Speciesism (/ˈspʃˌzɪzəm, -sˌzɪz-/) is a term used in philosophy regarding the treatment of individuals of different species. The term has several different definitions within the relevant literature.[1] A common element of most definitions is that speciesism involves treating members of one species as morally more important than members of other species in the context of their similar interests.[2] Some sources specifically define speciesism as discrimination or unjustified treatment based on an individual's species membership,[3][4][5] while other sources define it as differential treatment without regard to whether the treatment is justified or not.[6][7] Richard Ryder, who coined the term, defined it as "a prejudice or attitude of bias in favour of the interests of members of one's own species and against those of members of other species."[8] Speciesism results in the belief that humans have the right to use non-human animals, which scholars say is so pervasive in the modern society.[9][10][11] Studies increasingly suggest that people who support animal exploitation also tend to endorse racist, sexist, and other prejudicial views, which furthers the beliefs in human supremacy and group dominance to justify systems of inequality and oppression.[10][11][12][13][14]

Many philosophers argue that the differential treatment of cows and dogs is an example of speciesism. They argue that members of the two species share similar interests and should be given equal consideration as a result, yet in many cultures cows are used as livestock and killed for food, while dogs are treated as companion animals.

Some philosophers have argued that there is a normative relationship between speciesism and other prejudices such as racism, sexism, homophobia and so forth.[3][13][15][16][17][18] As a term, speciesism first appeared during a protest against animal experimentation in 1970. Philosophers and animal rights advocates state that speciesism plays a role in the animal–industrial complex,[19] including in the practice of factory farming, animal slaughter, blood sports (such as bullfighting and rodeos), the taking of animals' fur and skin, and experimentation on animals,[20][21][22][23] as well as the refusal to help animals suffering in the wild due to natural processes[24][25] and the categorization of certain animals as invasive, then killing them based on that classification.[26] They argue speciesism is a form of discrimination that constitutes a violation of the Golden Rule because it involves treating other beings differently to how they would want to be treated because of the species that they belong to.[16]

Notable proponents of the concept include Peter Singer, Oscar Horta, Steven M. Wise, Gary L. Francione, Melanie Joy, David Nibert, Steven Best and Ingrid Newkirk. Among academics, the ethics, morality, and concept of speciesism has been the subject of substantial philosophical debate.[32]

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