Yesterday the second World Day for the End of Speciesism was held, with marches that took place in several locations in the world calling to end speciesism.
Unfortunately what seemed on the face of it as a more radical version of advocacy (especially in light of the rise of consumer oriented approaches, and the notorious reductionism trend) was found to be not much more than more of the same.
As usual, activists are asking humans to stop consuming animal derived products, and “urge parliaments and the courts to create and enforce a new legal status for animals that stops them from being considered as property and recognising them as sentient beings whose interests must be protected by the law”.
As we broadly explained in the posts Non-Violence Approach and Reclaiming the Power We Should Have Never Given to Humans, the mere position of asking the abusers to stop abusing is in itself speciesist. It’s perpetuating the speciesist reality in which one species makes all the calls for all the other species, especially when the case is of systemically exploiting them. The self-evident frame of thought is that it is humans’ decision how to treat the rest of the species. And when humans leave the conversation about their abuse and choose to keep abusing, as most humans do, that’s what will happen. Merely asking them to stop abusing is letting them continue to torture.
The fact that some AR activists are calling what they do ‘demanding’ and not asking, doesn’t change the speciesist status of this twisted scenario, since as long as it’s the abusers’ choice, saying that we are demanding the end of the torture is meaningless. In that sense demanding is just an angrier version of asking. There is no “or else…”. When humans choose to abuse all they get is a sad or an angry face from the “demanders”. And that is in the better case. In the worst case it is a smiley suggestion that they would at least consider reducing some of their torture.
While asking to at least consider reducing some of their torture is not the case with the World Day for the End of Speciesism, as shortly explained above and broadly here and here, speciesism is inherent to all advocacy. And it is particularly upsetting when the speciesist advocacy comes from those who named their project the End of Speciesism.
Again, it is a bolder message compared to the ‘morally reductionist’ messages out there. But what the movement needs is not to be bolder but to restart.
This post is about speciesism and not about the World Day for the End of Speciesism. We use this initiative only to point out some of the reasons for the acute need for the whole movement to restart, and how some of the “end speciesism” measures and most importantly even the aims themselves, are speciesist.
For example the reliance and emphasis on the legal system is in itself speciesist. That is since besides that laws and rights are power based, discriminatory in their nature, and virtually are “the law of the strongest” in a civilized suite, as long as the legal system is human, it is bound to be speciesist. The suggestion that “animals’ interests must be represented before the law by animal defence societies, prosecutors specializing in animal issues or guardians other than their owners” is missing the whole point of ending speciesism. Clearly, the very situation of humans representing animals’ interests in a human court room, where humans judge whether actions done to nonhumans are in accordance with the laws humans have shaped, is in itself utterly speciesist.
Even if you overcome the inherent problem of human groups making rules which are applied on individual humans, who have never agreed upon nor participated in shaping them, there can never be equality when one group decides everything for all the other groups.
Humans and humans alone have the power to make laws. Humans are using an unfair advantage they have on nonhumans, which is their political power, to make rules that suite their own interests. Inequality is inherent to an interspecies system where only one species makes all the rules.
It is not only that humans are cruel masters, it is the fact that they are the masters and always will be. A history of thousands of years is more than enough to realize that this is not merely a theoretical built-in injustice, but a built-in power structure that practically allows humans to torment trillions of sentient beings for thousands of years, with no sign of it ever ending.
And even if every law that regards humans was made relevant to nonhumans just as much (can you even read this sentence seriously?), it can never encircle all the interests of all the nonhumans. It can never encircle all the offences against them as the law was made by humans for humans and from humans’ point of view.
Another disappointment is that even “the end of speciesism” is using speciesist reasons to go vegan arguing that it is “also more beneficial to the environment and wastes fewer resources”.
Humans must stop discriminating and exploiting other species because it is wrong and speciesist, not because it is unbeneficial and wasteful.
Also, like many other AR initiatives this one also falsely relies on the common notion that injustices of the past such as slavery have been abolished. “They too were so embedded in the collective consciousness that they were thought to be eternal”. We can’t make the claim that slavery is eternal, it would be ridiculous to do so, as at least theoretically social ideas can change. However if we can learn from history something about slavery it is that it does seem to be eternal practically. Evidently, despite that there is not even one country in the world today where slavery is legal, there is not even one country where slavery doesn’t exist.
As we broadly explain in the post 10 Reasons Why Human Slavery and Animal Institutionalized Exploitation Are Incomparable, we disagree that the two exploitation institutions are comparable, however since there are more slaves today than ever before in history, if there is anything to learn from that false comparison is rather that speciesism cannot be ended.
And even if slavery is eradicated someday, a scenario that is hard even to imagine based on the current state of affairs, ending animal discrimination is not only hard to imagine, it is impossible to implement.
Things go way beyond the stands and the demands of one organization, reflective of the rest of the movement as it may be.
Even if all the campaign’s requests are fully accepted, speciesism wouldn’t be ended. And that is not only because the activists are not calling for the end of every form of speciesism, but since ending every form of speciesism is impossible.
It is not the huge gaps between ending speciesism and the demands of this particular campaign that we find so important, but the huge gaps between ending speciesism and the reality on planet earth.
Speciesism is everywhere and in everything. Every aspect of humans’ lives is bound with the discrimination of nonhumans. Not just factory farming but any type of farming is speciesist. The levels of discrimination obviously largely differ, but excluding nonhumans from a particular area, tearing out the native vegetation and planting ones that suite humans’ desires and not necessarily the needs of the native residents of the region, fencing the area, constantly poisoning nonhumans in it, changing the composition of the soil, dividing the nearby lands with roads to the farms, plundering water from other habitats, making noises with heavy machinery, crushing nonhumans with heavy machinery, polluting the area with humans’ waste of many kinds and etc. are all unquestionably forms of discrimination.
Everything in life is on someone else’s expense. All cloths are speciesist, not only leather, fur, wool, silk and down. Houses are speciesist. Cities are speciesist. Electricity is speciesist. Fireworks are speciesist. Lawns are speciesist. Veganism is speciesist. Animal advocacy is speciesist. And it is speciesist to ignore all of this speciesism.
Taking the interests of each sentient being into account as if they were our own doesn’t end with turning each human vegan. And it shouldn’t even begin there, but with turning each one back to living like any other ape in the forests and savannahs. Obviously that is not the world we wish and advocate for, but at least it would be more coherent and consistent with the presented moral guidelines of the call to end speciesism (as it would reverse many elements of the occupation on this planet).
But nobody is advocating for that. The systematical, industrial exploitation of animals in the form of factory farms is by far the worst embodiment of speciesism in history, however it is also far from being the only one.
If to follow Joan Dunayer’s definition of speciesism in her book named after the term, speciesism is “a failure, in attitude or practice, to accord any nonhuman being equal consideration and respect.” A vegan world is far from being an equal one.
How is an extremely industrial and technological civilization of more than 7 billion humans, that dominates and impacts practically every inch on earth can ever accord any nonhuman being equal consideration and respect?
In this world the mere concept of rights for all nonhuman animals is an oxymoron. Everything is on someone else’s expense. Humans’ global occupation is so vast and absolute that civilization became self-evident. But it mustn’t be. Speciesism is inherent to every human activity. Even if you insist that a vegan world may be possible one day, you can’t seriously think that humans would be convinced to voluntarily go back to living like any other species, limited to a relatively bounded geographical area, living off the surrounding, and include several million members only. That would be much closer to ending speciesism, and it is not even close to what is being demanded of humans and thought of by activists.
For the End of the Species
Ending speciesism is not synonymous with veganism. It’s speciesist to think that speciesism’s boundaries are within this range alone. It is not just a matter of degree (and factory farms are by no doubt the worst embodiment of speciesism), it is a matter of kind. And so a different kind of thinking is needed from activists to end speciesism. Currently activists focus on the worst degree harms that humans are doing to other species, and on what humans might, theoretically only, agree to stop doing. But a truly non-speciesist perspective must look at what is done to the discriminated beings and what can be done to stop it regardless of humans’ willingness or “opinions”.
The end of speciesism shouldn’t be about humans as discriminators but about nonhumans as discriminated against. Hence speciesism doesn’t end with factory farms and animal experiments and etc., it doesn’t even end with humans. The vast majority of the interspecies relationships on earth are basically speciesist, in the sense that they are anything but “equal consideration and respect”. “Nature” is full of discriminations based on species. In fact, interspecies violence is so abundant and so inherent that it is not even perceived as discrimination.
Therefore stating that all sentient beings are equal is utterly absurd. All sentient beings can’t be equal since they constantly fight over resources and in many cases they are each other’s resources. Speciesism will end when there is only one species on earth and even then individuals would be discriminated against based on parameters other than their species.
The World Day for the End of Speciesism website states “it is in the center of the interests of every sentient not to be hurt, not to suffer, not being a victim of violence”. But the fact that this world is inherently based on that sentient beings are constantly being hurt by one another, suffer constantly, and are often victims of violence, is another fundamental reason why speciesism can never end. How can all the sentient beings be included within the circle of moral consideration, when their very existence comes at the expense of others?
Activists focusing on factory farms, justly thinking that they are the greatest atrocities on earth, are postponing the inevitable. At some point they are bound to realize that discrimination and suffering is everywhere and in everything. If we want to end speciesism, we mustn’t focus on its most acute manifestation but on its most deep-rooted one. And that is unfortunately not the legal or social status of sentient beings but their biological one. It is impossible to end speciesism by social means.
The world can never become non-speciesist, yet speciesism must be ceased. Speciesism is not less of an arbitrary discrimination, not less unjust, not less violent and not less cruel because it is even theoretically unabolishable. Speciesism must be ended by all means necessary. The only way to end speciesism is to end the species. And the only ones who will ever consider doing it are you.
Don’t make do with stating that you would push the button that will end it all, and try to make one.