Have you ever wondered why people treat animals differently than people, and why we rarely give this a second thought?
Why are we happy when we hear a cow has escaped slaughter, while we are eating meat? And why do animal rescues organize barbecues to recruit volunteers and donors? Why do some people spend hundreds of euros on care for a sick rabbit, while others breed rabbits to sell them to a butcher? How is it possible that people view themselves as animal lovers, while at the same time they pay people to separate cows from their children, and use their mother’s milk for the production of cheese and other dairy products?
All animals value their lives
Not only just humans, but all animals are sentient. They value their lives. They take care of their children, enjoy the attention of others, enjoy food, moving around, playing and having fun. They avoid pain, and try to survive. Because of these reasons their lives, like ours, have intrinsic value. In other words, their lives are meaningful, because their lives are valued by themselves. Just like your life has intrinsic value, because you ascribe value to it, not because someone else decided that for you.
What is ‘speciesism’?
Half a century ago, Peter Singer defined the term ‘speciesism’ as follows: ‘An attitude of bias against a being because of the species to which it “belongs”’. This can be abbreviated to: Speciesism is discrimination based on species.
In the same way racists treat people unequally based on someone’s race, and sexists treat people unequally based on gender, we are being speciesist if we treat animals differently based on species. There are two types of speciesism: (1) emphasizing the differences between humans and other animals, and (2) emphasizing the differences between two kinds of non-human animals.
Speciesism, type 1:
This type is most well known. It is based on the idea that people are worth more than other animals, and that our interests are qualitatively different from those of the animals we use and kill. Ever since we were little, we have heard people voice this opinion. This is why we start to think it is normal to use animal products and to treat animals as ‘milk machines’ or as a source of wool, meat, leather, or fur.
Speciesism, type 2:
People also have created hierarchies between different animal species. We think of cats and dogs as pets, who deserve to be treated well. We get indignant when we see somebody kicking a dog. At the same time we treat animals used as food much worse. For instance: we kill them at a young age.
It is interesting that different cultures and people have classified different animals as cattleand companions. In western culture, a dog is considered a pet, but in certain parts of Asia a food source. These different ideas about what an animal’s life is worth sometimes exist within the same family. For example, children can see a rabbit as a pet, while their parents see it as food, to be killed in the near future. A collision like this has been used by Youp van ’t Hek, in the song ‘Flappie’. These examples make painfully clear how dependent the animals (that we treat as our property) are on us: people decide what they are, and how much their life is worth.
How do you stop being speciesist?
Once you understand that speciesism is unjust, the next question is how to stop being speciesist. This has two sides, a concrete one, and one that is more abstract.
What is important for the animals here and now, is the concrete one: our actions. Fortunately it is possible for everyone to eat and live without using animals – in other words ‘vegan’. We would like to help you on your way! On this website you can learn more about how to live as a vegan. There is also our VeganChallenge website, where you can find recipes (vegan food is very varied and just as delicious!), and where you can sign up for for the challenge to try out the vegan lifestyle for (at least) a month. You will receive a daily newsletter with information, tips and amazing recipes. There is also the Vegan Wiki. Here you can find many vegan products and non-food products. There are also many facebook groups where you can find tips and contact with other vegans. Did you become inspired to become vegan? Choose your own approach! You can go vegan cold t(of)urkey or do it step by step, one meal at a time. It takes time to change your perspective on animals, so take the time to read about it. For example this book is very useful and easy to read.
Veganism As the New Norm
Even when not consciously trying, you will be an example to your environment of how it is possible to live as a vegan and anti-speciesist. You will plant a seed every time you answer the questions of other people. In this way people will become more aware that it is possible to live without using animals, until veganism is the new norm.
Perhaps it may seem sometimes that, as an anti speciesist, you need to give up a lot of things. Habits, good food. Everything seems more complicated. Be sure this feeling usually recedes with time. It takes time to get used to this new way of life. But it is definitely worth it.
First of all, you do no longer actively participate in the exploitation of other animals. This, for many people brings a sense of peace and liberation. Where before a vaguely negative feeling about using animals dominated, being vegan frees you from this inner conflict. You will also notice that there are many vegan products available, and you will discover the abundance of vegetables, funghi, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Staples which have formed the basis of every large civilization. Of course it takes some time to discover and to implement new behavioural changes. The animals will be very grateful! So start today!