The internet is a wonderful place and full of wonderful ideas. It’s also a strange place and full of strange ideas.

One such idea surfaced recently from the Instagram feed of animal rights activist group, PETA which highlighted the concept Speciesism and attracted a certain amount of attention. Here’s some quotes from what it said.

Using animals as insults perpetuates speciesism. Instead of “chicken” say “coward”. Instead of “rat” say “snitch”. Instead of “snake” say “jerk”. Instead of “pig” say “repulsive”. Instead of “sloth” say lazy.

Belittling others just because they were not born human is a form of speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview that’s at the heart of all animal abuse. Perpetuating the idea that animals are sly, dirty, heartless, etc. is improper, inaccurate, and normalizes violence against animals.

(You can see the full post here)

Ignoring the fact that it seems better to discourage people from insulting one another altogether, I have been fascinated (and worried) in recent years on the proliferation of such postmodern concepts in society.

Whilst PETA has a reputation for a more in-your-face style of activism, what is really interesting to see is the way that mere words have been translated into an act of violence.

Here’s what the opening sentence of the caption says:

Words have the power to create a more inclusive world, or perpetuate oppression.

What is it about words that are so powerful? The rise of modern technology, science and unparalleled human progress is undoubtedly built upon the sharing (and criticism) of ideas. Ideas are expressed in words and through language.

(On a side note, PETA would definitely not be too happy with the historical figure of Jesus who referred to some of his opponents as a brood of vipers. To be fair, they did kill him over it.)

This attack upon language is something we should all be concerned about. Shut down and censor ideas and you will shut down progress. That’s not to say we should allow incited physical violence or harm to happen on our platforms or in our society. We shouldn’t.

Ironically, this is an all too frequent example where language is being used to discourage other expressions of language. Or perhaps better translated as the desire for our ideas but not your ideas.

The worrying trend is that we are seeing an inference between the sharing of ideas (potentially emotionally painful) and actual perpetuation (physical violence).

The blurring of language means that there is a false equivalence where physical violence becomes justified in response to “emotional violence”.

In short, someone may feel justified in attacking you based on the “emotionally violent” ideas you hold, even if those ideas are actually good, proper and helpful.

This subjective view to morality (and justice) is not one that actually works in practice because by its very nature, it is completely subjective.

For example, a legal system that is subjective is generally one that bends to the whims of a powerful dictator or oppressive government. This is not a good vibe for anyone. Absolute truth is necessary for a functional society, let alone a coherent worldview.

One of the problems with this is that it actually limits the sharing of ideas (and consequently social progress). Discussion, words and language have the self-correcting ability to get rid of unhelpful ideas and emphasise successful or productive ones.

In this case, the obvious logical fallacy of speciesism is that it does not consider the total and full implication of the outworking of the idea.

Consider this.

Most vegans are concerned about eating animals of a certain size but spare very little thought for the smaller animals such as insects, worms etc. But any sort of food production (including those that claim to be “cruelty free” will inevitably harm some (no matter how small) part of the ecosystem.

An intellectually honest speciesism would demand these animals to be included. Instead, it only focuses on the larger animals such as sheep, cows, chickens etc.

We have yet to consider smaller organisms such as bacteria and even viruses etc. Intellectual honesty demands that we care about all organisms, not just the ones we can touch and see. Such a position might easily be referred to as “organismism” which reinforces the myth that organisms of a certain size are superior to organisms that are not.

We are transcending the borders of practical insanity of course but this is absolutely on equal logical and moral grounds to speciesism.

Secondly, there is no sense of understanding as to what might have happened to those animals regardless of human contact. In truly “organic” circumstances, they would have almost certainly been killed by other predators such as wolves etc.

Thirdly, it appears that lack of verbal consultation with our animal friends makes it difficult to ascertain their thoughts on the matter of speciesism. On a closer look however, they clearly do not hold or demonstrate these same views. Any trip to a part of the world where wildlife is actually free to roam around would give a much more accurate picture of the situation.

I suspect our friends at PETA may spend more time in a virtual world than the one we actually reside in.

So how do we combat ideas such as these ones that although largely ridiculed do manage to perpetrate the minds of some less wise and the subconscious of society?

Not with physical violence, that’s for certain which is where the logical endpoint of postmodernism would like to take us.

You defeat intellectually dishonest ideas by subjecting them to a proper rational process as well as putting forward better ideas.

One extra final note for you that might be of interest.

One of the best things I read around animal suffering was by the great thinker and theologian, C.S. Lewis in his book, The Problem of Pain. Like myself, Lewis had a real heart for animals and yet also declined to embrace a vegetarian lifestyle. He explores a fairly fascinating concept that entirely fits with a Christian worldview.

Thanks for reading.

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