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Speciesism: The Forgotten Privilege

Animal Rights

Last week, a friend of mine in Hong Kong brought to my attention an animal-related news story. It seems “scores of crocodiles perished” in a Shenzen, China zoo called Rural Grand View Garden, after “suffering a barrage of trash and projectiles from callous visitors.” Why? Apparently, the reptiles weren’t moving enough for the paying visitors and were subsequently “pelted with random objects” to see if they were alive.

Speciesism: The Forgotten Privilege

Mickey Z. -- World News Trust

Jan 22, 2013

The future will only contain what we put into it now

(graffiti, Paris 1968)

Last week, a friend of mine in Hong Kong brought to my attention an animal-related news story. It seems “scores of crocodiles perished” in a Shenzen, China zoo called Rural Grand View Garden, after “suffering a barrage of trash and projectiles from callous visitors.”

Why? Apparently, the reptiles weren’t moving enough for the paying visitors and were subsequently “pelted with random objects” to see if they were alive.

While I could take a wide range of angles in writing about this incident, it was a related story on a U.S.-based green (sic) website that really struck a chord.

Stephen Messenger at Treehugger.com opined: “While zoos are usually intended to give visitors an up-close look at many fascinating animals that would otherwise only be seen in the wild, a recent incident at a zoo in China may be far more revealing of a dark aspect of human nature.”

Not surprisingly, Messenger’s ill-informed reaction obscures the realities behind zoos (see below) and the fact that “human nature” is a hazy concept rendered even more meaningless when separated from the relentless social conditioning we all face.

More importantly, Treehugger.com -- and virtually everyone else -- ignores the privilege of speciesism. Hierarchal constructs are deeply woven into the dominant culture but rarely does anyone discuss man’s domination over non-human life as a form of privilege. What transpired at that zoo in China should come as no shock within a society that accepts veal crates, vivisection labs, fur farms, and trawling nets (etc. etc.) as normal.

Angela Davis, someone who knows a thing or two about challenging privilege, has declared her vegan status to be “part of a revolutionary perspective -- how we not only discover more compassionate relations with human beings but how we develop compassionate relations with the other creatures with whom we share this planet.”

Until Every Cage is Empty
Another angle on this story jumped out at me, thanks to this comment from an “animal breeder” at the Rural Grand View Garden: “Our animals should be treated fairly,” he stated, apparently without a hint of irony. “We hope our visitors will use some self-discipline and be nicer to them.”

Here’s a little of what the media regularly omits when reporting on zoos:

  • Zoos are mostly focused on "cute babies" and ultimately create unwanted animals.
  • They can reduce genetic diversity and do not contribute to increasing robust animal populations in the wild.
  • They do little to nothing to seriously address the underlying causes of habitat loss and thereby let the perpetrators off the hook.
  • Warehousing endangered species sends the frightening subliminal message that it's acceptable to spend money to view animals in enclosures while, for example, forests are being clear cut to make way for doomed livestock -- depriving many of those same animals the freedom to live in their own habitats.
  • Animals are obviously not meant to live in captivity and, as a result, often display stress and/or psychological dysfunction and just as often, these animals are abused.
  • Encountering animals in a zoo setting teaches the wrong lessons about how our eco-systems work. Wrong lessons only serve to sustain a system that should be dismantled.
  • Captive breeding can create a false sense that the battle to save endangered species and habitats is being won.

While some activists remain stuck focusing on minor reforms and tweaks, many are beginning to recognize the stark reality that any system requiring the relentless ruin of resources is not only unsustainable... it's anti-life.

Extinction is Forever
One need only contemplate the current extinction rate to comprehend the impact of perpetual "growth" upon our shared ecosystem.

Passenger Pigeon, Sea Mink, Panay Giant Fruit Bat, Great Auk, Bubal Hartebeest, Mauritius Blue Pigeon, Egyptian Barbary Sheep, Amesterdam Island Duck, Cuban Red Macaw, Ascension Flightless Crake, Desert Rat-kangaroo, Eastern Elk, Longjaw Cisco, Lake Ontario Kiyi, Blackfin Cisco, Western Quoll, Brawny Great Moa, Philippine Bare-backed Fruit Bat, King Island Emu, Falkland Island Wolf, Guam Flying Fox, Penasco Chipmunk, Pallid Beach Mouse, Kenai Peninsula Wolf, Newfoundland Wolf, Banks Island Wolf, Cascade Mountains Wolf, Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf, Mogollon Mountain Wolf, Texas Gray Wolf, Southern Rocky Mountain Wolf, Florida Red Wolf, Texas Red Wolf, California Grizzly Bear, Tacoma Pocket Gopher, Yellowfin Cutthroat Trout, Alvord Cutthroat Trout, Syrian Wild Ass

"There is a holocaust happening. Right now," Jeff Corwin wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 2009. "And it's not confined to one nation or even one region. It is a global crisis. Species are going extinct en masse." Corwin goes on to explain:

"Every 20 minutes we lose an animal species. If this rate continues, by century's end, 50 percent of all living species will be gone. It is a phenomenon known as the sixth extinction. The fifth extinction took place 65 million years ago when a meteor smashed into the Earth, killing off the dinosaurs and many other species and opening the door for the rise of mammals. Currently, the sixth extinction is on track to dwarf the fifth."

Whether we're talking about habitat loss, climate change, the black market for rare animal parts (third-largest illegal trade in the world, behind weapons and drugs) or any of the other causes behind the mass die-off, as Corwin declares, "it all points to us."

It all points to us -- and it all affects us…

Maravillas Red Shiner, Las Vegas Dace, Grass Valley Speckled Dace, Clear Lake Splittail, Snake River Sucker, Harelip Sucker, Tecopa Pupfish, Kona Grosbeak, Bonin Wood Pigeon, Big Thicket Hog-nosed Skunk, Rabbit-eared Tree-rat, White-footed Tree-rat, Carolina Parakeet, New Zealand Quail, Raiatea Parakeet, Black-fronted Parakeet, Atlantic Gray Whale, Burly Lesser Moa, Arabian Gazelle, Red Gazelle, Saudi Gazelle, Goff's Southeastern Pocket Gopher, Confused Moth, Steller's Sea Cow

Extinction is much more than just dinosaurs and dodos. Every species shakes its booty in the delicate dance of nature. Subtract one and well, the collective song skips a collective beat. So, if you're not already losing sleep over the sixth extinction, let's talk a little about honeybees.

We may not give honeybees much thought but their existence feeds our existence as a fair portion of the human diet relies on them (specifically commercial honeybees) at the critical early stages of its development. It's been found that bees, birds, and bats affect 35 percent of the world's crop production, increasing the output of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide.

This is why the recent disappearance of honeybees -- Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) -- is an excellent example of how seemingly separated species are inherently intertwined.

Puerto Rican Shrew, Chatham Island Swan, Nelson's Rice Rat, Chadwick Beach Cotton Mouse, Pemberton's Deer Mouse, Cape Warthog, Scioto Pigtoe (clam), Barbados Raccoon, Tahitian Sandpiper, Okinawa Flying Fox, Slender-billed Grackle, Dodo, Lesser Koa Finch, Greater Koa Finch, Mauritian Owl, White-faced Owl, Arizona Cotton Rat, Blue Pike, Kansas Bog Lemming, Mexican Grizzly Bear, Japanese Sea Lion, Lesser Stick-nest Rat, Mauritius Grey Parrot, Bavarian Vole, Indian Seal, Black-footed Ferret, Lanai Thrush, New Zealand Greater Short-tailed Bat, Long-tailed Hopping-mouse, Ryukyu Pigeon, West African Black Rhino

While the condemned creatures I've listed so far are already gone, we can still take immediate action to save many more (including ourselves). Currently, there are over 4,200 species of animals deemed "critically endangered" or "endangered" worldwide.

As of 2009, for example, wild ocelots are gone from all U.S. states except Texas. The estimated U.S. population is 195 of which 95 are captive.

More numbers:

  • Polar Bear: 3500 left in Alaska
  • Wolverine: 300 left in lower 48
  • California Condor: 336 (180 captive)
  • Whooping Crane: 538 (181 captive)
  • Mount Graham Red Squirrel: 300
  • Woodland Caribou: 40

Also threatened or endangered: Mountain Gorilla, Leatherback Sea Turtle, Northern White Rhinoceros, Brown Spider Monkey, Red Wolf, Chinese Alligator, Snow Leopard, Giant Panda, Tasmanian Devil, Bonobo, Blue Whale

Shift Happens
So comrades, what on earth can we do… right now?

Here’s some of what I hope you’ll consider as you contemplate action:

  • Humans are just one of 8.7 million species sharing (sic) a planet.
  • Whether you call it a cage, a cell, a jail, a pen, a ward, a prison, a wildlife center, or an enclosure… captivity is captivity.
  • A culture that confines and abuses animals for profit is highly likely to regularly promote and engage in other forms of violence and exploitation.

In the name of securing a future for all the earth's species, we must cultivate, refine, hone, re-invent, and ultimately expand an alternative form of human culture. We must continue to occupy and recruit and include more and more voices and ideas.

It's too late for the long-extinct Confused Moth. It's not too late for the confused human to reject the pervasive conditioning and programming of the 1% and view the future with new and decidedly clear eyes.


Note: To continue having conversations like this, come see Mickey Z. in person on Jan. 27 in NYC at Occupy the Climate: Hurricane Sandy, Eco-Activism, & the Vegan Option.

Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.

© WorldNewsTrust.com -- Share and re-post this story. Please include this copyright notice and a link to World News Trust.

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Speciesism: The Forgotten Privilege | 2 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Speciesism: The Forgotten Privilege
Authored by: Luis Martins on Thursday, January 24 2013 @ 04:30 AM CST

 "Although animal lib theory and activism have rarely been welcomed or taken seriously by the mainstream Left, many anarchists are beginning to recognize their legitimacy, not only as a valid cause, but as an integral and indispensable aspect of radical theory and revolutionary practice. While most people who call themselves anarchists have not embraced animal liberation and its corresponding lifestyle—veganism—growing numbers of young anarchists are adopting ecology- and animal-inclusive mindsets as part of their overall praxis."


Speciesism: The Forgotten Privilege
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 24 2013 @ 03:43 PM CST

Since the title of this piece specifically referenced "speciesism", let's see what Wikipedia says about it:

Speciesism involves the assignment of different values, rights, or special consideration to individuals solely on the basis of their species membership. The term is mostly used by animal rights advocates, who argue that speciesism is a prejudice similar to racism or sexism, in that the treatment of individuals is predicated on group membership and morally irrelevant physical differences. The argument is that species membership has no moral significance.[1]

The term is used to embrace two ideas: "human speciesism," which is the exclusion of all nonhuman animals from the protections afforded to humans, and the more general idea of assigning value to a being on the basis of their species, so that human beings favouring rights for chimpanzees over rights for dogs because of human-chimpanzee similarities, would be an example of "human-chimpanzee speciesism."

Now, while I'm all in favor of being kind to animals, except when I need to eat them, or use them for some other purpose, such as farm labor, transportation, or medical experimentation, it seems nonsensical to me to speak in terms of rights, morality, or values in relation to any species other than human beings.  I, too, like for animals to live free whenever possible, although I do enjoy cats and dogs as pets, as I'm sure quite a few animal rights activists do.  It is obvious that it is impossible to apply the same ethical standards to animals that we do to our fellow human beings, since other species kill each other with no moral qualms whatsoever; who are we to assume that we know what is best for other species, if we are truly on the same level as they are?  And if we do presume to know what is best for them, that in itself is a form of speciesism, although not necessarily in a bad way.