The Meatless Way: Speciesism, Animals, and You

Over the past few months, the Creatures division has given you guys a lot of information about living a meatless life. We’ve written about how to maintain a healthy meatless lifestyle and the health impacts a meat-full diet can have on both you and the environment. I know many of you awesome supporters are on board with trying a more meatless diet, while some of you are probably dipping your toes in the water, and some of you are probably still big fans of chicken and beef, but that’s OKAY; the world would be very dull if we were all the same shade! As a vegan myself, I often get the question, “why did you give up meat and dairy?” I have a variety of answers that I give; sometimes I’ll say, “well, animals are my friends, and I don’t eat my friends!” That might sound like I’m joking, but it’s true. I love animals, so why would I eat them?

We are humans, but humans are still animals. Speciesism was first used in the 1970’s to describe discrimination against non-human animals. 2 It is the belief that being a human gives us greater morals and rights over non-human animals. “In philosophy, discrimination is based on judging others not for who they are but for what they are not. The lives and experiences of nonhuman animals are usually considered less important than those of human beings simply because they are not like humans. Yet nonhuman animals have emotional lives and feel pain, pleasure, fear and joy. Devaluing their lives simply because they don’t have some characteristics that most humans have is discrimination.” 2

Now, we are not on a soapbox here, even us animal lovers have been guilty of speciesism before. A great example I found was, “if a child and dog where both trapped in a fire and you could only save one, who would you save?” What a heartbreaking choice to have to make, even upsetting just to think about! Even the biggest vegan, animal lover in the world would probably choose to save the child first, and just hope they could find somebody else to save the animal, or reach them on time!

Pure speciesism believes that humans are so superior, that their most trivial desire is more important than the most necessary needs of an animal of another species. An example of this would be a person who wears fur because they think it looks pretty and luxurious; they feel that the death of the animal whose fur made the coat is justified because they made such a gorgeous and warm coat.

“People who object to speciesism say that a difference of species is not a morally relevant difference - in the same way that a difference of race is not a morally relevant difference between human beings.” While supporters of speciesism believe that, “there is a clear difference between humans and other species, and that this difference affects their moral status. They argue that human beings are more self-aware, and more able to choose their own course of action than other animals. This, they say, enables them to think and act morally, and so entitles them to a higher moral status.” 1

Discrimination is so common in today’s society, most people don’t even realize that they are contributing to it. If you eat animal products, wear clothing or shoes made of animal, buy products that test on animals, go to events where animals are used as ‘entertainment’, these are all examples of exploiting animals, and goes back to the belief, even if to the smallest degree, of speciesism.

Another argument that people give when arguing their human superiority is that we can discriminate against other animals because their intelligence is not the same as human intelligence. However, this does not account for the fact that many humans don’t have the same type or degree of intelligence. Children have a different intelligence than adults, members of MENSA have a different intelligence than college graduates, and people with cognitive impairment have a different intelligence than peers of their same age group. Everyone has a different type of intelligence, human or non-human.

Fortunately, most people are opposed to discrimination against humans on these grounds. But if intelligence cannot be a reason to justify treating some humans worse than others, it cannot be a reason to justify treating nonhuman animals worse than humans either.

Why isn’t the discrimination against nonhuman animals a bigger issue? Experts believe that the answer is quite simple: from childhood, society is taught that animals are inferior; society benefits from the exploitation of nonhuman animals. 3

The beautiful, wonderful thing about that is that everyone has the ability and capacity to change the way they think and behave! Right now! You can change and become a more loving, compassionate human being and your love and compassion will snowball to everybody that you love and surround yourself with!

THE RESULTS ARE IN!!!

Last month we challenged YOU, our fabulous ISF supporters to take our    meatless challenge! We challenged you to do just ONE THING during the month to introduce a meat-free diet in somebody’s life: a friend, co-workers, or your very own! We caught up with a couple of our participants to see how their month went!

Patty wrote to us and pledged to, “continue to educate my friends, family and co-workers that, as a result of me eating a strictly vegetarian diet since last November, I have lost 14 pounds, 4.5 inches of stomach fat and my arthritis has improved as the swelling and inflammation has subsided.”

When we caught up with her a week ago, and this is what she had to say about her month: “It’s going fabulous, still as meatless as ever, no meat or seafood. I have maintained a 14 pound loss and 4.5" of stomach fat lost. I have cooked tofu scrambles with salsa and mushrooms (which was delicious!), quinoa bowls with hot sauce, and avocado and black beans (which was pretty darn tasty!)”

“My wedding was 3 weeks ago and I ate a vegan meal (mushroom pasta). I even convinced my friend to give it a try and he ended up telling me it was better than all the meat he had eaten during the cocktail hour! My husband is a ‘meat and potatoes’ type of guy but I did get him to agree to eat turkey bacon and sausage after explaining to him the cruelty pigs are subjected to in gestation cages in factory farms...baby steps!”

“Many friends, family members, and co-workers have been impressed. While I can’t claim any vegetarian converts (yet), I can say I have at least opened some people's eyes to the health benefits of going meatless!”

Another participant in our meatless challenge is our very own Creatures content coordinator/ISF fundraiser, Elaine! How excited was I when she asked me about eating a more vegetable-based, meat-less diet? Um...REALLY EXCITED!!! After the past month of reducing her meat intake and increasing her veggies, this is what she had to say: 

"A little more than a year ago, I experienced several episodes of feeling ill and felt something in my diet was the culprit. Before long, my husband commented that this was happening right after I ate chicken. I promptly gave up chicken and the problems stopped.”

“I’m not saying my sick stomach was definitely related to the chicken, but you never know!  I’d rather feel good, so I’ve completely cut chicken from my diet. Since then, several friends have told me they agreed it could be the hormones and chemicals in the chicken.”

“Lately I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about eating meat-free—both from ISF and from other sources. The negative effects of eating meat seem limitless! Who knew we could save so much water, gas, and emissions just from eliminating a small amount of meat?”

“Now more than ever I’m inclined to reduce it from my diet. We are exposed to so many chemicals on a daily basis—and unfortunately there’s no way to be one hundred percent certain what is in the meat we are eating. My father died at an early age from heart disease, so reducing meat from my diet would definitely help with saturated fat and cholesterol—something I’m already battling for hereditary reasons.”

“A healthy body is reason enough to eat less meat—provided there are tasty, healthy alternative protein sources. But what about the creatures? I’ve seen pictures and videos (some tweeted by Ian) and read articles about how animals are killed in inhumane ways. I’ve heard stories about factory farming and animals kept in small, unsanitary cages. Knowing these animals can’t even develop normally (as nature intended), are depressed, and living in disease-prone conditions saddens me. This is not healthy for the animals, and it’s not healthy for us. I love our earth’s creatures too much to watch this happen and do nothing to make a change!” Elaine says.

“So, am I going vegetarian? Remember the saying, 'old habits die hard.' It is hard to change lifelong behaviors. But, I firmly believe even small changes can make a huge difference, and that being gentle with ourselves can support those changes. For now, I’m going to try 'meatless' recipes a few times a week, and go from there. In the few short weeks since I’ve been doing this I’ve already had friends send me recipes and ideas from Pinterest with tasty options. Sometimes it can be as simple as trying an 'old standard' recipe and switching out the protein with tofu, beans, or prepared meat alternatives you can find in the grocery store. One friend even told me about recipes that use ground up nuts as the protein.”

“Dipping my toes into the meat-free pool will encourage me to try new foods, choose healthier options, and learn more about what’s going into my body. I look forward to reading more about meat alternatives and how I can affordably and conveniently buy and prepare healthier options!"

We hope that all of you, whether you are just dipping your toes into the meatless way, learning how to swim, or are of Olympic caliber, continue to strive to live a compassionate, meat-less lifestyle! You are giving yourself a healthier option, saving our environment and our planet's creatures too! What's not to love about that?

Amanda

 

 

1http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/animals/rights/speciesism.shtml

2 http://www.veganism.com/what-is-speciesism/

3 http://www.animal-ethics.org/speciesism/