SPECIESISM, by Joan Dunayer, Part Deux
I realize that in writing about "old speciesism" I failed to define this term that Dunayer uses. I think of "old speciesism" as analogous to racism and sexism in that it is exploitation based on species. The advocacy component of old speciesism isn't the campaign to end that exploitation, however. Instead, it is the campaign to modify it. Meanwhile, "new speciesism" is the notion that within a paradigm where rights are included for nonhuman animals, some are more deserving of rights than others for any of a variety of reasons (e.g., intelligence, having a sense of past and future, having social ties, being a mammal or a bird).
Here are some of the my favorite quotes:
- In reality, species don't evolve toward greater humanness but toward greater adaptiveness in their ecological niche (105).
- No living group of nonhuman animals–no existing species of invertebrate, fish, amphibian, reptile, bird or nonhuman mammal–is ancestral to humans. No nonhuman alive today belongs to the same species as some ancestor of humans. Modern fishes radically differ from the fish who was the last common ancestor of fishes and humans. No frog, toad, or salamander ever was our forebear. Although we have reptilian ancestors, we didn't descend from reptiles or any species alive today (105).
- Today's nonhuman apes don't represent earlier stages in human development. Our common-ape like ancestor lived about 15 million years ago. About six million years ago, human and chimpanzee evolution parted. Chimpanzees didn't prepare the way to us any more than we prepared the way to them (106).
- Before African-American emancipation, a number of slaves sued for freedom on the grounds that they were white. Unable to prove whiteness, they had to demonstrate that they were so much like a white that they should be given "the benefit of the doubt" (109). . . . We react with revulsion to the idea of demonstrating whiteness. We should react with equal revulsion to the idea of demonstrating humanness" (110).
- Citing abilities such as nonhuman great apes' ability to learn human languages suggest that animal rights advocates seek nonhuman participation in human society. We don't. We're not asking that any nonhumans have freedom of speech or voting rights. So, what difference does it make if nonhumans can learn human languages or show other human-like capacities and behaviors? We don't want nonhumans to remain within human society (which invariably would keep them subservient). We want them to be free and independent of humans (119).
I understand the logic of that last one, but I also appreciate the intention of many activists to have great apes be a gateway of sorts. I'm not saying it's not speciesist, but that I understand it. After all, many activists don't support the use of the same tactics they'd approve of to liberate human animals to liberate nonhuman animals. I think that's speciesist, too, but I understand why they take that position.
- There's no good reason to lack confidence that animals who possess a brain are sentient (134).
- In contrast to old-speciesist and new-speciesist advocacy, nonspeciesist advocacy advances the goal of emancipating all sentient beings from human abuse. It moves society closer to the view that all forms of speciesist exploitation–from dog breeding to commercial fishing–are morally wrong (151).
To combat speciesism and work toward justice for sentient nonhumans, we must change our minds, our language and our behavior. We must rethink what we were taught in school, on the playground and at home. It's quite a dramatic overhaul–an extreme makeover–but it's a necessary one.