Speciesism, analogous with racism and sexism, can be defined as a double standard created by humans placing higher moral value on some individual animals over other individual animals, based solely on the morally irrelevant criterion of species membership.
As I sat in a recent lecture about weight stigma and body shaming, listening to the speakers discuss the intersectionality of various forms of oppression, I waited for them to mention the elephant in the room, speciesism… and they never did. That’s when I realized:
Speciesism isn’t just an elephant in the room. It’s much more than that. It’s a cow, a pig, a chicken, a fish, a turkey, a lamb… and it’s much more than that. The fact is, there are billions of land animals and countless sea animals in the room and NO ONE is talking about them. NO ONE is acknowledging them and their basic right to live free from exploitation, objectification and commodification. NO ONE is thinking of these individuals as anything more than disposable, replaceable “things” – objects to be used, like the chairs in which we sit – to satisfy some fleeting desire or convenience. Instead, they’re eating their exploited remains and wearing skins, furs and feathers ripped from their dead bodies (and, in many cases, their still-living bodies).
I will admit that there is an error in my comments above. I say that no one is talking about, acknowledging or thinking about these individuals, but this is untrue.
Vegans are talking about, acknowledging and thinking about these individuals and their right to an autonomous life and, more importantly, we’re doing something about the speciesism pervasive in our society that demands the continued exploitation, enslavement and execution of non-human animals for morally unjustifiable reasons. Some vegans are simply abstaining from participating in those injustices, as that is the least they can do as a moral obligation. Others, especially abolitionist vegans, are actively educating the public through various creative means about their engagement in and support of speciesism and letting them know that the simplest and most immediate action one can take to stop the violent oppression and exploitation of the most vulnerable members of our global society – non-human individuals – is to start living vegan.
Speciesism, rooted in the myth of human supremacy, begets all other forms of oppression toward the vulnerable that we see running rampant on our planet today.
We believe the abolition and dismantling of speciesism are integral in starting the chain of conscious evolution that will lead to the end of racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism and the like.
The application of speciesism provides a blueprint for all other forms of exploitation, as what we would do to the most vulnerable members of our global society – non-human individuals – we would then find ways to do to those less vulnerable but still able to be dominated and oppressed (it is no accident that the techniques employed in the mass extermination of millions of humans in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s were born in slaughterhouses). Conversely, the dismantling of speciesism, through living vegan and educating others to live vegan, gives us a blueprint for treating all individuals as we ourselves wish to be treated – with fairness, justice and the right to live autonomous lives, free from the enslavement of more powerful “others”.
If you oppose at least one form of violent oppression because you recognize it is morally wrong, then to live in integrity requires opposing all forms of violent oppression because they are all morally wrong. Speciesism, simply by virtue of having the largest number of victims and the highest death toll worldwide, is the most egregious form of violent oppression our world has ever known. It’s time to dismantle speciesism, and the way to do that, again, is through living vegan and educating others to live vegan.
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