Speciesism: Time to Challenge, Time to Change
If you've been paying attention, you've no doubt heard the term speciesism. Granted, it's not as widely used as racism or sexism, but it's just as important, and come 24 August, you're going to hear it a lot, because that's the fifth World Day for the End of Speciesism (WoDES).
So, what is speciesism, and why will I be joining activists around the globe on WoDES to help stop it?
PETA defines speciesism as a human-supremacist worldview – a misguided belief that one species is more important than another. We've all seen it – hello, dolphin-friendly tuna – and in fact, unless we were raised as ethical vegans, we've all been guiltyof it: remember defending the rights of a breastfeeding mum in a café while sipping on a latte? Yeah, that. Thanks to the normalisation of using animals for everything from food and transportation to lab experiments and jumpers, speciesism is as subconscious as it is ubiquitous, but while it can require some effort to make the connection, I believe we can rid the planet of this nonsensical, harmful "-ism", along with its cruel, violent, polluting, and unhealthy outcomes.
At best, speciesism is a naïve buy-in to the propaganda that bombards us from birth, such as picture books that paint pigs as mere farm fodder and dogs as "man's best friend". At worst, it's wilful ignorance of the overwhelming evidence that all animals are, in essence, the same and deserve the same degree of respect. As PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk points out, "When it comes to having a central nervous system and the ability to feel pain, hunger, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy."
While we can, to a point, be forgiven for having blithely accepted the invisible lines the media – influenced by animal agriculture's hefty wallet – draws between species, there comes a time when we each need to examine critically beliefs that no longer serve us, our planet, or our fellow Earthlings. That time is now. We live in the Information Age, and knowing better comes with an obligation to do better. Like other "-isms", speciesism is learned and can be unlearned. Just as we came to put penguins on pedestals while treating chickens like egg factories and drumstick dispensers, so we can create new, informed insights about animals, based on the science of sentience.
When discussing speciesism, I invite people to consider the similarities between cows and orcas. Both of these giant mammals give birth to calves after lengthy gestation periods and make milk to nurse their babies. Both also mourn the deaths of their calves when that occurs. Yet, orcas enjoy worldwide conservation efforts, while cows are subjected to repeated forcible impregnation and the loss of their babies, who are wrenched away within hours of birth, either to be raised and slaughtered for veal or so humans can steal the milk intended for them.
In other words, if you've ever eaten dairy cheese while wearing a Sea Shepherd T-shirt, this post is for you.
Speciesism defies logic, crumbles under critique, and, tragically, leads to oppression, cruelty, systematic abuse, and death. If equality is one of your core values, take the time to examine whether you are really living by it. A good start would be by joining World Day for the End of Speciesism on August 24– and signing PETA's petition here.
Written by Emily Rice from PETA.