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Nov 5, 2006

The Modern Day Slave Moulded by Speciesism

The Modern Day Slave Moulded by Speciesism
By me
http://www.wretch.cc/blog/anata24&article_id=10188948


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 < http://www.princeton.edu/~psinger/>

“Speciesism.” Wikipedia. Oct. 15, 2006. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speciesism>

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

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Posted: Nov 5, 2006 7:53am

 

 
 
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