Speciesism involves the
assignment of different values, rights, or special consideration to
individuals solely on the basis of their species membership.
The term is mostly used by animal rightsadvocates,
who argue that speciesism is a prejudice similar to racism or sexism, in that the
treatment of individuals is predicated on group membership and morally
irrelevant physical differences. The argument is that species membership
has no moral significance.
The term is not used consistently,
but broadly embraces two ideas. It usually refers to "human
supremacism), the exclusion of all nonhuman animals from the
protections afforded to humans. It can also refer to the more general idea
of assigning value to a being on the basis of species membership alone, so
that "human-chimpanzee speciesism" would involve human beings
favoring rights for chimpanzees over rights for dogs, because of
The arguments against speciesism are
contested on various grounds, including the position of some religions that
human beings were created as superior in status to other animals, and were
awarded "dominion" over them, whether as owners or stewards. It
is also argued that the physical differences between humans and other
species are indeed morally relevant, and that to deny this is to engage inanthropomorphism.
Such proponents may explicitly embrace the charge of speciesism, arguing
that it recognizes the importance of all human beings, and that species
loyalty is justified.