As animal rights philosopher Gary Francione said: “All sentient beings should have at least one right—the right not to be treated as property.” While this quote makes perfect sense to someone who has been reading and learning about animal rights for a few years, many people find such a statement a little confusing at first.
Firstly, one has to understand Speciescism, the arbitrary discrimination of others based on species membership. This term is very relevant in animal rights because nearly all animal rights advocates maintain that the reasons we use to justify treating animals the way we do are purely arbitrary. Speciesism is no different from racism, sexism, classism, etc.
Thus, if we wouldn’t accept treating other humans as property (slavery), we should not accept treating animals as property. There are many attempted ways to show why it’s okay to treat animals in this way and not humans, but I have yet to hear one that doesn’t reduce down to moral absurdities.
Some justifications for treating animals as property include the suggestion that we are at the top of the food chain and references to the circle of life. However, the “might makes right argument” could justify any and all actions.
One could just as easily murder humans and say it’s justified because of the circle of life or that they were higher on the food chain than their victim. Some attempt to justify their speciesism by saying that other animals kill each other. However, just because a lion kills a gazelle in the wild, it has no effect on us as humans and how we should act, and humans likewise kill each other all the time, further proving how arbitrary this excuse is.
Some say that since the animals wouldn’t exist without us bringing them into existence through farming, they are in a sense “ours” to use how we wish, but we wouldn’t accept this argument with human children. This remark is also a subtle admission that we control animals’ reproductive systems and sexually exploit them to sustain our “supply” of animals.
The reason we keep flipping it into human contexts is that there is no morally relevant distinction between the two. Obviously, humans are more cognitively advanced than dogs, for instance, but intelligence is not a morally relevant trait. If that were the case, then humans with lower cognitive capacities are expendable by this logic.
Some animals cannot recognize themselves in a mirror or speak to one another, but humans cannot breathe underwater nor fly without special equipment. What makes noticing oneself in a mirror morally more important than breathing underwater? Neither should determine whether or not one gets killed for taste, pleasure or convenience.
Speciesism is simply arbitrary. Once we realize the reason we treat animals how we currently do is based purely on unreasonable justifications, the elephant in the room reveals itself. We cannot meaningfully justify treating animals as property any more than we can humans as property.
If we cannot find a morally justifiable reason to justify consuming animals, we are committed to adopting a vegan lifestyle and advocating for the complete abolition of animal exploitation. Gary Francione talks at length about what he calls the “Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights.”
To end on a Gary Francione quote:
“If you embrace nonviolence but are not a vegan, then words of nonviolence come out of your mouth as the products of torture and death go into it.”
by Corey Blue