The issue of speciesism was first brought up by Richard Ryder in 1975. It is a term that he used “to describe the widespread discrimination that is practiced by man against other species.” (Cited in Cohen and Regan 62). Since its introduction by animal rights activists, the question of speciesism continues to draw much controversy with some scholars seeing it as a non-issue that should not be broached. Increased activism however has brought the concern into the limelight and campaigns against speciesism have been taken up in earnest with most sensitizing the public to change their perception on animals. Speciesism is indeed morally wrong; it is a form of discrimination meted out by humans against other species.
To echo words that have become synonymous with animal rights activism, animals have been accorded by providence inherent rights that should be respected by human beings. Through speciesism, human beings have continued to discriminate against animals and mistreat them on the basis of their lower cognitive capabilities. This mistreatment is also based on a wrongful notion that animals have no morals or any meaningful feelings or emotions. However, as animal rights activist have been able to demonstrate, animals have feelings and respond positively when treated well.
Kuhse and Singer (89) have reiterated on this fact by observing that “other animals (in addition to human beings) have emotions and desires, and appear capable of enjoying a good life.” It is hence crucial that human beings treat animals as important species and work towards improving their existence. Speciesism is based on the doubts that human beings have over the thinking capacity of animals. The prevailing assumption is that animals do not think and then it would not matter to them whether they are discriminated against by humans. Yet, recent research conducted to ascertain the cognitive powers of animals have established without doubt that animals can be trained and conditioned work around complicated situations. If single celled organisms such as the paramecium can be conditioned, what about large mammals? (The New Book of Knowledge 16) Animals such as pigs, dogs and the primates have been known to have a higher cognitive ability compared to other mammals but are never regarded as important in the human world. To humans, the treatment accorded to animals befits their thinking capacity, their lack of emotions and rationality.
To reiterate on the issue of thoughts and the continued discrimination of animals due to the assumed lack of thoughts, the question that has lingered for long is why human beings don’t extend the same treatment to the mentally disabled and to the infants. If the core issue behind speciesism is the lack of intellectualism in animals, then humans should treat their fellow disabled and infants as lesser beings too. Animals are regarded as insignificant beings due to their perceived lack of morality. They are also seen as possessing a weak cognitive faculty allowing them only to have sentience and instinctual interests. There are some animal species especially amongst the primates that have been found to be more intelligent than some humans and yet their statuses have not been elevated in the eyes of human beings.
Mentally handicapped individuals and infants with lower cognitive and intelligence levels are not disparaged to lower levels rather are regarded as equals. Such a disregard for other animals can only be traced to the general assumption that human beings are in the top of the chain and the rest of the animals exist at their whims (Spring 109). Interestingly, similar rights have been extended to even those humans that are not fully developed.
The issue of abortion has continued to draw raw controversy every time it hits the public discourse solely on the fact that the life of a human is regarded as existing immediately after conception. Such a zygote is accorded more rights than those granted to animals merely because it enjoys human parentage.Most proponents of speciesism argue that humans are above animals in the true sense of the word and “have the right to compete with and exploit other species to preserve and protect the human species.
” (Chadwick 19) They further argue that human beings have a responsibility to the fellow humans because they have morals and a sense of rationality which are qualities lacking in animals. While appreciating that human beings have a higher level of intelligence than other species, it is crucial to observe that to value species in regard to their level of intelligence fails to recognize other faculties in which humans fare badly compared to animals.Indeed speciesism prevails in humans.
Human beings have a disregard for non-humans on the assumption that they are different and lack the level of intelligence exhibited in humans. Speciesism is morally wrong as it discriminates against other species without looking at their inherent qualities. It wrongfully assumes that human beings have to exploit and mistreat other species on the sole basis that they have better cognitive faculties.Works CitedChadwick, Ruth F. Encyclopedia of applied ethics. Volume 4. Academic Press, 1998Cohen, Carl & Regan, Tom. The animal rights debate.
Point/Counterpoint: Philosophers Debate Contemporary Issues Series. Rowman & Littlefield, 2001Kuhse, Helga & Singer, Peter. Bioethics: an anthology. Wiley-Blackwell, 2006Spring, Joel H.
How educational ideologies are shaping global society: intergovernmental organizations, NGO’s, and the decline of the nation-state. Sociocultural, political, and historical studies in education. Routledge, 2004The New book of knowledge. Grolier, 1981;