compartmentalization. Because of this alone, we should avoid them. If we insist on protesting an animal circus or a fur shop, we should make unequivocal vegan education front and center of the protest. If we publish an “open letter” to Johnny Weir, it should be an open letter to go vegan and reject the exploitation of all animals, not just cute furry ones.
Diseases and Symptoms
In addition to single issue campaigns being counterproductive by strongly reinforcing speciesist compartmentalization and confusing the public (most of “the public” sees the inconsistency better than the activists do), they are useless in that they address the symptoms of speciesism without addressing the disease of speciesism itself. As such, single issue campaigns, when they are at their “most effective” (a pathetic scene to be sure), act as temporary relief from one of the many symptoms of speciesism. As soon as the campaign is over, things go back to “normal” because there was never any treatment of the underlying disease of speciesism.
The only way to address speciesism as a disease is through vegan education. When people take animal interests seriously enough to embrace veganism, speciesism has been at least mostly eliminated in their case, and they no longer contribute to the thousands of varieties of symptoms. To use a metaphor I used in a far more comprehensive essay on single issue campaigns, Picking the Low Hanging Fruit: What’s Wrong with Single Issue Campaigns?, the tree of speciesism has been cut down for vegans and it no longer produces the “low hanging fruit” that single issue campaigns address: fur, foie gras, animal circus attendance, zoo attendance, and on and on.
Two Paradigm Shifts
There are two paradigm shifts people experience, each one reducing speciesism: first, embracing personal veganism; second, embracing abolitionist principles. Embracing veganism means rejecting speciesism in attitude, thoughts, speech, and behavior. At a minimum, it is avoiding the exploitation of animals and use of animal products in one’s life. Embracing abolitionist principles means rejecting single issue campaigns and welfarism and engaging in vegan education instead. Veganism is the personal manifestation of a commitment to eliminate speciesist prejudice and take animals’ interests seriously. Abolitionism is the public and political manifestation of a commitment to eliminate speciesist prejudice and take animals’ interests seriously.