No to Specieism
No to Specieism

Speciesism,  as I understand it, shares similarities with  anthropocentrism,   the definition of which is explained by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson in his book,  “When Elephants Weep:The Emotional Lives of Animals”

Anthropocentrism treats animals as  inferior forms of people and denies what they really are. It reflects a passionate wish to differentiate ourselves from animals, to make animals other, presumably in order to maintain humans at the top of the evolutionary hierarchy and the food chain. The notion that animals are wholly other from humans, despite our common ancestry, is more irrational than the notion that they are like us.

I understand this to mean that we must not confuse differences in appearance, language, behaviors, natural habitat with inferiority. Other species are not inferior, but rather different than the species to which we belong…the species of humans. Human interests and progress can never be used as a justification for treating other species as “less than”. The moment we believe that other species are inferior and here for our own purposes, is the moment we open the door to all manner of abuse.

We can also say that a dog has different characteristics than a cat, or a lion or a fish, or a bird…… but none is superior or inferior to the other.  Any member of one particular species may prefer  the characteristics and behaviors of a pig over a cow, or a turkey over a wombat or a beaver over a horse, but that does not mean that said preference automatically bestows either inferiority or superiority on any particular group of  animals.

 

Esther and her Diggedy-dog Friend
Esther and her Diggedy-dog Friend
Jo-Anne and Reg
Jo-Anne and Reg

Speciesism, however, does differentiate between dogs and pigs, between kittens and lambs. Speciesism includes favoring some nonhuman species over others. This is evident in the language we use to describe other species.  A dog is loyal and a pig is lazy. Cats are clean and birds are dirty and disease ridden. We refer to chauvinistic men as  pigs and women as  bird brains. It is no wonder that we cannot disabuse ourselves of the cruel notion that farmed animals, for instance, have no redeeming value and therefore are unworthy of our respect, our attention and our help. In other words, it is okay to eat them, even though we have no nutritional need whatsoever for their flesh and secretions. And if it is A-okay to eat them, then why would we, as humans, need to consider the undeniable truth that we have no right to use them for any purpose, let alone torture them as we do? Let’s not look at the man behind the curtain because it might offend our sensibilities and cause us to acknowledge our complicity in said horror.

Based on this observation, it is easy to understand why  Animal Rights Activists are campaigning for the end to what is referred to as speciesism. In doing so, we acknowledge the rights of other species and we seek to  return to them, agency over their own lives. We advocate for an end to  callously using them for what passes as food, for clothing and furniture, for household accessories and cleaning products, for personal care products, for entertainment, and medical research. We demand nothing less than letting them be by not breeding them,  by not imprisoning them, by not stealing their families from them,  by not  abusing them and by not murdering them.

World Day for the End of Speciesism Vigil held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

 

This past Saturday on August 22nd,  in many cities around the world,  animal rights advocates attended the World Day for the End of Speciesism. In my hometown of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Mouvement de Libération-Liberation Mouvement organized this day long event which included various lectures given by experts in the field, a vigil at the Mont Royal Metro, a march to Parc Lafontaine, followed by plant based food and a movie under the stars.  I was fortunate  and honored to bear witness at the vigil and march with some very good vegan friends of mine. Thanks and kudos to Karen Messier, Mélanie Bernier and Jimmy Videle and new friend Damian Kube. Other vegan friends who could not attend were there with us in spirit.

End Speciesism
End Speciesism
Jimmy and Me
Jimmy and Me

What can I tell you about the atmosphere, the mood, the energy at this 100 or so strong vigil which took place in a little square between the Mont Royal Metro Station and Mont Royal Avenue?  I am not a religious person, but if I were I would say that the little square felt like a holy place. Among the advocates there was reverence for the animals who suffer incalculably at our hands, as well as sadness for those we could not save. There was determination to pave the way for a better world for those not yet born. And yes, there was even compassion and respect for the crowd of unseeing people. 

Mélanie and Karen
Mélanie and Karen
The Vigil
The Vigil

It was the perfect place to hold a vigil because there were many passersby, some coming out of the subway station, some walking along the streets and others filing off buses. Some were curious, some bemused, some seemingly uninterested as they passed by with blank looks on their faces, either looking directly at us or with their heads down, as if the sidewalk beneath their feet held the answer to life. And of course there is always the odd defiant comment, “Vivre le Boeuf” (Long Live Beef) from those who do not want to acknowledge what, in their hearts, they already know.

Connecting with the Truth
Connecting with the Truth

Occasionally  there is a light that shines upon the consciousness of people who really do not know of the abuse suffered by animals in all of our various death for profit industries. It is then that a picture is truly worth a thousand words. On the faces of these people watching a video, we see reflected in their eyes, their expressions and body language, the very real horror farmed animals endure from the moment they are born until the day they die.

 

Annie’s Vegan View

The lives of other species are as precious to them as our lives are to us.

Other species are not inferior to us simply because they have different characteristics.

Species who enjoy special status in various human cultures around the world are not superior to those who don’t.

Equality  means fairness and is, in essence, humble.

Human humility can lead to freedom for all species and, by extension, for us.

 

May all beings be happy and free.

Anne

 

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Speciesism, Anthropocentrism and Animal Rights Vigils

6 thoughts on “Speciesism, Anthropocentrism and Animal Rights Vigils

  • August 28, 2015 at 12:36 pm
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    I think you should consider submitting this for publication. It is so well written and well presented and I learned some stuff too (never even heard of anthropocentricism….and I don’t like it at all. It’s actually laughable, if anything, human beings are the lowest, but I’ll stop there because this is such a great post and I don’t want to detract from it with my misanthropy, ha ha).

    Leave it to human beings to make everything so overcomplicated and unnatural. I’ve long felt that we simply don’t fit in with Nature. Not sure we were made that way. Seems rather that we let ourselves devolve into what we now are. And that sounds negative, but I’m writing it without emotion and simply from observation at this point.

    I’ve never read one way or other if he’s vegan, but the Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has spoken out on behalf of animals many times and this is timely, a recent “tweet” of his that fits here nicely: Neil deGrasse Tyson ‏@neiltyson Aug 24

    “Any time we’re impressed by what a non-human animal does, it’s simply because we previously underestimated its intelligence.”
    6,297 retweets 10,717 favorites

    (hm, couldn’t link to it, so that’s a copy/paste).

    Really, this post, if you or anyone else has an idea of where to submit it, should be submitted somewhere that it would be in circulation outside the internet. It’s awesome!

    Reply
    • August 29, 2015 at 8:02 am
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      Hi Krissa,
      Wow! Glad that you enjoyed my article. I did not know about anthropcentrism either until very recently. I feel that the more I learn, the better able I am to advocate for animals.
      Of course, I would love to have my article published in other areas. Not sure how to do that. I am thinking of sending this one to The Dodo. I already have two articles featured there. Just type The Dodo McGuigan in your browser and the articles should come up. I also have an article featured in VeganMuch which is a new and upcoming vegan site. Comments directly on these websites are welcome and appreciated.
      Once again, thank you for your ongoing support, Krissa. It means the world to me and to all the beings for whom we advocate.
      Take care,
      Anne

      Reply
  • August 30, 2015 at 10:33 am
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    Just read Frostie’s story on The DoDo and have bookmarked that page to go back as soon as possible. Thanks for sharing that. It looks like an amazing site. I’m sorry little Frostie didn’t get to enjoy more of the happy life he found with his wonderful human Pam at Edgar’s Mission, but thank goodness for the time he did have there. You can see in the photo the world of difference it made for him!

    Reply
    • August 31, 2015 at 9:42 am
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      Hi Krissa,
      I am glad that you had a chance to read the story of Frostie’s life. I admit to being heartbroken for him and for the good people at Edgar’s Sanctuary when he died. The work that they and other sanctuaries do must be uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time, Thank goodness for these sanctuaries for their ability to save lives and to raise awareness about the plight of animals caught in all of our various death for profit industries!
      Take care.
      Anne

      Reply
  • September 3, 2015 at 9:37 am
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    Your articles are excellent and hopefully they will reach a wider audience. When I first found out that you were vegan, and we talked about advocating, I suggested that you write for all the various sites that are out there – and there are more and more popping up. I don’t know if you set this as a goal but I’m pleased to see that you have done it. I think it’s so inspiring to share your voice and to exchange ideas with others. A lot of people enjoy Readers Digest. Would you consider sending a piece of writing to them?

    Another excellent book that is perhaps a little difficult to read at times because he does get “academic” is Jim Mason’s book, “An Unnatural Order”. He explains anthropocentricism and more. He talks about how humans were one with nature and presents a timeline of how we have moved to conquer / dominate nature. We are now so far removed from nature that we need to have a huge cultural and mindset shift.

    I want to let you know that even though I haven’t commented on some of your other blogs, etc. I have been reading them.

    Keep up the great work. Your gentle manner belies a force to be reckoned with! ☺

    Reply
    • September 4, 2015 at 6:53 am
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      Hi Cindy,

      As always thank you for your support and for allowing me to use you as a sounding board for my understanding of veganism and animal rights advocacy. I remember that conversation about sending my article to other sites and publishers and now I remember that you suggested The Readers Digest. I will certainly look into this. The reason that I have not done more of this is that I am often stumped about who to approach. If you have any other suggestion, I would love to have them.

      I certainly believe that we are living outside of nature and need to have a cultural mind shift. I hope this is possible. I also think that people are shut down in terms of thinking for themselves. We blindly accept the status quo without investigating. We also don’t like to think that our personal view might need rethinking. I am grateful for the life lessons that come my way from all people from all walks of life, from all ages, from other species on this earth, from nature. If we all took a moment to observe nature and life at work, things could be different. it is my most fervent wish.

      Thank you for reading my posts and thank you for commenting when you do. It is all good!!!
      Take care,
      Anne

      Reply

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