Antispecism values the dignity of Life, independently from the form Life takes, i.e. independently from the species. Antispecism opposes the specist mainstram view, according to which human life possesses a much higher value than any other form of life, in virtue of the distinctive intelligence and awareness characterizing our species. Specism considers the pain and death of a specimen of human species as events incomparably more tragic and regretful than the pain and death of a specimen of any other species.
Specism can rely on a thousands year old literature that focuses on the issue: “what distinguishes Man from the other creatures and why is Man superior to the other creatures”. Sophisticated arguments have been brought forward on this thesis, also on behalf renown names of the history of philosophy. The reasons for which so many intellectual resources have been invested on a relatively idle issue seem to have changed with the dominating cultural climates of the ages. In every age, indeed, man wanted to see a certain image of himself. A question that comes natural is why human mind has needed to define and identify human nature in a “negative” way, by opposing the human animal to the rest of non-human animals. Afterall the dialectic with other animals is absolutely not necessary in order to state some constituting properties of the human nature. The same applies to any other species. Do birds fly and a fishes swim because there are other creatures who cannot do it? Wouldn’t birds fly and fishes swim even if all other creatures could do it? Why is necessary to compare human features to the same features present in other species in order to appreciate them? Can one appreciate something only when the others do not possess this something? If a property is shared by many individual, does this make this property of less worth? And viceversa: is a property of higher value just because it is shared by a restricted number of individuals?
It is as though an atavic complex of inferiority lured man into a silly competition with the rest of the animals: “who is the most clever and skillful creature of this Creation? Shall we really see it?” man seems to shout to the rest of the world. In ancient times this could be justified by a sense of fear towards the natural world, perceived as foreign and antagonist, a disordered chimera of perils against which it is necessary to fend against. Yet the dialectic between who is human and who is not human lasts up to our days, although today Nature is (falsely) perceived as “tamed”. Paradoxically, it is our age, started with the declaration of human rights, that has seen the apotheosis of the human species. Man, as individual as well as species, feels more than before the need to assert his uniqueness, his exceptionality, his unrepeatability. Man’s self-assurance is so exhaggerate to betray the very opposite. In spite of this, or just because of this, conspicuous resources are lavished to assert and celebrate the superiority of man on the rest of the Creation. But for what reasons so many intellectual efforts have been made in order to prove human primacy in the Creation? What for?
We believe that a possible answer may come from the act of “buying” the specist thesis. Let us take it as true. The human species is incomparably superior to other forms of life.
And now what? What has changed? What is the consequence of this statement?
For what reason on earth should one prove that a species is superior, if not for justifying the submission of the other inferior forms of life?
Proving any thesis, from the most trivial to the most sophisticated, with the aim of justifying the domination of the strong on the week is a lost cause at best. There is no need at all to argue why specism is weak thesis, because any thesis whose aim is domination can never stand up. Considering man as the highest form of Life, intelligence and capabilities to reason as the most important skills, and ordering all other species according to their resemblance with man are idle and pointless intellectual operations, with no rational basis whatsoever.
Specism is not a cause to take seriously, but rather a cause to comprehend and sympathize with. It is indeed something to understand, why man has been so constantly and tenaciously attached himself to this vision of life, and has kept her pretty much intact throughout history. There is something to understand, and certainly not which is the loftiest creature of the universe.
The foundations of specism are undoubtly a desire for domination and fear. As it is often the case,indeed, desire for domination stems out of a fear. A specist outlook on the world can only come from fear. Fear of not being important enough. Fearing of not being powerful enough. Fear of not having a solid control on one’s own very existence. All fears that are in the end daughters of the same mother: fear of Death. If one were not pushed by fear, one would never waste intellectual energies to assert that the species to which one belongs is superior to the others species. Applying one’s own intellectual energies to this cause is an unmistakable sign of the immaturity on behalf of a being who is not willing to accept his mortal dimension. It is the lurking envy of a mortal being for the immortality and the omnipotence of a God that manifests itself. In a vain attempt to overcome his fears, man seeks refuge in a gratifying image of himself, an image that must look ridiculous to an external observer. Man sees himself a minature demiurge, capable of creating anything out of the shapeless matter, which is how he consideres Nature. Undisputed ruler over a planet that he never made, over creatures that he never understood, without loving anything outside himself, and appreciating his petty creations above any other element of the Universe, this humourless caricature of a god compensates his incapability of creating Life with trust in his capability of eradicating Her. In this raving apotheosis of herself, this mortal creature fails to realise that even when it comes to extermination and destruction, she (man) is galaxies away from being even the shadow of a god. Indeed, even if man unleashed all of his destructing power on this planet (nuclear weapons, chemical weapons…), in some million years everything will start as nothing had happene. And man would risk becoming a god forgotten by posterity.
He recklessly exploits and tyrannizes all other creatures that have had the unlucky fate of taking a form of life so unforgivingly lower than his. And in doing that man does not infringe any law, because he tailored his laws on the miniature demiurge he likes to see in himself. Other forms of life have no value at all, till one of the two things happen: either only a very small number of the individuals of a species survive the human massacre and the species become protected, or some botched genetical engineering operation is carried out and the species is patented. In both cases, a life species is privatised and legally becomes a creation of the demiurge. As such, a species acquires value because she becomes a strategical economical resource and another trophy in the halls of fame of human achievements. Indeed, a protected species whose specimen are kept gelously counted (i.e. Giant panda), as well as a species whose DNA has been destroyed by human intervention, exists or continues existing only because of human intervention.
Yet in all this games of domination, this caricature of a god fails to see that he shares the same fate of the unfortunate creatures that have to suffer all his follies. Ending up a couple of meters under the earth, terminating his godly existence by preparing a feast for worms, ants, bacteria and all forms of life who will find delight in a godly banquet.
Specism is highly widespread, because most of the humans, who claim to be superior in virtue of their reason, depends more on senses than on reason in the understanding of reality. Specism is the dominant view also for a matter of diopters. By using common sense ( that many mistake with reason, i.e. Logos) reality is perceived through a distorting lens that makes the pain of who is similar to us closer and larger, and the pain of who is different from us further an smaller. It is the same mechanism that induces to have more sympathy for the disgraces that happen to humans who lead the same life as us rather than for humans who suffer far greater disgraces, but who live in another way. For example, the story of a family that lost money on the purchase of a fraudolent product or service is going to remain deeper in our memory that the story of a family exterminated by thirst, famine or western-made grenades. Independently from the entity of the disgraces of the latter family and in spite of eventual reposibility that we may have in them, we are going to sympathize with the former family. Because being scammed with the sale of a product that does not work, or it is even dangerous for the health, is something that can happen to anyone, i.e. a consumer of the western societies – or of a society that has embraced their values – who works 8 hours a day to be able to pay the installments of the car, the mortgage for the house, and the holidays at a tourist sea resort; someone who lives in a concrete home, has a bank account, a mobile phone number, goes shopping in a mall, and that possibly does not have too dark a complexion. Any disgrace that happens to an individual that does not match this profile is also recognized as an injustice, but it is part of those numerous injustices that have always trouble mankind, and that progress must and will eliminate.
The pain felt by people who are to some degree similar to us has always been felt as more relevant since unmemorable times. Probably it was this perception to be decisive in the choice that Pontius Pilatus offered to the folk of Jerusalem: saving Jesus Christ or Barabba. Saving one man, whom everyone knew to be honest and virtuous, and probably too much, or instead a thief, multiple murder, raper, someone like Barabba, who in spite of all his misconduct, or just for that, was more similar to the folk than that super virtuous chap standing next to him, who had never done anything wrong, who had invited his friends to turn the other cheek, and who, dulcis in fundo, was rumored to have a certain kinship with supernatural beings (and thus potentially he could have belonged to another species…) ?
The choice was unanimous and it would be probably the same today. One always saves who looks similar to us, because it comes easier to identify oneself in somebody who looks like ourselves. By choosing to defend who is similar to us, we are actually warding off the same pain from befalling on us. This is not done so much unconsciously, because this hypocritical altruism is an egoistic insurance for our future and an as much egoistic assertion of the primacy of our suffering on the suffering of who is different from us.
The antispecist filisophy is a revolt to all this that stems from a deep agreement between reason and emotions.
Other’s pain must be comprehended independently of the appearance of the suffering subject.
All that feels pain must not be subjected to pain.
Life is holy independently from intelligence. Intelligence is not necessary for feeling pain and for desiring not to feel pain. Being able to solve differential equations and producing art does not elevate pain. One must not feel the pain of who is more or less clever, but the suffering of who is alive. Who is alive deserves the same respect that we have for ourselves.
A live fly deserves more respect than a million of dead humans. Even more than 6 times 6 millions.
Differences exist between human species and other living species. Yet differences exist also between pink flamingoes (birds) and other species. More significant that the differences between man and other species are the similarities. We all have the wish of escaping pain, we all tremble before violence, Life is dear to us all, to us human as well as to an earthworm. We have the same basic needs: food, warmth, companionship. We are animated by the same instincts, we have the same inclination for playing, the same care for our offspring. The offspring of all species are even more similar among each other: the have similar awkward movements, the same desire to explore, sometimes even some somatic physical traits are common. Looking at the differences, instead at the wonderful things that unite us, is an unforgivable act of intellectual stupidity.
Antispecism is a complete renunciation to any ambition of domination. Antispecism is sharing the vital space we occupy with other forms of Life that have the same very right of being there as we do.
Being capable of subduing other living species does not authorize to do it, but it obliges to take care of their well-being.
Nature is not formless matter whose purpose is to be shaped by man according to man’s convenience. Nature has a meaning also without man. Man did not create Nature and who created Nature, why and how is a mystery that must be respected.
We are not the master of this world, we have to give this world back at some point and we have the responsibility of handing it back the way we have received it.
Last note is an observation by Gary Yourovsky: while it is possible to become speciest, it is not possible to become antispeciest: it is only possible to become it again. Because we are all born antispeciest. All children adore (non-human) animals, with no exception. It is indeed not a coincidence that all toys, dolls and teddy bears represent animals or a modelled according to animal phisionomies. Cartoon for children and our first drawings are populated by animals. In the life of each one of us there has been a moment in which we would have done anything to make an animal happy. If someone was cruel with an animal before our eyes of children, we would have cries and shout to stop it and we would not have stopped crying and shouting till our eyes could see an act of cruelty. We humans are indeed marvelous creatures: as magically we come to this life already endowed with the ability of distinguishing what is just from what it is unjust, and the ability to imagine other fellow creatures’ pain. We do not have to learn it: we can only unlearn it. One can learn to ignore other creature’s suffering, consider it normal and inevitable. Or one can even learn to justify it, believing that non-human animals exist to serve the humans. Or, even worse, one can learn to ridicule it, and mock at the desperate howls of a pig that is about to be killed and knows it, the awkward mooing of a bull that is going to die for the enjoyment of those who have paid a ticket for the show.