Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thoughts on Speciesism

I have been lately reading a little bit about the animal rights concept, especially as it applies to justify veganism as an ethical choice, and one concept is introduced titled "speciesism", which is roughly defined as discriminating life forms according to their species. The purpose of this term is to draw parallels between sexism and racism which are generally considered as questionable practices, and raising the question of why speciesism is considered acceptable.

It should be noted that for me personally, my general attitude against racism and sexism is not axiomatic (axiomatic roughly means being regarded as an assumption). It is a derivative position. In other words, it is a consequence of other principles that I consider axiomatic, rather than a position that I hold for it's own sake. Additionally, I believe that people have a right to practice private sexism and private racism, my objection lies in institutionalized sexism and racism. In other words, sexism and racism should not exist in the legal system, however private citizens are still allowed to practice sexism and racism.

If this idea is not clear, let's see what criminalization of private sexism and racism would entail. If private racism was not allowed, there would be laws against having an unequal number of while-skinned and black-skinned friends. Would you think that a law should exist that prevents individuals from having all their friends white-skinned and none black-skinned?! I don't think that such law is desirable in any way. Same applies to opposing private sexism. Opposing private sexism would come into direct contradiction with LGBT rights for example. Should there be laws banning individuals from having sexual orientations like homosexuality or heterosexuality, and requiring all individuals to become bisexuals because this is the direct consequence of abandoning gender discrimination?! Obviously, such law is abusive and undesirable. This does not mean that racism and sexism are desirable in private interactions, however it does mean that there should not exist laws that ban the practice for private citizens.

These examples show why sexism and racism should not be considered axiomatic. This at least opens up speciesism to the view that abandoning this practice should not be considered axiomatic.

Let's explore the reason that animal rights advocates claim that killing animals constitutes speciesism. The argument goes that if we as humans consider it illegal to kill other human beings, why is it that animals are not held in the same regard. Such argument might seem reasonable at first, but I can identify few problems.

The first problem I see is that what animal rights advocates claim to be abandoning speciesism is itself an act of speciesism. It is natural that animals prey on other animals. Animal rights advocates (I assume) would not object if a lion killed a deer for food. But they would object if a human did that same action. Isn't that a form of discrimination?! I find it hard to argue that this would not entail some forms of discrimination. The only solution to this problem is to ban carnivores from preying on other animals, which would bring a whole new set of problems.

Another problem I see is the discrimination of the plant kingdom and animal kingdom, which is being systematically advocated by veganism. This of course is also a form of speciesism(*). Animal rights advocates ask the question of why we are willing to give humans rights, without providing the same rights to animals. But then again, why not give plants the same rights as those animals?! If discrimination is the principle involved that is deemed objectionable, then discriminating animals and plants raises serious questions in regards to that principle.

It should be noted that those problems are not sufficient arguments to discredit animal rights, but they do challenge speciesism as an argument for that position.

(*)PS: Technically, this should be called "kingdomism" not "speciesism". However, the underlying principle is the same. Why is it okay to practice kingdomism but not speciesism?!

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