In the world there are many forms of discrimination for many reasons such as race, gender or sexual identity. One that is becoming more and more frequent is speciesism , that is, the discrimination of those species that do not belong to that of the human being.  Speciesism has the peculiarity that, although it considers all animals lower, the degree to which it does so with one animal or another can vary even between different cultures. This is something that happens for example with the dog, in some cultures it is a companion animal while in others it is exploited and consumed as food.

What is speciesism?

The speciesism is the undervaluation of all species of animals that do not belong to ours which leads to the exploitation of these as resources and can be used as a labor force to be consumed or to make clothes.

  • Definition of speciesism
  • Characteristics
  • Story
  • Arguments in favor
  • Counterarguments
  • Speciesism and veganism
  • Speciesism and feminism
  • Anthropocentric speciesism
  • Examples
  • Phrases

Definition of speciesism

We can define speciesism as the discrimination of all those animal species that are different from that of  Homo sapiens sapiens . This type of discrimination is based on the consideration of animals as inferior species, which means that they are, in many cases, exploited. Its repercussions can be as serious as causing the disappearance of a species.



Speciesism has the following characteristics:

  • It is a form of discrimination .
  • Consider animals as inferior beings .
  • Think that animals exist so that people can make use of them.
  • The speciesist uses animals to experiment, feed, dress, among many other uses.
  • It justifies situations in which animals are mistreated, such as bullfights.
  • The discrimination may occur at different grad you considering some superior to other animals.
  • He does not consider this type of behavior to be immoral.


Speciesism is a term that is barely 50 years old. It was  Richard D. Ryder . who, in 1970, protesting against animal testing, published a pamphlet entitled  “Speciesism . ” In this he criticized the different morality that applied to human beings when treating animals and how they were mistreated in numerous experiments to achieve benefits for people.

Richard D. Ryder himself emphasized the concept with the publication of the essay  “Experiments on Animals . 

Later, in the same decade of 1970, personalities like  Stephen Clark , Andrew Linzey or Peter Singer followed the example of  Richard D. Ryder and published different books in which they talked about speciesism.

The term was not translated into Spanish until 1979 when it was included in the Ferrater Mora dictionary of philosophy . Later, in 1985 it was included in the Oxford English dictionary.

Currently, organizations in defense of animals such as PETA are trying to make the population aware of the problem of speciesism, even going so far as to name July 5 as the day against this type of racism .

Arguments in favor

The arguments in favor of speciesism are scarce but they do exist, they may have a philosophical or religious character and are the following:

  • Philosophical arguments in favor:
    • According to Kant, animals are not rational and do not have moral rights so it is not possible to treat them immorally.
    • For  Carl Cohen there are great differences between human beings and animals and that, for example, the suffering that a person reaches is greater than that of an animal. Due to this, he considers that people should do everything possible, including using animals in medical research, to reduce said suffering.
    • Roger Scruton believes that rights and responsibilities are inherent to human beings and that they are not possible in animals . He argues that the fact that an animal has rights would also entail that it had some obligations and since they were not aware of one or the other, they would always fail to comply with them.
    • Ayn Rand defends that the human being is the only species with rights as it is the only one capable of developing conceptual awareness.
    • Finally, there is a philosophical current that doubts that granting rights to animals is really beneficial for them because they cannot give their opinion and say what is good or negative for them.
  • Religious arguments in favor: it considers that human beings have rights and responsibilities that animals do not have, such as the right to life and the administration of the environment, therefore it considers that animals are beings whose existential purpose is for people to use them for your benefit.


Now we are going to see a series of arguments against speciesism:

  • Something generally defended by antispeciesists is the marginal cases argument . With this argument they defend that babies and people in a coma or in a senile state do not have any relevant moral characteristics that distinguish them from animals, so both should have the same moral condition, which is not the case.
  • Philosophers like  Arthur Schopenhauer consider that animals also have rights and that their interests must be protected.
  • Personalities like  Richard Dawkins criticize the double standards that would apply if an act against an animal were committed against a human being.
  • The use of animals for human food has been compared on many occasions as a kind of animal holocaust.
  • The antispecies movement considers that human beings can enjoy their leisure time without another living being being harmed, thus, they consider that places such as zoos or aquariums should be closed and that acts such as a running of the bulls, a capea , a cock or dog fight, a horse race, elephant rides, a circus, hunting, fishing, among many other events, should be prohibited.
  • Antispeciesists also reject the use of clothing of animal origin.
  • The welfare movement arises that recognizes the rights of animals and advocates giving a more humane treatment to those we use for our own benefit in order to avoid their suffering.
  • Finally, the abolitionist movement believes that in order for the interests of animals to be protected, their use must be ended.

Speciesism and veganism

The veganism is a philosophy of life closely related to the antiespecista movement. This is based on not consuming products or services whose origin is animal. This includes food products, clothing, medicine, transportation, among others. It also rejects animal experimentation.

Based on humanitarian, environmental and ethical arguments, veganism is a concept that radically opposes speciesism, because, as we have seen throughout the article, the speciesist defends the use of animals to provide a benefit to humans , with all that this entails for animal welfare.

Speciesism and feminism

The feminism is a sociocultural movement that claims the figure of the woman and tries to achieve equality between men and women . This movement, which in its definition does not name either the term species or animal, is increasingly related to the fight against speciesism. And it is that within the feminist movement, a branch has begun to emerge that argues that it should also be antispeciesist because, as they defend, sexism (discrimination based on belonging to one gender or another), racism (discrimination based on belonging to one race or another) and speciesism (discrimination based on belonging to one species or another) are closely related terms, which is why they consider that these movements should come together seeking a common good.

Anthropocentric speciesism

The anthropocentrism is a philosophical current that puts the interests of the human being must prevail over the interests of other animals or things. That said, it is normal to think that both terms are related and that they can even be interchangeable and the truth is that they can be, but some considerations must be taken into account:

  • Speciesism may not be anthropocentric : this occurs when a species that is different from that of the human being, superior to another species that is also different from that of the human being. An example would be to consider the dog as a species superior to the chicken.
  • Epistemic anthropocentrism bears no relation to speciesism : it tells us that human beings are predestined to know the world in an anthropocentric way, so this knowledge will take the human being as a reference. This conception of anthropocentrism does not conceive of the human being as a superior moral species, therefore it is not speciesist.
  • Moral anthropocentrism does consider the human being a species superior to the rest of the species, and it is here where really, speciesism and anthropocentrism, would be interchangeable.

Therefore, as we see , speciesism may or may not be anthropocentric, and anthropocentrism could be speciesist or not, so it is not advisable to use the term anthropocentrism as a synonym for speciesism.


Prominent examples of speciesism are:

  • Riding a horse to get around.
  • Using cows to thresh the land.
  • Create garments from mink fur.
  • Make cheese using goat’s milk.
  • Hold exhibitions at the zoo using dolphins or penguins.


Here are some phrases about speciesism:

  • “Speciesists allow the interests of their own species to override the greater interests of members of other species” ,  Peter Singer .
  • “Discrimination based on race, although universally approved two centuries ago, is now widely condemned. Similarly, it may happen that one day enlightened minds hate to speciesism much as now detest racism “ ,  Richard D. Ryder .

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