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Speciesism involves assigning different values or rights to beings on the basis of their species membership. The term was coined by Richard D. Ryder in 1970 and is used to denote prejudice similar in kind to sexism and racism.

The concept of speciesism is used mostly by advocates of animal rights, who believe that it is irrational or morally wrong.

Philosophers Tom Regan and Peter Singer have both argued against the human tendency to exhibit speciesism. Regan argues that all animals have inherent rights and that we cannot assign them a lesser value due to their irrationality and meanwhile assign a higher value to humans that do not behave rationally (e.g. infants and the mentally impaired). Singer's philosophical arguments against speciesism are based on the principle of equal consideration of interests and he is the founder of the Great Ape Project.

Great ape personhood

Great Ape personhood is a related concept in which the attributes of the Great Apes are deemed by some people, to merit recognition of their sentience and personhood within the law, as opposed to mere protection under animal cruelty legislation. This would cover matters such as their own best interest being taken into account in their treatment by people.


Some religions are less speciesist than others. While animists may believe in the equality of all sentient beings, monotheists tend to believe that human beings are superior to other lifeforms by divine intention. The teachings of Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism emphasize ideals such as sarva jeeva sama bhava (सर्व जीव सम भाव), that is, "all life is equal", and are examples of religions that tilt towards being less speciesist, though the extent to which this is reflected in daily life in countries where those religions are influential depends on the local culture.

Science fiction

Speciesism is a popular theme in science fiction, referring to a prejudice against other intelligent species, equivalent to racism. For example, during the reign of the Galactic Empire in Star Wars, many alien species were oppressed by the ruling government, which consisted mainly of humans. In this context, it is sometimes referred to as xenophobia.

See also


Further reading

Dunayer, Joan. 2004. Speciesim. Ryce Publishing: Illinois. ISBN 0-9706475-6-5