Speciesism: If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention


Branded sea lions – click image for report

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

If you aren’t angry, it’s possible that you aren’t concerned about speciesism. If you are concerned about speciesism but you’re not angry, you probably aren’t paying attention. Because lordy, speciesism is everywhere and so thoroughly normalized that it’s invisible in plain sight. Once you’ve seen it, though, you can’t un-see it, and then you’re screwed. Because how do you fight an injustice that’s been marketed to us–insidiously, with happy, smiling animals–since birth?

Now I know what you’re thinking–it’s not healthy to live in a state of perpetual, seething anger. And you’re right. That’s why I routinely alternate my seething anger with abject despair. Let’s take a gander at just a few episodes in that wildly-profitable, long-running series, “It’s a Speciesist Life.” But beware: you might end up seeing what others of us can’t un-see, and that changes everything. 

Hot-iron branding of sea lions: This ongoing scheme is so outrageous it almost defies belief. In this episode, we learn that sea lions are being captured, tormented, and frequently killed at the Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam for–sit down for this one–eating fish. Yes, the hapless pescatarians consume less than 4% of salmon at the dam “while commercial, sport, and tribal fisheries are allowed to take up to 17% of the same endangered salmon and the dam itself claims approximately 17% of adult salmon,” according to Sea Shepherd’s Dam Guardians. In video documentation (watch here), one unfortunate marine mammal is branded four times; the skin actually flames when the fourth iron is pressed into tender flesh. See also Dam Guardians myths vs. facts and Sea Lion Defense Brigade on Facebook.

“Rockchuck” Derby: How eager are they to kill marmots? So eager that their website features a countdown timer. The five-day derby starts May 14th and offers two registration categories: adults and kids 14 and under. Rules? You bet–chucks may not be weighted, wet, or frozen (heaviest chuck wins!), and each hunter is responsible for disposing of his/her own chuck. (Post-weigh-in status: garbage.) Last year’s derby registered 300 hunters (it was a memorial fundraiser that year) who descended on Bliss, Idaho to blast away at yellow-bellied marmots–social animals who live in colonies, communicate with a variety of vocalizations and whistles, and serve as a food source for other animals and birds of prey. It’s doubtful, though, that any of this would matter to the derby killers in Bliss, where ignorance is, um…you know.

LiveLeak-dot-com-31c_1388593848-1502484_611878518847577_1125349963_n.jpg.resizedAvi-FoamGuard and Poultry Blinders: Now let’s bypass anger and move directly to despair…for our own species as well as others. Avi-FoamGuard, approved for use in 2006, is a “foam depopulation system” that’s “100% effective in depopulating infected poultry houses.” Because factory farms are crowded, filthy places filled with stressed, damaged, and suffering “production units,” they’re also breeding grounds for contagious diseases like avian influenza. But humans–using our large brains and amazing creative capacity to do speciesism’s nefarious work–have developed a way to mass exterminate chickens by covering (hence suffocating) them with a firefighting foam that blocks their tracheas…eventually. “Crews can depopulate a large commercial broiler house in less than an hour using our proven technology”; it’s so easy to use that it represents “an enormous savings in cost and time” (product webpage). If that spin makes you dizzy to the point of nausea, get a dose of reality (also sickening) at United Poultry Concern’s article (from winter 2006/2007), “Government approves firefighting foam to exterminate birds.”

Then there are “peepers,” or poultry blinders. It’s not enough to debeak chickens and turkeys and cut off turkeys’ toes without pain relief; impairing their vision can also be part of that package of misery! To be clear: debeaking and toe chopping occur in factory farms, where birds are so cruelly confined, crowded, and stressed that they peck and stab each other raw, sometimes to death. Blinders, which wouldn’t be cost-effective in industrial settings, seem to be the domain of backyard chicken enthusiasts and “game bird” breeders who want to prevent feather and egg pecking (see photos). The blinders sit on the beak to block forward vision, thus preventing the wearer from zeroing in on the target to be pecked. The super-cruel model uses a pin that, inserted in one nostril, pierces the septum and exits the other nostril to secure the device in place. (See it pictured at a discussion forum where the advice-seeker is told, “A little blood is no big deal.”) Pinless models, probably marketed as “humane,” feature two short prongs that are inserted in each nostril. Many variables are responsible for pecking–diet, temperature, artificial lighting (to induce egg-laying), crowding, co-confinement of differing breeds–but one thing’s certain: sentient beings expected to provide eggs, meat, and sport are ultimately commodities whose stress behaviors have to be managed. If they weren’t brought into existence for exploitation by humans–well, problem solved.


US Fish & Wildlife Svc.

Scapegoating ravens in Idaho: Idaho is a lousy place to be a raven right now, especially if you’re one of the targeted 4000 who will consume poisoned chicken egg bait. Ravens must die because sage-grouse (an imperiled ground-dwelling bird dependent on sagebrush ecosystems) must not. Sage-grouse habitat has largely been degraded by human impacts, making them candidates for Endangered Species Act listing; according to Defenders of Wildlife, “remaining sagebrush habitat is fragmented and degraded by oil and gas drilling, livestock grazing, mining, unnatural fire, invasive weeds, off-road vehicles, roads, fences, pipelines and utility corridors.” Still, a biologist for ID Department of Fish and Game asserts that “we can’t directly say that (sage grouse population decline) is from ravens, because we don’t have that information.” So you see, it makes perfect, speciesist sense to kill ravens–whose diet includes sage-grouse eggs–since ESA listing for sage-grouse would inconvenience humans and impede our enterprise.

On a daily basis similar episodes from “It’s a Speciesist Life” bombard us in newspapers, in emails, and on computer screens: a proposed sharpshooter deer cull at a “nature preserve” in Bloomington, Indiana (Facebook); beavers killed in underwater body-gripping traps at Lee Metcalf National “Wildlife Refuge” here in Montana–lethally removed for “water level management”; dead trophy animals splattered across Facebook news feeds and newspaper pages–this one picked up by our local paper the other morning; five million piglets killed by porcine epidemic diarrhea virus because BACON! and so much more. Who sees the speciesism in charity hog roasts that help humans with medical expenses? In fly fishing retreats for wounded veterans and breast cancer survivors? Who dares criticize these endeavors to help our own? (Well…I do.)

Once we’ve seen and can’t un-see speciesism, how do we handle our anger when its source is omnipresent? Perhaps the answer lies in the words of the Peace Pilgrim, who advises us to channel the “tremendous energy that comes with anger”:  “Do not suppress it: that would hurt you inside. Do not express it: this would not only hurt you inside, it would cause ripples in your surroundings. What you do is transform it. You somehow use that tremendous energy constructively on a task that needs to be done…”

You somehow use it. Ripples (or deluges) of anger aren’t constructive and won’t vanquish speciesism. Individually and collectively, it’s up to us to transform anger and use that positive energy to change hearts, minds, and laws–to cause ripples…waves…tsunamis of compassion and justice for our sentient nonhuman sisters and brothers.



18 Responses

  1. I know what to do with the sadness and the anger… But where to put the shame for our ugly species? :/

  2. Makes me pretty mad and I do my bit by spreading the word. What else can we do to make a worldwide impact?

  3. […] black people and yes, against the other half of the species, females. At the same time, we began paying attention to such realities as District Attorneys simply going for the throat to gain convictions as opposed […]

  4. I’ve tempered my anger and despair with one consolation. According to BP and other oil companies, there is only 50 years left of global oil reserves. That’s including “dirty oil” like the Canadian tar sands and does not factor in any future human population growth. So, very soon, modern civilization as we know it will come to and end. Does that make you feel any better? I know it does me.


  5. Reblogged this on Exposing the Big Game and commented:
    speciesism is everywhere and so thoroughly normalized that it’s invisible in plain sight. Once you’ve seen it, though, you can’t un-see it, and then you’re screwed.

  6. It’s amazing to what lengths people will go to not see it. I was thinking about it today…folks digging in their heels about adopting a plant-based diet/lifestyle. Most have to know they’re eating crap. And know that eating crap makes them feel like crap. What is so distressing about not eating animal products anymore? I have to believe it’s the level of brainwashing; otherwise, I’m stumped. What are they afraid of? It’s the wrong thing, whatever it is.

  7. ” I have to believe it’s the level of brainwashing…” Yes, and the constant marketing reinforcement, and the fact that animal food is so cheap because it’s so heavily subsidized, and the suffering is invisible, and meats are tied to religious and patriotic traditions, and humans’ taste buds have been manipulated to crave fat, sugar, & salt, geez, it’s so many things; ultimately because speciesism rules, and humans feel entitled to use, abuse, and exterminate animals for whatever reason and in whatever manner benefits us. How do we go up against the monster animal-industrial complex (the alliance of industry, government, and education)? Beats me…maybe as Allison says above, we each do our bit–and hope for one heck of a ripple effect? (Talk about your David & Goliath struggle…) Divya is banking on a fossil fuel apocalypse, but it could be that the mother of all mutating pathogens from factory farming will get us first. (Karma is what that would be.) Many thanks to all of you for commenting, re-blogging, and supporting each other & all of us who work for justice.

  8. Where ideological viewpoints struggle is in resting upon the assumption that those who don’t agree must be hoodwinked, conditioned, obtuse, close-minded — perhaps even outright stupid or downright evil, etc. If one succumbs to such thinking, then I suspect, one could very well find oneself frequently livid and emotionally distraught.
    Perhaps the most relevant axiom to bear in mind is this: A sure sign an ideal is flawed or delusional is that it views everything outside itself as somehow flawed and delusion.
    Giving oneself over to an idea or ideology — particularly one that is prone to look outward with haughtiness or scorn — is a tricky business.
    Ideas are tools for the mind — not the other way around.
    I’m citing my Grandmother a lot today — but as she used to put it — if you keep having the same problem with everybody, then maybe the problem really isn’t everybody else.
    Wanton animal abuse is a pressing social ill. And agri-industry is an unmitigated disaster for a myriad of reasons.
    That said, no one group, approach or ideology has all the answers.
    I would recommend the documentary film “Food, Incorporated” to anybody wanting to learn more about agri-industry and the problems it creates. I think it’s hard-nosed and objective, rather than purely ideological.

  9. “Ripples (or deluges) of anger aren’t constructive and won’t vanquish speciesism. Individually and collectively, it’s up to us to transform anger and use that positive energy to change hearts, minds, and laws–to cause ripples…waves…tsunamis of compassion and justice for our sentient nonhuman sisters and brothers.”

    If anyone thinks for one minute that those who are committing these atrocities for fun, profit, etc. are going to stop because we nicely ask them to look into their hearts and see the light, they must be living in fantasy land. G-damn right I’m angry–as all of us should be. This culture is pathological and insane, and those who are causing all of this needless suffering need to be called out on it at every turn.

    Attempting to hold hands and sing “kum by yah” with those who are commiting brutal atrocities is an exercise in futility. It might make you feel better, but it won’t change a thing. As Frederick Douglas wrote: “Power never concedes anything without demand.” Time for us to demand justice for all living beings, and that means getting angry enough to do so.

  10. Joanne, your comment strikes me as rather unfair. I never suggested that we “hold hands” with or “nicely ask” the exploiters to stop, nor did I suggest that we shouldn’t get angry (take a look at the title of the piece). The crux of the post is here: “Once we’ve seen and can’t un-see speciesism, how do we handle our anger when its source is omnipresent?” Personally, I don’t want to be so eaten up / blinded by anger that I can’t be an effective advocate/activist for animals, and it’s my belief that lashing out in anger isn’t the best way to reach all the people who haven’t yet recognized the speciesism that our economy and lives are built on.

  11. Just stumbled upon this…a marketing professional from the UK talks about how consumers are manipulated by marketing; she eventually focuses on intensive factory farming, future consumers (i.e., kids), and the “secret ingredient” that makes it all come together. (Note that the group behind the video, Compassion in World Farming, seems to be in favor of ending the factory farming system but also for continuing the exploitation of animals for food.)

  12. Kathleen,
    Having a keen interest in the ethics of speciesism I read your post with interest. Whilst you make some striking points, I couldn’t help but feel that the emotive, angry tone to your piece undermined rather than sold your arguments. Your last paragraph seemed particularly relevant: ‘You somehow use it. Ripples (or deluges) of anger aren’t constructive and won’t vanquish speciesism. Individually and collectively, it’s up to us to transform anger and use that positive energy to change hearts, minds, and laws–to cause ripples…waves…tsunamis of compassion and justice for our sentient nonhuman sisters and brothers.’
    I personally felt that if you’d followed up your examples by debunking speciesism, they would have had a much more consequential impact on the minds of those not familiar with the concept. My feeling is that the response of many when reading this article would be ‘yeah, and why shouldn’t humans have the right to cull crows if it’s to the benefit of us and the sage-grouse?’. Explaining why for instance intelligence or pain-tolerance are insufficient grounds for discrimination would have added weight to the initial pang of injustice you delivered with your interesting examples of speciesism.
    I think most people feel similarly outraged when they come to fully understand speciesism, but until they do, it seems to me that being overly emotive about the issue can undercut credibility and come across as sensationalist.
    Kind regards,
    Jen (animalwelfareblog.com)

  13. Hi Jen, thanks for commenting. I disagree that this piece is “overly emotive.” The “hook” that it’s written around is the anger that all animal rights activists have to deal with not only because of such extreme examples as these, but also because of the “routine” exploitation in daily life. As for sensationalism, the examples themselves are so extreme that one doesn’t need to embellish or fall back on angry rants.

    I don’t sell Animal Blawg readers short–they understand speciesism–and not just because I and other writers here have addressed it many times. For newbies who come upon it, I try to remember to include a link (as I did in the first sentence). Interestingly, a previous commenter took me to task for not being angry *enough*! so maybe I hit the mark in just the right place!

  14. […] – the dolphin hunting capital of the world – when I read Kathleen Stachowski’s wonderful Animal Blawg on the ubiquity of speciesism. Kathleen observes: “speciesism is everywhere and so thoroughly normalized that it’s […]

  15. I’ve shared this post across my various networks today, keep up the good work.

    Best Wishes

    Tony Powell

  16. that is not right we should brand words in you just incase you get lost.

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