August 29th, 2020 is the 6th year in a row when activists around the world come together to celebrate ‘The World Day for The End of Speciesism”’. For the first time, Thai advocates joined this international commemoration and decided to speak out about "speciesism", an idea that may sound new to many
“The term ‘anti-speciesism’ might sound foreign, but it really is just a call for real compassion and true respect for non-human animals, notions that many people already have, and are also rooted in Bhuddist’s core values. We only invite people to put these principles into practice. Our movement proposes that people stop eating animals and refrain from buying other products such as clothes and cosmetics that involve killing or exploiting animals in their making”, explains Wichayapat Piromsan, a Thai anti-speciesist campaigner and manager of international NGO Sinergia Animal.
In Thailand, the NGO Sinergia Animal launched an initiative called Thai Challenge 22 (www.thaichallenge22.org), that is attracting a lot of attention. “We are inviting Thai citizens to try to eat a 100% plant-based diet for 22 days. We believe that not eating animals’ flesh, eggs and milk is the first step to put compassion and respect towards non-human species into action. The results are very promising, and many people decide to remain following this lifestyle after the challenge. Only in the last month, nearly 3,000 people joined our challenge”, explains Piromsan.
Anti-speciesism is also a growing movement globally. The supporters of this philosophy are behind the explosive growth of the so-called ‘vegan movement’. Last year, the world-famous magazine Forbes declared 2019 “The Year of the Vegan”, in which veganism went mainstream due to influence from millenials.
One of the most prominent voices in this ideology is Peter Singer, an Australian moral and ethics philosopher. According to Singer, speciesism is a bias or prejudice in favor of interests of one own species — humans — and against interests of other species — non-humans. It is also a belief that humans are superior, which he believes to be a misconception. “All the arguments to prove man's superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering the animals are our equals”, states the philosopher.
Anti-Speciesism advocates highlight that because animals are considered by some inferior to humans, billions of them are used or exploited for food, clothing, entertainment, and other activities that cause them pain and immense suffering for humans’ interests.
What science says about anti-speciesism
“Our societies are ignoring the scientific findings that prove animals are sentient beings, who have emotions and interests to live their lives free of pain and suffering, and develop relationships among their own and other species”, adds Wichayapat.
Science is indeed on the anti-speciesist movement's side. For example, in a series of studies by the University of Bristol, researchers found that chickens’ heart rate began to race, and call more often to their chicks when they see their chicks having air puffed at them — something the hens have learned, from personal experience, to be mildly unpleasant. Studies have also proven that cows have peers who they prefer to be with, which suggests they have best ‘friends’. They also show affection toward each other by grazing together and licking each other. When they are in a big herd, they spend more than half of their time close to their ‘best friends’.
Another study revealed that pigs can actually play. Scientists concluded that pigs engage in complex types of games, be it playing with others from their own or of other species, or playing with objects. They will scamper, jump, paw, pivot, run for fun, flop on the ground, and wave
their heads in play, just like what human children — or sometimes adults — will do for fun.
Animal kingdom is more complex. Despite a growing body of research, there are many more species we do not fully understand yet. Nevertheless, Mickey Klomklao, the manager of Thai challenge 22 and a Thai anti-speciesist activist, argues that non-human species do not have to prove their sentience to us for their rights to continue living and be free. "Some non-human species, like aquatic species for example, don’t communicate, play or behave the same way we do. However, we have to leave aside our anthropocentric way of looking at non-human animals, and understand that, just because they don’t behave or communicate in ways similar to homo sapiens, doesn't mean they cannot feel pain or suffering."
Komklao invites Thais to join the Thai Vegan challenge. “Adopting a vegan lifestyle is a way to start rejecting speciesism. It is easier than you think and you will discover a lot of great new flavors and feel healthier.”