Speciesism and vegans

Vegetarians and vegans1 often use the term speciecism, in a manner similar to how racism is used, to put forward arguments against the industrial scale exploitation of animals.

While I sympathize with the goal, I don’t quite get how the application of this concept to animals but not to plants is any less of speciecism. All scientific evidence points to a level of awareness — trying to tip-toe around the term sentience — of plants. Just because unlike with the usual mammal we have not established a pathway to communicate with those creatures and cannot fathom they may be able to does not give us the right to exploit them any more than we have the right to exploit animals?! Just because they have no head, mouth or limbs and therefore are way more foreign to us than the cute kitten or the calf or the sheep or hens or even the sympathetic clown fish doesn’t mean they are lesser living creatures than animals, does it?

What am I missing?

I often get the feeling a similar train of thought has led to the dawn of those pescetarians who will eat fish but no (other) meat. They simply don’t classify fish meat as “meat” and they apparently discard fish as sentient beings. Some of them2 will readily self-identify as vegetarians, but they eat fish. It gets better, because if you inquire some more, some of them will even state that they also eat “white meat”3.

Now I find vegans a lot more rigorous with their stance on this, but then they still divide the living beings into animals which are worth protecting and plants which are free to consume. How does this go together? Isn’t that line between animals and plants as arbitrary as that which we have “drawn” to distinguish animals that may be exploited4 in a (largely) socially accepted fashion and those that can’t5? What happens if we move that line even further to include plants? Will we live off bacteria? Why not draw the line a little further and exclude all living things from our plates? Will it even be possible?

I honestly wonder and invite you to share your thoughts.

// Oliver

  1. but mostly vegans []
  2. and I know some personally []
  3. chicken and other poultry []
  4. pigs, cattle, chicken []
  5. whales, cats, dogs, gerbils []
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