Veganism should be, above and beyond anything else, a categorical rejection of speciesism and the myth of human moral superiority.
Humans are sentient beings. Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive, or to experience subjective perceptual experiences. The reason many people believe that other humans should not be unnecessarily made to suffer or killed is because humans also have empathy. When we have empathy, it’s because we understand the way another sentient being feels as we know we would feel the same way in their situation. Because of this, we believe that we should observe the inherent rights of other humans. Some of these are affirmative rights; rights to perform some favorable actions, like the right to drive a car, or the right to vote, etc. But there is another kind of rights that humans have that we observe; negative rights. These are the rights to not have some type of unfavorable action performed on us. Chief among these rights is the right to not be used by other humans exclusively as a resource for their pleasure, amusement, or convenience.
Now, assuming we believe in these basic rights for other humans, a combination of empathy and logic dictates that observing their rights is what we consider “moral justice.” This means that, all other things being equal, we believe in treating similar cases similarly. If a human isn’t as cognitively aware as another human, for instance, an infant or a severely mentally disabled adult, that doesn’t mean that we can then exploit that human and say, kill them for no good reason or use them for forced organ donation or involuntary bio-medical experiments. Our sense of empathy tells us that because they feel the same pain and other sensations we do, that it would be immoral to exploit them simply because they are vulnerable and we are powerful, and that we possess some non-sentience trait that they don’t.
It follows logically that if we believe in treating similar cases similarly, that when we talk about nonhuman animals and the rights that they may have, the characteristic that is relevant is sentience, and only sentience. If we believe in moral justice because we have empathy, and we believe that humans have the right to not be used exclusively as a resource for other humans pleasure, amusement or convenience, then because both human and nonhuman animals are sentient beings, at the very LEAST, by our own code of moral justice, we should observe that very same right for any other sentient being. Logically, it follows that if we don’t observe their rights in this respect, we have no basis to expect our own moral interests be taken seriously by other humans.
The fact that we don’t observe the injustice and hypocrisy in our lack of matching our actions to our beliefs in this way is due to a phenomenon called speciesism. Speciesism is best defined as “An irrational, unjust double standard by humans that places higher moral value on some individual animals over other individual animals, based solely on the morally irrelevant criteria of species membership.”
Speciesism is based on the myth of human superiority. The idea that humans are superior to other species of animals is based on arbitrary irrational criteria or biased personal opinion and not objective fact. Speciesism is the root of the tree from which all human rights issues sprang. The idea that we can treat individual members of another species with moral distinctions that are based solely on their being of a different species to ours is what has led to the idea that we can do the same thing to people of other ethnicities, people of other genders, people with different sexual orientations, etc. Being able to dismiss another sentient being as an “other” is what leads to 100% of crime, war and other problems associated with “race”, “class” etc.
No matter how you slice it, you can’t really justify intentionally exploiting animals unless you’re ready to accede to not believing in human rights either, which means your own claim to any moral recourse if you are harmed by another human is effectively nullified.
If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.
To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.