Peter Singer in his extract from Animal Liberation, claims that animal lives should be given the equal consideration and respect as we give to the lives of human and that all animals, both human and non-humans are equal. In his extract, Singer divides his thoughts in to two main ideas; one being speciesism and the other being factory farming and its reality. According to Singer, “speciesism” (209) is the main obstacle in the eradication of cruelty to animals. Singer argues that to discriminate against living beings in regards of their species is a form of “prejudice” or “attitude of bias” (209) is unjustifiable in the same way as to discriminate one for their gender or the color of the skin that they are born in.
Singer also describes starvation, overcrowding and the excruciating procedures and the consequent slaughter in great detail. He puts emphasis on the numbers and the percentages of animal slaughter as factual evidence to show the extent of the human murderous behavior. The book demonstrates Singer’s concern about inequality based on speciesism and the use and abuse of animals along with the disasters of modern factory farming which is no longer controlled by simple country folk but large cooperations which have turned agriculture into “agribusiness” (213). He shows parallel links between racism and sexism with the indifference shown to animals by human beings to inform new generations about the concerning issues which prevails in the society that still needs to be taken care of. Singer uses the feminists and the civil right movements as comparison to fight against speciesism in order to confirm this existing prejudice giving people an insight vision to this scenario. He provides content for us readers to acknowledge the reality that animals have to face and to go through every single day to possibly make a change in the perspective for the future upcoming generations and that the capacity for suffering is the “vital characteristic” to gives that being the right to “equal consideration”. (210) Speciesism defined by Singer is a “prejudice or attitude of bias in favor of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species”. (209).
Singer in another chapter of his book, Animal Liberation, titled “Man’s Dominion” discusses the speciesism more broadly by dividing the chapter into three historic sections: Pre-Christian Thought, Christian Thought and Enlightenment. Singer argues that the most common viewpoint which belonged to Aristotle, a Greek Philosopher, who believed that “animals exist to serve the needs of man”. (188) When ancient Hebrews looked for guidance in regards of man’s treatment of animal in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, it was written that the man was created in God’s image and that man had power and domination over all other living breathing creatures. These Biblical thoughts stand as prove to show that speciesism has existed over thousands of years ago which still prevails in the today’s society and thinkers like Aristotle, a human, are speciesists which permits them to act violent towards the animal lives. Philosophers have acclaimed the difference and the inequality in how we humans treat animals describing our relationship with animals as “speciesist” in a studious attempt to express a parallel with other forms of indefensible discriminations such as racism and sexism (e.g. Horta, 2010; Ryder, 2017; Singer, 1975, 2009; Singer & Mason, 2007).
But to what extent can speciesism really be seen as a form of prejudice comparable to traditional forms of prejudice like racism and sexism, and – critically for this paper - do ordinary people perceive this connection? speciesism seems to fit, involving negative beliefs, emotions, and behaviour towards others based on their membership of a certain species group. We believe that some animals are less morally important than humans and that some species of non-human animals are more important than others; we fail to feel empathy for certain kinds of animals; and we act in harmful ways towards some animals that we would never countenance towards humans or other species of animals.