Speciesism- animal rights

Posted: October 17th, 2013

Gul Sera Gursoy

Professor Fischer

RHT 1300


Text Analysis

The Problem of Speciesism:

How Peter Singer Conveys It

In the article “Speciesism” Peter Singer, philosopher, activist and author discusses the serious moral setback in society concerning other species. He describes the word ‘speciesism’ as “a prejudice or attitude of bias in favor of interests of members of one’s own species and against those members of other species.” He concluded that this discrimination is not morally justified. From what Singer believes in, most people are guilty if the terms of “speciesism” are anything to go by. Although Singer makes a debatable assumption, he puts it in context as he does in the whole essay. In addition to that, Singer points out that people use deceptive words that could cloud one’s judgment. Another point he touches upon is the veal industry and how the cruel methods the companies use play a crucial role in speciesism. If human beings and non-humans can suffer, they have the right to be treated equally, and in his essay, Singer proves this using persuasion, appeal to emotion and factual evidence.

In the article, the author uses many literary techniques to appeal to the emotions of audience and make his point. He persuades his audience by writing in a clear voice and using supporting examples from a reliable and respected activist. The excerpt from Jeremy Bentham, another philosopher and reformer, elaborates Singer’s point that animals have the same rights as humans. Bentham is one of the first to realize that animals should be subject to equal treatment when he considered the question: “The question is not, Can they reason, nor Can they talk? But, Can they suffer?” (Singer, 88). Singer refers to non-human species, like animals, and their emotions like pain. Singer captures the audience’s attention here by appealing to their emotion of pity and affection. The author continues elaborating on the subject by offering a possible scenario. In the example, a boy kicks a stone on the road. The action is not wrong because the stone does not have interests, and contrary to animals, it does not feel emotion. According to Bentham and Singer if the scenario included a mouse and not a stone, it would not be accepted (76).

The author appeals to people who discriminate against animals when he argues that speciesism amounts to racism and sexism. Speciesism violates the means of equality by considering non-human species different than humans, whereas the act affects both the same way. Bentham argues that a day will come where animal rights exist. That day has come; however, people are still ignorant towards animals. People will continue to see animals as a means of transportation, nutrition and earning if they are not educated and informed about speciesism.Singer informs his audience of speciesism including other advocates that support his cause.

Singer informs the audience that animals are more than just a means of nutrition. Despite the existence of many other activists like Singer, remarkably few know how animals are being treated and raised before they are brought into their kitchens. The author discusses the problems concerning human beings. Many buy their food from the supermarket but do not stop to think how it gets there. While examining the issue, Singer makes points that make one stop, think and question themselves. The general word “meat” is too commonly used and abused. To many, the animal they eat is just a piece of meat because they do not even the see the blood shed by it.

To target the audience doing wrong, Singer explains the effect of the words we use that creates ignorance. He talks about the words being deceptive because they mostly create a general image, which actually does not exist. He writes that “meat” specifically is a deceptive word because we it degrades the real nature of animals by calling our food just meat. We do not call it pig, cow, or sheep. In addition to that, the word “farm’’ has a traditional image in our heads. When people picture a farm, they picture a place depicted in movies and books. A farm usually brings up positive images and emotions, when, in actuality, the farms where our meat products come from are much different. Singer supports his point by talking about agriculture turning into agribusiness, which he describes as “factory farming”. Currently, farming has evolved from being the traditional family business into factory-like industries.

Another point the author touches upon when making his point is the veal industry. Veal meat is extremely controversial. Although appreciated by many food connoisseurs, a number of governments do not permit this meat in their countries. Calves are often killed before they are even weaned from their mothers in order to make their flesh look paler and more tender. The animals are unusually pale because they have not even had grass yet. In my opinion, this is no different from abortion. Calves are taken away from their parent the day after they are born. Singer’ targets victims of abortion, adoption and the emotions associated with them.

Singer’s view suggests that we can carry out moral discrimination between sentient beings. His view states that it would amount to more wrong by killing an adult human than an animal such as a rat. Singer suggests this because humans are conscious beings and hold a preference for further living, a preference that a rat cannot comprehend. Nevertheless, Singer maintains that there is no moral reason to justify how we currently discriminate animals. Discriminating because of species is not different from discrimination on previously discussed age and sex. If justifying our discrimination practices is anything to go by, whether sentient beings have two or four legs, beaks or teeth, fur or feathers, is not relevant (Singer, 76).

In his article, Singer finds himself in a society rife with speciesism, and in his view, relevant philosophers are not engaging in significant solicitations regarding the issue of speciesism and its connection with human discrimination. He even goes to the extent of comparing speciesism discourse to slave owners in the past. He supports his stand using the ideas of fellow philosophers Henry Sidgwick and Jeremy Bentham. Benthan and Sidgwick contribute to Singer’s argument that non-human sentient beings should be considered more than what current society takes them for. They are to be regarded as beings with rights as well.

In conclusion, Peter Singer uses his article to challenge society’s way of perceiving and treating non-human sentient beings. His views on this matter maintain that animals need to be considered or treated in a similar way to humans. Failure to recognize this consideration amounts to human discrimination practices such as racism or sexism. Peter Singer’s philosophy has prompted numerous critics to rise against it and mostly shed light on his utilitarianism. Nevertheless, even if we reject this philosophy, Singer set us on a lasting challenge that questions the relevant moral difference between other species and humans and the reasons that justify the discriminative practices we carry out.


Works Cited

Singer, Peter. “Speciesism”. Clear Writing: Readings in Expository Prose. Ed. Majorie Mather and Brett McLenithan. Toronto: Broadview Press, 2007. 36-40. Print.


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