In the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy of the Language, «discriminate» is defined as a «exclusive selection». In addition, the meaning of “giving unequal treatment to a person or community for racial, religious, political, sex, age, physical or mental condition, etc.” is presented. Thus, according to the Academy, discrimination appears to occur only “between humans.” And it is definitely a moral and ethical question.
However, since 1970, there has been talk of another form of discrimination called “speciesism”. The term “speciesism», Also collected by the DRAE, refers to a form of discrimination by non-human animal species. And, in fact, there is already a certain discrimination in the definition itself, since it separates animals from humans and there the whole problem begins.
To be or not to be an animal, that is the dilemma
Living organisms are grouped into five kingdoms, depending on the morphological and genetic characteristics that relate them. Among them is the Animalia kingdom, which groups all animals … and man. The characteristics that bring them together include the presence of an organized nucleus in their cells, which are multicellular organisms and form tissues. Furthermore, they have a characteristic embryonic development and are not capable of producing their own food; its feeding occurs by ingestion and internal digestion.
Following a hierarchical organization, animals are separated into smaller groups of organisms that share other additional characteristics. Thus, the lowest classification category is reached, which is the species.
The simplest definition of biological species considers the ability to reproduce among themselves, which establishes the groups considered animal species. That is, biologically, all animal species occupy the same taxonomic hierarchy.
So what makes the human species different?
In accordance with the above, Homo sapiensIn other words, what we call the “human species” is one of the animals. However, we often do not feel identified as animals. We are always in search of features that distinguish us and make us unique and special.
Already 2,000 years ago Aristotle pointed out that the search for knowledge for knowledge itself made us rational and different animals. More recently, anthropological studies have found that the greatest development of our brain is what gives us the capacity for complex reasoning and differentiates us. But does this really give us the right to discriminate against other animal species? Do we stop being animals for this?
What is animal discrimination?
The “speciesism»–Formerly« speciesism »-, or« speciesism »in English, is the discrimination towards organisms of other species. Of course, it is a anthropocentric conceptSince the only species that has the ability to “discriminate” others is the human. Therefore, speciesism refers exclusively to the arbitrary discrimination that the Homo sapiens species makes by the other animal species. According to the proponents of the term, speciesists do not respect the rights of other animals because they consider them less than humans.
Is there animal discrimination?
In all human societies there is animal discrimination and it is not even questioned. There is no awareness of discrimination and animals are exploited in different ways in everyday life. Animals provide us with food, we use them as labor power or as raw material for the manufacture of textiles or other consumer products. The most extreme form of animal discrimination occurs when animals are used for entertainment; more, if it involves the suffering of the animal.
There is even discrimination towards certain animals and not towards others as another form of speciesism. This is the case of pets, which are treated as one more member of the family. Or discrimination towards certain groups of animals and not towards others; for example, we are capable of eliminating insects, but we respect larger animals, such as mammals. In many societies, the consumption of dogs and cats or insects is frowned upon, but chicken, fish, and beef or pork are consumed without even thinking about it.
Arguments for and against animal discrimination
- Our capacities differentiate us from the rest of the animals. As we have already pointed out, reasoning ability differentiates us from other animal groups. For speciesists, that gives us the right to discriminate. For antispecists, the human species does not always have the capacity for reasoning: babies and young children; adults with intellectual disabilities due to illness or accident. So, would the discrimination of these two groups be valid?
- But is that animals are not human beingssay the speciesists. Given this, antispecists argue that it is a biological circumstance, such as the very existence of the species or the separation of the sexes. If xenophobia, racism or homophobia should not be justified as forms of discrimination, neither should speciesism be justified as a form of animal discrimination.
- We have grown up with the belief that other species of animals are inferior beings. In addition, they are part of our daily diet. But the antispeciesists argue that once this form of animal discrimination is known, these customs must be modified. The use of other animal species for our benefit can no longer be “obvious”.
- And why are plants not respected? They are also living organisms. However, plants do not have the capacity to suffer or enjoy that other animal species do, like Homo sapiens. Antispeciesists consider that it is the beings with these capacities who can be affected by the actions of others. Therefore, a moral consideration of respect for other animals must be taken.
In short, the animal discrimination is a complex issue and with many edges. For some, being an antispeciesist may be an extreme attitude, but for them it is a question of morals and ethics towards other animal species. Where is the balance? Where is the reason? As always, the individual conscience should be the one that directs our actions.