Introduction Speciesism is a book that, for the most part, makes highly progressive, radical and laudable claims regarding animal rights theory and practice. It is unfortunate that its author, Joan Dunayer, not only fails to argue for many of these claims but also borrows them from the meticulously argued-for conclusions of another author, Gary L. If one fails to treat a human animal with equal moral consideration of interests and respect because that human animal lacks traits that are prevalently associated with non-human animals or possesses traits that are prevalently associated with human animals one has committed a speciesist act. For example, if one advocates that certain human prisoners, but no non-human prisoners, be the unconsenting subjects of vivisection due to the mere fact that they are human or because human animals as a general class oppress non-human animals , then one has failed to respect and accord equal moral consideration of interests to those humans due to a morally irrelevant quality their species. The perpetrator in this case harms human and non-human animals alike without any regard, in attitude or practice, for their species. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that Dunayer grounds her questionable definition of speciesism by arguing that it is not immoral to kill or otherwise harm human animals for the reason that they possess abstract reason, language and so on--and this is so because it is immoral and illegal to kill or otherwise harm humans who lack those qualities.

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Regan says we should throw the dog over, and other animal rights philosophers usually come to similar conclusions in their own versions of this dilemma. What happened to his insistence that all subjects of a life equally possess basic moral rights? Is the same true of most human adults? Because he believes that birds and mammals are persons, he must believe that humans who eat flesh from slaughtered birds and mammals are parties to murder.

However, whereas a dog is innocent, an adult human is likely to be guilty, involved in the unjustly inflicted suffering and death of nonhumans. In contrast, most humans routinely participate in the needless infliction of suffering and death on nonhumans. In proportion to their numbers, humans commit incomparably more guilty deeds act of intentional, needless harm than non-humans. In psychological terms as well, nonhumans are more innocent. When they do cause needless harm, they might not recognize the harm as needless or harmful.

In any case, we should give them the benefit of the doubt. A democratic society deprives humans of freedom only when conscious guilt can be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt. By the legal standards of democratic nations, nonhumans are innocent. Inbreeding, confinement, beatings, and other human abuses can make nonhumans aggressive.

Otherwise, few nonhumans seriously injure or kill except out of immediate necessity. Unless abused, most nonhumans cause serious harm only to preserve themselves or others. Nonhumans who do inflict apparently gratuitous harm may have no sense of wrongdoing. By the legal standards of human democratic societies, nonhumans are innocent. Dunayer, it so happens, wants to have this both ways; elsewhere in the book she suggests that animals are capable of morality, and are perhaps better at it than humans: Of all supposed reasons for denying rights to nonhumans, the most hypocritical is the claim that humans are morally superior.

People who argue that only humans are sufficiently moral to deserve rights demonstrate their own immorality. They selfishly seek to keep speciesist abuse legal. Many nonhumans evince more goodness than many humans. Soon after her rescue and adoption, Ginny started rescuing others. The point is that Dunayer, like many vegans, thinks that other animals can do no wrong and humans most certainly can. If animals are never guilty and humans almost always are, when you find yourself in a burning house with only enough time to save either a dog or an adult human, your choice is between someone who is innocent and someone who is guilty: so save the dog.

Despite their being capable of wrongdoing, she says that they are not guilty. She writes: When we cause no more harm than we must to survive, we too are innocent. Most humans are guilty. But just about anything can be considered immoral by a moralist somewhere and so even vegans are guilty of some moral transgression.

Since humans can be capable of wrongdoing and other animals cannot, a vegan from birth who illegally downloads music, cheats on his girlfriend or buys produce that exploited humans picked is guiltier than a lion who has subsisted on almost nothing but the flesh of innocent animals since birth. And even if a vegan is not currently doing anything that someone considers immoral, they still must have done so in the past or are at risk of doing so in the future. Many vegans -— Dunayer most likely included —- consciously chose to use animal products for some time before they became vegan.

Dunayer is clear that doing so is unforgivable: To slaughter nonhumans is to commit murder. To advocate slaughtering them—in any manner—is to advocate murder.

Nonhuman advocates should say so. Hunting, fishing, and lethal trapping are murder; the perpetrators are serial killers. To be consistent, anti-speciesist vegans who refer to animal killing as murder would have to call anyone who has killed an animal a murderer, even if they are vegan now. Most human adults who eat flesh know that it comes from killed animals. Most also know that they can be healthy without eating flesh. They eat flesh because they want to and their society allows them to.

They knowingly participate in needless harm, so I consider them morally accountable. Anyone who regards such flesh eaters as innocent would have to regard Americans who owned human slaves and Germans who participated in the Holocaust as innocent. Like most humans who eat flesh, these wrongdoers were indoctrinated to participate in systemic abuse.

Further, Germans who refused to participate risked imprisonment, torture, and death. What perils confront humans who refuse to eat flesh? The Nuremberg Trials would have been unjustified acts of revenge. Yet, these practices continue on a massive scale, along with numerous other speciesist practices. Indeed, many humans participate in nonhuman exploitation even though, by their own admission, they consider that exploitation immoral. Therefore, unless we apply a double standard, speciesist acts are unjust.

Morally, their perpetrators are as guilty as perpetrators of crimes that entail other forms of prejudice. If humans are capable of being guilty because they have the capacity to consciously make choices that harm others in some way, all humans with this capability are guilty of some wrongdoing.

Therefore, whether or not we know the vegan status of a human, if they are not severely mentally impaired or are not a psychopath , we know they are guilty of having consciously caused harm despite the pleas of their conscience suggesting an alternative route.

We also know that if a human has somehow avoided consciously causing harm to others up until now, by having a conscience they -— unlike the nonhuman animal —- have potential to be guilty of wrongdoing in the future. It would only be consistent for her to say that we must always save the nonhuman over the human. This leads us to deeper problems with Speciesism. Yet, the law fails to penalize them. Has she never harmed even slightly more than she absolutely needed to in order to survive?

Pages — of Speciesism dwell on the apparent sentience of insects, mostly by delving into how ingeniously predator insects kill their prey. Yet because insects directly compete with the crops Dunayer says we should sustain ourselves upon, these crops are laden with insect-murdering chemicals.

This violence is intentional, not inadvertent. Dunayer may not like that her consumption practices lead to intentional killing, but then I may not like that my consumption practices lead to intentional killing either. No matter what Dunayer or I may or may not like, our consumption practices lead to both intentional and unintentional killing and harm.

If Dunayer says this makes me guilty, then she is guilty too. Dunayer seemingly thinks meat eaters are more guilty since our consumption practices lead to more suffering and death. But by arguing this, she abandons animal rights argumentation in favor of a suffering reduction argument for veganism.

Et tu, Joan? One such circumstance is imminent starvation. A brief aside. Okay, continuing: Short of being stranded in a frozen wasteland or famine-stricken area devoid of plant food, no human is going to die because they avoid eating animal-derived food. I have an equal right to life. If I have no other food source, I—like the polar bear—must kill prey if I want to survive. Again, no. I consider it acceptable to kill and eat a polar bear, a human, or anyone else to fend off otherwise-imminent starvation.

Where to begin? Whether you are the attacker whose life may or may not be at stake , the attacked whose life is at stake , or an observer considering whether to intervene, the question is: who shall survive? Now, Dunayer has already said that if we have to choose between saving a human and a nonhuman animal, we should probably save the nonhuman since the human is likely guilty of animal exploitation. Nor should human observers to an animal attack kill the attacking nonhuman in order to save the human.

This should hold true even if the endangered human was born and raised vegan and has never consciously caused anyone harm in any way, because such a person still has potential to cause wrongdoing in the future, whereas the nonhuman animal does not.

There is no logical reason for Dunayer to prefer to save the nonhuman animal in a lifeboat, but side with the human over the nonhuman during an attack. The situation is essentially the same. In fact, an anti-speciesist vegan who believes guilt should be punished and that humans are guilty and other animals are not should celebrate when wild animals devour humans: their impure human flesh and bone is made clean as it is broken down and reconstituted as innocent nonhuman animal flesh and bone, or fertilizer for sustaining innocent plants.

Okay, but what about when the potential victim in question is a dog or a cat? Domesticated and tamed animals are as innocent as wild animals, since they too lack a capacity for human-style moralizing. No, not really. Any attempt to perpetuate a particular trait in nonhumans involves restricting the gene pool. So-called selective breeding largely is inbreeding.

Because the mated animals are so similar genetically, selective breeding commonly pairs harmful recessive genes. Disabilities result. Dalmatians are prone to deafness, poodles to epilepsy, and boxers to malignant tumors. Dogs have been bred to be oversized, undersized, narrow-faced, and flat-faced. Short-limbed dogs such as dachshunds and basset hounds are afflicted with dwarfism that often leads to lameness, paralysis, or excruciating compression of the spinal cord.

Cats, too, have been bred to have pathologies that humans find cute or fashionable. Persians and Himalayans are flat-faced; sphinxes are hairless; munchkins have short limbs.

Twisty cats have short, non-functional front legs, which force them to hop like kangaroos. A ban on human breeding of nonhumans would end thousands of years of inflicting deformity and genetic disease. The production of nonhumans for vivisection, slaughter, and any other purpose including pet-keeping would cease.

Lee Hall in particular emphasizes that only free-roaming animals accustomed to life in the wild can truly be liberated, since domesticated animals are dependent on us. Francione says domestication makes cats and dogs slave-like, and that even with the best possible care, their lives are not as fulfilling as the lives of wild animals. So why would Dunayer ever side with the unliberatable, genetically disarrayed slave domesticate over the free-living animal with a life worth living?

Aside from the naked self-interest of preferring the company of the dog, given that selfishness justifies all sorts of things that Dunayer condemns.



Start your review of Speciesism Write a review Aug 14, Wendy rated it really liked it This is a take-no-prisoners look at human treatment of nonhumans and how such behavior is enabled through the mentality of speciesism affording unequal treatment and consideration to another based on species alone. It is, overall, an excellent book and one that makes a lot of sound points on human mis treatment of nonhumans. She points out why these views and writings are inconsistent with an abolitionist and liberation philosophy and expands on how one can make oneself consistent. She has no problem with single-issue campaigns but pushes the idea that such campaigns must be presented in a non-speciesist way for example, the Great Ape Project presents its case by attempting to prove that great apes are very similar to humans, and for that reason, and that alone, they should be granted rights.


Joan Dunayer

Leave a Comment This book was the most clarifying for me of all of the things I have read on this subject before. Carol Adams and Joan Dunayer represent a side of the argument that I am most likely to agree with, but also that I think just does make more sense in terms of philosophy. I can see that many people would think that the position of this book is radical or extreme, but I think that it is actually coherent- and that consistancy is something many moral codes lack and so it is shocking to realize the extent to which our lives would have to be changed in order to actually reflect what we say our morals are. Dunayer defines speciesism in direct terms- It is drawing a moral distinction between humans and all other animals. This definition is a lot more broad than other definitions which have been proffered by intellegentsia in the animal rights arguement.


Regan says we should throw the dog over, and other animal rights philosophers usually come to similar conclusions in their own versions of this dilemma. What happened to his insistence that all subjects of a life equally possess basic moral rights? Is the same true of most human adults? Because he believes that birds and mammals are persons, he must believe that humans who eat flesh from slaughtered birds and mammals are parties to murder.

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