3 Followers
17 Following
Wendy

Simcha-Sophie

a lovely mishmash of opinions interspersed with moments of clarity and vision by a vegan lesbian feminist mystery-loving, history-loving reader and writer.

 

Currently reading

The More I Owe You: A Novel
Michael Sledge
The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World without Losing Your Way
Hillary Rettig
Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire
Catriolina Mortimer-Sandilands, Bruce Erickson
Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America (Between Men--Between Women)
Lillian Faderman
The Healing Earth
Philip Sutton Chard
Revolt and Crisis in Greece: Between a Present Yet to Pass and a Future Still to Come
Dimitris Dalakoglou, Antonis Vradis

Speciesism

Speciesism - Joan Dunayer This is a take-no-prisoners look at human treatment of nonhumans and how such behavior is enabled through the mentality of speciesism (affording unequal treatment and consideration to another based on species alone). It is, overall, an excellent book and one that makes a lot of sound points on human (mis)treatment of nonhumans. She uses the writing of other animal rights/abolitionists like Gary Francione as a starting point, and from there shows us where speciesist attitude, even among animal activists, lead to inconsistency. She points out why these views and writings are inconsistent with an abolitionist and liberation philosophy and expands on how one can make oneself consistent. She defends insects as well as dogs and other nonhumans, taking the time to show that insects have agency, they think and solve problems (although I haven't read much Francione, it is my understanding that he thinks animal activists should ignore insects). She has no problem with single-issue campaigns but pushes the idea that such campaigns must be presented in a non-speciesist way (for example, the Great Ape Project presents its case by attempting to prove that great apes are very similar to humans, and for that reason, and that alone, they should be granted rights. Dunayer claims this is speciesist because it makes similarities to humans the raison d'etre for granting nonhumans rights. The fact that nonhumans feel, Dunayer asserts, is reason enough to grant them rights).

There are a couple things I take issue with in this book; she makes disparaging comments about Christianity, and while I'm not Christian, I think this will put out a bunch of people who could potentially become allies for nonhumans. She assumes that Christianity equals ignorance and that atheism automatically means an openness to non-speciesism. This has not been my experience among both (some, and, admittedly small in number) Christians and atheists (again, it is a very small number of athiests I've met who are not already activists who would accept the arguments against speciesism she puts forth).


Aside from those comments, which occur at the beginning and then by way of a rather immature barb at the end of the book (which actually also comes across as speciesist), there are a couple other problems I had with this book. Dunayer begins her book by exploring speciesism through Peter Singer and Tom Regan, and for someone who's never read or studied those people's philosophies, it is confusing. She also I found the beginning to be problematic in that she launches into critiques of both Peter Singer and Tom Regan, and does so in a way that's confusing to people who've never read either author. Another sticky issue is when she uses the phrase "exceptionally masculine women" in a way that implies such women are given a somewhat elevated status because of their similarity to men. I find this ludicrous, since "exceptionally masculine women" tend to be, in my experience, seen as something less than a "real" woman (and perhaps threatening to where a woman's place is supposed to be). I also think her argument comparing racism and speciesism could have been much stronger if she showed some knowledge of systemic racism. She suggests that African-Americans can be racist, and though some may disagree with me, what I've learned is that anyone can be prejudiced but that racism is oppression by the powerholders over people of other races (and here it might be interesting to note that some cultures consider nonhumans as other races).

So while this book definitely has its problems with comparisons to other oppressions, it is very effective when remaining in the realm of animal activism alone. It is actually one of the best books for animal rights and liberation activists that I've read. There is a sense of urgency here, and no apologies for people who focus activism on nonhumans. It is definitely worth reading.