Throughout history, people have suffered discrimination and violence as a result of views such as racism or sexism. These beliefs have led to slavery and violence against women in the home, which are now seen as abhorrent by the vast majority of society but this wasn’t true in the past. Amazingly, they were once thought natural and right in the belief that some humans were inferior. Discrimination such as sexism and racism have not disappeared but they are now being questioned and rejected by large sections of society.
“I received another dozen lashes, on the part of my back which was immediately above the bleeding and burning gashes of the former whipping… until I had received ninety-six lashes, and my back was cut and scalded from end to end. Every stroke of the whip had drawn blood; many of the gashes were three inches long; my back burned as if it had been covered by a coat of hot embers, mixed with living coals; and I felt my flesh quiver like that of animals that have been slaughtered by the butcher and are flayed whilst yet half alive.” An American Slave, 1859
Today, most people regard non-human animals as inferior. But studies show that they too experience emotions and sensations that humans do such as anxiety, pleasure, intense pain, fear of dying or boredom and these feelings matter to them just as much as ours do to us. Despite this, other sentient beings are confined and killed for ‘food’, their bodies are used in experiments, their skins for clothing, their appearance or behaviour for entertainment. Our desire to use them for our benefit is considered more important than their right to their own bodies, and unable to defend themselves, they suffer and die in their billions.
“The cow was unable to stand, so they twisted her tail painfully and dragged her to the kill floor by a rope. She was hit on the forehead with a cattle stunner, and hoisted upside down by a chain around her back leg. When a worker stuck a knife in her throat, she regained consciousness. Pouring blood and fluid from her throat, mouth and nostrils, she struggled to breathe and to free herself, hanging from one leg, for a further minute and a half before the worker returned and slit her from her throat down through her mouth. He then proceeded to hack her face clean away as she writhed and kicked.” Animal Equality activist, 2009.
Thinking that animals are inferior and we can use them solely because they were born with features such as fur or feathers instead of human skin is an irrational and unfair prejudice towards other species, known as speciesism. Speciesism overlooks our sameness – sentience – and as with racism and sexism, those without power suffer so that someone else can gain.
Most of society is blind to speciesism but as more and more people realise that non-human animals are not our property, and deserve to live free from exploitation by humans, they are deciding to go vegan. By choosing a varied plant-based diet free from animal products, wearing animal-friendly footwear and clothing, using vegan cosmetics and household products and entertaining ourselves without the use of animals we all move one step closer to a more peaceful and just society for all.