Just as other ugly “isms” discriminate against people based on arbitrary factors such as skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or physical ability, vidism ascribes lower status to those who are not human. He defines all animals other than humans as research tools, food, cloth, toys, or objects to satisfy human whims, just because they are not members of our species. Simply put, vidism or species discrimination is a prejudice in favor of the human race over other animal races, just as one particular group of people can be prejudiced against another. It is a mistaken belief that one species is more important than the other.
Other animals are not objects that belong to us. These are individuals with their own interests, just like people. They are not “non-humans”, just like you and I are not “non-chipmunks”. Eliminating our prejudice against other species does not require us to be treated equally or identically—chipmunks, for example, don’t want voting rights. We are only required to show equal consideration for the interests of others. We must recognize that we are all sentient beings with feelings and desires, and we must all be delivered from the whip, the shackles, the knife, and the life of slavery.
But when we’re still fighting the oppression of humans, caring for animals seems like a luxury. Bullying and violence is not limited to people, just as it is not limited to certain races or one gender identity. If we want a more just world, we must put an end to all prejudices, not just those that affect us personally.
The mindset that justifies the oppression of people—whether we are talking about people of other religions, women, the elderly, members of the LGBT community, or people of color—is the same mindset that allows the exploitation of animals. Prejudice arises when we begin to believe that “I” is special and “you” are not, and that “my” interests are somehow superior to those of other sentient beings.
Philosopher Peter Singer, who drew attention to the concept of vidism and animal rights in his groundbreaking book Animal Liberation, puts it this way: “I see no problem in opposing both racism and vidism at the same time. In fact, for me, a much greater intellectual puzzle lies in trying to reject one form of prejudice and oppression while accepting and even practicing another.”
Bigotry in all its forms is wrong, no matter who the victim is. And when we witness this, we must not let it go unpunished. “There is no such thing as fighting one problem because we don’t live a life where there is only one problem,” says Audrey Lord, a civil rights activist and feminist.
How to stop vidizm?
Solving the problem of speciesism and recognizing the rights of other animals can be as simple as respecting their needs. We must recognize that they have their own interests and deserve to live free from pain and suffering. We need to confront the prejudice that allows us to turn a blind eye to the horrors inflicted on them every day in laboratories, slaughterhouses and circuses. No matter how different we are from each other, we are all in this together. Once we come to this realization, it is our responsibility to do something about it.
All of us, regardless of any distinctive features, deserve attention, respect and good treatment. Here are three simple ways to help stop vidism:
Support ethical companies. Hundreds of thousands of animals are poisoned, blinded and killed every year in archaic tests of cosmetics, personal care products and household cleaners. PETA’s database includes thousands of companies that don’t test on animals, so no matter what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find the right one for you.
Stick to a vegan diet. Eating meat means paying someone to run a knife down the throat of an animal for you. Eating cheese, yogurt and other dairy products means paying someone to steal milk from a cub for you. And eating eggs means dooming chickens to lifelong suffering in a small wire cage.
Stick to vegan principles. Shed your skins. There is no reason to kill animals for fashion. Wear vegan. Today, there are more and more opportunities for this. Start at least small.