Speciesism is the assigning of different values or rights to beings on the basis of their species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 membership. The term was created by British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

Psychologist is a professional or academic title used by individuals who are either:* Clinical professionals who work with patients in a variety of therapeutic contexts .* Scientists conducting psychological research or teaching psychology in a college...

 Richard D. Ryder
Richard D. Ryder
Richard Hood Jack Dudley Ryder is a British psychologist. He is a former Mellon Professor at Tulane University, New Orleans. He served as chairman of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Council from 1977 to 1979, and is a past president of Britain's Liberal Democrat Animal...

 in 1973 to denote a prejudice
Prejudice is making a judgment or assumption about someone or something before having enough knowledge to be able to do so with guaranteed accuracy, or "judging a book by its cover"...

 against non-humans based on physical differences that are given moral value "I use the word 'speciesism'," he wrote in 1975, "to describe the widespread discrimination that is practised by man against other species ... Speciesism is discrimination
Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors towards groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group. The term began to be...

, and like all discrimination it overlooks or underestimates the similarities between the discriminator and those discriminated against."

The term is mostly used by animal rights
Animal rights
Animal rights, also known as animal liberation, is the idea that the most basic interests of non-human animals should be afforded the same consideration as the similar interests of human beings...

 advocates, who argue that it is irrational
In philosophy, rationality is the exercise of reason. It is the manner in which people derive conclusions when considering things deliberately. It also refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons for belief, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action...

 or morally wrong to regard sentient beings as objects or property.

Philosopher Tom Regan
Tom Regan
Tom Regan is an American philosopher who specializes in animal rights theory. He is professor emeritus of philosophy at North Carolina State University, where he taught from 1967 until his retirement in 2001....

 argues that all animals have inherent rights and that we cannot assign them a lesser value because of a perceived lack of rationality
In philosophy, rationality is the exercise of reason. It is the manner in which people derive conclusions when considering things deliberately. It also refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons for belief, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action...

, while assigning a higher value to infants and the mentally impaired solely on the grounds of being members of a specific species. Others argue that this valuation of a human infant, a human fetus
A fetus is a developing mammal or other viviparous vertebrate after the embryonic stage and before birth.In humans, the fetal stage of prenatal development starts at the beginning of the 11th week in gestational age, which is the 9th week after fertilization.-Etymology and spelling variations:The...

, or a mentally impaired person is justified, not because the fetus is a fully rational human person from conception, nor because the mentally impaired are rational to the same degree as other human beings; but because the teleological and genetic
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

 orientation of any human being from conception is to develop into a rational human being and not any other creature, and because all humans have an implicit origination from two genetically human beings, and hence, both a primary genetic orientation
Orientation may refer to:* Orientation , a function of the mind* Orientation , a 1996 short film produced by the Church of Scientology...

 and primary origination as the reproduction of other human beings, even if in a not fully developed state or if partially impaired. In this view, anyone who is born of human parents has the rights of human persons from conception, because the natural process of reproduction has already been initiated in biologically human organisms. Peter Singer
Peter Singer
Peter Albert David Singer is an Australian philosopher who is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne...

's philosophical arguments against speciesism are based instead on the principle of equal consideration of interests
Equal consideration of interests
"Equal consideration of interests" is the name of a moral principle that states that one should both include all affected interests when calculating the rightness of an action, and weigh those interests equally....

, and he has been said to support a sort of personism
Personism is a life stance that has been called the philosophy of Peter Singer. It amounts to a branch of secular humanism with different rights-criteria. The main distinction is that personists believe that rights are conferred to the extent that a creature is a person...

 version of humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....



Some philosophers, scientists, and the vast majority of humans defend Speciesism as an acceptable if not good behavior for humans. Carl Cohen
Carl Cohen
Carl Cohen is Professor of Philosophy at the Residential College of the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. He is co-author of "The Animal Rights Debate" , a point-counterpoint volume with Prof...

, a Professor of Philosophy at the Residential College of the University of Michigan, writes:

Jeffrey Alan Gray
Jeffrey Alan Gray
Jeffrey Alan Gray was a British psychologist. He was born in the East End of London. His father was a tailor, but died when Jeffrey was only seven. His mother, who ran a haberdashery, brought him up alone....

, British psychologist and a lecturer in experimental psychology at Oxford, similarly wrote that:

A common theme in defending speciesism tends to be the argument that humans "have the right to compete with and exploit other species to preserve and protect the human species".


Gary Francione's position differs significantly from that of Singer, author of Animal Liberation
Animal Liberation (book)
Animal Liberation is a book by Australian philosopher Peter Singer, published in 1975.The book is widely considered within the animal liberation movement to be the founding philosophical statement of its ideas...

(1975). Singer, a utilitarian
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "happiness", by whatever means necessary. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined only by its resulting outcome, and that one can...

, rejects moral rights
Natural rights
Natural and legal rights are two types of rights theoretically distinct according to philosophers and political scientists. Natural rights are rights not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and therefore universal and inalienable...

 as a general matter and, like Ryder, regards sentience
Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences. Eighteenth century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think from the ability to feel . In modern western philosophy, sentience is the ability to have sensations or experiences...

 as sufficient for moral status. Singer maintains that most animals do not care about whether we kill and use them for our own purposes; they care only about how we treat them when we do use and kill them. As a result, and despite our having laws that supposedly protect animals, Francione contends that we treat animals in ways that would be regarded as torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 if only humans were involved.

Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins
Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL , known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author...

 touches briefly on the subject in The Blind Watchmaker
The Blind Watchmaker
The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design is a 1986 book by Richard Dawkins in which he presents an explanation of, and argument for, the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. He also presents arguments to refute certain criticisms made on...

and The God Delusion
The God Delusion
The God Delusion is a 2006 bestselling non-fiction book by British biologist Richard Dawkins, professorial fellow of New College, Oxford, and inaugural holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford.In The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that...

, elucidating the connection to evolutionary theory
Modern evolutionary synthesis
The modern evolutionary synthesis is a union of ideas from several biological specialties which provides a widely accepted account of evolution...

. He compares former racist
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 attitudes and assumptions to their present-day speciesist counterparts. In a chapter of former book entitled "The one true tree of life", he argues that it is not just zoological
Zoology |zoölogy]]), is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct...

Taxonomy is the science of identifying and naming species, and arranging them into a classification. The field of taxonomy, sometimes referred to as "biological taxonomy", revolves around the description and use of taxonomic units, known as taxa...

 that is saved from awkward ambiguity by the extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

 of intermediate forms, but also human ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

 and law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

. He describes discrimination against chimpanzee
Chimpanzee, sometimes colloquially chimp, is the common name for the two extant species of ape in the genus Pan. The Congo River forms the boundary between the native habitat of the two species:...

s thus:
Dawkins more recently elaborated on his personal position towards speciesism and vegetarianism in a live discussion with Singer at The Center for Inquiry on December 7, 2007.
David Nibert
David Nibert
Dr. David Alan Nibert is an American sociologist, author, and professor of Sociology at Wittenberg University. He co-organized the "Section on Animals and Society" of the American Sociological Association. In 2005 he received their "Award for Distinguished Scholarship." Nibert connects animal...

 seeks to expand the field of sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 "in order to understand how social arrangements create oppressive conditions for both humans and other animals". He compares speciesism to racism and sexism
Sexism, also known as gender discrimination or sex discrimination, is the application of the belief or attitude that there are characteristics implicit to one's gender that indirectly affect one's abilities in unrelated areas...


Some have suggested that simply to fight speciesism is not enough because intrinsic value of nature can be extended beyond sentient beings, termed the ethic of "libertarian extension". This belief system seeks to apply the principle of individual rights not only to all animals but also objects without a nervous system such as trees, plants and rocks.

Ryder rejects this in writing that "value cannot exist in the absence of consciousness or potential consciousness. Thus, rocks and rivers and houses have no interests and no rights of their own. This does not mean, of course, that they are not of value to us, and to many other painients, including those who need them as habitats and who would suffer without them."

Great ape personhood

Great Ape personhood is a concept in which the attributes of the Great Apes are deemed to merit recognition of their sentience and personhood within the law, as opposed to mere protection under animal cruelty legislation. This would cover matters such as their own best interest being taken into account in their treatment by people.

Animal holocaust

David Sztybel
David Sztybel
David Sztybel is a Canadian ethicist specializing in animal ethics.Sztybel develops a new theory of animal rights which he terms "best caring," as outlined in "The Rights of Animal Persons." Criticizing conventional theories of rights based in intuition, traditionalism or common sense,...

 holds that the treatment of animals can be compared to the Holocaust in a valid and meaningful way. In his paper Can the Treatment of Animals Be Compared to the Holocaust? using a thirty-nine-point comparison Sztybel asserts that the comparison is not offensive and that it does not overlook important differences, or ignore supposed affinities between the human abuse of fellow animals, and the Nazi abuse of fellow humans. The comparison of animal treatment and the Holocaust came into the public eye with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is an American animal rights organization based in Norfolk, Virginia, and led by Ingrid Newkirk, its international president. A non-profit corporation with 300 employees and two million members and supporters, it claims to be the largest animal rights...

' "Holocaust on your Plate" exhibit. Sztybel equates the racism of the Nazis with the speciesism inherent in eating meat, or using animal by-products, particularly those produced on factory farms. Y. Michael Barilan, an Israeli physician who in his article "Speciesism as a precondition for justice", writes that speciesism is not the same thing as "Nazi racism" because Nazi racism extolled the abuser and condemned the weaker and the abused. He describes speciesism as the recognition of rights on the basis of group membership rather than solely on the basis of moral considerations.

In fiction

In science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 and works of fantasy
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common...

 speciesism takes on a role similar to racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

, discriminating against other sentients based on a sense of superiority. It varies from humans being superior to non-humans, non-humans being superior to humans, or certain non-humans being superior to other non-humans. Such exists on either a terrestrial
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

, extraterrestrial
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

, extragalactic, or extradimensional
Extra dimensions
Several speculative physical theories have introduced extra dimensions of space for various reasons:*Kaluza-Klein theory introduces extra dimensions to explain the fundamental forces other than gravity ....



Priesthood (Catholic Church)
The ministerial orders of the Catholic Church include the orders of bishops, deacons and presbyters, which in Latin is sacerdos. The ordained priesthood and common priesthood are different in function and essence....

) John Tuohey writes that the logic behind charges of speciesism fails to hold up, and that, although it has been popularly appealing, it is philosophically flawed. Tuohey claims that, even though the animal rights movement in the United States has been influential in slowing and in some cases stopping biomedical research involving animals, no one has offered a clear and compelling argument for the equality of species. Nel Noddings has criticized Peter Singer's concept of speciesism for being simplistic, and failing to take into account the context of species preference as concepts of racism and sexism have taken in to account the context of discrimination against humans. Some people who work for racial or sexual equality have said that comparisons between speciesism and racism or sexism are insulting, for example Peter Staudenmaier writes:
The central analogy to the civil rights movement and the women’s movement is trivializing and ahistorical. Both of those social movements were initiated and driven by members of the dispossessed and excluded groups themselves, not by benevolent men or white people acting on their behalf. Both movements were built precisely around the idea of reclaiming and reasserting a shared humanity in the face of a society that had deprived it and denied it. No civil rights activist or feminist ever argued, “We’re sentient beings too!” They argued, “We’re fully human too!” Animal liberation doctrine, far from extending this humanist impulse, directly undermines it. -Peter Staudenmaier

Some opponents of the idea of speciesism believe that animals exist so that humans may make use of them, be it for food, entertainment or other uses. This special status conveys special rights
Special rights
Special rights is a term originally used by libertarians to refer to laws granting rights to one or more groups which are not extended to other groups...

, such as the right to life
Right to life
Right to life is a phrase that describes the belief that a human being has an essential right to live, particularly that a human being has the right not to be killed by another human being...

, and also unique responsibilities, such as stewardship
Stewardship (theology)
Stewardship is a theological belief that humans are responsible for the world, and should take care of it. It can have political implications, such as in Christian Democracy.-Implications:...

 of the environment
Environment (biophysical)
The biophysical environment is the combined modeling of the physical environment and the biological life forms within the environment, and includes all variables, parameters as well as conditions and modes inside the Earth's biosphere. The biophysical environment can be divided into two categories:...


Carl Cohen argued that racism and sexism are wrong because there are no relevant differences between the sexes or races. Between people and animals however, there are significant differences, and they do not qualify for Kant
KANT is a computer algebra system for mathematicians interested in algebraic number theory, performing sophisticated computations in algebraic number fields, in global function fields, and in local fields. KASH is the associated command line interface...

ian personhood, and as such have no rights. Animal rights advocates point out that because many humans do not qualify for Kantian personhood, and yet have rights, this cannot be a morally relevant difference.

Objectivism or Objectivist may refer to:* Any standpoint that stresses objectivity, including;* Philosophical objectivity, realism, the conviction that reality is mind-independent* Moral objectivism, the view that some ethics are absolute...

 holds that man as the only being with a conceptual consciousness, as the animal possessing a reasoning faculty and the ability to think, which is the key characteristic setting him apart from other animals, and with his life as the standard of moral value, is the only species entitled to rights. "To demand that man defer to the "rights" of other species", it is argued, "is to deprive man himself of the right to life
Right to life
Right to life is a phrase that describes the belief that a human being has an essential right to live, particularly that a human being has the right not to be killed by another human being...


Another view against Speciesism comes from Moral Subjectivist animal rights proponents who argue that the real issue is a belief in human supremacy
Supremacy may refer to:* Supremacism, a philosophy that one is superior to others, so dominate, control or rule those who are not* Acts of Supremacy, 16th century laws in England concerning King Henry VIII and the church...

 or supremacism
Supremacism is the belief that a particular race, species, ethnic group, religion, gender, sexual orientation, belief system or culture is superior to others and entitles those who identify with it to dominate, control or rule those who do not.- Sexual :...

, since all races and both sexes can be racist or sexist, but only humans can be shown to be "speciesist," making ideological judgements and ethical laws that discriminate based upon arbitrary and subjective criteria of value conveniently determined by those who stand to benefit from the discrimination they wish to justify. Like those who engage in racial or gender supremacy, this belief is not shown to be honored by natural laws or observation of Nature, and the reality of human predation upon fellow humans shows that devotion to one's species, at least in the case of humans, is anything but monolithic (given the existence of crime, war, discrimination, etc.).
'Speciesism (like the term Anthropocentrism) invites dubious suggestions that it is unavoidable, other species do the same, and that it is not necessarily negative or connected to an articulated belief in supremacy. As far as we can observe, only humans can engage in it. We have no proof that lions walk around thinking: "Lions are better than everything else. We deserve special rights." ...Some have said that if humans have to recognize rights for lions, then lions have to recognize rights for humans--but this concept of reciprocal moral regard or contractualism is another subjective criteria. There are humans (children, mentally handicapped, criminals) who receive rights even though they cannot reciprocate (or refuse to in the case of criminals). One would not expect a blind man to be able to read road signs, so why would one expect a lion to be able to understand human concepts of morality? It is a double standard, and if anyone thinks they can get lions and spiders to follow human concepts of morality, best of luck in trying.'


Some believers in human exceptionalism
Human exceptionalism
Human exceptionalism refers to a belief that human beings have special status in nature based on their unique capacities. This belief is the grounding for some naturalistic concepts of human rights.-Apologetics:...

 base the concept in the Abrahamic religions, such as the verse in Genesis 1:26 "Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” " Animal rights advocates argue that dominion refers to stewardship and does not denote any right to mistreat other animals, which is consistent with the Bible. Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, despite its reputation for respect for animals, explicitly accords humans a higher status in the progression of reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

. Animals may be reincarnated as humans, conversely, humans based on his behavior/action can be demoted to the next life to non-human forms; but only humans can reach enlightenment. Similarly in Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, animals are respected, as it is believed that each animal has a role to play. Hindus are therefore vegetarians with a deep respect for Cows. Felipe Fernández-Armesto
Felipe Fernández-Armesto
Felipe Fernández-Armesto is a British historian and author of several popular works of history.He was born in London, his father was the Spanish journalist Felipe Fernández Armesto and his mother was Betty Millan de Fernandez-Armesto, a British-born journalist and co-founder and editor of The...

 writes that early hunter-gatherer societies such as the Innu
The Innu are the indigenous inhabitants of an area they refer to as Nitassinan , which comprises most of the northeastern portions of the provinces of Quebec and some western portions of Labrador...

 and many animist religions lacked a concept of humanity and placed non-human animals and plants on an equal footing with humans.


See also: Animal testing
Animal testing
Animal testing, also known as animal experimentation, animal research, and in vivo testing, is the use of non-human animals in experiments. Worldwide it is estimated that the number of vertebrate animals—from zebrafish to non-human primates—ranges from the tens of millions to more than 100 million...

Others take a secular approach, such as pointing to evidence of unusual rapid evolution of the human brain
Human brain
The human brain has the same general structure as the brains of other mammals, but is over three times larger than the brain of a typical mammal with an equivalent body size. Estimates for the number of neurons in the human brain range from 80 to 120 billion...

 and the emergence of "exceptional" aptitude
An aptitude is an innate component of a competency to do a certain kind of work at a certain level. Aptitudes may be physical or mental...

s. As one commentator put it, "Over the course of human history, we have been successful in cultivating our faculties, shaping our development, and impacting upon the wider world in a deliberate fashion, quite distinct from evolutionary processes
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

. Constance K. Perry asserts that the use of 'non-autonomous' animals instead of humans in risky research can be based on solid moral ground and is not necessarily speciesism.

See also

  • Anthropocentrism
    Anthropocentrism describes the tendency for human beings to regard themselves as the central and most significant entities in the universe, or the assessment of reality through an exclusively human perspective....

  • Antinaturalism (politics)
    Antinaturalism (politics)
    As a political movement in France, antinaturalism is closely linked to the animal welfare movement; some antinaturalists posit that any reference to Natural law, such as the reintroduction of wolf predators into a forest to curb deer overpopulation, is a form of speciesism, and encourage veganism...

  • Biocentrism
    Biocentrism (ethics)
    Biocentrism , in a political and ecological sense, is an ethical point of view which extends inherent value to non-human species, ecosystems, and processes in nature - regardless of their sentience...

  • Deep ecology
    Deep ecology
    Deep ecology is a contemporary ecological philosophy that recognizes an inherent worth of all living beings, regardless of their instrumental utility to human needs. The philosophy emphasizes the interdependence of organisms within ecosystems and that of ecosystems with each other within the...

  • Humanism
    Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

  • Misanthropy
    Misanthropy is generalized dislike, distrust, disgust, contempt or hatred of the human species or human nature. A misanthrope, or misanthropist is someone who holds such views or feelings...

  • Veganism
    Veganism is the practice of eliminating the use of animal products. Ethical vegans reject the commodity status of animals and the use of animal products for any purpose, while dietary vegans or strict vegetarians eliminate them from their diet only...

Further reading

  • Dunayer, Joan
    Joan Dunayer
    Joan Dunayer is a writer, editor, and animal rights advocate. "A graduate of Princeton University, she has master's degrees in English literature, English education, and psychology...

    . 2004. Speciesism. Ryce Publishing: Illinois. ISBN 0-9706475-6-5
  • Anti-speciesism
  • Les Cahiers Antispécistes (in French
    French language
    French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...


External links

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