Have you ever wondered how someone can be moved to tears by a news story about the Dog Meat Festival of Yulin, China yet feel no remorse over eating a bucket of chicken wings that caused multiple birds to suffer and die?
This is a prime example of Speciesism. The misguided belief that some live matter more than others. This discriminatory belief system is deeply ingrained in our society, and it results in all kinds of negative consequences.
From the time we are born, most of us are conditioned to believe that certain species are more worthy of care and compassion over others—all based on arbitrary human preferences. We are programmed to believe, intentionally or not by our parents, education, educators, media, society and other influences the message that puppies and kittens are “friends,” cows, goats and chickens are “food,” and rats and mice are “pests.” We are taught from a very early age that human desires, needs, and interests are more important than those of any other species.
As a result, we learn to ignore our own conscience, which tells us that it’s wrong to mistreat others. We convince ourselves that we have the “right” to imprison animals in laboratories, experiment on them, and kill them because it might help humans. We tell ourselves that it’s OKAY to eat ice cream made from cow’s milk because our desire for dessert outweighs a mother cow’s right to nurse and care for her calf. That it’s OKAY to steal sheep’s wool for sweaters and scarves and ducks’ feathers for pillows. That keeping orcas in barren tanks for profit and “entertainment” is acceptable and that the enjoyment we get from casting a baited hook into the water to catch fish matters more than the pain inflicted on them when they’re pierced through the lip and yanked into an environment in which they can’t breathe. Humans use speciesism to try to justify every kind of cruelty imaginable.
In his revolutionary book ‘Animal Liberation’, philosopher Peter Singer defines speciesism as “a prejudice or attitude of bias in favor of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species.”
All animals deserve equal consideration, regardless of humans’ opinions of them. While most of us have been steeped in speciesism throughout our lives, we can—and must—overcome this destructive way of thinking.