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Who Could Be Blind to Racism?

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“Who could be blind to racism?”[1] To ableism? Sexism? Heterosexism? Ageism?

Unfortunately, each and every one of us, every single day.


Just look down on our plates.

We have dairy milk and cheese and/or body parts on our plates every day. If we want to understand how someone can be blind to all those –isms, then just think about how we have decided that it is ok to use and kill animals.

We have decided it is ok to use, exploit and kill animals because their being NOT like us means that we have a right to kill them and that they have no right to be alive and no use on this planet other than to be our things – our food, snacks, entertainment, belts, shoes, sofas, handbags, jackets, hats, power tools, transportation – just things for us to use.

We use purely arbitrary and self-serving reasons to exploit and kill animals: Mmmm tasty! Bacon! Fashion! Tradition! Health! It’s always been this way! God says it’s ok! They’re stupid! They’re farmed for our use! I don’t know how to cook! We treat them well before we kill them! I don’t want to be different! I’m addicted to cheese!

All those reasons, that is what speciesism is.

We actively decide every day to be blind to speciesism and to sacrifice lives of living, breathing, sentient beings to our own wants and desires.

Similarly, racists, sexists, ageists, ableists, heterosexists, etc. have decided that we, who fall in those categories of people they do not like, are NOT sufficiently like them and, therefore, we can be used, exploited, mistreated, jailed, tortured, beaten, neglected, cast off, or treated significantly differently for reasons that are purely arbitrary and self-serving.

The mechanisms of an -ism are all the same.

Racists, sexists, ageists, ableists, heterosexists, etc. say, we are better than them and we count more than they do. And we who disagree with those –isms fight them in our small or big way every day. We oppose them and we cannot imagine how people can be like that (or vote for a leader who normalise those –isms).

Yet, as long as we are not vegan, we are behaving no differently with respect to non-human animals. As long as we are not vegan, we too are saying that we are better than them.

Do the right thing. Go vegan. It’s easy.

[1] “Movin Backwards”, Tribe Called Quest

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  • Cenk Tekin

    “We have decided it is ok to use, exploit and kill animals because their being NOT like us means that we have a right to kill them and that they have no right to be alive and no use on this planet other than to be our things – our food, snacks, entertainment, belts, shoes, sofas, handbags, jackets, hats, power tools, transportation – just things for us to use.”
    Just this paragraph shows the ignorance of the history of human civilization.

    • 1. Doing something for thousands of years does not say anything about the morality of that action. We never morally justify conquest, genocide, murder and rape with understanding the history of human civilization. Why would perpetuating animal injustice, torture and death be morally acceptable?

      2. Throughout history, many civilizations have been emerging, thriving and turning into dust. The fact that immoral actions may have helped us to survive and thrive does not mean that the same actions are not leading us on a path toward self-destruction.

      • Cenk Tekin

        1) Why is the moral values of Balint Balasa are supposed to be default values for humans? There are moral justifications for conquest, genocide, murder or rape with or without understanding the history of human civilization, you can reject them but they have existed in the past and will do so in the future. Animal use have been and still is vital to human survival.
        2) Animal use have helped us survive and thrive, there is no may about it. And or troubles are more complex than animal use.
        But your points aren’t relevant to the fact that the above paragraph Emilia Leese is nonsense.

        Nature has no conscience, no code of ethics, and runs almost entirely on blood for blood. It’s ruthless without mercy on every species that has ever existed, from the tiny parasites mindlessly burrowing into some poor shark’s blinded eyes, to the leopard tearing the flesh from it’s terrified and still living prey, utterly deaf to it’s cries of agony.

        Humans are just another product of said nature. We have been created/evolved to survive, adapt and prosper in our environment and we’ve made that habitat the whole world. Is it a suprise that we may not be any different to the ruthless indifference that characterizes the rest of nature? We’re no better, we’re no worse, only more efficient. Yes we’re nasty, yes we’re utterly stupid with our treatment of the ecosystem, but we’re here, we are powerful and we’re staying.

        Coming to terms with this fact, rather than some fantasy drivel about a moral fall from grace would be much better.

        • Emilia Leese

          Dear Cenk, thank you for illustrating my point exactly. Cheers.

          • Cenk Tekin

            Dear Emilia, if you must always be the one who says last word, you could also put effort to give an actual argument.

          • Emilia Leese

            My piece speaks for itself if you bother to think it through.

          • Cenk Tekin

            That also wasn’t an answer, it is an evasion. Your piece ignores reality.

          • Emilia Leese

            And your comments ignore morality. I owe you nothing.

          • Cenk Tekin

            Actually morality cannot be independent of reality, and by rejecting reality your piece rejects that too.

          • Fred

            Anyone who rejects the absolute moral standard set by the almighty Creator really has no basis for ANY moral code.
            Without God’s word as absolute standard of right or wrong, the atheist is left without a foundation for his/her moral beliefs.
            How does pure materialism give birth to abstract notions like what is right or wrong? It cannot. Therefore the atheist has to formulate morality out of his or her social experience and collective bargaining power. Whoever wields the power and might are the ones able to enforce their wills or what is right or wrong on others.
            Ask yourself if you’re the atheist, what exactly is wrong with murder, rape, lies, cheating, adultery, stealing, hurting people or animals, cruelty, disobedience etc? Who says it is right or wrong and why are THEY important? Who gives THEM the right to decide?
            See where that leads?

          • Cenk Tekin

            And that contradicts with “morality cannot be independent of reality” how? Especially when you consider Parables.

  • Fred

    Friend, after the world-wide flood God gave Noah, his wife and his sons and their wives permission to eat the animals. Before that humans were vegetarians as given in Genesis 1:29-30.

    At the same time as giving animals as food, God also made the creatures fearful of mankind so that they would flee at the sight of mankind – most probably to protect them from mankind’s incredible evil intents.

    For those who do not believe the Bible, there really is no satisfactory explanation as to why people are eating animals.

  • Fred

    Emilia, “All those reasons, that is what speciesism is.”
    Just remember that plants are also some kind of species. Hence, by your reasoning of “God says it’s OK”, we should also not eat the plants. But that means we will have nothing left to eat and so die.
    If you read and believe the bible, it all becomes clear and simple:
    God gave us the plants as food – Genesis 1, then later after the flood he gave us the animals to eat too, possibly because the environment was no longer conducive to just plant eating.

    You reject the biblical origins or human kind at your own peril.

    • The definition of “speciesism”: the assumption of human superiority leading to the exploitation of animals. It has nothing to do with species of plants. Unlike humans and most species of animals that we routinely exploit for food, clothing and other purposes, plants are not sentient.

      Anyone defending murder with the “carrots feel pain too” argument would be locked up in a mental institution. Most people have the common sense not to make such unfounded and dishonest argument when it comes to human rights, but when it comes to animal rights, in the speciesist world we live in, everything goes.

      In response to the argument that God gave us permission to eat animal products, here is an excerpt from the book Eat Like You Care: An Examination of the Morality of Eating Animals by Gary L. Francione and Anna Charlton:

      “…In Genesis, we are told that God created the world and gave “dominion” over it to humans but— and here’s the surprise— no one was eating anyone in the beginning. God told humans “I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat”. And then God told all the animals and birds, “I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.”

      So in the beginning, before Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree and were driven from the Garden of Eden, everyone— humans and animals alike— ate only plant foods. It was only after God destroyed the world with a flood that he told Noah that humans are allowed to eat “every moving thing that liveth.”

      So we started off in harmony with God as beings who consumed plants. When we fell out with God and were driven from Eden, God permitted us to kill animals as an accommodation to our imperfect state. The Old Testament at least suggests that we should be moving in the direction of getting back to the ideal state.

      When the prophet Isaiah talks about the coming of the Messiah and the re-establishment of God’s kingdom on earth, how does he describe it? First of all, there will be peace between humans, who will “beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” But peace will also extend to and amongst nonhumans: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.”

      But we are not biblical scholars and we don’t want to overstate the case here. We think that using the Old Testament to make a slam dunk case for not eating animal foods would be unsound. But it would also be unsound to say that the Old Testament provides slam dunk support for the view that God is giving us a green light to kill and eat anything we want because we like the taste or because it would be easier to stop in and pick up a bucket of fried chicken than prepare some rice and beans or one of the many other vegan recipes that can be prepared very easily and quickly.

      The Old Testament, like almost all religious scriptures, is ambiguous at best and contains contradictions. Indeed, the entire problem with using documents like the Old Testament as support for anything is that the Old Testament can be read to support everything, including all sorts of things that we would all acknowledge as terrible, such as human slavery, murder, and rape.

      Consider the story of Lot, which is also in Genesis. Two angels came to his home and Lot receives them as his guests. The men of Sodom came to Lot’s house and, thinking that the angels were human men, asked Lot to produce his guests so that the men of Sodom could, well, sodomize them. Lot responded that the townsmen could not have his guests but that they could take his two virgin daughters instead, and do with them as the men saw fit. And Lot is one of the good guys of the Old Testament!

      The Bible prohibits all sorts of things, such as rounding off the side-growth of your heads (sideburns) or cutting the edges of beards, tattoos, wearing blended fabrics of linen and wool, contact with a woman who is menstruating, women speaking in church, and men whose testicles or penis are not intact from attending church. If two men are fighting and a wife of one of the men should try to help her husband by grabbing the testicles or penis of the man beating her husband, her hand is to be cut off. And the death penalty is prescribed not only for killing another but for other offenses, such as cursing your parents.

      The bottom line is that even the most fundamentalist person does not follow the scripture of her or his religion to the precise letter. So it’s clear that these texts cannot be relied upon exclusively to resolve every particular moral problem.

      It would seem that the most that one could argue is that humans matter more because they are made in God’s image and have souls, or have “special” souls. Such a view is, of course, just an aspect of conventional wisdom. That is, most people think that animals matter morally but that humans matter more than animals. Religious people may believe that humans matter more because God created animals as spiritual inferiors. But many people who are not religious and, indeed, who may be atheist, think that humans matter more because they are cognitively more sophisticated.

      Even if you believe that you have a soul and animals don’t, and that we ought to prefer the interests of a human in any situation in which we must choose— that is, in any situation of legitimate conflict— that gets us right back to the fact that when you are deciding what to eat tonight, there is no conflict. There is only a choice. If you choose the animal product, you are participating in suffering and death in the absence of any sort of conflict or compulsion. Your only justification is that you enjoy consuming animal products or that it is more convenient for you to do so.

      Think about it this way: Imagine that Michael Vick were to say that dog fighting was okay because dogs don’t have souls. Would you buy that? Imagine that Vick says God wants us to fight dogs because they don’t have souls. Would you buy that?

      You would respond to Vick that God’s creating us in God’s image means that in situations of conflict between human and nonhumans, we ought to protect the human interest over the animal interest. So in the situation in which a person is in a true emergency situation, such as being in a situation where she is starving to death with no plant foods to eat, it would make sense for a religious person to say that God wants her to kill and eat an animal and that she ought to do so.

      But saying that God wants us to eat animal foods when we are not in that sort of emergency situation is no different from saying that God wants us to fight dogs. If you would find the latter to be objectionable— outrageous perhaps— you should find the former so as well…”

    • The definition of “speciesism” equals “the assumption of human superiority leading to the exploitation of animals”. It has nothing to do with species of plants. Unlike humans and most species of animals that we routinely exploit for food, clothing and other purposes, plants are not sentient.

      Anyone defending murder with the “carrots feel pain too” argument would be locked up in a mental institution. Most people have the common sense not to make such unfounded and dishonest argument when it comes to human rights, but when it comes to animal rights, in the speciesist world we live in, everything goes.

      Professor Gary L. Francione’s response to “what about plants” objection to veganism:

      “…Plants react. They don’t respond. To say that a plant “has an interest” in, say, water and light, is no different from saying that a car engine “has an interest” in proper lubrication. Neither the plant nor the engine has any “interests” in the sense of having preferences, desires, or wants. And if plants have no interests, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to understand how they matter morally in any direct sense.

      As I have not yet read your book, I have no idea how it differs from “What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses,” written in 2012 by Daniel Chamovitz of Tel Aviv University, or “Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life,” written in 2013 by Michael Marder of the University of the Basque Country.

      Scientific American interviewed Chamovitz (June 2012) and asked him point blank: “Would you say, then, that plants ‘think’?” Chamovitz replied: “No, I wouldn’t.” He added: “Just as a plant can’t suffer subjective pain in the absence of a brain, I also don’t think that it thinks.”

      Marder talks about plants engaging in “non-cognitive” thinking and “unconscious intentionality.” In other words, Marder does not claim that plants have any sort of mind that prefers, wants, or desires. Although plants are alive and conduct various activities, some of which are very complex, at the cellular level, they conduct nothing at a cognitive or conscious level because they lack consciousness and cognition altogether.

      Chamovitz and Marder hold open the possibility that plants may be sentient in ways that we just do not yet recognize. For example, although Chamovitz acknowledges that plants can’t think, he adds, “but maybe that’s where I’m still limited in my own thinking!” There are three simple responses here.

      First, you could say the same thing about anything. You could, for instance, claim that we cannot really know whether a particular blade of grass is Einstein reincarnated. It may very well be Einstein; we just do not have the tools yet to recognize that it is. Making absurd claims and saying that they may not be absurd because it’s possible that they may not be absurd is an absurd endeavor.

      Second, unless you want to ignore the principle of evolution, you would need to explain why plants would evolve a characteristic that would be entirely useless to them. If plants could feel pain, there is nothing that they could do about it except to suffer that pain. Plants can’t run away.

      Third, even if, contrary to everything we know, plants were sentient, we still kill more plants when we eat animals than when we consume those plants directly. So when someone who is eating a one-pound steak asks you about the plants you are eating, you can remind him or her that the cow from whom the steak was taken was once a sentient mammal who had a nervous system very similar to our own and who was unquestionably sentient. In order to produce that one-pound steak, about 16 pounds of plant protein were needed. So we have a sentient mammal who died, along with 16 pounds of supposedly sentient plants…”

Don’t blame vegans for the shame you feel about using animals

The shame Carly Lewis claims veganism casts over her is more likely the ghosts of moral uncertainty, spectres that are more likely fish than cows, wondering how morality can possibly be used as ammunition in favour of murder.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z sell out veganism for ticket giveaway

Veganism deserves better than constantly being considered something to be bribed, dared or loosely entered into.

Month one of “the year of the vegan”

News outlets are abuzz with the promise of new vegan products, celebs, and services and how that is somehow a fresh affirmation that our world is one turn closer to being fully free from animal use.