Here at BUST, “isms” hold a prominent place in my daily mental landscape. Feminism is the reason I’ve shown up to work (relatively) bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the last 12 years. And while I always put that particular ism at the forefront of everything I do, my opposition to other entrenched social isms, like racism, classism, and sizeism also plays a significant role in how I perceive and report on the world. It wasn’t until I went vegan four years ago, however, that my consciousness was raised about another ism—speciesism. On Wikipedia, the word is defined as “the assignment of different values, rights, or special consideration to individuals solely on the basis of their species membership. The term is mostly used by animal rights advocates, who argue that speciesism is a prejudice similar to racism or sexism, in that the treatment of individuals is predicated on group membership and morally irrelevant physical differences. The argument is that species membership has no moral significance.”
Coined by British psychologist Richard Ryder in 1970, the idea of “speciesism” as a social ill gained momentum and popularity with the 1975 publication of Australian philosopher Peter Singer’s still hotly debated book Animal Liberation. "Specieism" is an ideology many consider the final frontier of social justice activism. But even as a self-described “ethical vegan” who genuinely cares about the welfare of all animals, wrapping my mind around the idea that animal rights and human rights deserve equal weight in our culture can sometimes be a stretch. As a Jewish person, I cringe every time I hear comparisons between factory farming and the Holocaust. As a feminist, I have trouble with the argument that artificially inseminating cows so that they’ll produce milk is tantamount to rape. And though I’ve read many compelling articles arguing that animal testing does not advance us scientifically, I still wonder uneasily where we would be in terms of disease control and prevention if it weren’t for the painful sacrifices of lab animals.
Documentarian Mark Devries also thought this was an issue worth exploring and tonight he’ll be unveiling the results of his research at the world premiere of his new film Speciesism: The Movie at the SVA Theatre in N.Y.C. at 7:00 pm. According to Devries, “Speciesism brings viewers face-to-face with the leaders of this developing movement, and, for the first time ever on film, fully examines the purpose of what they are setting out to do.”
I’m definitely curious to learn more, so I’m planning on attending tonight. But I’m also interested to hear from you—our readers—about this hot button issue. Is speciesism an issue that matters to you? Let ‘er rip in the comments section.