Speciesism – What is it, definition and concept | 2022

Speciesism is discrimination between species. In other words, a certain species is discriminated against because it does not belong to the same species as the one exercising discrimination. It is usually applied to the human being compared to the rest of the species.

In other words, speciesism is the discrimination of one species against all others. As we will explain during the article, it is an attitude particularly of people.

Speciesism, if we apply it to the group of species that inhabit the planet, seems to lack meaning or foundation. Plants neither feel nor suffer, therefore, they cannot discriminate against anyone, their poor behavior obeys their nature.

Animals, on the contrary, do perceive pain, move, interact, etc. but they lack the rationality that allows them to consciously discriminate against someone. His actions, movements and behaviors are driven by his instinct. When one animal feeds on another, it does so out of survival, not out of spite.

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Thus, it is clear that speciesism refers particularly to an attitude of the human being. But, more than discrimination, it refers to the rational use that people make of discrimination in search of their own benefit.

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Thus, a more accurate definition of speciesism in the social sciences would be the following: “attitude of superiority of the human being over the rest of the species, which, in a rational way, seeks personal benefit or that of their community”. The current most contrary to speciesism is animalism.

Origin of speciesism

The term was coined in 1970 by psychologist and writer Richard Ryder. In one of his publications, he criticized and denounced the use of animals as part of different kinds of experiments. The author also defended equality between man and other animals, since the characteristics of the former were slightly different from those of the latter. This, for Ryder, did not justify the brutal use that is given to the rest of the members of the animal kingdom.

Later, other animalist authors joined the fight against speciesism. Over the years, so have celebrities, and even associations and parties have sprung up. Currents such as biocentrism and ecocentrism go in the same direction as the speciesist protest. Veganism is one of its best-known forms of action, it consists of not consuming any product of animal origin.

Characteristics of speciesism

Speciesism being coined and developed by animal advocates, it is a negative term from their point of view. With which, they oppose the characteristics that we are going to name next. These are the following:

  • Man’s superiority over the rest of the species that populate the planet, especially animals.
  • This superiority is based on their lack of rationality (of animals).
  • Use of animals for food.
  • Animal use for clothing, such as the skins of some species or the wool of sheep.
  • Use of animals as work tools, such as oxen, mules or sheepdogs.
  • Animals can be used for experiments that facilitate the progress of humanity, as is the case with those used in laboratories. Or the well-known case of Laika, the dog that was sent into space in the context of the space race.
  • Use of animals as part of shows, such as in the circus or in bullfights.
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Although the world remains predominantly speciesist, there have been great advances against this way of thinking and acting. Some societies have internalized that not everything goes with animals, that there are a series of red lines that should not be crossed. Or at least certain behaviors have been limited. Some of the advances have been:

  • Development of legislation that punishes those who deliberately harm some animals such as dogs.
  • Strict delimitation of fishing and hunting, establishing dates, species and zones according to environmental interest.
  • Protection of natural parks and prohibition of building in areas of environmental interest.
  • Creation of the animal welfare certificate, which establishes some basic principles of welfare in livestock farms.
  • Limitation of animals in studies and experiments.
  • Prohibition and less interest in animal shows.
  • Prohibition and prosecution of animal trafficking and the use of exotic species as pets.

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