The Vegan Proposition of Speciesism
The vegan movement has cultivated a reputation amongst the typical meat-eating individual for their seemingly hostile and unapproachable nature. When noting what some may call their aggressive shaming of those who choose not to involve themselves with a vegan oriented lifestyle, the vegan community has had trouble in gaining traction with non-vegans. While the movement prides itself on their impassioned motivation to put an end to animal cruelty, most crucially in the context of livestock farming, and bringing awareness to all of the social and health benefits of veganism, the support isn’t swelling as one might think it would for such a well-intentioned cause. As surprising as some may find, including even activists within the vegan community, a new era of the “classical vegan argument” has introduced a theme that is most commonly rejected by the general population. An emergence in the term ‘speciesism,’ used by vegans of every distinction, has struck a particularly bad chord under the mainstream consensus. In recent years, the societal implications rooted in speciesism have evolved into a chief arguing tool for vegans in their pursuit to expose the speciesist tendencies of the meat-eating community. The speciesist claim is an all-encompassing expression of the negative feelings held towards the livestock industry and all those who support it through their own consumption of meat. Examining ‘speciesism’ first outside and then within the context of a vegan’s argued opposition of the speciesist actions, we will discover clear underlying critical thinking flaws within the movement as a whole. There is a distinct arguable failure in the vegan movement’s attempts to equate societies questioned speciesist priorities and animal rights violations within the agribusiness industry.
Through anti-speciesist arguments, vegans now commonly equate practices in society that are fundamentality different in nature, such as animal cruelty to issues of human rape or slave trade. Although most anyone would see any one of these issues as morally wrong in nature, there has to be a question of the concordance of each of these issues to one another. With groups of individuals spanning from those descended from slave ancestry to rape and molestation victims, there’s comes a speculation of these attempted parallels that are definitively damaging the vegan movements advancement. (add more here and speciesism and how it’s “part” of common society)
Tobias Leenaert of the Vegan Strategist, in an article attempting to show the “grouping” flaw of distinctive vegan arguments involving the anti-speciesist sentiment by drawing on certain societal issues outside of animal cruelty. Although Leenaert finds the premise of speciesism to be valid and justified by example of modern society, he is quick to acknowledge the shortcomings of the anti-speciesist argument, and provides example of typical flawed vegan arguments:
When I recommend meat reduction or Meatless Mondays, I get to hear that that is speciesist, because we wouldn’t approve of something like Child Abuse Free Mondays in the case of humans. When I advocate that we should try to be gentle and sensible and patient when talking about animal suffering and veganism, I get to here ”Would anyone advocate for the abolition, or the regulation, of child sex slavery?” All of us would say it is our moral obligation to advocate for the absolute end of child sex slavery, and that “improvements” are wholly inadequate, and speciesist. (Leenaert)
One may read these conversational examples and think them to be extreme in their comparisons and the truth is, they are extreme. That being said, the “extreme” nature of the counterparts [i.e. child sex slavery] to animal suffering aren’t unrealistic in their occurrences, so why when reading this would someone see the typical vegan comparison as off-putting? Leenaert elaborates on his examples by noting that the deep-seeded flaw of this sort of argument is that the vegan community is comparing two social issues that don’t lie within the same context in any respect. The argument has accomplished the intended effect of lasting and having memorable intensity, but the argument’s negative aspect is in its inability to face a counter-argument by someone of the opposing viewpoint, simply because the comparison, ironically, isn’t comparable at all. Leenaert gives another criticism of that same premise of an argument, facilitating the dialogue, “We couldn’t tell people to try out a vegan challenge like Veganuary (you can’t tell rapists to try to stop raping for a month!).” If the first set of dialogues weren’t convincing enough to reveal the flaws in the typical anti-speciesist argument, this point shows another dimension the same flawed argument can hold. The vegan argument of comparison will always find itself to be detrimental; if not by offending individuals who fall into the categories being marginalized [minority races, sexual assault victims], it will discourage involvement in vegan activism efforts by condemning individuals who are making even small strides to make an impact in the movement. Looking at the failings of the anti-speciesist argument, the rippling effects of such a damaging vegan sentiment presented to the public are evident.
The movement’s foremost misstep in its presentation of the anti-speciesist argument lies in their Us-vs-Them thinking. As stated by Gerald Nosich, author of Learning to Think Things Through, when any one or group of individuals holds the Us-vs-Them mentality that translates into their motivations towards situational approaches, they tend to “vastly oversimplif[y] the complexity of reality.” As seen previously in the examples provided by Leenaert, vegan activists are forming a lump sum of circumstantial social issues to compare with animal rights violations, when in any other context, they may have opted for a more realistic approach. Being part of a large social movement, it makes it that much easier for a vegan to attach onto the general views and opinions of their peers and form generalizations that then disregard the complexities of social issues outside of the one they’re addressing. Nosich’s has a simple response to offer for those suffering from Us-vs-Them thinking: develop and practice “a tolerance for ambiguity and an acceptance of less-than-certain answers.”
Vegan anti-speciesists are sometimes guilty of only showing themselves to have and justifications operative as a result of their own individual experiences that were the cause of them living a vegan lifestyle. In this respect, they are demonstrating a complete lack of intellectual empathy towards an individual who may involve themselves in what vegans fight for and against, while at the same time, deciding not to become a vegan. The lifestyle choice just described is a very feasible one, but it is one that is not often considered because of the vegan attitude towards individuals seeking change by other means and methods outside of strict veganism. With little empathy being shown, vegans are shutting themselves off from feeling the entire weight of the outsider’s viewpoint that could potentially hold value in its very opposition. This attitude of outsider (non-vegan) ostracism and misuse of the argument of ‘speciesism’ is detrimental to the movement because it completely limits the movement’s potential to gain more active participants. Why should this matter? For a movement such as veganism, ever increasing involvement is what is needed to make a meaningful and lasting impact on the environment. This is the point where vegans have to critically examine what really is the question at issue pertaining to the vegan movement; does a vegan choose animal activism efforts or anti-speciesism, and is there even room for both to sustain themselves? Vegans are fogged in their purpose for the movement on whether their primary intentions are to promoting the agenda of anti-speciesist rhetoric, or to deeper enrich themselves and others in the mission of maintaining animal rights.
 The assumption of human superiority leading to the exploitation of animals. The idea that being human is a good enough reason for human animals to have greater moral rights than non-human animals. (BBC)
 The action of and individual participating in or contributing to the implied hierarchical structure presented in the argument of speciesism. Individuals [humans] benefitting from the hierarchy of speciesism while being aware and unwilling to “change.”
 The group of industries dealing with agricultural produce [livestock] and services required in farming.