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While both are animals, cows are largely treated as livestock and killed to be eaten, while dogs are usually given special status and treatment as pets.
While both are animals, cows are largely treated as livestock and killed to be eaten, while dogs are usually given special status and treatment as pets.

Speciesism (/ˈspʃˌzɪzəm, -sˌzɪz-/) is a form of discrimination based on species membership.[1][2] It involves treating members of one species as morally more important than members of other species even when their interests are equivalent.[3][4] More precisely, speciesism is the failure to consider interests of equal strength to an equal extent because of the species of which the individuals are a member.[1][5]

The term is often used by animal rights advocates, who argue that speciesism is a prejudice similar to racism or sexism, in that the treatment of individuals is predicated on group membership and morally irrelevant physical differences. Their claim is that species membership has no moral significance.[6] It is thought that speciesism plays a role in inspiring or justifying cruelty to trillions[7] of animals per year, in the forms of factory farming, the use of animals for entertainment such as in bullfighting and rodeos, the taking of animals' fur and skin, experimentation on animals, and more.[8]

An example of a speciesist belief would be the following: Suppose that both a dog and a cow need their tails removed for medical reasons. Suppose someone believes that the dog and the cow have equivalent interests, but insists that the dog receive pain relief for the operation, but is fine with the cow’s tail being docked without pain relief, remarking, “it’s just a cow.” This belief is speciesist because the cow’s species is being used as an excuse for not taking her interest in not suffering intense pain into account.

It is possible to give more consideration to members of one species than to members of another species without being speciesist.[2] For example, consider the belief that a typical human has an interest in voting but that a typical gorilla does not. This belief can involve starting with a premise that a certain feature of a being—such as being able to understand and participate in a political system in which one has a political representative—is relevant no matter the being's species. For someone holding this belief, a test for whether the belief is speciesist would be whether they would believe a gorilla who could understand and participate in a political system in which she had a political representative would have an interest in voting.

There are a few common speciesist paradigms.

  • Simply considering humans superior to other animals. This is often called human supremacism—the exclusion of all nonhuman animals from the rights, freedoms, and protections afforded to humans.[9]
  • Considering certain nonhuman animals to be superior to others because of an arbitrary similarity, familiarity, or usefulness to humans. For example, what could be called "human-chimpanzee speciesism" would involve human beings favoring rights for chimpanzees over rights for (say) dolphins, because of happenstance similarities chimpanzees have to humans that dolphins do not.[10] Similarly, the common practice of humans treating dogs much better than cattle may have to do with the fact that many humans live in closer proximity to dogs and/or find the cattle easier to use for their own gain.
  • Simply considering some species superior to others. For example, treating pigs as though their well-being is unimportant, but treating horses as though their well-being is very important, even with the belief that their mental capacities are similar.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Non-Human Animals: Crash Course Philosophy #42
  • ✪ Speciesism to Veganism (Documentary)
  • ✪ Speciesism Explained
  • ✪ Speciesism: The Original Discrimination | ft. Gary Yourofsky
  • ✪ Speciesism: What Is That?


Remember Cecil the lion? A lot of people were shocked – even outraged – when they heard about his death at the hands of an American hunter in 2015. The response to the lion’s death was so strong that the guy who shot Cecil basically went into hiding, until he issued an apology. But isn’t that a little bit strange? We react with horror when we hear about a majestic lion being shot, or sacks of kittens being tossed into rivers, or owners training their dogs to fight each other for sport. But, what’s the difference between killing Cecil and killing a deer, or a duck, or a cow, or a chicken? [Theme Music] How do we reconcile the strong feelings many of us have about certain animals – mainly the cute ones, like kittens and puppies – with the way we actually use animals in our own lives? Most of us think nothing of using non-human animals for their meat, milk, or skins. And not only do we use animals in these ways, but using them as we do almost always harms them. A common method for testing cosmetics, for example, involves restraining rabbits and putting the product into their eyes, leaving it for a set amount of time, and then washing it out and checking for ill effects. Rabbits are used for this because they don’t have tear ducts, so they aren’t able to flush the product out of their eyes the way our eyes would. It may not surprise you to hear that this can be extremely painful, and often blinds the rabbits, which are then euthanized. On factory farms, chickens are housed in tiny cages, with each bird occupying a space the size of a standard piece of printer paper. Their beaks are often cut down to keep them from pecking each other, and when they’re no longer laying enough eggs, they’re killed. These are just a couple examples of the conditions animals experience at our expense, and they’re not unusual. We’d never dream of using another human being in these ways, but we think nothing of doing it to non-human animals. So, how do we let ourselves do that? Contemporary Australian philosopher Peter Singer uses the word ‘speciesism’ to describe giving preference to our own species over another, in the absence of morally relevant differences. Singer reminds us that there was a time when most Americans thought it was totally normal and right for members of one group to literally own members of another group – based on a morally irrelevant difference – skin color. And today, the members of the oppressing group look back on the reasoning of their ancestors with horror and shame. Well, Singer predicts that there will be a time when our descendants look back on us and our treatment of non-human animals with the same reaction. In a nutshell, Singer says, if it’s not ok to do it to a human, it’s not ok to do it to an animal either. Now, you might think you agree with him, because who doesn’t love bunnies and kittens?! But do you really agree with him? If you agree that we should treat like cases alike, and that a difference in treatment requires a morally relevant difference, then you have to identify the differences that justify treating non-human animals in ways that we would never subject humans to. One arbiter you might use to justify the difference is intelligence. There’s no question that, as a species, our intelligence trumps that of every other species on the planet. But we don’t normally think that intelligence is a good way for deciding how you get treated. Dystopian novels like Brave New World bring out the visceral distaste we have for that kind of intelligence-based caste system. So if it’s clearly wrong to treat members of our species differently based on intelligence, why would it be ok to treat members of other species differently on that same basis? Well, one response might be to argue that the difference in intelligence between the smartest and the least-smart humans is much smaller than the intelligence gap between humans and other species. But empirically, that’s not true. Sure, most humans fall within the same general range of intelligence, but some humans are profoundly cognitively disabled. And some animals – particularly primates – are probably more intelligent than those severely impaired humans. So that argument doesn’t hold up. But, maybe you think we should treat other animals the way we do, just because we can. Contemporary American philosopher Carl Cohen, for example, calls himself a “proud speciesist.” He argues that every species is struggling to claw its way to the top, and that’s how it should be. Every species ought to be most concerned about protecting itself, he says, and since humans are currently at the top, well, that means that we’re the best, so we can do pretty much what we want to other beings. The problem with this reasoning is, you’d almost certainly not be ok with it if you weren’t a member of the privileged species. Remember, this is the exact argument that was given by slave owners to justify their domination of Africans and indigenous peoples. So if you don’t normally think might makes right, then wouldn’t it be hypocritical to use it as a justification in this case? Yet another rationale is that this is this is the way it’s always been. And it’s true: Humans have been dominating non-human animals for a really long time. It’s part of our culture, and entire ways of life are based on it: farmers, ranchers, fishers, and so on. But arguments from tradition are always philosophically suspect. The mere fact that something has been a certain way for a long time says nothing about whether it’s good. And once again, that was the same argument used in defense of slavery. And yes, the abolition of slavery was economically costly and a huge disruption of slave-owning culture. But I think that we all agree: it was totally worth it. Still, one of the strongest arguments for our uses of non-human animals is the argument of need. Most people believe that we’re justified in doing what it takes in order to survive. In fact, most people even think it’s ok to kill another human in the name of self-defense. This argument doesn’t justify using animals for non-necessary things like cosmetics testing, but eating is a necessity, so there’s nothing wrong with eating animals. Right? The problem is, we know humans can be perfectly healthy without eating animals. So yes, you need to eat, but you don’t need to eat animals. For his part, Singer says we should think about the treatment of non-human animals in terms of an Equal Consideration of Interests. This means that identical interests should be given equal weight, regardless of what type of being they occur in. Of course, humans have all sorts of interests that animals don’t have. Some of us have interests in going to college, and voting, and getting married. And non-human animals don’t have an interest in doing those things. So we don’t have any obligation to help them do that stuff. But there is an interest that we all share: We have an interest in avoiding pain. Singer’s utilitarian ancestor, Jeremy Bentham, said, “The question is not, ‘Can they reason?’ nor ‘Can they talk?’ but rather, ‘Can they suffer?'” Because we’re all alike in our capacity to suffer, and in our desire to avoid suffering. Utilitarians like Bentham and Singer say that we need to equally consider that interest, and that we’re unjustified in preferencing human interests over non-human ones. Now, to be clear, as utilitarians, these thinkers would never issue an out-and-out prohibition on the use of non-human animals. What they’re against is the unthinking assumption that animals are at our disposal. Since they’re in the group of things that feel – like humans – they must be factored into the utilitarian calculus. So if the issue is really about need – if you’re literally starving and the only thing around to eat is an animal, they’d argue that you’re morally justified in eating it, because the suffering involved in your death by starvation would outweigh the suffering of the animal. The problem is that, for most people in the industrialized world today, it’s not about need. It’s simply about taste, and convenience, and how things have always been done. But let’s head over to the Thought Bubble to look at this from another angle. Here’s Fluffy. She’s been your close companion since she was a kitten. You love her very much, and you’ve given her the best life you could. But now Fluffy is nearing the end of her life. You’ll care for her until the end. But when she dies why not eat her? I mean, unless you’re a vegetarian, there seems to be no good reason that you’d be repelled by this idea. But you almost certainly are. Take some time here to think about why that is. It can’t be about harm, because Fluffy is already dead – she can’t feel pain. Maybe you’re appealing to some sort of principle of respect for the dead. But we know that some cultures think the best way to respect the dead is to consume their flesh. So if you’re only not eating her because you have a thing against eating cats in particular, but you’re ok with eating other animals, that seems pretty speciesist. It’s just that the species you’re giving preference to are both humans and cats. But you’re still a speciesist. Thanks, Thought Bubble! OK, so Singer has given us some pretty strong reasons to re-evaluate our treatment of non-human animals. But you still might be thinking, “Why should I care?” What if I don’t care that I’m a speciesist? I like eating meat, and feel no shame about it, because everyone I know eats meat too. Well, the thing is: Philosophers want you to be consistent with your beliefs. They want you to think about why you think it would be wrong to eat Fluffy, or why you wouldn’t eat dog meat if it was served to you, or why you were upset about Cecil the lion. And yet you have no problem eating, say, bacon, even though dogs and pigs have the same level of cognition and awareness. Philosophers want you to be able to justify your actions, to give reasons for what you do. So if you’re saying that reasons don’t matter – that you can just do what you want even if your actions are internally inconsistent, then not only are you not doing philosophy, well, you’re sort of opting out of rational discourse altogether. Because if these reasons don’t matter, then why should any reasons matter? If I want to be a racist or a homophobe or a sexist, and I’m comfortable with it because the people I hang out with have those attitudes too, well, the conversation’s sort of over. It can be hard to really scrutinize your own actions, not just regarding non-human animals, but in most areas of your life. Today we learned about moral considerations regarding non-human animals. We took a look at what philosophers like Peter Singer and Carl Cohen have to say about their use, including the concept of equal consideration of interests. Next time, we’re going to look at moral obligations regarding our families. Crash Course Philosophy is produced in association with PBS Digital Studios. You can head over to their channel to check out a playlist of the latest episodes from shows like: The Art Assignment, Braincraft, and PBS Infinite Series. This episode of Crash Course was filmed in the Doctor Cheryl C. Kinney Crash Course Studio with the help of all of these awesome people and our equally fantastic graphics team is Thought Cafe.



Origin of the term

Richard D. Ryder coined the term "speciesism" in 1970
Richard D. Ryder coined the term "speciesism" in 1970

The term speciesism, and the argument that it is simply a prejudice, first appeared in 1970 in a privately printed pamphlet written by British psychologist Richard D. Ryder. Ryder was a member of a group of academics in Oxford, England, the nascent animal rights community, now known as the Oxford Group. One of the group's activities was distributing pamphlets about areas of concern; the pamphlet titled "Speciesism" was written to protest against animal experimentation.[11]

Ryder argued in the pamphlet that "[s]ince Darwin, scientists have agreed that there is no 'magical' essential difference between humans and other animals, biologically-speaking. Why then do we make an almost total distinction morally? If all organisms are on one physical continuum, then we should also be on the same moral continuum." He wrote that, at that time in the UK, 5,000,000 animals were being used each year in experiments, and that attempting to gain benefits for our own species through the mistreatment of others was "just 'speciesism' and as such it is a selfish emotional argument rather than a reasoned one".[12] Ryder used the term again in an essay, "Experiments on Animals", in Animals, Men and Morals (1971), a collection of essays on animal rights edited by philosophy graduate students Stanley and Roslind Godlovitch and John Harris, who were also members of the Oxford Group. Ryder wrote:

In as much as both "race" and "species" are vague terms used in the classification of living creatures according, largely, to physical appearance, an analogy can be made between them. Discrimination on grounds of race, although most universally condoned two centuries ago, is now widely condemned. Similarly, it may come to pass that enlightened minds may one day abhor "speciesism" as much as they now detest "racism." The illogicality in both forms of prejudice is of an identical sort. If it is accepted as morally wrong to deliberately inflict suffering upon innocent human creatures, then it is only logical to also regard it as wrong to inflict suffering on innocent individuals of other species. ... The time has come to act upon this logic.[13]

Those who claim that speciesism is unfair to non-human species have often argued their case by invoking mammals and chickens in the context of research or farming.[14][15][16] However, there is not yet a clear definition or line agreed upon by a significant segment of the movement as to which species are to be treated equally with humans or in some ways additionally protected: mammals, birds, reptiles, arthropods, insects, bacteria, etc.

Spread of the idea

Peter Singer popularized the idea in Animal Liberation (1975)
Peter Singer popularized the idea in Animal Liberation (1975)

The term was popularized by the Australian philosopher Peter Singer in his book Animal Liberation (1975). Singer had known Ryder from his own time as a graduate philosophy student at Oxford.[17] He credited Ryder with having coined the term and used it in the title of his book's fifth chapter: "Man's Dominion ... a short history of speciesism", defining it as "a prejudice or attitude of bias in favour of the interests of members of one's own species and against those of members of other species":

Racists violate the principle of equality by giving greater weight to the interests of members of their own race when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of another race. Sexists violate the principle of equality by favouring the interests of their own sex. Similarly, speciesists allow the interests of their own species to override the greater interests of members of other species. The pattern is identical in each case.[18]

Singer argued from a preference-utilitarian perspective, writing that speciesism violates the principle of equal consideration of interests, the idea based on Jeremy Bentham's principle: "each to count for one, and none for more than one". Singer argued that, although there may be differences between humans and nonhumans, they share the capacity to suffer, and we must give equal consideration to that suffering. Any position that allows similar cases to be treated in a dissimilar fashion fails to qualify as an acceptable moral theory. The term caught on; Singer wrote that it was an awkward word but that he could not think of a better one. It became an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1985, defined as "discrimination against or exploitation of animal species by human beings, based on an assumption of mankind's superiority".[19] In 1994 the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy offered a wider definition: "By analogy with racism and sexism, the improper stance of refusing respect to the lives, dignity, or needs of animals of other than the human species."[20]

More recently, animal rights groups such as Farm Animal Rights Movement[21] and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals[15] have attempted to popularize the concept by promoting a World Day Against Speciesism on June 5.

Arguments against

Moral community, argument from marginal cases

The Trial of Bill Burns (1838) in London showing Richard Martin (MP for Galway) in court with a donkey beaten by his owner, leading to the world's first known conviction for animal cruelty
The Trial of Bill Burns (1838) in London showing Richard Martin (MP for Galway) in court with a donkey beaten by his owner, leading to the world's first known conviction for animal cruelty

Paola Cavalieri writes that the current humanist paradigm is that only human beings are members of the moral community, and that all are worthy of equal protection. Species membership, she writes, is ipso facto moral membership. The paradigm has an inclusive side (all human beings deserve equal protection) and an exclusive one (only human beings have that status).[9]

She writes that it is not only philosophers who have difficulty with this concept.[9] Richard Rorty (1931–2007) argued that most human beings – those outside what he called our "Eurocentric human rights culture" – are unable to understand why membership of a species would in itself be sufficient for inclusion in the moral community: "Most people live in a world in which it would be just too risky – indeed, it would often be insanely dangerous – to let one's sense of moral community stretch beyond one's family, clan or tribe." Rorty wrote:

Such people are morally offended by the suggestion that they should treat someone who is not kin as if he were a brother, or a nigger as if he were white, or a queer as if he were normal, or an infidel as if she were a believer. They are offended by the suggestion that they treat people whom they do not think of as human as if they were human. When utilitarians tell them that all pleasures and pains felt by members of our biological species are equally relevant to moral deliberation, or when Kantians tell them that the ability to engage in such deliberation is sufficient for membership in the moral community, they are incredulous. They rejoin that these philosophers seem oblivious to blatantly obvious moral distinctions, distinctions that any decent person will draw.[22]

Much of humanity is similarly offended by the suggestion that the moral community be extended to nonhumans. Nonhumans do possess some moral status in many societies, but it generally extends only to protection against what Cavalieri calls "wanton cruelty".[9] Anti-speciesists argue that the extension of moral membership to all humanity, regardless of individual properties such as intelligence, while denying it to nonhumans, also regardless of individual properties, is internally inconsistent. According to the argument from marginal cases, if infants, the senile, the comatose, and the cognitively disabled (marginal-case human beings) have a certain moral status, then nonhuman animals must be awarded that status too, since there is no morally relevant ability that the marginal-case humans have that nonhumans lack.

American legal scholar Steven M. Wise argues that speciesism is a bias as arbitrary as any other. He cites the philosopher R.G. Frey (1941–2012), a leading animal rights critic, who wrote in 1983 that, if forced to choose between abandoning experiments on animals and allowing experiments on "marginal-case" humans, he would choose the latter, "not because I begin a monster and end up choosing the monstrous, but because I cannot think of anything at all compelling that cedes all human life of any quality greater value than animal life of any quality".[23]

"Discontinuous mind"

Richard Dawkins argues against speciesism as an example of the "discontinuous mind"
Richard Dawkins argues against speciesism as an example of the "discontinuous mind"

Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist, argued against speciesism in The Blind Watchmaker (1986), The Great Ape Project (1993), and The God Delusion (2006), elucidating the connection with evolutionary theory. He compares former racist attitudes and assumptions to their present-day speciesist counterparts. In the chapter "The one true tree of life" in The Blind Watchmaker, he argues that it is not only zoological taxonomy that is saved from awkward ambiguity by the extinction of intermediate forms, but also human ethics and law. Dawkins argues that what he calls the "discontinuous mind" is ubiquitous, dividing the world into units that reflect nothing but our use of language, and animals into discontinuous species:[24]

The director of a zoo is entitled to "put down" a chimpanzee that is surplus to requirements, while any suggestion that he might "put down" a redundant keeper or ticket-seller would be greeted with howls of incredulous outrage. The chimpanzee is the property of the zoo. Humans are nowadays not supposed to be anybody's property, yet the rationale for discriminating against chimpanzees is seldom spelled out, and I doubt if there is a defensible rationale at all. Such is the breathtaking speciesism of our Christian-inspired attitudes, the abortion of a single human zygote (most of them are destined to be spontaneously aborted anyway) can arouse more moral solicitude and righteous indignation than the vivisection of any number of intelligent adult chimpanzees! ... The only reason we can be comfortable with such a double standard is that the intermediates between humans and chimps are all dead.[25]

Dawkins elaborated in a discussion with Singer at The Center for Inquiry in 2007, when asked whether he continues to eat meat: "It's a little bit like the position which many people would have held a couple of hundred years ago over slavery. Where lots of people felt morally uneasy about slavery but went along with it because the whole economy of the South depended upon slavery."[26]

Animal holocaust

David Sztybel argues in his paper, "Can the Treatment of Animals Be Compared to the Holocaust?" (2006), that the racism of the Nazis is comparable to the speciesism inherent in eating meat or using animal by-products, particularly those produced on factory farms.[14] Y. Michael Barilan, an Israeli physician, argues that speciesism is not the same thing as Nazi racism, because the latter extolled the abuser and condemned the weaker and the abused. He describes speciesism as the recognition of rights on the basis of group membership, rather than solely on the basis of moral considerations.[27]

Centrality of consciousness

"Libertarian extension" is the idea that the intrinsic value of nature can be extended beyond sentient beings.[28] This seeks to apply the principle of individual rights not only to all animals but also to objects without a nervous system such as trees, plants, and rocks.[29] Ryder rejects this argument, writing that "value cannot exist in the absence of consciousness or potential consciousness. Thus, rocks and rivers and houses have no interests and no rights of their own. This does not mean, of course, that they are not of value to us, and to many other painients, including those who need them as habitats and who would suffer without them."[30]

Arguments in favor


A common theme in defending speciesism is the argument that humans have the right to exploit other species to defend their own.[31] Philosopher Carl Cohen argued in 1986: "Speciesism is not merely plausible; it is essential for right conduct, because those who will not make the morally relevant distinctions among species are almost certain, in consequence, to misapprehend their true obligations."[32] Cohen writes that racism and sexism are wrong because there are no relevant differences between the sexes or races. Between people and animals, he argues, there are significant differences; his view is that animals do not qualify for Kantian personhood, and as such have no rights.[33]

Nel Noddings, the American feminist, has criticized Singer's concept of speciesism for being simplistic, and for failing to take into account the context of species preference, as concepts of racism and sexism have taken into account the context of discrimination against humans.[34] Peter Staudenmaier has argued that comparisons between speciesism and racism or sexism are trivializing:

The central analogy to the civil rights movement and the women's movement is trivializing and ahistorical. Both of those social movements were initiated and driven by members of the dispossessed and excluded groups themselves, not by benevolent men or white people acting on their behalf. Both movements were built precisely around the idea of reclaiming and reasserting a shared humanity in the face of a society that had deprived it and denied it. No civil rights activist or feminist ever argued, "We're sentient beings too!" They argued, "We're fully human too!" Animal liberation doctrine, far from extending this humanist impulse, directly undermines it.[35]

A similar argument was made by Bernard Williams, who observed that a difference between speciesism versus racism and sexism is that racists and sexists deny any input from those of a different race or sex when it comes to questioning how they should be treated. Conversely, when it comes to how animals should be treated, Williams observed that it is only possible for humans to discuss that question. Williams observed that being a human being is often used as an argument against discrimination on the grounds of race or sex, whereas racism and sexism are seldom deployed to counter discrimination.[36]

Williams also argued in favour of speciesism (which he termed 'humanism'), arguing that "Why are fancy properties which are grouped under the label of personhood "morally relevant" to issues of destroying a certain kind of animal, while the property of being a human being is not?" Williams argues that to respond by arguing that it is because these are properties considered valuable by human beings does not undermine speciesism as humans also consider human beings to be valuable, thus justifying speciesism. Williams then argues that the only way to resolve this would be by arguing that these properties are "simply better" but in that case one would need to justify why these properties are better if not because of human attachment to them.[37][38] Christopher Grau supported Williams, arguing that if one used properties like rationality, sentience and moral agency as criteria for moral status as an alternative to species-based moral status, then it would need to be shown why these particular properties are to be used instead of others; there must be something that gives them special status. Grau argues that to claim these are simply better properties would require the existence of an impartial observer, an "enchanted picture of the universe", to state them to be so. Thus Grau argues that such properties have no greater justification as criteria for moral status than being a member of a species does. Grau also argues that even if such an impartial perspective existed, it still wouldn't necessarily be against speciesism, since it is entirely possible that there could be reasons given by an impartial observer for humans to care about humanity. Grau then further observes that if an impartial observer existed and valued only minimalizing suffering, it would likely be overcome with horror at the suffering of all individuals and would rather have humanity annihilate the planet than allow it to continue, thus Grau concludes those endorsing the idea of deriving values from an impartial observer do not seem to have seriously considered the conclusions of such an idea. [39]

Another criticism of animal-type anti-speciesism is based on the distinction between demanding rights one wants and being put into those one may not want. Many people who are now over 18 but remember their time as minors as a time when their alleged children's rights was legalized torture doubt if animal rights do animals any good, especially since animals cannot even say what they consider to be horrible. A distinction is made between people who are extrinsically denied their possibility to say what they think by 18 year limits, psychiatric diagnoses based on domain-specific hypotheses, or other constructed laws on one hand, and marginal case humans intrinsically incapable of opining about their situation on the other. The former is considered comparable to racism and sexism, the latter is considered comparable to animals.[40] This extends to questioning and rejecting the very definition of "wanton cruelty". One example that has been pointed out is that since we do not know whether or not animals are aware of death, all ethical considerations on putting animals down are benighted.[41] Advocates of this way of partly accepting speciesism generally do not subscribe to arguments about alleged dehumanization or other legalistic type arguments, and have no problem with accepting possible future encounters with extraterrestrial intelligence or artificial intelligence as equals.[42][43]

Ayn Rand's Objectivism holds that humans are the only beings who have what Rand called a conceptual consciousness, and the ability to reason and develop a moral system. She argued that humans are therefore the only species entitled to rights. Objectivist philosopher Leonard Peikoff argued: "By its nature and throughout the animal kingdom, life survives by feeding on life. To demand that man defer to the 'rights' of other species is to deprive man himself of the right to life. This is 'other-ism,' i.e. altruism, gone mad."[44]

Douglas Maclean agreed that Singer raised important questions and challenges, particularly with his argument from marginal cases. However, Maclean questioned if different species can be fitted with human morality, observing that animals were generally held exempt from morality; if a man were to kidnap and try to kill a woman, most people would be outraged and anyone who intervened would be lauded as a hero, yet if a hawk captured and killed a marmot, most people would react in awe of nature and criticize anyone who tried to intervene. Maclean thus suggests that morality only makes sense under human relations, with the further one gets from it the less it can be applied. Maclean further argued that species membership is used to humanize other people and create concepts such as dignity, respect and the capacity to be treated as something more than creatures driven by survival and reproduction.[45]

The British philosopher, Roger Scruton, regards the emergence of the animal rights and anti-speciesism movement as "the strangest cultural shift within the liberal worldview", because the idea of rights and responsibilities is, he argues, distinctive to the human condition, and it makes no sense to spread them beyond our own species. Scruton argues that if animals have rights, then they also have duties, which animals would routinely violate, with almost all of them being "habitual law-breakers" and predatory animals such as foxes, wolves and killer whales being "inveterate murderers" who "should be permanently locked up". He accuses anti-speciesism advocates of "pre-scientific" anthropomorphism, attributing traits to animals that are, he says, Beatrix Potter-like, where "only man is vile." It is, he argues, a fantasy, a world of escape.[46]

Thomas Wells, while agreeing that humans should have duties towards the natural world, argued that Peter Singer's arguments were incoherent. Wells argues that Singer's call for ending animal suffering would justify simply exterminating every animal on the planet in order to prevent the numerous ways in which they suffer, as they could no longer feel any pain. Wells also argued that by focusing on the suffering humans inflict on animals and ignoring suffering animals inflict upon themselves or that inflicted by nature, Singer is creating a hierarchy where some suffering is more important than others, despite claiming to be committed to equality of suffering. Wells also argues that the capacity to suffer, Singer's criteria for moral status, is one of degree rather than absolute categories; Wells observes that Singer denies moral status to plants on the grounds they cannot subjectively feel anything (even though they react to stimuli), yet Wells argues there is no indication that animals feel pain and suffering the way humans do. Wells thus concludes "The inconvenient topography of sentience, and the hierarchy of interests it implies has to be flattened out, lest the reader conclude that something more sophisticated than hedonic utilitarianism is required."[47]


The Rev. John Tuohey, founder of the Providence Center for Health Care Ethics, writes that the logic behind the anti-speciesism critique is flawed, and that, although the animal rights movement in the United States has been influential in slowing animal experimentation, and in some cases halting particular studies, no one has offered a compelling argument for species equality.[48]

Some proponents of speciesism believe that animals exist so that humans may make use of them. They argue that this special status conveys special rights, such as the right to life, and also unique responsibilities, such as stewardship of the environment. This belief in human exceptionalism is often rooted in the Abrahamic religions, such as the Book of Genesis 1:26: "Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." Animal rights advocates argue that dominion refers to stewardship, not ownership.[49] Jesus Christ taught that a person is worth more than many sparrows.[50] But the Imago Dei may be personhood itself, although we humans have only achieved efficiencies in educating and otherwise acculturating humans. Proverbs 12:10 mentions that "The righteous one takes care of his domestic animals."[non-primary source needed]

Law and policy


The first major statute addressing animal protection in the United States, titled "An Act for the More Effectual Prevention of Cruelty to Animals", was enacted in 1867. It provided the right to incriminate and enforce protection with regards to animal cruelty. The act, which has since been revised to suit modern cases state by state, originally addressed such things as animal neglect, abandonment, torture, fighting, transport, impound standards, and licensing standards.[51] Although an animal rights movement had already started as early as the late 1800s, some of the laws that would shape the way animals would be treated as industry grew, were enacted around the same time that Richard Ryder was bringing the notion of Speciesism to the conversation.[52] Legislation was being proposed and passed in the U.S. that would reshape animal welfare in industry and science. Bills such as Humane Slaughter Act, which was created to alleviate some of the suffering felt by livestock during slaughter, was passed in 1958. Later the Animal Welfare Act of 1966, passed by the 89th United States Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, was designed to put much stricter regulations and supervisions on the handling of animals used in laboratory experimentation and exhibition but has since been amended and expanded.[53] These groundbreaking laws foreshadowed and influenced the shifting attitudes toward nonhuman animals in their rights to humane treatment which Richard D. Ryder and Peter Singer would later popularize in the 1970s and 1980s.

Great ape personhood

Great ape personhood is the idea that the attributes of nonhuman great apes are such that their sentience and personhood should be recognized by the law, rather than simply protecting them as a group under animal cruelty legislation. Awarding personhood to nonhuman primates would require that their individual interests be taken into account.[54]

Films and television series with themes around speciesism

See also


  1. ^ a b Baumann, Tobias (26 November 2018). "The Case Against Speciesism". Reducing Risks of Future Suffering. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b Yancy, George; Singer, Peter (27 May 2015). "Peter Singer: On Racism, Animal Rights and Human Rights". The Stone. New York Times. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  3. ^ Duignan, Brian. "Speciesism". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  4. ^ "Speciesism". Animal Ethics. 2014-01-07. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  5. ^ Quigley, Jay (30 April 2015). "Ending the suffering of billions: overcoming speciesism". YouTube. Tallahassee, Fla.: TEDxFSU. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  6. ^ Ryder (2009), p. 320
  7. ^ Moran Barwick, Emily (27 May 2015). "How Many Animals Do We Kill Every Year?". Bite Size Vegan. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  8. ^ Cameron, Janet (11 April 2014). "Peter Singer on Suffering and the Consequences of "Speciesism"". Decoded Past. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d Cavalieri (2001), p. 70
  10. ^ Waldau (2001), pp. 5, 23–29
  11. ^ Ryder (2000), p. 6
  12. ^ "Ryder (2010)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 November 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  13. ^ Ryder (1971), p. 81
  14. ^ a b Sztybel, David (20 April 2006). "Can the Treatment of Animals Be Compared to the Holocaust?". Ethics & the Environment. 11 (1): 97–132. doi:10.1353/een.2006.0007. Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via Project MUSE.
  15. ^ a b "World Day Against Speciesism"
  16. ^ Ryder, Richard D. (1975). Victims of Science: The Use of Animals in Research, Davis-Poynter.
  17. ^ Diamond (2004), p. 93; Singer (1990), pp. 120–121
  18. ^ Singer (1990), pp. 6, 9
  19. ^ Wise (2004), p. 26
  20. ^ Blackburn (1994), p. 358
  21. ^ "World Day Against Speciesism" Archived 2015-05-28 at the Wayback Machine FARM Blog
  22. ^ Rorty (1998), p. 178
  23. ^ Wise (2004), p. 26, citing Frey (1983), pp. 115–116
  24. ^ "Gaps in the Mind, by Richard Dawkins". Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  25. ^ Dawkins (1996), pp. 262–263
  26. ^ "Richard Dawkins - Science and the New Atheism". 2007-12-07. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  27. ^ Barilan, Y. Michael (March 2004). "Speciesism as a precondition to justice". Politics and the Life Sciences. 23 (1): 22–33. doi:10.2990/1471-5457(2004)23[22:SAAPTJ]2.0.CO;2. PMID 16859377.
  28. ^ Vardy and Grosch (1999)
  29. ^ Holden (2003)
  30. ^ Ryder (2005)
  31. ^ Graft (1997)
  32. ^ "Cohen (1986)" (PDF). Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  33. ^ Cohen (2001)
  34. ^ Noddings, Nel (29 August 1991). "Comment on Donovan's "Animal Rights and Feminist Theory"". Signs. 16 (2): 418–422. doi:10.1086/494674. JSTOR 3174525.
  35. ^ "AAR Print". 17 March 2005. Archived from the original on 17 March 2005. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  36. ^ Williams, Bernard "The human prejudice", Peter Singer Under Fire: The Moral Iconoclast Faces His Critics 3, (2009), pp.135-152
  37. ^ Williams, Bernard "The human prejudice", Peter Singer Under Fire: The Moral Iconoclast Faces His Critics 3, (2009), pp.135-152
  38. ^ "Cognitive Ability and Moral Status". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  39. ^ Grau, Christopher "A Sensible Speciesism?", (2016)
  40. ^ Ethics Without Indoctrination, Richard Paul 1988
  41. ^ The thinker's guide to ethical reasoning, Linda Elder and Richard Paul 2013
  42. ^ At Home in the Cosmos, Esko Valtaoja 2001
  43. ^ The Oxford Handbook of International Relations, Robyn Eckersley 2008: 2009
  44. ^ Peikoff (1991), p. 358
  45. ^ MacLean, Douglas. "Is ‘‘Human Being’’a moral concept?" Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly 30, no. 3/4 (2010): 16-20.
  46. ^ Scruton, Roger. "Animal Rights", City Journal, summer 2000.
    • Scruton (1998).
  47. ^ Wells, Thomas (2016-10-24). "The Incoherence of Peter Singer's Utilitarian Argument for Vegetarianism". ABC Religion and Ethics. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  48. ^ Tuohey, John; Ma, Terrence P. (29 August 1992). "Fifteen years after "Animal Liberation": has the animal rights movement achieved philosophical legitimacy?". The Journal of Medical Humanities. 13 (2): 79–89. doi:10.1007/bf01149650. PMID 11652083.
  49. ^ Scully (2003)
  50. ^ Matthew 10:31
  51. ^ Green, Michael S. (2015) "Animal Rights Movement." Ideas and Movements that shaped America: From the Bill of Right to Occupy Wall Street
  52. ^ Ryder,Richard 2000
  53. ^ "Animal Welfare Act." United States Department of Agriculture,
  54. ^ Karcher (2009)
  55. ^ "The Superior Human?", official website


Barlian, Y. Michael (2004). "Speciesism as a precondition to justice", Politics and the Life Sciences, 23(1), March, pp. 22–33.
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Caviola, L.; Everett, J. A. & Faber, N. S. (2018) “The moral standing of animals: Towards a psychology of speciesism”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
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Cohen, Carl and Regan, Tom (2001). The Animal Rights Debate, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Diamond, Cora (2004). "Eating Meat and Eating People," in Cass Sunstein and Martha Nussbaum (eds.), Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, Oxford University Press.
Dawkins, Richard (1993). "Gaps in the mind", in Paola Cavalieri and Peter Singer (eds.), The Great Ape Project, St. Martin's Griffin, 1993, pp. 81–87.
Dawkins, Richard (1996) [1986]. The Blind Watchmaker, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Dawkins, Richard (2007). "Richard Dawkins – Science and the New Atheism", 7 December.
Fernández-Armesto, Felipe (2003). Ideas that changed the world, Dorling Kindersley.
Frey, R. G. (1983). Rights, Killing and Suffering, Blackwell.
Graft, D. (1997). "Against strong speciesism," Journal of Applied Philosophy, 14(2).
Gray, J. A. (1990). "In defense of speciesism," Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 13(1).
Green, Michael S.(2015) "Animal Rights Movement.” Ideas and Movements that shaped America: From the Bill of Right to Occupy Wall Street, pp. 44–47.
Holden, Andrew (2003). "In Need of New Environmental Ethics for Tourism?", Annals of Tourism Research, 30(1), pp. 94–108.
Karcher, Karin (2009) [1998]. "Great Ape Project," in Marc Bekoff (ed.), Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare, Greenwood.
Lafollette, Hugh and Shanks, Niall (1996). "The Origin of Speciesism", Philosophy, 71(275), January, pp. 41–61 (courtesy link).
Noddings, Nel (1991). "Comment on Donovan's 'Animal Rights and Feminist Theory'", Signs, 16(2), Winter, pp. 418–422.
Peikoff, Leonard (1991). Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Dutton.
Ryder, Richard D. (1971). "Experiments on Animals," in Stanley and Roslind Godlovitch and John Harris (eds.), Animals, Men and Morals, Victor Gollanz, pp. 41–82.
Ryder, Richard D. (2000) [1989]. Animal Revolution, Berg.
Ryder, Richard D. (2009) [1998]. "Speciesism," in Marc Bekoff (ed.), Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare. Greenwood.
Ryder, Richard D. (2010). "Speciesism Again: The Original Leaflet", Critical Society, Spring, 2.
Rorty, Richard (1998) [1993]. "Human rights, rationality and sentimentality," in Truth and Progress, Cambridge University Press.
Scully, Matthew (2003). Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, St. Martin's Griffin.
Singer, Peter (1990) [1975]. Animal Liberation, New York Review/Random House.
Staudenmaier, Peter (2003). "Ambiguities of Animal Rights", Communalism: International Journal for a Rational Society, March, 5.
Sztybel, David (2006). "Can the Treatment of Animals Be Compared to the Holocaust?", Ethics & the Environment, 11(1), Spring, pp. 97–132.
Tuohey, John (1992). "Fifteen years after Animal Liberation: Has the animal rights movement achieved philosophical legitimacy?", Journal of Medical Humanities, 13(2), June, pp. 79–89.
Vardy, P. and Grosch, P. (1999). The Puzzle of Ethics, Harper Collins.
Waldau, Paul (2001). The Specter of Speciesism: Buddhist and Christian Views of Animals, Oxford University Press.
Wise, Steven M. (2004). "Animal Rights, One Step at a Time," in Cass Sunstein and Martha Nussbaum eds.), Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, Oxford University Press.
Zamir, Tzachi (2009). Ethics and the Beast: A Speciesist Argument for Animal Liberation. Princeton University Press.

Further reading

BBC (2006). "The ethics of speciesism".
Dunayer, Joan (2004). Speciesism, Ryce Publishing.
Geoghegan, Tom (2007). "Should apes have human rights?", BBC News Magazine, 29 March.
Nibert, David (2003). "Humans and other animals: sociology's moral and intellectual challenge", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 23(3), pp. 4–25.
Ryder, Richard D. (1975). Victims of Science: The Use of Animals in Research, Davis-Poynter.
Horta, Oscar (2010). "What Is Speciesism", Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp. 243–266.
Kaufman, Frederik (1998). "Speciesism and the Argument from Misfortune" Journal of Applied Philosophy, 15(2), pp. 155–163.
Perry, Constance K. (2001). "A Compassionate Autonomy Alternative to Speciesism," Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, 22(3), June 2001.
Discussion between Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins
Les Cahiers Antispécistes (in French)
Liberazioni (in Italian)
Proposte per un Manifesto antispecista (in Italian)

External links

Animal Ethics (2014) "Speciesism", Ethics and Animals.
Effective Altruism Foundation (2017) "The Case against Speciesism".
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