<$BlogRSDUrl$> The Cyberactivist

Behind the scenes of the fight for the protection of animals and workers and the preservation of the environment - my experiences as a Tyson slaughterhouse hanger/killer turned activist. Exposing the evils of factory farming, by Virgil Butler. If you have arrived here looking for the Tyson stories, view the early archives. Some of them are now featured on the sidebar for easy searching.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Speciesism - an op-ed written by the man who coined the word 

We receive many newsletters on animals and the environment, among other things that we feel important enough to speak out and take action on. I just received one such piece in the mail, which was good because Laura is really hurting from sitting in one place and typing so long. It is in The Guardian and written by Dr Richard Ryder and entitled, "All beings that feel pain deserve human rights. Equality of the species is the logical conclusion of post-Darwin morality." Anyway, here are some excerpts from it:

"The word speciesism came to me while I was lying in a bath in Oxford some 35 years ago. It was like racism or sexism - a prejudice based upon morally irrelevant physical differences. Since Darwin we have known we are human animals related to all the other animals through evolution; how, then, can we justify our almost total oppression of all the other species? All animal species can suffer pain and distress. Animals scream and writhe like us; their nervous systems are similar and contain the same biochemicals that we know are associated with the experience of pain in ourselves.
Our concern for the pain and distress of others should be extended to any "painient" - pain-feeling - being regardless of his or her sex, class, race, religion, nationality or species. Indeed, if aliens from outer space turn out to be painient, or if we ever manufacture machines who are painient, then we must widen the moral circle to include them. Painience is the only convincing basis for attributing rights or, indeed, interests to others."

"In the case of non-humans, we see them mercilessly exploited in factory farms, in laboratories and in the wild. A whale may take 20 minutes to die after being harpooned. A lynx may suffer for a week with her broken leg held in a steel-toothed trap. A battery hen lives all her life unable to even stretch her wings. An animal in a toxicity test, poisoned with a household product, may linger in agony for hours or days before dying."

It is almost as if some people had not heard of Darwin! We treat the other animals not as relatives but as unfeeling things. We would not dream of treating our babies, or mentally handicapped adults, in these ways - yet these humans are sometimes less intelligent and less able to communicate with us than are some exploited nonhumans.
The simple truth is that we exploit the other animals and cause them suffering because we are more powerful than they are."

"It is the heartless exploiter of animals, not the animal protectionist, who is being irrational, showing a sentimental tendency to put his own species on a pedestal."

I heartily agree. Suffering is suffering, no matter the species. Pain is pain. Inflicting it simply because we are more powerful is just as wrong as slavery was. It's just as wrong as child labor or oppression of women, racism, etc.

I have a favorite quote that is particularly suitable for this post:

I have learned that it is the weak who are cruel, and that gentleness to be expected only from the very strong. ~Leo Rosten~

I have slowly started to understand this as well. It has taken a lot of time, love, and patience, but I am getting there. And, through my activism I am learning that it is true - much more true than what I was taught as a child that made a "real man" truly a real man.

Too bad more people can't see this. What this society does to little boys is terrible. Almost as bad as what we do to little girls.

Why can't we all see that?
It is interesting that, although the majority of humans accept Darwin's theories, they have yet to adopt the SPIRIT of these theories. We still cling desperately to the notion that there is something infinitely special about human beings ...something I see as a vestige of times when religious thinking was dominant. This tendency reminds me of the AA 12-step program: First you must RECOGNIZE the truth of the situation (accept Darwin's theories). But ACTING as though you believed it is a whole different story, and rarely immediately accompanies the cognitive realization.

Check out my blog for updates on ways to shift your lifestyle and the social atmosphere away from practices that exploit animals:
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