Categories: speciesism

The woke movement and speciesism

The word “woke” is used quite a lot nowadays. It is not clear to some people what it means. Perhaps they aren’t interested in it (understandable). In normal usage, the word “woke” is used like this: “He woke up to the realisation that he was wrong”. It gives us a clue as to its meaning in the context of this new movement. It describes an awakening and a realisation that we can see things differently. And in this instance it means an awakening to the injustices in society especially racism, particularly white on black. The word “woke” is also referred to a lot in reference to society’s attitudes towards the LGBTQ community which refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer. It is an abused concept in itself. The BBC in the UK overly relies on it to guide the organisation to the dislike of many. “Woke” can be overplayed it seems and it has arguably been hijacked by liberals who dissemninate left-wing bias.

I would argue that it should also apply to speciesism because speciesism is about morality and equality. Treating people of colour and people in the LGBTQ community with equality requires the same approach to life as treating animals with equality.

So the word “woke” should apply to speciesism as well in my opinion. And speciesism is behind the abuse of animals by humans. “Speciesism” means treating different species in different ways. I think a classic example is when a cat lover objects to cats being used in animal testing facilities but does not object to mice being used in those facilities. That is speciesism. Every individual animal is equal and therefore neither mice nor cats or any other animal should be in an animal testing facility for the benefit of humans.

People defend the cat and dog meat industries in Asia by saying that eating cats is no different to eating livestock. Yes, I understand that but (1) the abuse of livestock is an example of speciesim and (2) humans have a special unwritten contract with companion cats and dogs the terms and conditions of which does not include their brutal killing so we can cook them for dinner.

The justification for the abuse of animals at animal testing facilities and for other human behaviour of a similar ilk such as cat declawing is that animals cannot make moral judgements. They act instinctively where humans are able to act with moral judgement. This, it is argued, allows humans to use animals for their benefit. But the fact that animals are arguably less intelligent than humans and do not operate moral judgement is not a justification for humans to use and abuse them or allow speciesism to operate in their judgements.

The fact that companion animals rely on us and often act instinctively and without a moral compass ostensibly is not relevant to our moral treatment of them.

The ill treatment of animals has been described as the worst crime in history by Yuval Noah Harari. He writes in his introduction to the book Animal Liberation by Peter Singer that, “When the first humans reached Australia about 45,000 years ago they quickly drove to extinction 90 percent of its large animals”. A similar process took place in America 15,000 years ago when humans colonised the continent. Seventy-five percent of its large animals were wiped out.

Most of today’s large animals are domesticated. Harari states that the world’s large wild animals weigh 100 million tonnes. The weight of domesticated animals in the world is about 700 million tonnes. Therefore in terms of animal welfare our attitude towards domesticated animals is critical because it concerns the majority of Earth’s large creatures. Each one is a sentient being with emotions and feelings. But they “live and die as cogs in an industrial production line”. If you want to improve animal welfare generally focus on farm animals.

With respect to companion animals, speciesism is apparent all the time. I recently wrote about a man who dived back into his home which was engulfed in flames to rescue his dog. That wasn’t speciesism. That was an example of complete equality. So often, in house fires it is to cats and dogs who die whereas the humans escape. That is speciesism.

Cat declawing is an outstanding example of speciesism. It is deeply ingrained and a human habit on one continent and nowhere else. Breeding purebred cats is speciesism. It seems that you humans have got themselves into a bit of a mess with respect to the domestication of the cat. Arguably, cat domestication has become a failure because humans have do do certain things to them to make it work such as declawing, keeping cats inside all the time in sterile homes from the cat’s point of view and spaying and neutering them. Keeping cats indoors all the time is necessary and good because it keeps them safe but too often cat owners don’t compensate by ensuring that the environment is enriched enough. This is an example of speciesism too. Spaying and neutering is necessary because of irresponsible cat ownership. And cat declawing is a shining example of speciesism. It needs a big dose of “woke” to stop it.

The concept of “woke” is or can be a bit tiresome and it is abused itself. It is or can be linked to the snowflake generation. “Snowflakes” are those people who are overly sensitive and not hardened up enough to deal with the realities of life. It normally applies to people born after the year 2000; the modern generation who are so different to a lot of their elders. I don’t mind snowflakes as long as they focus from time to time on the real issues such as speciesism and animal abuse. They often don’t, however. Speciesism is a passport to animal abuse and the arrogant human sees nothing wrong in it. As mentioned they see it as their right because they’re supposedly more intelligent than nonhuman animals (although it is hard to believe sometimes). They are more intelligent but that doesn’t give them the right to treat animals as they do.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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