Speciesist and proud
Watching HBO the other day I saw a promo for an upcoming documentary on PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk. The HBO website has little right now on the film, titled I Am an Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA, but the tenor of the trailer seemed to imply that the piece might be quite unflattering to Newkirk, or at least not completely sympathetic. As you can imagine, I find this quite agreeable, and am eagerly awaiting its broadcast.
The timing of this documentary couldn’t be better, as only a few weeks ago the home of a UCLA scientist was flooded by animal rights extremists (the scientist in question, Edythe London, defends her animal research here). Apparently the extremists of the Animal Liberation Front (the IRA to PETA’s Sinn Fein) planned on burning her house down but demurred in the face of the Southern California wildfires. How sweet.
Mark Hoofnagle at Denialism blog does a thorough review of the situation, noting again how PETA and its ilk continue to lie about the utility of animals in medical research. I’d like to take a quick look at a favorite accusation of the animal rights crew, namely that scientists like Dr. London and those that support them are speciesist. To which I say: but of course.
Speciesism is not like racism and sexism, no matter what Pamela Anderson tells you. The latter two prejudices are without any empirical basis, in fact such beliefs fly in the face of all we know about differences in skin color and gender. Additionally, racism and sexism claim differences where there are none, relying on only bias to posit disparities in intelligence, demeanor, and ability that science doesn’t confirm (Andrew Sullivan’s defense of bad science notwithstanding).
Conversely, speciesism is based off an undisputed biological fact: humans and animals are of a different class of organisms. I don’t need to hearken to Genesis to know that our species is set apart from all others on this planet. We’re the only ones who could even possibly debate this question, for fuck’s sake. Pure and simple, to advocate species equality is to devalue human life to a point where the life of a puppy is of equal value to that of an infant. Call me speciesist or what have you, but such a stance is morally abhorrent.