Sociology Index


Speciesism is discrimination against or exploitation of certain animal species by humans, based on an assumption of human superiority. Philosophical Humanism's concept of individuality excludes non-human animals. If you enjoy animal circus or keep birds in a cage then you practice speciesism. Speciesism is the attitude that it is naturally right and appropriate to give priority to human interests and demands over those of all other living creatures. If you believe that certain animals have less right to life and liberty than certain others animals or humans, or you consider human beings are superior to other animals, then you subscribe to speciesism. Speciesism has led to endangerment and extinction of many animal species and to extensive environmental damage and depletion.

Speciesism And Racism

Speciesism, racism and sexism is widespread we believe they are wrong. Speciesism and racism involve discrimination. The Australian ethicist Peter Singer thinks speciesism is very much like racism. But why is speciesism is like racism? Some philosophers have argued discrimination against members of different species is perfectly moral and is not like the injustices caused by racism. Immanuel Kant argues that because animals are not self-conscious, they are there for us as a “means to an end.” Though Kant agrees that cruelty to animals can foster a cruel attitude to humanity, he believes that we have “no direct duties” to animals like we do to people. According to Peter Singer, Speciesism is an attitude of bias against a being because of the species to which it belongs. Humans show speciesism when they give less weight to the interests of nonhuman animals than they give to the similar interests of human beings.

Old Speciesism - What is speciesism?

Psychologist Richard Ryder coined the word speciesism in 1970. According to Richard Ryder speciesists draw a sharp moral distinction between humans and all other animals. Peter Singer and Tom Regan define speciesism as bias against all nonhumans. What Ryder, Singer, and Regan call ‘speciesism’ is the oldest and most severe form and hence call old speciesism. Old-speciesists don’t believe that any nonhumans should receive as much moral consideration as humans or have basic legal rights, such as rights to life and liberty. Humans generally are old-speciesists.

Old Speciesism and New Speciesism

Speciesism examines philosophy, law and activism in terms of three categories: “old speciesism,” “new speciesism,” and “species equality.” Old-speciesists limit rights to humans. Current law is old-speciesist; legally, nonhumans have no rights.

New Speciesism - There is a new trend of people believing that moral and legal rights should extend beyond human species. New-speciesists favour rights for only some nonhumans. New-speciesists believe in a hierarchy with humans at the top.

Nonspeciesism - Nonspeciesists advocate basic rights for all sentient beings. Nonspeciesists want sentience to replace humanness as the basis for rights.

Speciesism Abstracts

Animal Rights Versus Humanism - The Charge of Speciesism 
Kenneth J. Shapiro - Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 30, No. 2, 9-37 (1990)
The article applies certain concepts of contemporary animal rights philosophy, notably speciesism, to both the philosophy of humanism and humanistic psychology.

Humanism, Racism And Speciesism 
Brennan A. - Source: World Views: Environment, Culture, Religion, Volume 7, Number 3, 2003.
Abstract: Scientists are active in promoting the welfare of experimental animals. Does this mean that continued use of animals in science is inconsistent and morally condemnable as speciesism? The paper argues that philosophers' accounts of speciesism and the assimilation of speciesism to racism by Peter Singer and others are not well founded. Racism is a complex phenomenon, and there is no clear analogy to be drawn between it and the supposed prejudice of speciesism. The humanist tradition established in the Renaissance can be a source for an ethic of care for animals, and regarding humanism simply as a bias or prejudice akin to "speciesism" is misleading and simplistic.

Humanistic Psychology and Animal Rights: Reconsidering the Boundaries of the Humanistic Ethic 
Melanie Joy, Ph.D., Ed.M. - Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 45, No. 1, 106-130 (2005)
Speciesism, discrimination against others based on membership in a species, is an ideology in which countless animals are sacrificed for human ends. Virtually all psychological paradigms seem to sanction speciesism. This article explores the speciesist underpinnings of psychological thought and suggests a new paradigm that embraces many humanistic values with which to appreciate the role of other animals in human psychology and ontology and to work toward a more nonviolent social order.

Against Strong Speciesism
Donald Graft - Journal of Applied Philosophy 14 (2), 107–118.
Abstract: Speciesism, difference of treatment based on an appeal to species membership, is often likened to racism and sexism, and condemned on those grounds. Some philosophers, however, reject this argument by analogy and instead forward an argument for speciesism based on a postulated right of species to compete for survival. This paper attacks this strong form of speciesism by showing that the underlying concept of 'species' is incoherent in the context of morality, and that strong speciesism has unacceptable corollaries.

Criticisms of Speciesism 
Waldau, Paul - Source: The Specter of Speciesism, December 2001, pp. 40-57(18)
Abstract: Criticisms of speciesism by various philosophers provide a test for assessing limitations of the notion generally. Analogies of speciesism to racism and sexism are evaluated.

Kant on Duties Regarding Nonrational Nature
Onora O'Neill, Newnham College, Cambridge - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 72 (1).
Abstract: Kant's speciesism is not thoroughgoing. He does not view non-rational animals as mere items for use. He allows for indirect duties 'with regard to' them which afford welfare but not rights, and can allow for indirect duties 'with regard to' abstract and dispersed aspects of nature, such as biodiversity, species and habitats.

A Compassionate Autonomy Alternative to Speciesism 
Journal Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 
Constance K. Perry, Program in Humanities and Sciences, MCP Hahnemann University, Philadelphia, USA 
Abstract: Many people in the animal welfare community have argued that the use of nonhuman animals in medical research is necessarily based on speciesism, an unjustified prejudice based on species membership. As such it is morally akin to racism and sexism. The use of nonautonomous animals instead of humans in risky research can be based on solid moral ground. It is not necessarily speciesism.

Expanding The Moral Circle: From Racism to Speciesism 
Abstract: This paper reviews the argument by Peter Singer that speciesism, the exploitation of other species without regard for their interests, is as morally objectionable as racism and sexism. Peter Singer articulates what he regards as one of the most fundamental moral failings in the lives of most human beings in terms of the idea of speciesism. According to Singer Speciesism is a prejudice or attitude of bias in favour of the interests of member of one’s own species and against those of members of other species.

Terrorism, racism, speciesism, and sustainable use of the planet - Author: John Cairns Jr. 
Abstract: The 11 September 2001 attacks have seized our attention and undermined our sense of security. Terrorism is similar to racism and speciesism in that all are expressions of feelings of superiority over other life forms and that all are incompatible with sustainable use of the planet. It is proposed that both terrorism and racism have their genesis in speciesism. Sustainability requires a mutualistic relationship between humans and the millions of other species that collectively constitute the planet's ecological life support system.

The Specter of Speciesism - Buddhist and Christian Views of Animals.
Waldau, Paul Assistant Clinical Professor, Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.
Abstract: This is a study of the ways in which animals have been viewed in the Buddhist and Christian religious traditions. The concept of speciesism is used to explore basic questions about which animals, human or otherwise, were significant to early Buddhists and Christians.

Resisting speciesism and expanding the community of equals.
Bekoff M - BIOSCIENCE 48(8): 638-641, 1998.

The Social Construction of Human Beings and Other Animals in Human-Nonhuman Relations.
Welfarism and Rights: A Contemporary Sociological Analysis. -
The Social Construction of Human Beings and Other Animals investigates dominant socially-sedimented attitudes toward human-nonhuman relations. It seeks to examine routine practices that flow from such social constructions. Human attitudes toward other animals are socially constructed, institutionalised, widely internalised, and culturally transmitted across generations. Essentially, the thesis explores many elements of the social transmission of speciesism.

Animal Revolution Changing Attitudes Towards Speciesism by Richard D. Ryder - International Society for Applied Ethology.

The Specter of Speciesism: Buddhist and Christian Views of Animals.
Waldau's study assesses the origins of the term “speciesism,” coined by Ryder in 1970, and explores the link between speciesism and slavery, colonization, and the oppression of women and children.

Speciesism by Joan Dunayer
Defines speciesism as "a failure, in attitude or practice, to accord any nonhuman being equal consideration and respect," this brilliant work critiques speciesism both outside and within the animal rights movement.