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Sep 15, 2007
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By Jason Miller

Despite the trappings of a civilized culture and the incredibly persistent myth of our moral exceptionalism, we in the United States are collectively a group of mean-spirited, depraved barbarians. Sparing our psyches the pangs of conscience by ferociously devouring the corporate media's seemingly endless supply of rationalizations, euphemisms, historical revisions, distractions, denials, distortions, and affirmations of our pathological self-absorption, we each carry a degree of responsibility in the infliction of immeasurable unnecessary pain and suffering upon the rest of the Earth's sentient beings.

Deeply integrated into a cultural and economic system in which compassion is considered to be a weakness and in which greed, exploitation, profits, property, winning, bellicosity and selfishness are sacrosanct, we cannot escape the reality that each of us participates in the American version of Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil" to some extent. Unless we isolate ourselves in a mountain cabin or expatriate, as US citizens we are each damned to be one of the 300 million "Little Eichmanns" who enable our cynical plutocratic masters to dominate the world both economically and militarily.

Struggling to make itself heard above the cacophonous din of sound bites, advertising jingles, clichés, tropes, memes, mythos, and various other manifestations of the false consciousness that afflicts so many of us, the voice of conscience occasionally grabs our attention and violently reminds us how badly we are fucking the rest of the world.

And when it does, the question we each need to ask ourselves is, "How much like "Eich" do I want to be?"

While there are myriad ways we can each minimize our culpability in the egregious crimes of savage capitalism and its most banal representation, consumerism, the struggle to end speciesism is at the vanguard of our much needed moral evolution. Yet is often minimized and ridiculed by sociopolitical thinkers of nearly all stripes.

Seeking to provoke a re-examination of our ghastly practices toward animals, Patrice Greanville, a force in the animal liberation movement for many years, has defined speciesism as akin to German fascism. While the comparison is doubtless inflammatory, it is well grounded in fact, since both speciesism and Nazism share a core ideology of entitlement to total dominion over anyone outside the ""master race" :

"[as] the oldest, crudest and most pervasive form of fascism or tyranny around…speciesism must be understood…as an unrecognized fascism…not so much as the organization of a mass party of thugs to beat back labor, or an outright rightwing military dictatorship, but as a form of institutionalized supremacism whereby a particular nationality, group, class, race (or species), unilaterally proclaims its 'superiority' over others, and proceeds to confer upon itself the right to exploit, murder, and tyrannize at will with absolute impunity."

Infectious and insidious as racism or sexism, speciesism permeates nearly every facet of our existence—and it's class blind: both poor and rich practice it with alacrity. Raising 4-5 billion non-human animals each year in the concentration camp-like conditions of factory farms, we torture and slaughter fellow sentient beings merely to satiate our carnivorous desires(1) or to justify any project, no matter how inane. As Peter Singer documented so well in his seminal work, Animal Liberation, we annually perform an array of horrendously brutal experiments on millions of non-human animals, including acids and solvents on restrained rabbits' eyes (given their great sensitivity). Singer's book clearly demonstrates that much of the "research" conducted by torturing animals involves redundant university studies that yield conclusions one could have intuited, frivolous government or military projects, and unnecessary consumer product tests designed to validate "new" brand claims.

Gandhi noted that "the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by the way its animals are treated," and he was right.

If the United States has a prayer of attaining even a fraction of the "greatness" and "moral progress" it already attributes to itself, we must engage in a fearless moral inventory and prepare ourselves to make sweeping and dramatic social, economic, and political changes.

Treating non-human animals as objects for our convenience (hence subjecting them to horrendous suffering and abuse) is certainly one of our most shameful misdeeds. It is also one for which each of us can readily begin making amends. One simple step we can take is to refuse to consume meat or products from the fast food industry, a hideous manifestation of capitalism that catalyzed and necessitates factory farming.

[As a point of disclosure, this writer is a former carnivore. While in reality he was omnivorous, his diet revolved mostly around meat and he lived to eat it. There is rarely a day that passes that he does not crave a steak, a cheeseburger, or some other form of non-human animal flesh. However, as he explained in "Another Bacon Burger Anyone?" (, he remains committed to vegetarianism based on his rejection of speciesism, the detrimental effect factory farming has on the environment, and the fact that meat production is a huge contributor to world hunger because it consumes vast resources better utilized elsewhere. While veganism is probably not on his immediate horizon, he does minimize his egg consumption and makes a conscious effort to eschew the use of animal products derived from or tested upon animals.]

Rising to the moral challenge

Every human being has a moral stake in the struggle against speciesism, whether they define themselves as Left, Right, centrist, liberal, or Libertarian. Drawing perilously close to the event horizon of the spiritual black hole spawned by the excesses of the declining American Empire, our capacity to evoke change as individuals in the face of an opulent ruling class steeped in historically unprecedented wealth and power is limited, but we are not impotent in the battle for our souls.

Consider the position of Matthew Scully, who authored Dominion: the Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy and who was a speechwriter for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle, and Bob Dole (not exactly the credentials of a "bleeding heart liberal"):

"Conservatives like to think of animal protection as a trendy leftist cause, which makes it easier to brush off. And I hope that more of us will open our hearts to animals. I also believe that in factory farming and other cruelties conservatives will find some familiar problems — moral relativism, self-centered materialism, license passing itself off as freedom, and the culture of death."

Vegetarianism, one potential cure for the disease of speciesism, has a long and rich history. A number of individuals noted for their impressive moral, intellectual, social, literary, or political accomplishments were vegetarians, including Edison, Einstein, Gandhi, Kafka, Pythagoras, da Vinci, Tesla, Plato, Tolstoy, Thoreau, Jane Goodall, Cesar Chavez, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and George Bernard Shaw.

Almost undoubtedly these conscientious individuals who respected non-human animals enough to stop eating them confronted some of the same specious, often snide, arguments against vegetarianism that defenders of speciesism still use today.

Consider a brief deconstruction of a few of them:

"A vegetarian diet is protein-deficient and vegetarians become weak, frail, and sickly."

There is abundant medical and anecdotal evidence to demonstrate that a plant-based diet provides ample proteins for a human being to sustain health to the same extent as those eating meat. There are also some indications that we were almost exclusively vegetarian at one point in the evolutionary process (2).

"Animals do not have the same capabilities as humans, so they are not entitled to the same rights."

That is a true statement. The first part, that is. It would be patently absurd to argue that a pig has the right to bear arms. The point is that few serious-minded people pursuing animal liberation think in terms of animal rights, per se. However, the moral equality sought by animal defenders for animals is not based on a ludicrous equality of "intelligence" between non-human and human species, since if intelligence (or lack thereof) were the criterion to confer protection from abuse, torture and death, then we would be logically justified to kill, eat and use mentally handicapped or brain-dead people in such manner, and we clearly are not about to do so. As has been repeated for a couple of decades now, the basic point is not whether they can reason like us, but whether they can feel pain as we do, and they clearly, obviously, and loudly do, as anyone can readily attest by spending just a few minutes in a slaughterhouse or similar hells. Animals are ends in themselves, and not mere means to our designs.

In Animal Liberation Singer defined the above principles in this manner:

"The argument for extending the principle of equality beyond our own species is simple, so simple that it amounts to no more than a clear understanding of the nature of the principle of equal consideration of interests. We have seen that this principle implies that our concern for others ought not to depend on what they are like, or what abilities they possess (although precisely what this concern requires us to do may vary according to the characteristics of those affected by what we do). It is on this basis that we are able to say that the fact that some people are not members of our race does not entitle us to exploit them, and similarly the fact that some people are less intelligent than others does not mean that their interests may be disregarded. But the principle also implies that the fact that beings are not members of our species does not entitle us to exploit them, and similarly the fact that other animals are less intelligent than we are does not mean that their interests may be disregarded."

"To live is to destroy and kill."

There is an element of truth to this statement. For instance, we inadvertently kill insects and microbes with great frequency. However, as self-conscious, relatively intelligent beings, we bear the responsibility and have the power to minimize the destruction, suffering, and death we cause. One certain way to achieve this end is to end one's support of the industrialized murder of the meat industry.

"Vegetarians have no regard for the "suffering" of plants."

One of the principal reasons most animal liberationists oppose meat consumption is the suffering it imposes upon non-human animals. Arguing that vegetarians are hypocritical because they eat plants is fallacious for two reasons (which are probably obvious even to those who disingenuously make this ridiculous assertion).

Lacking a central nervous system and even a rudimentary consciousness necessary to experience pain, it would be impossible for plants to "suffer" in the sense that human and non-human animals do.

Admittedly, we do violate the sanctity of life in an absolute sense when we consume a plant, which is why there is some validity to the assertion that "to live is to destroy and kill." Yet again, as self-aware beings capable of making moral decisions, it is incumbent upon us to minimize the suffering and death which we cause simply by being. Choosing to eat plants rather than animals is one of the most viable means we have of doing so.

Abstention from eating flesh aside, many ardent speciesists argue that the entire notion of animal liberation is puerile and trivial because the world is filled with problems that are "more important" than relieving the misery of non-human animals. But remember that many of these same individuals thrive in a system of savage capitalism which provides them with an "inalienable right" to prosper through exploitation. Terrified of losing their profits, they work vigorously to prevent our society from adopting a more enlightened moral position with respect to animals.

Certainly the United States is not alone in committing shocking atrocities against non-human animals as a matter of routine, but we are the epicenter of the most advanced and malignant stages of predatory capitalism. With the complicity of all of us Little Eichmans (even those who consciously keep their participation to a bare minimum), the moneyed class comprising our de facto government is literally committing crimes on par with those for which we hanged the architects of Nazism at Nuremburg.

Despite the environment of bitter dissent and rage directed at the status quo in the United States, taking extreme action against an increasingly rickety yet still incredibly powerful system would be premature, self-defeating, and perhaps suicidal at this point.

Yet regardless of the considerable number of constraints the ruling elites have upon us, we are still the stewards of our own souls and possess the means to rise above the abject moral poverty of our nation. What better place to start than in the defense of the most vulnerable amongst us?

Here's to the liberation of animals and of our spirits…..




Jason Miller is a wage slave of the American Empire who has freed himself intellectually and spiritually. He is Cyrano's Journal Online's associate editor ( and publishes Thomas Paine's Corner within Cyrano's at You can reach him at

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Posted: Sep 15, 2007 11:07am
Jun 4, 2007

Another Ape on Speciesism

My friend David sent me a link to this story by Franz Kafka that I hadn't read in a long time: A Report for an Academy. It's a story narrated by an ape trying to be human.
When I come home late from banquets, from scientific societies, or from social gatherings in someone’s home, a small half-trained female chimpanzee is waiting for me, and I take my pleasure with her the way apes do. During the day I don’t want to see her. For she has in her gaze the madness of a bewildered trained animal. I’m the only one who recognizes that, and I cannot bear it.

I wrote earlier about a novel on a similar subject, a story that had similarly horrible consequences for our aspiring human's mate. (See Lovelock: Speciesism from a Monkey's POV.) The fact that Kafka thought of such a feminist angle to throw in at the end of his story speaks well of him; it certainly gives the narrative an extra kick of misery and foreboding.

What does it mean when a non-human animal gives up their non-humanness? While these cases are fiction, and fantastical, animals give up their animalness for us all the time -- think of small dogs sweating in handbags and humping human legs, parrots who talk to humans but pull all their feathers out, elephants forced to perform in circuses until they snap, big cats pacing insanely in zoos when they should be running for miles and miles a day.

And what is humanness, anyway? Kafka's ape narrator spells it out simply: We spit, we drink, we smoke, we laugh, we don't show our asses in public. (Most of the time.) Even humans don't seem to take much better to human culture than animals do, sometimes. Why else are so many people struggling just to survive in this system we've set up for ourselves?

I know there's a lot more to humanness. Wonderful things like ethics. Maybe if we used them a bit more our ape narrators (and the compassionate, human artists that speak through them) wouldn't have such bones to pick.

Incidentally, Kafka was vegetarian, and I like to think he'd have been vegan if he'd been born a little later. He once said while watching fishes swim, "Now I can look at you in peace; I don't eat you any more."

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Posted: Jun 4, 2007 7:57am
Jun 4, 2007

Lovelock: Speciesism from a Monkey's POV

My friend Mary loaned me a copy of Lovelock by Orson Scott Card and Kathryn H. Kidd, and I liked it so much I got my own used copy so I can add it to my little animal rights library. It's a science fiction novel about a celebrity scientist and her "witness," an "enhanced" capuchin monkey whose job it is to record her every waking moment for posterity. Though he's been trained to love his owner and to be her loyal servant, he becomes disatisfied with his lot and rebels.

The novel is set in a huge ship that's meant to find a new planet to colonize. I won't go into details, but let's just say I found the science bits questionable. You want a certain degree of realism in science fiction, a plausible backdrop for the action -- and this was somewhat lacking. I just didn't buy a lot of the colonists' plans or strategies or ideas, and thought Card and Kidd could have done a better job at either explaining the craziness or pushing themselves to consider more forward-thinking solutions.

That said, the weird setting and such are refreshing in their oddness, and the story itself make up for my criticisms ten times over. Lovelock, the monkey, is our narrator, and a complex little guy. He goes from rebellion against speciesism to unwitting participation in it, and has to go through a second, painful awakening to recognize his complicity in oppression. I found his story really moving, and thought Card and Kidd's decision to put out this message from the perspective of a non-human was 100% awesome. What a way to make these ideas accessible to non-speciesists.

Here, if you want a copy, buy it used and ship it carbon-neutral. Lovelock was named after James Lovelock, who invented the Gaia Hypothesis. Wouldn't want Mother Nature (or super-intelligent monkeys) to come give you a talking-to for doing environmentally-unfriendly mail-order.

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Posted: Jun 4, 2007 7:51am
Mar 26, 2007

He who says speciesism says fascism—


Forty-eight thousand million animals—yes, 48 billion creatures—are estimated to die each year as a result of human activities ranging from factory farming to hunting, the fur garment trades, commercial exploitation of various kinds, and biomedical research. That's more than 130 million creatures every single day, including birds, cows, and hogs, all of them highly sociable animals.

The way we go about killing animals, wherever they may be found or kept, land, sea or air—murdering and torturing are better words—is astonishing. We do it with abandon and we do it in such institutionalized, "tradition" approved ways that only a minority ever realize the extent of the tragedy. Since the era of modern fishing began 200 years ago we have decimated the oceans, ostensibly infinite reservoirs of life, converting many maritime regions into what Farley Mowat accurately decried as "seas of slaughter." In the USA alone, every year almost 50 million turkeys are killed just for Thanksgiving Day, to commemorate a date that is of questionable historical merit, and which, despite the fact that the sacrificial victims have grown from a handful to tens of millions, rarely stirs any introspection. Sadly, such incidents are but a mere drop in an invisible sea of abuse whose actual roots date back to our earliest times as a species with self-righteous "dominionistic" claims over nature.

Forty-eight billion animals is a stunning figure, yet this figure, regarded by many experts as scandalously conservative, does not include animals mistreated or dead as a result of habitat destruction, widespread pollution, apparently "harmless" recreational activities such as sport fishing and boating, and the collision of animals with "modernity" (up to 250 million animals die annually as roadkill on the American highways alone). We have become indeed not only the most appalling tyranny over every other sentient creature on this planet, including many segments of our own breed, but also a raging, self-righteous cancer extending itself with impunity to every corner of the earth.


Today, as a result of industrialism, ecological deterioration and other related issues, self-defined progressives can't afford to go on pretending that suffering on such egregious scale is just a peripheral issue, or the concern of affluent diettantes with little interest in other social issues.

Due to a deeply embedded and largely unexamined 18th Century heritage of philosophical "superhumanism" ("man is the measure of all things," and the rest of all that self-celebratory rubbish which, we should mention in passing, arose as a response to a greater form of human stupidity, the one granting God and King total control over human agency), the Left continues to endorse or acquiesce in human supremacist attitudes toward animals. This moral blindness is inexcusable for those who rightly see themselves as the moral vanguard of humanity. [Check this article, for example: Rethinking Revolution: Animal Liberation, Human Liberation, and the Future of the Left By STEVEN BEST . It'll probably challenge many of your assumptions.]

The bottom line is that speciesism—an underhanded and primitive form of fascism applied to animals and nature in general—is by far the oldest and most pervasive form of brutal tyrannization known on our planet. I don't use the word "fascism" as hyperbole in this context or for dramatic effect. I wish it were hyperbole. But the fact is that fascism is distinguished for its unilateral proclamations of superiority by a certain race or breed, with such spurious superiority endowing said race with the "right" to dominate, exploit, and annihilate at will any group deemed "inferior." If that pretty much doesn't describe eloquently our despicable behavior toward non-human animals, I don't know what does.

And for those who pretend to be stuck on the word "fascism" thinking that its use in this context is an abuse of language, you better think again. You abuse a language when you turn it on its head, to accomplish precisely the opposite of what the words originally denoted. Bush and his contemptible camarilla, as we all know, is a prime example of this: in his lips the words freedom, democracy and justice, not to mention a fair shake for the disadvantaged, are but tools of manipulation to further the agenda of a deranged and criminal plutocracy. But what am I proposing here? Something that all of you should be for, an extension of compassion, or at least the benefit of the doubt when subjecting mind-boggling numbers of creatures to the finality of death. Where is the inversion of meaning there? The outrageous betrayal of the language? Or is it that I just managed to offend the sensibilities of too many purists who happened to land on this forsaken blog?

But wait, I ain't through yet. Just like there are many varieties of capitalism, socialism and communism, so you also have distinct varieties of fascism. In some, all the bells and whistles are found that connote "classical fascism" —the jackboots, the open corporatization of the state, and so on and so forth, as we have come to know it. In others, it's more an all-encompassing worldview, a system of values, an ideology that justifies a treatment code. But here's the crux of the question, as some might say. The boots, the marches, the endless wars, the nauseating violence, the paraphernalia of fascism and the fascination with death—all of that cannot happen in the absence of an ideology that starts by justifying the oppression of others by virtue of a self-serving, unilateral declaration of superiority. You think you heard that before? Yeah, I said it earlier.

Regrettably, human chauvinism cuts very deep and pervades every nook and cranny of what we optimistically still call civilization, and has done so for millennia. No one is immune to its infection, including many folks who regard themselves as impeccably "progressive". Indeed, it is from their ranks that you often hear some of the worst and most derisive epithets. The usual argument is that progressives, always a thin line against barbarism, have better things to attend to than the fate of "mere" chickens and cows. Compassion, to such individuals, has obviously left the building; it is fungible, divisible, and comfortably apportionable according to inclusion or exclusion in certain categories of privileged sentience. They obviously don't see—refuse to see—the parallels with so many other struggles they may have honored or participated in, nor do they see how the liberation of animals is an integral part of a serious environmentalist agenda. No, here they draw the line, and reason, kindness, and the most elementary fairness fly out the window.

But such narrow-minded and intellectually lazy positions will surely be exposed—sooner rather than later—for the pretentious sham they truly are. For now, in the age of an utterly deranged industrialism, with a global system blatantly proclaiming as its organizing principle the pursuit at any cost of infinite growth in what to any sensible person is a very finite and fragile planet, the tyranny of humans over nature has acquired monstruous proportions. The colossal dimensions of animal exploitation by the industrial method and the death of one species after another grimly attest to that.

In view of these incontestable facts, no one with a scintilla of decency should turn his or her back on such knowledge. It is the duty of all people who haven't yet done so, and especially of progressives, to re-examine their assumptions about animals, about their everyday conduct in choosing food and clothing and transportation modes, and to join the last struggle against the first tyranny. By doing so, they will re-invigorate the environmental movement, rendering it less abstract and more passionate, because while fighting for nature is a noble and urgent call, fighting for nature's oppressed creatures is a matter of long overdue justice.

PATRICE GREANVILLE, editor of Cyrano's Journal [ ] is an independent leftist and sometime economist who has always supported animal liberation, and who sees no contradiction whatsoever in such praxis. Having suffered, as a result of his opposition to corporate values, from unemployment and underemployment for most of his adult life, he is not cavalier in his opinions on job loss.

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Posted: Mar 26, 2007 7:51am
Dec 23, 2006

Santa's slay is bad news for our flock

Dec 19 2006
Liz Shankland, Western Mail

THIS time of year is never easy. Today is abattoir day, and by the time
you read this, our Christmas turkeys will have taken their seats on the
magical mystery tour bus. This is the worst bit about rearing your own
food, but it has to be done. All the old cliches like, "At least they
had happy lives" get trotted out by well-meaning friends, but it doesn't
stop me feeling like Lady Macbeth. I often think I could turn
vegetarian, if only someone could make vegetables taste like meat.

At least we're handing over the birds to someone else to do the
unmentionable. Our way of detaching ourselves - and abiding by the law -
is to take them to a licensed slaughterhouse to be dispatched and
dressed. The Grundys on The Archers may be summoning all the help they
can get to kill and pluck their turkeys in a grubby shed at the bottom
of the garden, but some of us prefer to do things by the book.

It's not just the turkeys that we'll be waving off this week, however.
Our goats are on their way, too. I told you a few weeks ago that I had
reached a difficult decision about their future; if we are to have more
pigs, something has to go, and the goats are the ones with the short
straw. Okay, so they're really affectionate and entertaining, and
they've been really useful in clearing overgrown ground of brambles,
willow herb, and other unwanted vegetation, but they are pretty
time-consuming and, as they're not milking, we get precious little back
from them.

We've used them for strip-grazing since they arrived here, using
electric fencing, and they very swiftly blitz anything edible in their
path. To be honest, the hassle of constantly moving them to new ground -
getting them out and tethering them, unwinding the electrified tape,
uprooting and then re-siting all the plastic posts, and eventually
re-threading the tape and re-installing the hungry beasts - has
outweighed their ground-clearing benefits.

And it didn't do their case any good when they got out of their
enclosure and went on the rampage in my new orchard, giving my precious
collection of rare Welsh fruit trees a brutal pruning.

Another problem we've had with the goats is that we don't have any
permanent winter housing for them, so they've been shuffled between an
assortment of temporary homes, with a knock-on effect on other livestock
and belongings. Lesson one in buying a smallholding: make sure the place
comes with outbuildings. Believe me, you'll need them.

Happily, the goats are going to a really good home. One of the flyers I
pinned up at the Winter Fair a few weeks ago prompted a call from some
experienced goat-keepers who were looking for a Christmas gift with a
difference for a relative. What a lovely idea. I can't wait to see the
chap's face when he arrives to pick up his mystery present. I'll make
sure the goats are suitably festive-looking when they get here.

The final farewell of the week will be less pleasant, however. Gordon,
our pup, will be saying goodbye to two things very close to him. At six
months old, he is starting to show his macho side and, with "top dog"
Bryn being castrated already, we don't want any disruption in the pack.
Just like taking the turkeys to the abattoir, I feel immensely guilty
about taking Gordon to the vet, but it's another necessary evil.
Fortunately, unlike people, dogs recover quickly after surgery, but I'll
still feel rotten when I take him for the op. I have to keep saying to
myself, "Less is more". I hope he comes round to my way of thinking.

Happy Christmas - whatever unspeakable acts you find yourself carrying out.

Write to Liz Shankland c/o Western Mail, Blue Street, Carmarthen SA31
3LQ, enclosing an SAE for a reply. Or e-mail
"Because we domesticate [nonhuman animals], we bring them into existence for the sole purpose of exploiting them, and then we sit around wringing our hands saying, "What are our moral obligations to animals?"" Gary Francione.
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Posted: Dec 23, 2006 12:47pm
Dec 8, 2006
Focus: Civil Rights
Action Request: Read
Location: United States
The Origin of Speciesism

Better Off Without?

It is a commonly held belief in many secular societies that religion is not only unnecessary but also, in an historical perspective, inextricably linked with violence and hatred on an unparalleled scale.  The induced assertion, then, is that religion has been little more than an ornamental obstruction to our species' development. 

Neither history nor anthropology knows of any society in which religion has been totally absent, and even those modern states that have attempted to abolish religion have replaced it with beliefs and practices which themselves seem religious (Rappaport 1971).  The anthropologist E. B. Tylor, writing in 1871, attempted to account for the universality of human religious beliefs by reference to the psychic unity of humankind.  It is the experience of dreaming, posited Tylor, that has suggested to all men the existence of a soul, and it is from this primordial notion that all religion has evolved.

At the turn of last century, Tylor's view was challenged by the great sociologist Emile Durkheim, who asked "How could a vain fantasy have been able to fashion the human consciousness so strongly and so durably?".  It cannot be accepted, he argued, that "systems of ideas like religions, which have held so considerable a place in history, and from which, in all times, men have come to receive the energy which they must have to live, should be made up of a tissue of illusions (1961)."

As Rappaport (1971) has noted, it is both plausible and prudent to assume, at least initially, that anything which is universal to human culture is likely to contribute to human survival:

"Phenomena that are merely incidental, or peripheral, or epiphenomenal to the mechanisms of survival are hardly likely to become universal, nor to remain so if they do. When we consider further that religious beliefs and practices have frequently been central to human concerns and when we reflect upon the amount of time, energy, emotion, and treasure that men have expended in building religious monuments, supporting priestly hierarchies, fighting holy wars, and in sacrifices to assure their well-being in the next world, we find it hard to imagine that religion, as bizarre and irrational as it may seem or even be, has not contributed positively to human evolution and adaptation."

Would not an enterprise as expensive as religion have been defeated by selective pressures if it were merely frivolous and illusory?  Surely its benefits must outweigh its costs?  Rappaport's hypothesis, therefore, is that religion has not merely been important but crucial to human adaptation.   If such a contention is valid, as much evidence since amassed has suggested it is, it may prove a further thorn in the side of those secular humanists who so readily and naively engage in the religious hatred they supposedly abhor.  The reactionary dismissal of "Religion" based only on consideration of its costs is akin to throwing away one's stove because one occasionally burns one's fingers.  So, would humankind somehow have been "better off" without religion?  Ask an orangutan.


Further Reading

Tylor, E. B. 1871.  Religion in Primitive Culture.  London: John Murray.

Durkheim, E. 1961.  The Elementary Foms of Religious Life.  New York: Collier.

Rappaport, R. A. 1971.  The sacred in human evolution.  Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 2: 23-44.

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Posted: Dec 8, 2006 11:28am
Nov 9, 2006
Focus: Civil Rights
Action Request: Various
Location: United States

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Speciesism rears its ugly head

The United States Senate stands ready to debate and vote on the "American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act" (H.R. 503/S.). The House has already overwhelmingly passed this measure. Turns out that about 100,000 horses are slaughtered each year and shipped off to other countries for food. People have been eating horse, since people have been eating. It just never caught on big in this country.Probably because beef tastes better(I presume) and we have all the space we need to raise cattle. But we could have gone with the horse. It was a conscious decision on the part of our forefathers to eat cows , pigs, sheep, goats and even baby lambs and calves (born and unborn) instead of cooking horse.

I assume that the decision was made on the basis of the horse being a more reliable animal for transportation than the cow or goat (or chicken or duck for that matter). So the horse got the opportunity to live a longer life as a bearer of burdens. The cow got the shorter life, but, until the advent of the feed lot, arguably a better quality of life. No one asked it to pull a stagecoach or ride into battle against people firing guns at it.

So now, having only recently passed the Chimp retirement home act, which set up a series of old age homes for chimps to live out their last years in comfort, our Congress is on the verge of saving the nation's horses. This means that inevitably, Congress will have to pass some type of law to take care of the soon to be ageing horse population.But that's for another day and another Congress.

Doesn't it strike you as unfair that the United States would essentially ban the eating of horses and not lift a finger for the cow ? To me it is like passing a law stating that we can't euthanize dogs, but leaving cats out of the bill. What makes a horse more heroic than a cow, or a pig, or a goat ? We can't ride cows, but horses don't give us milk. It seems to me that the cow has done its part too and ought to participate in our country's largesse.I think it is time that the USA made a decision. Either we are meat eaters or we are not. Either animals are owned by humans and diposed of by them, for food or profit ; or, animals are our companions sharing the earth with us and we have no right to own them, work them, consume them or dress them up in tuxedos and make them smoke cigars.Turn them all loose I say. Let them fend for themselves. We have been feeding them for thousands of years, let them find their own browse and pasture, not to mention those big blocks of salt they like to lick. But it is not fair to signal out one species out over another just because we get sentimental about them when we watch "National Velvet" or because they carried John Wayne through some tough scrapes.

All of this does have a sad note to it. Whenever anyone says that they are so hungry "they could eat a horse", you will have to inform them , No you can't, it's against Federal law. On the bright side, it will piss the French off.
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Posted: Nov 9, 2006 8:21am
Nov 5, 2006

The Modern Day Slave Moulded by Speciesism

The Modern Day Slave Moulded by Speciesism
By me

What is the common ideology between mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras, peace activist Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and many others? Your answer may be that they are all vegetarians, but in fact, they all believed speciesism is immoral. Accordingly, one might ask: what is speciesism?

Speciesism, coined by British psychologist Richard D. Ryder in 1970, is defined as assigning different values or rights to beings on the basis of their species. (Speciesism Wikipedia) Speciesists state that different species of animals significantly differ from each other and therefore some should have a lower status than others. This, in turn, would mean that the species from a lower status can be used, in any form, by species from a higher one. (BBC Religion and Ethics – Speciesism) On the other hand, Anti-speciesists claim that a difference of species cannot be used to determine the status of an individual (Singer 7).

The objections of speciesism are largely based on the famous, yet controversial, contemporary philosopher Dr. Peter Singer, who currently works as both the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics. Named as Time Magazine's list of 100 of the world's most influential people in 2005 (Princeton University), his widely known book “Animal Liberation” is often referred to as the touchstone of the modern day animal rights movement. In his book, Dr. Singer argues that the interests of all beings capable of suffering are to be worthy of equal consideration.

Dr. Singer draws the line between beings worthy of equal consideration and those that are not by the ability to suffer because “ the capacity for suffering and enjoyment is a prerequisite for having interests at all.” (8) As an example, he says that it would not make sense to give a stone interests because even if it were to be kicked, it would not suffer. However, if the being, such as a mouse or a human, will suffer from the kick, then there is no “moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration.” (Singer 8) To mark this division line with any other characteristics, like intelligence or rationalily, would be arbitrary, due to the characteristics’ irrelevance to the criteria of having interests.

Furthermore, Dr. Singer claims that giving equal rights to all living beings is impractical; instead, we should give equal consideration to different individuals. Although equal consideration may lead to different treatment and different rights, these interests will be appropriate to each individual. For example, giving voting rights to a dog will be meaningless, for a dog will not be able to understand the significance of voting. (Singer 2) This example also applies to human infants and adults with severe brain damage who, according to Dr. Singer’s theory, should have the same voting rights as the dog. From the above, one can see that the principle of equal consideration is not a speciesist view, for it evalutes each individual’s ability, not the general ability of the whole species, and assigns rights respectively.

It should be noted that Dr. Singer believes speciesism is very similar to racism and sexism: they all choose an arbiturary characteristic and divide those with and without that particular trait as superior or inferior to the other. Also, in all cases, the self proclaimed “superior” group exerts control, and often abuses, the “inferior” group, for they feel they are rightful in using the “inferiors” as a mean to their ends.

Marjorie Spiegel, author of “The Dreaded Comparison – Human and Animal Slavery,” commented on the similarities, which mainly consists of oppression in language, slave-master relationships, and the oppressors claiming that it is for the good of the whole that slaves should be oppressed, between speciesism now and racism directed at the African American population before. In both cases, oppression in language takes the form of connotations of words. The enslaved or domesticated “inferiors” are “good,” while the free and wild are “beastly” and savage-like. (35–38) In addtion, slave-master relationships are formed where the slaves are punished, branded, restrained by bondage, used in harmful experiments… and generally treated without consideration. (Spiegel 39-44) Surprisingly, one supporter of black slavery is quoted saying “Negroes…are void of sensibility to a surprising degree…and what would be the cause of unsupportable pain to a white man, a Negro would almost disregard.” (Mosely qtd. in Spiegel 65) Isn’t this the exact same agruement used by the supporters of speciesism? Finally, the “masters” declare that without them to control the “slaves,” society would turn into a chaotic place. An extract from an essay in 1851 stated “The Negro if left to himself will not work…[if slavery were abolished] the free white operative would be compelled to pay all the expenses necessary to support this idle, drunken, lazy population.” (Campbell qtd. in Spiegel 44) As with racism a hundred years ago, humans, being the “master,” only look at our relationship with nonhuman animals in modern society from our perspective, and forget to consider the whole picture.

Speciesism, as with racism and sexism, is a problem that relates to every single human in almost every society in the present day world. It is embedded in our language, in our culture, and mostly importantly, in the “neccessities” of everyday life. Whether it is the meat that we eat, the cosmetics that we use, or the medicine that we take, there might be some form of animal rights violation, whether it is intensive factory farming or animal experimentation and testing, associated in the process of production. Even if one is particularly attentive to not act, think, or consume in any way speciesist, it is still almost impossible to prevent all forms of speciesism. Therefore we must cause a change in our orthodox ways collectively; we must consciously think about all forms of oppression in our daily life and do our best to eradicate them. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel once said, "take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." Are you willing to help abolish all forms of discrimination?

Works Cited
“Religion and Ethics – Speciesism.” BBC. Oct. 15, 2006.

Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation. New York: Avon Books, 1975

Singer, Peter. Home. Princeton University. Oct. 15, 2006 <>

“Speciesism.” Wikipedia. Oct. 15, 2006. <>

Spiegel, Marjorie. The Dreaded Comparison – Human and Animal Slavery. New York: Mirror
Books div. of I.D.E.A., 1996

Imported from external blog

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Posted: Nov 5, 2006 7:53am
Feb 14, 2006
Review on : Speciesism by Joan Dunayer

“Speciesism is destined to become the definitive statement of the abolitionist animal rights position, not only in philosophy but also for the law and for conducting animal rights advocacy. With uncompromising clarity and abundant, up-to-date evidence, Joan Dunayer details the logical conclusions of the basic animal rights proposition that all that is required for moral rights is the ability to suffer. Her keen ear for speciesist language and her sharp eye for logical inconsistency provide a wealth of information, insights, and thought provocation even for those who have been active in the animal rights movement for decades, and her criticisms of the hierarchical variety of speciesism still found in the writings of some of the best-known advocates of animal rights will provide a constructive focus for lively discussion both within and beyond that movement.”—Steve F. Sapontzis, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, California State University, Hayward and author of Morals, Reason, and Animals

“With sound science and reason, this book brilliantly expands on the limited views of many animal rights philosophers.”—Dr. Michael W. Fox, author of The Boundless Circle

“Joan Dunayer thoroughly exposes and discredits the ideas and laws that have legitimated and sustained the oppression of other animals. Using gripping examples, and showing an impressive command of the scientific literature, she has produced an uncompromising call for true justice. This thoughtful and carefully written book is a significant contribution to contemporary animal rights literature.”—David Nibert, Professor of Sociology, Wittenberg University and author of Animal Rights/Human Rights

“In this unique and impressive book, Joan Dunayer forcefully develops the most rigorous and consistent definition of speciesism ever offered. She also advances, in significant ways, the case for regarding sentience as the only criterion for possessing basic rights.”—Michael A. Fox, Professor of Philosophy, Queen’s University and author of Deep Vegetarianism
Defining speciesism as “a failure, in attitude or practice, to accord any nonhuman being equal consideration and respect,” this brilliant work critiques speciesism both outside and inside the animal rights movement. Much moral philosophy, legal theory, and animal advocacy aimed at advancing nonhuman emancipation actually perpetuate speciesism, the book demonstrates. Speciesism examines philosophy, law, and activism in terms of three categories: “old speciesism,” “new speciesism,” and species equality.

Old-speciesists limit rights to humans. Speciesism refutes their standard arguments against nonhuman rights. Current law is old-speciesist; legally, nonhumans have no rights. “Animal laws” such as the Humane Slaughter Act afford nonhumans no meaningful protection, Dunayer shows. She also explains why welfarist campaigns are old-speciesist. Instead of opposing the abuse or killing of nonhuman beings, such campaigns seek only to make abuse or killing less cruel; they propose alternative ways of violating nonhumans’ moral rights. Many organizations that consider themselves animal rights engage in old-speciesist campaigns, which reinforce the property status of nonhumans rather than promote their emancipation.

New-speciesists espouse rights for only some nonhumans, those whose minds seem most like humans’. In addition to devaluing most animals, new-speciesists give greater moral consideration and stronger basic rights to humans than to any nonhumans. They see animalkind as a hierarchy with humans at the top. Dunayer explains why she categorizes such theorists as Peter Singer, Tom Regan, and Steven Wise as new-speciesists.

Nonspeciesists advocate rights for every sentient being. Speciesism makes the case that every creature with a nervous system should be regarded as sentient. The book provides compelling evidence of consciousness in animals often dismissed as insentient—such as fishes, insects, spiders, and snails. Dunayer argues that every sentient being should possess basic legal rights, including rights to life and liberty. Radically egalitarian, Speciesism envisions nonspeciesist thought, law, and action.
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Posted: Feb 14, 2006 6:57am
Jan 6, 2006
Veganistic Deja Vu
By William Francis

Radical animal rights activist Gary Yourofsky's guest lecture about veganism and speciesism to a basic reporting class, October 17 and October 20 motivated journalism students to reflect seriously on their choice of diets as well as inspired some to react with scorn.

Yourofsky, who wore a gray Animal Liberation Front T-shirt, said he wanted to eradicate speciesism, which is the killing of a species by humans and to "reconnect humans with animals because when we were kids we loved them." Yourofsky used a vivid lecture filled with historical, biological, personal, and factual anecdotes and vignettes as well as a graphic video of animal torture and slaughter.

Yourofsky said he was once like most people, a strong meat eater who ate meat "because it tastes good," and he also admitted to owning a fur coat in high school (in class none of his clothing nor shoes were made from animal products). He said, he like many others, neglected the negative attributes of eating meat and using animal products, that is, the health risks to humans and the toll of millions of dead animals.

Yourofsky said that it took him 25 years to finally realize that animals like humans deserve the right to be free and live without any form of domination. He urged students to "take off their blinders," and open their eyes to the injustice inflicted on millions of animals each year. He said that through empathy people could eradicate this injustice and view speciesism through the animals' perspective. His video reflected on the gruesome torturing and slaughtering of millions of animals each day in slaughterhouses across America.

"McDonald's, Wendy's and KFC would never use these images in their advertisements," said Yourofsky. "It bothers me when I see them use images of smiling animals. I don't feel important enough to have an animal killed for my benefit."

Senior Lu Wang, 22, a biology and media major, who wore a plaid jacket at the time of the interview, said the video had a substantial effect on her ethical beliefs about animals and how they were killed. "I think about the animals when I eat meat," said Wang, a Queens resident. "Yourofsky changed my way of looking at animals."

Yourofsky came off to listeners as a very dedicated and strong advocate of animal rights. He used charm, intelligence, and energy to deliver his message. Senior Yvette Macavale, 22, said, "He was very passionate about what he talked about."

"He was very soft spoken during his speech," said Macavale, a psychology major. Yefim Galkine, 20, a junior, expressed ambivalence. "As a person he seems like a very nice guy," said Galkine, a Brooklyn resident who is a media studies major and history minor. "While giving his speech he was very animated and energetic." But Galkine also said he didn't like Yourofsky because of his manner, which he described as intimidating and condescending.

Yourofsky mentioned famous people like Martin Luther King Jr. III, Minister Louis Farrakhan, and author Alice Walker. All, he said, adopted vegan lifestyles because they view the killing of animals as a form of oppression. According to Yourofsky, the oppression of animals is no different than the struggles they endured in their life times.

"Vegans don't consume, milk, cheese, eggs, or anything that had a face, defecated or urinated. They don't wear animal products such as furs leather belts and shoes," he said. He urged students to adopt a vegan lifestyle and he skillfully used ethics, the environment, history and health as the core principles in trying to persuade them to change their diets.

Macavale, a Staten Island resident, said that Yourofsky's approach was "too forceful" and that he shouldn't try to coerce students into being vegan. "I tried changing my diet, but it's hard for me to change my habits," said Macavale, who wore a green blazer with jeans and sneakers. "I'm not a fan of vegetables."

Yourofsky said that animal protein causes many serious diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. He provided a series of research and statistical information to support his claims. He said that people on a vegan diet live 15 years longer than non-vegans and and have less chance of contacting the serious ailments that plague millions of Americans: Obesity, cancer, heart attack and stroke. He also said that one out of every three meat eaters will get cancer due to animal protein consumption.

Yourofsky's speech had a great impact on some of the students. Even Macavale said, "I'm more compassionate about the animals' lives; I was thinking about using two days out of the week for a vegan diet." Wang also voiced some positive words, saying, "He changed my way of looking at animals, but it takes time to change."

Yourofsky said nothing is going to stop him from doing what he does and that he will continue to be the voice for the millions animals affected by spieciesism.

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Posted: Jan 6, 2006 8:44am


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