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marnixR
Post  Post subject: is speciesism equivalent to racism  |  Posted: Fri Jun 07, 2013 6:40 pm
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to people from the animal liberation front it clearly is : to them the suffering of a monkey in a lab in an attempt to find a cure for a childhood disease is equivalent to the suffering of the child it is trying to find a cure for

but is this realistic ? the knee-jerk reaction to rate human beings over any other beings is so deeply ingrained and widespread that it appears to be against all human instincts - or is this the same as advocating the deeply ingrained preference of kin over strangers to excuse racism ?

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tridimity
Post  Post subject: Re: is speciesism equivalent to racism  |  Posted: Sat Jun 08, 2013 8:49 am

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marnixR wrote:
to people from the animal liberation front it clearly is : to them the suffering of a monkey in a lab in an attempt to find a cure for a childhood disease is equivalent to the suffering of the child it is trying to find a cure for

but is this realistic ? the knee-jerk reaction to rate human beings over any other beings is so deeply ingrained and widespread that it appears to be against all human instincts - or is this the same as advocating the deeply ingrained preference of kin over strangers to excuse racism ?


It's an interesting question, insofar as both speciesism and racism could be regarded as forms of kin selection. By extension, it would be pertinent to ask what drives other discriminatory 'isms' - those that involve either discrimination on the basis of a genetically encoded characteristic (e.g. in the case of nepotism, the obvious close genetic relation between relatives; in the case of discrimination on the basis of any genetically-encoded physical characteristic; in the case of discrimination on the basis of religion where there is a strong association between genetic profile and religion) and/or those that involve discrimination on the basis of phenotypes that are universal and so do not involve kin selection (e.g. ageism).

I don't know if speciesism and racism can be regarded as equivalent - both operate in reality rather than existing as amorphous concepts and the question is complicated by the fact that, in general, no two instances of speciesism or racism will be exactly the same. For example, speciesism might encompass:

1. the sacrifice of animal life for the purpose of developing novel medicines
2. the consumption of meat for sustenance
3. the hunting of game
4. the decision to save a human from a house fire before saving a different animal

Racism might encompass:

1. the slave trade
2. discrimination against prospective employees in a work context
3. a belief held, but never expressed, regarding one's perceived superiority over those of a different race

I would hazard a guess that kin selection is at least partly responsible for the development of speciesism and racism, and that it underpins other discriminatory 'isms' (e.g. nepotism) but that other forms of discrimination involve memetic selection acting either alone or in combination with kin selection (e.g. discrimination on the basis of religion). Humanity's task now is to remain conscious of the fact that many of our preconceived notions are actually the result of kin selection rather than having any rational basis, and that this leaves us prone to becoming the by-standers of the suffering of fellow organisms. We need instead to realise our shared and universal ancestry and to embrace one another in a world organised on the basis of reason.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: is speciesism equivalent to racism  |  Posted: Sat Jun 08, 2013 3:07 pm
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I agree with tridimity's take regarding kin selection likely playing a role here, but I would also probably step back for a moment and first challenge the premise itself. I don't think we kill animals or use them for testing because we hate them for being what they are. We don't put the rat into the experiment or give pharmaceuticals to a rabbit due that motivation, and I don't think we kill or hunt deer and pigs and cows due to hatred, either. The closest we probably get to that response is the way some people kill snakes or spiders or bugs without much second thought, but even that is not IMO triggered by hate, and is instead based in fear and a desire to protect oneself the from possibly negative outcomes of a bite or insertion of venom into our body.

Racism, however, is hating someone merely because they look slightly different than you do or because they come from a slightly different part of the planet. There is no other motivating factor other than an "us/them" distinction... "They" are different than me... "We/us" are better than THEM... It's roughly the same as we see with fans of sporting events. All we need to get angry at fans of the opposing side is to see the different colored jerseys and t-shirts they wear. I see that as more similar to racism than our use of animals in testing or as food.

I just struggle to make the connection between the two, as (unless I misunderstood your OP) we don't tend to kill or test on animals due to hate (not the median population, anyway... I concede that some psychopaths and sociopaths might do bad things to animals, but that's an outlier, IMO), whereas racism is almost certainly a hatred response and is based on little more than differing melanin content in the skin or slightly different sounding accents when people speak.

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tridimity
Post  Post subject: Re: is speciesism equivalent to racism  |  Posted: Sat Jun 08, 2013 4:38 pm

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iNow wrote:
I just struggle to make the connection between the two, as (unless I misunderstood your OP) we don't tend to kill or test on animals due to hate (not the median population, anyway... I concede that some psychopaths and sociopaths might do bad things to animals, but that's an outlier, IMO), whereas racism is almost certainly a hatred response and is based on little more than differing melanin content in the skin or slightly different sounding accents when people speak.


This is a good point - the motivating factors in the use of animals in scientific research or as meat - are generally not borne of malicious intent; whereas hatred is a common motive underlying racism. However, it is conceivable that certain (especially historic) racist acts were executed almost beyond a state of hatred - in an amoral Machiavellian national psyche - as with the execution of Jews under the Nazi regime. Once a particular race has been singled out and portrayed as sub-human, it creates a dangerous precedent to treat the individuals belonging to that race without even consideration of their welfare or their status as fellow humans. Possibly this has something to do with how 'ordinary' Germans were psychologically and emotionally able to detach and thereby to relinquish any personal responsibility for the crimes against humanity which they were perpetuating.

At another level, discrimination on the basis of race may occur not because people feel anything overwhelmingly negative towards any individual of that race, but rather because they perceive that their earthly resources (and those of their kin) are threatened by the appearance of those of different race - e.g. this mindset seems to underpin the ideology of far right wing political parties globally, including the British National Party (BNP) here in the UK. As such, it is less about the other race, and more about fear for the wellbeing of 'self' and 'self-like' beings (kin).

The main difference as I see it, where morality is concerned, is that the use of animals (especially in medical research) has at least a noble goal - to eradicate the suffering of fellow humans, whereas racism serves no worthy purpose. Then again, perhaps I am too much of a humanist or too species-ist to be able to see the delusion that is clouding my judgement?

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: is speciesism equivalent to racism  |  Posted: Sat Jun 08, 2013 5:56 pm
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A new thought occurred to me reading your post... This distinction between human and sub-human, and how we see animals and often those who look differently than we do as "less than" human. I'll need to chew on that thought for a while, as we still need to explain why we seem to have such an easier time doing harmful things to beings we do not consider to be "human." We dehumanize things and that seems to make the worse treatment "all okay" like some sort of rationalization.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: is speciesism equivalent to racism  |  Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 6:30 am
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let's step away from the lab usage of animals to look at another aspect of speciesism, e.g. one of the classical dilemmas where you're asked to sacrifice one person to save five (where in the case of humans the decision to sacrificice one person depends on whether it takes an active or a passive involvement of the person offered the dilemma) most of the time disappears when the dilemma is changed to sacrificing an animal to save 5 people

in the ALF's point of view, if a boat with 5 people and one dog was overloaded, you should take straws to see who goes overboard + there should be 6 straws

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tridimity
Post  Post subject: Re: is speciesism equivalent to racism  |  Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 7:31 am

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How would the dog select his straw?

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: is speciesism equivalent to racism  |  Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 7:52 pm
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with its mouth ?

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bunbury
Post  Post subject: Re: is speciesism equivalent to racism  |  Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2013 2:42 am
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Logically the heaviest person should go overboard and the rest should eat the dog.


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tridimity
Post  Post subject: Re: is speciesism equivalent to racism  |  Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2013 10:22 pm

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I don't think the dog would see it that way.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: is speciesism equivalent to racism  |  Posted: Wed Jun 12, 2013 6:05 am
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bunbury wrote:
Logically the heaviest person should go overboard and the rest should eat the dog.


that's just the problem : when it comes to inter-species ethical problems, logic doesn't enter the picture

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bunbury
Post  Post subject: Re: is speciesism equivalent to racism  |  Posted: Thu Jun 13, 2013 3:12 am
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I don't think the dog would see it that way.


The dog would never know what happened, which is possibly one important reason to give humans a higher ranking than other animals. Animals would not suffer the mental anguish of knowing they are about to die, whereas for humans the anticipation of death is a cause for fear and is surely the basis for most superstitions and religions. By killing the dog and saving several persons you are reducing the net amount of mental suffering in the world, which may or may not be logical but most would see it as a good thing, especially Buddhists.


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tridimity
Post  Post subject: Re: is speciesism equivalent to racism  |  Posted: Thu Jun 13, 2013 9:16 am

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bunbury wrote:
The dog would never know what happened, which is possibly one important reason to give humans a higher ranking than other animals. Animals would not suffer the mental anguish of knowing they are about to die, whereas for humans the anticipation of death is a cause for fear and is surely the basis for most superstitions and religions. By killing the dog and saving several persons you are reducing the net amount of mental suffering in the world, which may or may not be logical but most would see it as a good thing, especially Buddhists.


Well, this much is true. However, since the dog is unable to anticipate its own fate, it is thereby excluded from arbitrating its own destiny. As such, the humans are involved in deciding his future. Any human will recognise that, in general, it is the will of sentient living beings to want to carry on living. By sacrificing the dog, you undermine his desires (or consider them less of a priority than that of humans). Even if the dog would not suffer mental anguish at the anticipation of his own death, it is likely that his death would involve physical and mental suffering (unless he is anaesthetised or something - seems unlikely on a boat :lol:). Also - I thought Buddhists decry the taking of any life? (Although the Dalai Lama has conceded to occasionally swatting flies - it would take a very dedicated kind of Buddhist who, faced with the prospect of certain death by scorpion sting, would refrain from killing the scorpion and instead be killed himself).

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