Speciesism is discrimination against those that don’t belong to a certain species.
Anthropocentrism refers to a human centered point of view, it is a philosophy that considers human beings as the most significant entity.
Because our psychology and society today is governed by this philosophy we have turned ourselves opaque towards a class of oppressed.
Today humans exploit other non-humans as resources (food, transport, clothing and medical testing).This exploitation is not based upon hate or want to harm but is merely a result of lack of consideration for the harm that is caused as a consequence of our behavior towards them.
One of the loudest arguments made is that most animals are not sentient beings and therefore should not be included in the utilitarian calculus. Sentience is synonymous to consciousness, so who decides the sentience of an animal and the scale of sentience? These are complicated ethical as well as scientific questions that haven’t been answered yet. But humans in the meantime have adopted the convenient hypothesis in their lifestyle.
Humans are considered as morally superior and therefore worthy of rights that non-humans are deprived of. Most of us are aware of the horrors committed by the meat, dairy and textile industry in factory farms, tanneries and slaughterhouses. Right to a dignified life and rights against wrongful confinement, voluntary causing injury, abduction, rape etc. are rights only available to a special privileged species.
We have different laws governing the rights of non-humans such as the Animal Protection Act, Wildlife Protection Act, etc but the slaughterhouses on our streets, abundance of dairy products in the market, and the normalization of abuse in our society shouts about its effectiveness.
It’s also interesting to note that specialism is not just discrimination against all non-humans but the discrimination has different forms in different cultures. In some countries cows are considered holy and worshiped while in others they are slaughtered. In most countries in the world people are very sensitive about how a dog or a dolphin is treated but really enjoy a ham sandwich for breakfast.
The reason why the argument of sentience is hypocritical is because an infant who has low level of intelligence or an adult with low mental development are still guaranteed full protection of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
There was a lot of outrage after some Animal Rights Activists compared the horrors of the animal torture to the Nazi Holocaust. To most the comparison seemed disrespectful. It is pertinent to note that such comparisons were made by holocaust survivors themselves.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, Holocaust is a noun meaning slaughter on a mass scale. Why then is it disrespectful to term how animals are artificially inseminated (equivalent to rape), crammed into cages, used for testing, skinned and butchered, as holocaust?
The disgust and anger that people show at this comparisons reflects how deep rooted speciesism is our ideas and morality.
The reason behind both the holocausts have been the same, the idea that one could do everything and anything to those that they deemed sub-human. Which is exactly what we do to animals.
This is why people have time and again commented that we have learnt nothing from the historical holocaust. It is seen as an isolated tragic event and not as a lesson of how degrading some ideologies can be and how bind can the others be towards the atrocities being caused.
Some considerate humans propagate the idea that the means should be such that they are killed in the right way causing the least pain. Which would mean that the non-humans would be included in our circle of moral considerations to the extent that they are not tortured or wrongfully confined in unsuitable habitats but will still not have right to life. As long as the kill is swift, our morals would remain unharmed.
Such arguments sure raise some serious concerns about the sentience of humans.
Navin Kumar Jaggi