Animal Studies Bibliography

Shapiro, Kenneth J. 1990. Animal Rights versus Humanism: The Charge of Speciesism. Journal of Humanistic Psychology 30(2): 9-37.

The animal rights movement is distinct from environmentalism because it focuses on individual animals rather than on entire species or ecosystems. This difference is tied to one of the movement's central concepts, speciesism, or bias against other species parallel to sexism and racism. These three involve discrimination that tends to promote or encourage domination and exploitation of members of one group by members of another (14) and are usually based on drawing irrelevant distinctions between groups. Animal rights activists argue that animals have moral worth, redefining the criteria from rationality to having interests or being subjects of a life (Regan). Speciesism's important difference from racism and sexism, however, is the latter two focus on aggregates of individuals (albeit stereotyped ones), whereas speciesism is particularly pernicious because it ignores individuals altogether. The concept of a species is scientifically questionable; whatever its status, by speaking of species we forget to be concerned about individual animals. Thus speciesism is perpetuated even by animal supporters, through cryptospeciesist remarks such as The coyote is making a comeback in Maine (17). Thus speciesism involves eliminating any concept of the individual in other species. This elimination of the individual from animals in crucial because humanism's basis is on distinguishing human from non-humans based on rationality/reason and individuality. Animal rights scholars thus charge humanism with being speciesist. Classical humanism was an attempt of Enlightenment scholars to define humans as actors outside the control of the church. The theory thus attributed reason (as linked with freedom) to humans, as separate from non-humans, who were linked with instincts, needs, and emotions. Human, once a sub-category of animal, came through humanism to be dominant against the former overall category animal, now subordinate. Further, as human is defined by individuality, reason, and autonomy, animals are necessarily left without these and are considered a class or abstract group rather than an aggregate of individuals. This distinct division between humans and animals led to the creation of natural science, now required since we could only understand things, including nature/animals (of which we are no longer a part) through reason (rather than, e.g., empathetic connection). In such scientific work, we endeavor to deny the subjectivity of animals (for example, considering their intention and purpose, self-awareness, etc.). The division limits research variables to what will support existing categories (human vs animal), or we (contradictorily) abuse animals in order to study human behavior. Humanistic psychology's (HP) concepts of self-actualization and empathy can be seen as a partial corrective to the above problems. The literature of humanistic psychology, unfortunately, generally excludes non-human animals from consideration. The question is, then, whether the field, as it develops, will include animals with humans or if it will perpetuate the speciesist divisions of humanism. HP studies experience, consciousness, and emotion as equals to reason, thus offering a door to lessen the human/animal distinction. Self-actualization can be interpreted to include animals in the process. Both these efforts, however, can also be used to define a new distinction (e.g. high vs low animals). Empathy, the most promising of HP concepts, is understood as bodily inhabitation (31) and our place in the social world enabling us to take on others' (including nonhuman) perspectives. Kinesthetic empathy is a technique through which we can study non-human animals, by understanding the individual animals' history, the social construction of that animal (pet, beloved species, etc.), and through shared bodily involvement. Empathy is thus a way to lessen the human-animal distinction based on reason and to avoid speciesism in HP.


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