What is speciesism?

Speciesism” is the human-held belief that all other animal species are inferior. Speciesist thinking involves considering animals—who have their own desires, needs, and complex lives—as means to human ends. This supremacist line of “reasoning” is used to defend treating other living, feeling beings as property, objects, or even ingredients. It’s a bias rooted in denying others their own agency, interests, and self-worth, often for personal gain.

This toxic worldview also leads humans to draw non-existent distinctions between animal species, based solely on the purpose that those animals might serve. For example, most humans wouldn’t dream of treating their dog the way pigs are treated in the food industry, even though pigs are able to experience the same pain, joy, fear, and misery that canines do. Many humans wear coats lined with fur trim taken from trapped coyotes or sleep on a pillow stuffed with feathers pulled from a screaming goose, but they’d never consider ripping fistfuls of fur out of a crying kitten’s back with their own hands. It’s speciesist to believe that farmed and captive animals don’t suffer or feel emotions to the same extent as the animals with whom we lovingly share our homes.

PETA’s mission statement says, “Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.” This means that animals are individuals—their own people—and have the right to live free from human exploitation. Speciesism is the ugly counterpoint to this truth. Although it goes unnoticed by most people, speciesism has devastating real-world effects on billions of animals. That’s why PETA—and compassionate people everywhere—work hard to fight it.

PETA I'm Me, Not Meat Turkey Ad which features the image of a Turkey on a banner besides the campaign slogan " I'm me, Not Meat. See the Individual. Go Vegan"

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind