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.


28 comments so far

  1. denise1021 on

    I’m sure if the Internet was around 60 years ago, we’d have a blog titled “Racist and Proud.”

    The underlying principle in animal rights is that all living beings deserve respect and to be treated well. Of course, animals are different from people. But that doesn’t make them any less important.

    • Ginette on

      You’re right on Denise. The same superiority complex displayed on the issue of animal rights as it was on civil rights. Racists were so ignorant as to facts and so callous to the plight of others not like them, just as they were then with black people they are now with animals. To them it was enough that someone had dark skin and did not talk their language or praise Jesus. Why is it that the human animal always needs some other being that they can rule? Is that what makes them feel superior? If they lose their whipping boys, then it was slaves, now the animals, they lose their power and self worth? Is that what the are afraid of? Humans that actually think they have a right to rule other species to a point of killing them at will, have a God complex. Only it’s a very ugly God they represent. My God created all that is on this earth and therefore I love everything that is on it, I love my God for giving me such great beautiful beings to keep and protect. My God is not a God of blood lust. My God does not want blood sacrifice not does my God condone for flesh eating flesh. My God gave us the herbs and greens, the grain, The colorful fruits, to feast on. My God frowns heavily on those that kill for selfish wants, greed and vanity.

  2. John Cain on

    Seems someone didn’t even bother reading my post, otherwise they would have read how equating speciesism with racism doesn’t fly. Kudos on getting here so quickly, though.

    So I take it you oppose medical research on animals, then?

  3. Mary on

    No one has claimed that “speciesism” is exactly the same as racism or sexism. (For the record though, your argument doesn’t exactly hold up because as you know there ARE differences in genders, and not just the obvious ones. But we’ve come to accept that even though there are differences, those differences don’t matter in deciding how women ought to be treated).

    Animal protectionists don’t believe that there aren’t differences between humans and other animals, just that those differences don’t mean that we have the right to treat animals as we wish. As creatures capable of feeling pain and experience joy, fear, agony, and a host of other things, we ought to have some compassion.

    I oersonally don’t care for the word “speciesism” and I think that attempting to ascribe rights to animals at a point becomes purely acedemic. But there is a line that we as humans have crossed, which is why I find most anti animal protectoinists quibble about words like “speciesist” and “rights” rather than addressing the fundamental issues.

    Most people oppose many of the cruel things that are done to animals. And many people simply don’t know what is done to them. But when you ask people if it’s wrong to confine a pig in a crate so small she can’t turn around or lie down comfortably, or whether it’s wrong to confine a veal calf in the same manner and deny him proper nutrition so his flesh will be lighter, or whether it’s wrong to force feed a goose simply for a delicacy, most people will say it is. This is demonstrated by the public’s willingness to pass laws protecting farm animals when the chance arises, and the recent support for cage free eggs, which has been tremendous.

  4. John Cain on

    No one has claimed that “speciesism” is exactly the same as racism or sexism.

    Peter Singer did. PETA does.

    But when you ask people if it’s wrong to confine a pig in a crate so small she can’t turn around or lie down comfortably, or whether it’s wrong to confine a veal calf in the same manner and deny him proper nutrition so his flesh will be lighter, or whether it’s wrong to force feed a goose simply for a delicacy, most people will say it is. This is demonstrated by the public’s willingness to pass laws protecting farm animals when the chance arises, and the recent support for cage free eggs, which has been tremendous.

    None of this is what I’m talking about. I’m fine with advocating for more humane treatment of animals and in fact support doing so. Like you said there’s a line; there’s a difference between saying that and saying that human and animal lives are of equal value. I completely comfortable with medical research on animals, because we simply have no other option, and I hold human life in higher regard than I do animal life.

    • coolguy on

      Cain You suck!! Animal have values too!!

      • :P on

        So do people “cool” guy. You don’t seem to know that now, do you? And if you can’t figure out that you only need one exclamation point, you are stupid.

  5. Noah on

    Racism and sexism are not prejudices–they are systems of oppression. Systems of oppression like speciesism, sexism, and racism aren’t based on rational categories, but rather on one group having power over and benefiting from the exploitation of another group. These systems are not the same, but rather use similar logics and feed off of one another. For example, the exploitation of women is facilitated by animalizing them, and when we want to consume animals, we feminize them. (See Carol J. Adam’s The Pornography of Meat for a good exposition on that topic.)

    It doesn’t matter that there aren’t morally relevant differences between people of color and whites or women and men. Women and people of color are still oppressed, and men and whites still benefit from their oppression. Similarly, nonhuman animals are systematically exploited to benefit humans.

    Certain groups of humans are currently (as well as in the past) systematically exploited for the benefit of other humans. For example, drugs are tested on poor people and people living in Third World nations. Young women of color in this country are constantly subject to experimental reproductive controls. Drug companies use Native Americans to test vaccines (see Conquest by Andrea Smith). The logic that a powerful group can experiment on a less powerful group to benefit themselves is the problem. Working to eliminate that logic helps us value all life, human and nonhuman.

    • Ginette on

      Two Thmbs Up. Well Said!

  6. Hazel on

    speciesism, sexism, and racism all come from the same place – human ignorance.

    Quote: Conversely, speciesism is based off an undisputed biological fact: humans and animals are of a different class of organisms

    Actually thats totally incorrect. Humans are a species of Mammals, mammals are a category of animal as opposed to veg or mineral. If you said Humans and Insects are of a different class of organisms you’d have been right. As it is, you’re as wrong about this as years past when ‘cultural guardians” tried to claim white superiority based on science fiction rather than science fact. Today with the cracking of the genetic code, we know for a scientific fact the differences between humans and other mammals are nearly nil, while the differences between human populations (red white yellow black red etc) are even smaller.

  7. John Cain on

    Hazel, I am aware there’s specific biological classification called “class”. I was using the word in the more colloquial sense. I should have been more clear about that.

  8. coast2coast on

    I personally feel that dolphins are the most intelligent species on the planet. Discuss.

    • :P on

      Wrong. Guess what? Your precious dolphins gang rape.

  9. Hazel on

    coast 2 coast I totally agree!.

    Cain, Hmmm biological classification of class? Don’t think so. Class distinctions are a human social thing, not a biological thing. Unless of course you mean class as in classification?

  10. paxamericana on


    John uses “class” to mean “category” as in “in a class by herself”.

    I don’t see why we should treat animals as moral beings equal to humans; I have no problem viewing animals (at least most complex mammals) are ethically deserving of protection from suffering–but only insofar as it can reasonably be avoided and isn’t capricious (i.e. no factory farms, no veal, humane slaughtering). That means that medically necessary studies (and some other forms of animal testing) are okay when weighed against (or to prevent) possible human suffering.

    Put very crudely, I’ll quote from a comedy bit I remember:
    “If hooking up a chimpanzee to car battery is going to save someone from dying from AIDS in five years, I only have two things to say: the red is positive and the black is negative.”

  11. Hazel on

    Yeah real funny. I say somethings are worse than death, leave the monkey alone!

  12. John Cain on

    I say somethings are worse than death, leave the monkey alone!

    And here we come to the horrifying truth about animal rights activists. If people have to die to fuel Hazel’s sense of self-righteousness, so be it.

  13. paxamericana on


    And I say human death is morally worse than animal suffering. You haven’t explained why animals are deserving of equal moral status as humans, or at least the same sorts of rights and protections.

  14. John Cain on

    Cain, Hmmm biological classification of class? Don’t think so.

    You’re an idiot. The taxonomy goes Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Subphylum, Class, Subclass, Order, Family, Genus, Species.

  15. Marcelo on

    John Cain, you are an idiot.

  16. John Cain on

    How exactly, Marcelo? Do you usually leave hit and run comments on blogs you don’t like months after the post was written?

  17. Michael on

    No, I think you are missing the point. Speciesism is using species alone as a characteristic to treat individuals differently, rather than their actual characteristics, just as racism (as a prejudice and form of discrimination, rather than just stereotypes) is using race alone to treat individuals differently, rather than their actual characteristics.

    A racist says that even through a given black person is as intelligent as a white person, he or she will not be let into the school because of skin color, even though skin color is totally irrelevant to whether they can succeed in school.

    A speciesist says that even though a nonhuman animal is equally capable of suffering, he or she will still be caused to suffer because of his or her limited cognitive ability, or number of legs, even though cognitive ability and number of legs are totally irrelevant to whether they can suffer. They are equally arbitrary, irrational prejudices.

    As a result of speciesism, we cause nonhuman animals today more suffering (in terms of intensity, duration, and number of victims) than we caused other humans in the worst slave trades and genocide throughout history.

    Please take a moment to see Earthlings, at:

    …and for sources, see PETA’s site:


    …and the Humane Society’s site:


  18. John Cain on

    Way to comment 8 months after the fact, Michael. Please tell me you’re keeping true to your principles and rejecting all modern medicine.

  19. WBR on

    Speciesism is the wrong word. The real term is supremacism. Only humans believe they are better as a group to other life–whether one is speaking of species, race, gender, age, class, religion. No other species can be speciesist. Activists really need to let go of Singer and Regan–their philosophy is antiquated and weak–and leaves loopholes for opponents to attack.

    from the website above:

    These are arguments I have used over the years in exchanges with research proponents and scientists. They have advantages over a focus on medical alternatives and citations of scientific studies because it doesn’t leave the audience having to choose between the truthfulness and reliability of animal activists who say that vivisection is dangerous and useless in all cases, and the vivisection advocates who receive public relations support from the medical industry which provides treatments and medicine. They also directly and concisely address the central philosophical issue of human claims of superiority.

    Arguments Against ANIMAL RESEARCH

    1)It is a perversion of altruism and compassion–you attempt to heal Peter by torturing and killing Paul. It is like trying to help a homeless man by kicking a family out of their house, beating them to death and moving the former in (except that finding a home for the homeless man is a sure thing–animal researchers have been trying to cure cancer for hundreds of years without success). The fact that the number one answer to criticism of animal research is a citation of alleged benefits proves that animal researchers lack a common sense understanding of morality and ethics–since we wouldn’t allow murderers or thieves to cite the benefits they or their family attain from their actions to justify murder or theft.

    2)It is a medical fraud–if you wouldn’t think it is rational to find a cure for diseases in giraffes by experimenting on elephants why would you think it is rational to cure disease in humans by using mice, rats, dogs or chimps? Animal research is big business (from cage manufacturers to science grant applicants), and scientists have a vested interest in conjuring up new experiments to keep their paychecks, while telling the public that the research is important and a “breakthrough.” (If you think animal researchers are strictly motivated by compassion, how many new drugs they develop can you get for free?) Pagan priests sacrificed animals and read their entrails to encourage the hope and health of society (a good harvest, easy childbirth). Those that opposed it endangered society by angering the gods. Today, animal researchers claim that if nonhuman animal research stopped, the world would descend into a hell of disease and misery (without explaining why society and culture endured even during the Medieval plague. By their logic, humans should have been extinct eons ago, plus it grossly exaggerates the power of medicine since humans continue to die from disease–including scientists). Animal researchers promote the view that life works according to a quasi-Darwinian “Great Chain of Being” hierarchy where animals follow a ladder of complexity–starting with worms and ending with humanity, and that you can take them apart and reassemble them as easily as a jigsaw puzzle. If animal research is necessary for producing safe drugs and treatments why then do we need clinical trials on humans? Why does Pfizer have to conduct medical trials in Africa? Why do drugs like Thalidomide get pulled after being shown to be safe in nonhuman animals? If one had a choice between a drug tested only on rats or chimps, and a drug tested only on humans, which would you deem safer for people? The answer determines one’s belief in the importance on nonhuman animals in research.

    3)Animal research treats nonhuman animals in ways that would be considered an atrocity if done to even the most despised criminal in history–and yet, nonhuman animals commit no crimes. Why do they deserve such treatment?

    4)If finding a cure for disease is so important, why aren’t scientists and patients advocating the use of criminals or volunteers in medical experiments? Humans are the best and safest model for research, and we send healthy people off to be maimed and killed in wars for natural resources, religion and political ideology, and yet the war against cancer is only considered of dire importance when it comes to the discussion of abolishing nonhuman animals in research.

    5)Researchers say animal research is necessary–and yet they eat meat, and engage in all other activities that are clearly not necessary. It shows that the necessity argument isn’t even a real factor–they simply regard non humans as less in value.

    6) Researchers and their proponents say animal rights activists can’t protest animal research if they have benefited from research that has been linked to animal research experiments. But they ignore that research on humans against their consent has also been done and the research preserved for the greater good-why don’t they make the same demands of human rights activists? Double standards.

    7)Researchers say they need to use nonhuman animals for research because they are like us–and yet they say they deserve no rights because they are not like us. This highlights the real issue–the motivation for animal research beyond money is an arrogant belief that humans as a species are superior in value to all other life, based upon arbitrary, non-absolute and subjective criteria conveniently determined by those who stand to benefit from the discrimination and exploitation. The same reasoning was used by James Marion Sims, former president of the American Medical Association, to experiment on black slaves (a bronze statue of him stands in NY’s Central Park) and by Nazi doctors to justify their experiments.

    Further reading on how we are all using research done on unsuspecting humans.
    Taken from: http://www.micahbooks.com/readingroom/Nazisandanimalresearch.html “In 1987, the Supreme Court heard a case in which a U.S. soldier sued the government for having used him as a test case for LSD experiments, without his knowledge (Stanley vs. The United States). The court voted 5 to 4 against the victim. For a recent review of experiments conducted on human beings in the U.S., without their informed consent, see Clouds of Secrecy: The Army’s Germ Warfare Tests over Populated Areas, by Leonard A. Cole, Subjected to Science, by Susan Lederer, Johns Hopkins Press (This books studies experimentation on human beings between the two world wars); and Stranger at The Bedside by David J. Rothman, which studies this problem in the period after the Second World War. There are many more books on this subject. Many of them can be found on the Internet, under “Human Experimentation,” or at Amazon.com, under the same heading.”

    Pfizer experiments in Africa: July 1, 2002 issue of The Nation. Globalizing Clinical Research: Big Pharma Tries Out First World Drugs on Unsuspecting Third World Patients by Sonia Shaw.

    This is a summary of a non Singer or Regan formula for asserting nonhuman rights status

    Anti-Human Supremacy Ethical Argument for Nonhuman Rights

    Those who believe in a moral code of universal human rights but deny extending rights to nonhumans have two problems. The criteria(s) they use to justify this discrimination (faculty of reason, a soul, divine or evolutionary favor, moral reciprocity, survival of the fittest, individual selfishness, a bundle of characteristics or vaguely defined ones etc.) cannot be proven to be possessed by all humans or lacking in all nonhumans. i.e. some humans are more intelligent than others, some nonhumans are more rational than some humans, humans can and do willfully break laws and yet the most hated of criminals are regarded as more deserving of care and respect than the most innocent of beings.

    Secondly, the importance of such criteria can be doubted– shown not to be objective absolute truth, but subjective arbitrary criteria conveniently determined by those who stand to benefit from the discrimination they wish to justify. Nature(or invisible deities), through environmental phenomenon, weather, earthquakes, and the actions of other human beings, cannot be shown to care or favor humans over other lifeforms as an absolute objective fact. This subjectivity means that someone who may discriminate against other humans (which happens despite the laws and philosophy designed to curb such incidents) using criteria that is just as subjective (skin colour, gender, class, religion, survival of the fittest, individual selfishness, etc) cannot be effectively condemned by a human rights advocate who denies rights to nonhumans, since both are discriminating according to subjective criteria of value they deem to be important. Pragmatic appeals to self-interest and the Golden Rule are also dubious, since a dictator or criminal may exploit and kill and never need to care about the rights of others or face prosecution, and a man living on one side of the globe does not necessarily have a practical reason to care what happens to humans in another far away country.

    The only way for a human rights advocate to consistently argue that one ought to have systemic universal human rights and an ethical code based upon this idea is to extend the concept of fairness and justice to nonhumans as much as possible. Because humans develop ethical codes to govern human behavior, and nonhumans do not appear to employ or require such codes in their social interactions, they benefit from the consistency requirement in human concepts of fairness and justice without needing to reciprocate. To expect them to adhere to human moral contracts in order to be eligible for moral regard is like expecting a blind man to be able to read and then punishing him for not doing so. That moral regard may not be possible or practical in all situations due to particular factors (such as scale or absentmindedness or the inability to be perfect), but since the same is true of human relations with other humans, it does not invalidate the merits of the argument or provide a loophole to justify systemic exploitation of nonhuman lifeforms (since one could then justify the same for humans).

    Every argument put forth to defend exploitation assumes human superiority as a given, and conveniently ignores the reality of human predation upon other human beings. This approach applies equally to theists and secularists, and any human society that can articulate a belief in supremacy and uses it to systematically discriminate(against humans or nonhumans).

  20. coolguy on

    Cain! Fuck u!!! Why are you so mean to other beings beside humans! Shame on you! Bastard!!

    • :P on

      Get off the internet you obnoxious 12 year old!

  21. Anton on

    What makes you think, you’re smarter than Pamela?Once again we see that Sexism=Speciesism remains true. It says a lot that this pathetic text is one of the first you find on google regarding speciesism. Good work

  22. Reader on

    Oh good grief.

    You know how sending blacks to jail but giving whites mere fines for the same drug offenses is anti-black racism? And how the solution is to give all those offenders the same penalty instead (either send both the blacks and whites to jail, or give both the blacks and the whites mere fines, or decriminalize the drugs in the first place)?

    *If* all species are equal *then* sending humans who beat and rape and kill other humans to jail but letting other animals who beat and rape and kill go free would likewise be anti-human speciesism, anti-human speciesist mass incarceration that would completely dwarf the anti-black mass incarceration going on in the U.S. right now. The solution would be to give all those who beat and rape and kill the same penalty instead (either send all the attackers to jail, or – and this one’s more feasible than arresting every duck or elephant seal or koala who forces unwanted sex on another – let them all go free).

    If you want to know what truly equal rights for homo sapiens and other animal species would look like, don’t just think of how “speciesism” hurts animals. Also think of what “speciesism” lets animals do…

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