“Speciesism: The Movie”: As Dumb As It Sounds

A couple of weeks ago a new schlock-umentary called “Speciesism: The Movie” premiered at a theater near us in Washington, D.C. We decided to go see it, given that many people from the Humane Society of the United States and other animal liberation groups would be in attendance, including folks like longtime (ex-)PETA leader Bruce Friedrich (who has said that “blowing stuff up and smashing windows…I do advocate it”) and Gene Baur, whose group Farm Sanctuary was found guilty of electoral fraud following a 2002 campaign in Florida.

For the benefit of our readership, let’s describe what “speciesism” means. According to animal rights activists, “speciesism” is discriminating against members of a different species than humans. They think it’s comparable to racism, a controversial comparison in its own right. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

The film follows around a then college student as he first interviews animal rights activists at PETA and Compassion Over Killing, who complain about modern animal agriculture. Then the filmmaker shows up at farms to try to film and see for himself. But the farmers aren’t interested, and with good reason. Imagine if a stranger showed up at your front door and asked to walk around your house taking film. You’d be skeptical, too.

The film then moves from “modern farming is bad” to a discussion of speciesism, including interviews with Princeton professor Peter Singer, who authored Animal Liberation, and Tom Regan, another longtime animal rights philosopher. And this is where the film’s weakness shows.

The filmmaker interviews the animal rights activists on the side of  “anti-speciesism” who have had decades of experience discussing and pondering the issue.

Then, for countering arguments, the filmmaker asks people on the street for their opinion on why speciesism is OK.

Naturally, the people look a little flabbergasted and stammer through an answer and, of course, look poor in comparison to the intellectuals like Singer and Regan. Things get even more eye-rolling when the filmmaker challenges people on the street by poking holes in their logic.

The problem is that he’s had lots of time to think about and adopt this point of view, and some guy on the street has probably never thought about it before.

This plays to the small audience of militant animal rights activists, who can chortle and pat themselves on the back about how right they are, but it’s not going to carry much weight with the public.

To put it another way, the filmmaker has incredible influence over those who don’t need influencing, which is to say he doesn’t have any influence at all.

If anything, the filmmaker, by engaging in these tactics, unintentionally shows how utterly weak the argument is for speciesism. The idea itself is absurd and contradictory. Out of all the species, only humans can be “speciesist.” Why? Because only humans have moral obligations.

If a lion kills and eats a gazelle, you can’t hold it responsible. But if a human kills and eats a cow, then the anti-speciesists attempt to hold the person morally responsible—while at the same time arguing against species-based discrimination.

Speaking of morals, these same self-proclaimed moral role models offer the most morally repugnant justification for their beliefs of all: mentally handicapped humans are the same as wild animals in that they have no more, and most likely less, cognitive abilities. Not only does that strike us as crass, but it’s illogical; the activists are trying to make an exception comparable to a rule.

Regardless of what anyone says, humans are an exceptional species. If that makes us “speciesist,” then so be it. But the vast majority of humans would argue that it’s not morally wrong. And the more people from the Humane Society of the United States, PETA, or other extremist groups hobnob at these anti-speciesist events, the more they expose themselves as part of the fringe.

Posted on 10/29/2013 at 12:13 pm by Humane Watch Team.

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  • WORSEKarma

    My response of, “What are you, stupid? There’s no such thing as ‘specieism’, moron”, would likely not have made it into the final cut…

    • LoupGarouTFTs

      That would have been my response, too, except I would have left out the moron part. An -ism infringes on an individual’s rights. Animals do not have “rights” except those related to welfare.

      • Iheartzooanimals

        I would have left out moron, too…and substituted ahole…

  • Mark

    Well first of all humans are not the only ones who show moral behaviour or moral obligations. Morality has been shown in dozens of mammals including elephants, dogs, great apes, old world monkeys, new world monkeys, meerkats and more. Second of all the Lion eats the Gazelle because that is how it survives, it’s natural selection. The difference is that we as humans have moved beyond natural selection and don’t need to exploid other animals or races for our survival anymore, but hey if you guys want to roll in the mud and eat raw animals go ahead.

    And lastly the comparison between animals and mentally handicapped humans is a very valid one and seeing how you have not even bothered to properly refute it shows the insecurity and lack of philosophical honesty in this article, this comparison was made based on the argument that we should be able to view animals as inferior because they don’t have an advanced conciousness like we do, but handicapped people do not have an advanced conciousness either yet we treat them morally, or atleast people expect them to. So that excuse can’t be made with other species either.

    Also the vast majority of humans used to think slavery was morally justified, majority opinion does not say anything about the fact that these animals are suffering for our gluttony, and this site pathetically tries to justify this in a rather poor way.

    • dogs4life

      “roll around in the mud and eat raw animals” ….. seriously???? BTW animal protein is essential to good health, and lack thereof can cause serious consequences, such as mental problems and various physical ailments.

      • WORSEKarma

        …As Mark clearly shows…

        Hey, Mark, does your job as a paid troll for the H$U$ come with a nice, tasty benefit package? I’m sure it includes an automatic exemption from ObamaCull, seeing as how Lois Lerner is a member in good standing of your “fine” organization.

      • Israel Navas Duran

        This is factually false. There isn’t a single component present in animal food that you can’t obtain from other food sources. Some of them may not look “natural”, but neither does milking cows in a barn.

        A different story is whether exploiting other living organisms should be regarded as any more moral or immoral. I feel personally attached to some of the plants that I grow in my terrace. Some of them are older than the average human population, I’ve been coexisting with some them for about 3 decades, so I would consider immoral that you killed my plants just for fun. At least as immoral as killing a person in permanent vegetative state. Now, if you want to kill your plants and unplug your elderly mum when she can no longer decide for herself, and nobody else of her close relatives and friends object, go for it.

        My point is that morality is a slippery thing that can be perceived in different ways and change according to surrounding conditions. It depends on what others think reasonable. The main reason why other living organisms don’t have the same treatment as humans are, 1. because they don’t have the strength, skill, and awareness to make themselves respect by others, and 2. there aren’t enough individuals with such skills who will make enforce their respect.

        Point 1 is unlikely to change, at least in the short run, whereas point 2 could change in very little time, it only requires of a cultural change facilitated by technological advances. In fact, it’s already significantly more costly to feed on farm animals than on animals. As animal meat becomes less common the pressure to end animal husbandry will grow stronger. In my view it’s just a matter of time that it’ll be frown upon by the most of the population and probably banned.

        In contrast, I don’t think that breeding animals as pets or of other organisms will be widely considered as something immoral. Unlike animal husbandry, there isn’t a clear abuse on them, either physical or psychological. Even though they may not live under “ideal” conditions, their life in the wild often isn’t heaven either.

        • Idaho_Roper

          Actually it is not factually false if one considers reality. In order to have been evolved to consume only plant based foods, humans would have only evolved in places that soy grew. As raw soy is the only plant that contains the necessary amino aids humans need to process protein. But since human evolved across all parts of this planet that soy didn’t grow, your argument is based in fallacy.

          I know you warm and fuzzys want to deny reality, but one piece of reality you just can’t get by is human nature. And humans are a predator, always have been, always will be. You can dress it up in any kind of feelings you want, but one human gets hungry enough and he is going to eat you and your plants you are so weirdly attached to.

          I have to say, I have a real distaste for your thug mentality of trying to squash my freedoms so you can force me to believe your way. I suspect when you tyrants try and ban meat you will find out just how predatory the human animal can be.

      • Blystone The Vegan Atheist

        Sorry to say but dogs4life is pretty much a soundboard representative of the average American, engaging in willful ignorance and repeating a script given to him/her by the culture in which he/she places his/her faith. If you have been paying attention to our cancer wards, cardiac wards, and obesity clinics, you would not repeat such idiocy as to say we need animal protein. Study after study have shown us otherwise. Hey, where are the wards for protein deficiency? What is the scientific name for protein deficiency (without looking it up)? Maybe it isn’t a reality to need animal products but rather a social construct and doctrine of consumerism that you have fallen prey to. Between me and three of my vegan friends we have around 100 years of vegansim between us. We are not dead! We all look younger than we actually are! Rethink your position and start thinking logically and for yourself. You don’t need to use an argument from authorities to figure this out. Do the experiment on yourself. The results will surprise you.

      • Elijah Madson

        lol have you ever met a vegan?

    • fearnot

      you are as they say .. one sick puppy.. only humans can determine morality.. so if a meerkat does something you think looks ‘moral” only you as a human can say it is or not..I say not..you may not think you are special ( and I would agree) but I am.. good article HW

      • Mark

        We don’t just acknowledge animal morality by observation alone, but by testing using the scientific method. Sadly scientifically illiterate idiots like you will continue to spout the same arguments that racists used during the slavery.

    • Kellen

      First of all, show me this example of “dozens of mammals” practicing morality without interaction with human example, without REAL evidence of that, I don’t believe it. Animals are incapable of expressing any type of morality for the exact same reason why animal rights activists say they are so great; they do not have the capacity for rational thought and work within the confines of naturalistic survival inside of the Earth ecosystem. They could no more do a bad thing than an angel could do a bad thing or a demon could do a good one, they don’t have the choice, capacity or intelligence.

      Animals should be eaten less often, perhaps even not at all, but not for “speciesism” reasons, for reasons like decreasing CO2 emissions, how meat absorbs cancer causing radiation or the high energy cost of producing it. The reasoning being that we should treat animals like people is stupid. If someone hold a human being’s life in the same regard as a rat or a hamster, it is only because they are so deluded and separated from reality, which is what living in a civilized world can do to you. When you are so separated from your natural roots, where you don’t have to do anything significant to survive and lose touch with their core identity as an survivalist omnivore.

      Am I saying that the people that go through the drivethrough and don’t think twice about where their burger comes from are any less diluted. They too are disconnected from their food source, but from the opposite direction.

      The comparison of mentally handicapped human beings as on
      the same level of animals is offensive, ignorant and obtuse. Go tell that to someone who has a family member who is mentally handicapped that their relative is basically the same as a squirrel and is just as important and see if they agree with you. Animals are not capable of compassion the way that the mentally handicapped are, nor do they have even close to the intelligence or deductive reasoning skills, regardless of the barriers they face when being compared to average human beings.

      Despite all of this, everyone should have the right to live the way they want. It’s less that
      people that believe that a duck’s life is as valuable as a person are stupid, it’s more that they hold such a morally superior position that they think they should dictate that they view as morality to all of us and then insist that everyone who eats meat or has used Raid on bugs are murderers. That kind of reckless application of false morality is on the same level as anti-abortion or anti-LGBT marriage. Basically, in terms of ignorance, intolerance and narrow-mindedness, anti-speciesists are basically the other side of the
      same coin.

  • DC

    Cows kill a human to protect a calf. Humans kill a cow to protect or feed a baby or a dog. Animal Rights activists hold humans responsible for following their instincts but not cows. Wait, I thought there was no difference between species? Their arguments are not real.

    • geoff

      Humans kill cows to protect a baby?

    • Kellen

      I’m on your side and I think think your line of questioning is flawed.

  • Idaho_Roper

    Unfortunately animal pimps like Mark suffer from the inability to utilize critical thought. Animals are inferior to humans on many more levels than just making moral judgements. I have yet to see any species outside of humans utilize reason and knowledge expansion to change their behavior outside of raw instinct. Humans are the only specie capable of that creation of discovery.

    Nor, can one utilize the minority of examples to try and prove otherwise. The world is full of exceptions to the rule and only shallow thinkers attempt to utilize them as proof to push an agenda that has no real foundation in truth or to try and claim these minority examples as commonplace..

    When lions learns on its own to manage prey populations and turns to a vegetative diet during periods of prey population declines, and can show me that the decision was made out of another manner of reasoning than they just couldn’t catch them because they were in serious decline. we can talk. It will never happen as humans are the only specie that possesses the ability to reason beyond simple instinct, to utilize higher thinking and change behaviors based upon those.

    What people like Mark, HSUS and PeTa members should be thankful of is that we humans are a superior species. These people are the weak among us and if we lived by the laws of the jungle we would have allowed predators to consume them already. It seems the weak are attempting to make us all lower ourselves to the lowest common denominator in this attempt to give inferior species rights. And they will utilize ‘guilt’ to try and push it.

    Now Mark, show me another specie that possesses the emotional feeling of ‘guilt’ throughout it’s entire species to guide it’s actions or try and force the majority into a minority position that is not beneficial to the specie as a whole.

    Show me another specie that has a percentage of it’s population that hates it’s own specie. You are not going to find it as humans are the only specie capable of such hatred. It is sad that I have found most of these animal pimps suffer from this very illness.

    While these types possess such hatred for their own type to the point they want to lowers us to the level of the inferior species of this planet, nothing could be further from the truth, even if they do not like it.

    • Mark

      Never seen any animals use reason and knowledge expansion? How about tool use in great apes, elephants, how about name calls in dolphins?

      Actually many animals alter and change their behaviour especially when there is a massive enviromental change going on, it’s called evolution by natural selection. If you’re going to spout that animals seriously can not reasonably adapt to their enviroment you’re dismissing the entire field of biology.

      All you spouting about how we’re superior is not a positive thing, it’s the exact same thing nazi’s and racists say to justify their bigotry. Why did Hitler justify genocide? Because the Aryan race was superior, that’s the exact argument you are making right now.

      The psychology of hate is derived from tribe rivalry, which is very common in animals. So yes animals do have the capacity to hate, hell just look at chimpanzees and gorilla’s and you’ll see plenty of hatred and love between the species itself.

      Keep living in your nazi-like superiority complex and scientifically illiterate delusion. Meanwhile this movie is changing the way people think about animals even among the highest scientific scholars.

      • Idaho_Roper

        Oh give me a break…….trying to equate anything with animals to Hitler or any other genocide only exposes your delusion. Animals are not humans Skippy. animals will never think on the same level as humans. And trying to use the minority of evidence to make a claim is rather weak at best.

        Here is another one for you….murder. Only humans can commit it and only
        humans can be victims of it. You see Mark, there are many, many examples of
        humans being superior. Not that the actual act of murder is anything to rave
        about but that we are capable of differentiating it.

        Thank you for the laugh though, I always know when someone tries to play the
        Nazi card, they have already lost the argument.

  • Ghostdreams

    The human race is so superior that we’re destroying the planet faster than any time in the history of the planet. We’re so superior we destroy everything in our path. BEEEP! Illogical. Ideology doesn’t pan out. Regardless of how you feel about the movie, I think that the planet and everyone on it was better off before humans made that momentous evolutionary jump that put us on two legs. I also feel that if we wish to survive, we better find a better way to live on the planet. Adopting a more compassionate attitude and humane philosophy towards the other creatures we live with might be a good way to start, eh? I’m not surprised at the tactics used here as destruction is always easier than creation…Especially for the less intelligent. Building a sane, compassionate, environmentally friendly society will take work and the ability to, not only think outside the box, but live outside the box. It’s obvious from reading the review that the writer prefers to live in the sewer we’ve made up for ourselves. I can only hope for the generation to follow that more people become interested in saving the planet than destroying it whist writing trivia that’s been repeated over and over and over for a thousand years, mostly by the church “fathers” (who, at least, actually had a serious self interest – thus reason – for their insanity – people like the writer would just prefer to stay in the mire as the planet burns).

    • Idaho_Roper

      Talk about fools following self interested frauds. The entire “we are destroying the planet” agenda is compiled of self interested frauds and simple minded followers. Perhaps you should consider doing some real research yourself as opposed to digesting garbage presented by hacks making millions off of the doomsday drama they peddle.

      Nature and this planet are bigger than humans or anything (sans nukes) that we can do to it. This CO2 garbage and globull warming scare is nothing more than created drama for shallow thinkers. If any of these hacks would have been right in even one of their dire predictions this planet would already be uninhabitable. But it is not, yet they and seemingly you just keep on making and believing the same drama repackaged.

      While I believe being a good steward is prudent and responsible, I do not hate my own kind enough to cross that lunatic bridge of believing this planet is better off without us. To remove us from nature or existence has consequences that are incapable of being calculated and therefore to claim a better planet is a thoughtless position to take.

      Maybe it would have been, or not. But either way it is living in delusion and wishful thinking that have no basis in any factual thought.

  • selina

    Its a much simpler arguement. Can animals feel pain? Yes! They can. Because they maybe cannot reason does not give us the right to torture them. We are no better than any other person who has systematically inflicted torture on another group of beings: Hitler…

  • Kellen

    Wow. This person just said that dolphins are probably more intelligent than humans. Well, that it for me, this has just become too dumb.

  • Wilder Lao

    Still relying on the ol’ lion line…