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What is speciesism?

What is speciesism?

Update: 2020-06-291
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What is speciesism? Thanks for asking!


The assumed superiority of humans over all other animals is often unspoken. Without necessarily wishing any harm on animals, we take it for granted that we are more complex beings and therefore have greater moral rights. So much so that most of us are not even aware of the concept of speciesism, which is an increasingly complex ethical issue. Speciesism refers to discrimination based on species membership, and is usually used to describe the assumption of human superiority. In the worst cases, it leads to the exploitation of animals. Some people condemn it as a massive form of bigotry, just like racism or sexism.


When did we start talking about speciesism then?


The term first appeared around 50 years ago, in a pamphlet written by British psychologist Richard D. Ryder. Ryder was a member of the Oxford Group of intellectuals, who met frequently to discuss animal rights, at the time an emerging concept. But the idea itself has existed for a long time. Aristotle talked about the dominance of men over animals in his work The History of Animals, which is seen as a pioneering work in the field of zoology. Abrahamic religions like Christianity and Judaism have also contributed to spreading speciesism by teaching that animals were created for use by humans. French philosopher René Descartes introduced the animal-machine notion in the 17th century, which had great influence on Western cultures. He argued that animals acted on instinct alone and had no emotions. Meanwhile, humans had a conscience and could think for themselves. According to Descartes, this moral distinction meant humans deserved more rights than animals. This attitude is still widely held in modern society. at least to some extent. If you think about the example of a human child and a dog caught in a fire, most people wouldn’t hesitate in saving the child first.


Well that’s true, but it’s a bit of an extreme case, isn’t it? In under 3 minutes, we answer your questions!


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What is speciesism?

What is speciesism?