The View From My Brain
Hmm. Okay. I would ask that you take this as a 'call-out' then, I guess. Please don't be defensive; listen to these words and consider them, taking as long as you need. I think as far as intersecting oppressions go, specieism could be the most foundationally internalized and therefore hardest to deal with. Symptoms crop up in all sorts of discourses with other groups and also how we performatively act ourselves and towards others.

It's a big topic so I'll deal with what you've brought up and where we've missed each others' trains of thought, and maybe you could explore the subject more when you're ready :)

There seems to be a repeated misunderstanding, so let me get that out of the way first:
I am an animal.
All humans are animals (apart from you)
A kangaroo is not human.
A badger is not human.
Not all animals are humans.

Calling somebody an animal is not explicitly a slur (though it can be used as one) but calling somebody a non-human animal or 'inhuman' is, because as you said, it is to negate their identity which is offensive assholery and quite frankly incorrect.

When I said that "“This group is less human and therefore we can exploit and oppress them”" I meant that REGARDLESS of whether something is human or not, we should not exploit and oppress them. The second part of the sentence is where my problem lies. Not calling a kangaroo human, but that doesn't mean we should abuse them as we want. I'm sorry for sticking with the topic of humanity in my last message; I wanted to illustrate with it that when people called a non-human animal 'inhuman and lacking humanity' (which is definitely technically true) they were implying that we SHOULD abuse them as we want. Non-human animals are not human. What bigots take from this is that they are objects, which is not true.

On the completely separate topic of practicality which you brought up, saying that regardless of whether or not animals 'should' be enslaved and exploited, most of them are dependant on us now and a lot of us are dependant on them, I would agree. Usually I like settling the 'should' first before we move onto strategy, but I can dabble. It is utopian, like a world with no oppression at all, but that's the goal we shoot for and which guides us in fighting oppression here and now wherever we can. You correctly ascertain that we cannot make everything right overnight. The two typical paths, as with most struggles, are revolution and reform. Depending on how cynical you (or I! haha) are feeling. We have to believe that change is possible, that we can make things at all better no matter how long it takes or how much it hurts, otherwise why fight for anything?
We're told all the time we're not being 'realistic' and that this system of intersecting fuckery is the way things are and we should all put up with them. What do you think our response should be?

Thank you for reading. I hope you find this at all productive, I did find your arguments interesting and I feel my thoughts broadened for it. I hope you're feeling better :)

If you still believe that I am saying that animals are human or should be human or whatever, then I have failed in enunciating my thoughts correctly and I sincerely apologise. I am not saying that, I never have, and do not think it.

I'd also like to apologise for my boisterous manner in previous messages. I'm working on communicating better :\

Right, since you wrote and retracted and apologised for the first paragraph, I’m gonna ignore that. I ask that anyone else who reads this does as well.

I’m gonna risk delving into some thoughts that I have not fully formed yet, but in order to address your points I need to explore these, and I apologise ahead of time for any confusion that might arise. I’m not a philosopher and not in the habit of digging into the foundations of thought-patterns. Mostly, I observe patterns - I thank my autism for this - I am very good at noticing them, and I find them fascinating.

"Calling somebody an animal is not explicitly a slur (though it can be used as one) but calling somebody a non-human animal or ‘inhuman’ is, because as you said, it is to negate their identity which is offensive assholery and quite frankly incorrect."

Actually, calling someone an animal in negative fashion is a slur. Not because animals are lesser, but because there is (still) a consensus among humans that this is the way things are.

No matter how much value YOU personally assign to animals, and no matter how much YOU personally remember every second that human are animals too, this is not something everybody does. It is in fact only a minority who thinks like you. So yes, calling someone an animal IS a slur (the positive exceptions I gave in a previous posts notwithstanding - there are very few of them in comparison with how often animal or likening to animals is used as a slur). It doesn’t matter how much I have reclaimed the word slut, if the bloke over there calls me a slut, it’s still a slur. No two ways about it.

Words are not slurs because of some original meaning or because of the reality they reference. Words are slurs because they are being used to prop up systemic oppression.

" I meant that REGARDLESS of whether something is human or not, we should not exploit and oppress them."

Agreed. I agree overall with the whole paragraph. We’re on the same page. I do want to add a thought to the last sentences, though.

"Non-human animals are not human. What bigots take from this is that they are objects, which is not true."

Indeed. But the solution to this is not to try to convince the bigots that animals ARE just like humans, which is what a lot of animal rights activism sounds like. I advise to stay away from this. Not because I want to assign values to animals in relation to humans, but because unless you want to try to dismantle people’s religious worldviews, you’re gonna need a different approach.

I respect people’s choice of religion, and I know how strongly many people feel about this, so the moment we start messing with things and for lack of better word ranking systems that originate in people’s faith we’re gonna hit a concrete wall of resistance.

My personal ambition is not to make everybody agree with me and think like me and therefore act like I’d want them to. No, I’ll settle for just getting everybody to treat all living beings right. What they think and feel while doing it? I don’t care.

Honestly, I don’t give a fuck what that dude over there thinks of women, as long as he doesn’t rape me or fires me. He can thin whatever the fuck he wants. I’d go for the same goal with regards to animals.

It’s useless to try to convince people to change their views of how the world works in metaphysical terms, because when we touch on this we’re heading into the very metaphysical country where nothing can be proved and it’s all about faith anyway. And faith cannot be argued with in any reasonable sense. It’s a waste of time :-)

What we do need to argue about is what we know is real. Unhappiness, pain and death are real things. Animals can get depressed - we know this for a fact. Animals feel pain (or at least some do - I seem to recall something about some insects having a central nervous system that does not process pain, so they can’t feel pain), and animals can most certainly die. There’s a “duh!” for ya, if anything. Oh yeah, and I nearly forgot - they can be stressed and scared too.

We need to keep our ethics grounded in what can be proven, rather than what we believe is some supernatural/metaphysical world-order view of what is right and wrong.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: We should avoid causing pain to living creatures, because pain is bad. End of story. We need to keep away from any argument that even remotely touches on “divinely granted responsibility for…” or “being caretakers of…”. Humanity has some pretty good definitions of Things Which Are Bad already. What we need is for people to agree on avoiding doing these Things Which Are Bad to others, rather than just avoiding others doing these Things Which Are Bad to themselves.

As for practicality and possibility: I don’t think I made myself entirely clear.

Yes, you’re right we’re repeatedly told to not fight against oppressions, because we’ll never win anyway. And that’s definitely a view we should reject. Change is always possible.

Ahem, what I was getting at was that abolishing not just industrial factory farming, but all animal husbandry altogether and setting all animals free and loose will not actually be an achievement of freedom. Animals will be free-er. But they’ll still be eaten by each other. We’ll be eaten by them once in a while. Lions aren’t going to go vegetarian just because we think it’s bad to eat something we needed to kill first. In fact, the gazelle dying by the lion’s claws will be in much more pain and stress than what we would cause it were we to take up ethical methods of slaughtering our food.

Pain is bad, but pain is a part of life. My belief is that we cannot avoid it altogether, but we can damn well do what we can to avoid unnecessary pain. For everybody. I’m not gonna hit anyone (unless in self-defense), but I’m still gonna break up with a partner if that’s what I need, even if the break-up causes hir pain.

Additionally: the belief that we shouldn’t eat meat because they can think and feel and are alive like us. What is this based on? A belief that plants do not think and feel and are not alive, and therefore it is okay to eat them. Have you considered that this may be wrong?

Have you considered that many religious views assign souls and/or spirits to plants, too? Some also assign souls and/or spirits to inanimate objects like rocks and drops of water.

How would we argue for veganism or even just vegetarianism to people who believe that a face is not the signifier that makes something alive and worthy of respect? I put it like this because I saw someone defining veganism as not eating anything that comes from something with a face. Why they chose the face as the signifying trait, I dunno. Probably in an attempt to humanise animals, I suspect, but I don’t know, obviously. They could just as easily have chosen a heart instead of a face. Some might have - I haven’t spoken to every vegan out there.

Anyway. The decision to not eat animals or anything that comes from animals, but being totally A-OK with eating plants is based on plants not being as worthy living creatures as animals. And have you ever asked an eggplant what it thought of being fried and baked in the oven steeped in a sauce made of fresh tomatoes, onion and basil? Did you ask the tomatoes or the onion? How about asking the basil plant what it felt like having its limbs torn off?

Damn. Putting this into words makes me feel like a torturer of basil plants. I just gave myself a guilty conscience, right there. >.<

Anyway. What I’m trying to say is that believing plants are a suitable replacement for meat is a very Westernized way of ranking living creatures in which animals rank above plants. Do we really want to push such a Westernized agenda to cultures where plants in some cases rank as just as important creatures as animals do? I say no.

So, taking into account all the possible world-views I can think of (not to mention all those I can’t) we couldn’t even drink water or eat rocks. And uhhhh I think you can see the problem with this ^_^

My own solution to the problem would be buying ecological goods whenever I can. These days my income couldn’t feed me with ecological goods. But I’m living with my mum for reasons of lack of income, and we live mostly ecologically. That means that the eggs we eat come from hens who have room, proper food, fresh air, etc etc. It means that the beef we do eat (though it’s actually quite rare we eat meat these days - mum prefers veggies dishes a lot of the time), comes from cattle that’s been raised like the happy- and contented-looking cows I can see from our living room. And not like the dairy cows on the farm next to my dad’s place, though I think that farmer is actually in the process of shifting stuff around to achieve better animal welfare.

Being an atheist (though this may change if I come upon something convincing hehe) I don’t hold to the metaphysical reasons for not eating one thing or another. But it also means I can’t reasonably prefer plants to animals, just because some people have decided that the latter is worth more respect and care than the former. I’d rather just eat food that I know has been raised/grown with a good conscience and with care taken for the welfare of plants as well as animals.

Anyway, since you talk about Speciesism I Wiki’ed it and it was fascinating reading. But I found only a tiny little reference to some animist religions placing plants on the level of animals and humans. And nothing whatsoever about how this factors into how anti-Speciesists fight the oppression of animals. The fact that this is not taken into account tells me that those who fight against Speciesism are mostly Western and with a default Christianized world-view, and I just can’t get behind that. The alternative is that they fight for animal rights because animals are cute, yo. And that’s worse. So until anti-Speciesism takes into account that the Western monotheistic world-views are not the be-all and end-all of Truth About Nature, I’m not gonna consider this the answer/solution to the issue we have with animals suffering in captivity.

There. I hope I made it clearer now, having thought things through I was not actually speaking of practicality. It was not actually an issue of practicality, but an issue of religious supremacy and oppression of non-Western cultures. I just hadn’t finished analysing why it rubbed me the wrong way. I think I came way closer now. I hope I made sense to you :-)

  1. jemimaaslana posted this