Speciesism: Right or Wrong?

The topic of speciesism is another way to discuss the larger issue of being ‘woke’ with your students.

Those who refuse to take the notion seriously, tend to feel that humans are superior to other species. Those who abhor this kind of moral superiority feel that all species are completely equal. They say that speciesism is as bad as racism and sexism.

One of the most common ways to understand speciesism is given on a British Broadcasting Corporation website. It reads as follows:

Most people, faced with a difficult choice between a human and an animal, would probably react in a speciesist (or ‘homocentric’) way.

Consider this example:

A child and a dog are trapped in a fire. You can only save one of them. Which will you save?

  • Most people don’t have to think about this for even one second.
  • Most people don’t consider the relative moral status of the dog and the child relevant to their choice.
  • Society would condemn anyone who delayed in order to consider the correct moral choice.

Many groups exist to protect the rights of species other than humans. One of these is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Members are often considered to be extremists: in general, they are opposed to humans who wear animal fur or who love their pets but also choose to eat meat.

The PETA website could be a valuable online resource for your students to analyse in a critical manner. There they will find the following statement:

From the time we are young, most humans are conditioned to view certain species as worthy of care and compassion and others as unworthy – all based on arbitrary human preferences. Intentionally or not, parents, teachers, the media, and other influences send children the message that puppies and kittens are ‘friends’, cows and chickens are ‘food’, and rats and mice are ‘pests’. Most children are also taught that human desires, needs, and interests always trump those of any other species.