Every now and then, a movie comes along that is capable of fundamentally
changing the worldview of its audience.
Speciesism: The Movie, a new
documentary by Mark Devries, is that kind of film.
"speciesism," which has been popularized by Princeton bioethicist
Peter Singer, refers
to the assumption that a vast gulf exists between the ethical value of human
interests and the ethical value of the interests of other animals. At its
extreme, we may see ourselves as the only species that matters morally, and
view other animals as existing merely for our use: to eat, to make into
clothing, to perform experiments on, to be entertained by in circuses and
zoos. Like those who grew up having overt racist beliefs assimilated into
their worldview, some degree of speciesism has been so well-assimilated into
the worldview of most of us that it does not even appear to be worth
questioning. Of course, other animals possess the same five physiological
senses that we do, as well as the capacity for a wide range of emotions. In
her introduction to
The Inner World of Farm Animals, Dr. Jane Goodall writes that "farm
animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression,
fear, and pain. They are far more aware and intelligent than we ever
imagined . . . they are individuals in their own right."
Temple Grandin, in
Animals in Translation, writes that "When it comes to the basics of life
. . . [other] animals feel the same way we do." She goes on to explain that
both humans and other animals share both the exact same core emotions
("rage, prey chase drive, fear, and curiosity/interest/anticipation") and
the same "four basic social emotions: sexual attraction and lust, separation
distress, social attachment, and the happy emotions of play and
roughhousing." So, our worldview may be worth questioning.
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For everyone, watching Devries' movie is an enjoyable and
thought-provoking way to spend 90 minutes.