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Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

On Veganism and Being Fully Human ~ Dan Cudahy

Those who accept speciesism often do so because they believe humans
“superior” on the basis of rationality and empathy, but in a terrible
twist of irony, reject all rationality and empathy in refusing to
acknowledge sentience as the morally relevant characteristic on which
to base inclusion in the moral community. In refusing to apply such
rationality and empathy, they behave far worse than the nonhuman
animals toward whom they feel so superior: They are like an odd bird
who has functioning wings, but refuses to fly when it is appropriate to
do so.

Those who reject speciesism apply that rationality and empathy – ever so
exalted but forgotten in speciesism – in acknowledging sentience as the
morally relevant characteristic on which to base inclusion in the moral
community. Lifelong veganism is the natural outcome of such rationality
and empathy. Being a vegan is what it means to be fully human; to
live up to one's potential in accordance with the rationality and
empathy that are supposedly strong human traits.

Dan Cudahy ~ Unpopular Vegan Essays

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Comment by Fredrik Fält on January 19, 2012 at 5:12

His blog seem to be down. Any idea why?

Comment by Kate✯GO VEGAN+NOBODY GETS HURT Ⓥ on March 29, 2010 at 15:54
Hi Oscar, Dan and Gary. I appreciate that we are having this discussion, thankyou.

Hi Oscar. I agree with everything you are saying here.

Hi Dan.
Thankyou for explaining your ideas further, your perspective is becoming much clearer to me.
I really appreciate that you acknowledge my objections to the term "fully human". It is very kind of you to mention this, thankyou.

Hi Gary. I notice you have made this statement

"there is also no doubt that because we are the only animals who use symbolic communication, we are capable of a particular sort of cognition."

Personally, I find this idea to be absurd, and I wonder what leads you to make such a claim.
Comment by Oscar Horta on March 29, 2010 at 11:27
Hi Dan

Sure one can get an interesting idea from Aristotle while rejecting his bad arguments.

As I said, I'd object to the idea of being such a thing as being "fully human". After all, a baby who died at 2 would be fully human without being able to live in that empathic or rational way. Anyway, I think the main argument is fine. And though I'm not an Aristotelian, I think it's great that there are vegan antispeciesist Aristotelians around to convince fellow Aristotelian to abandon speciesism too!
Comment by Kate✯GO VEGAN+NOBODY GETS HURT Ⓥ on March 27, 2010 at 12:00
I have been in conversation with my friend Oscar Horta with regards to this blog post by Dan Cudahy. Oscar has agreed to my request to share part of our conversation with you.
I think you may find it to be relevant and interesting.

"I think Dan’s text is short so he doesn’t have much space to articulate his argument. And I agree with his main claim there, which is basically that those that appeal to certain criteria to defend the superiority of humans are failing to fulfill those criteria themselves. I think that argument is quite clever, actually.
I see that Dan appears to assume an Aristotelian approach in this text. I personally don’t agree with the Aristotelian view, although I don’t think Aristotelianism is necessarily speciesist (actually, I think that there’s a version of it that can be safe of speciesist prejudices).
Aristotelians say that all the beings that exist tend to some end, and that end is to fulfill the functions they are endowed with. In this way they achieve their self-realization, so to speak. According to this view, a being that or who doesn’t fulfill this is either defective or not acting properly. And Aristotelians tend to assume that this features are species-specifiv. It’s unclear to me if Dan is actually assuming this view, he may just be attributing it to defenders of speciesism, although his phrasing seems to imply he is actually accepting it.
This view implies that among the features humans have if they act properly, that is, among the functions they have to fulfill there are two: being rational and being empathic. But in order to act in according to these two features one must respect the self-realization of other beings. So when humans don’t respect other animals they not only fail make it impossible for them to achieve their self-realization, they also impede their own.
The reasons why I disagree with this view, I don’t think that fulfilling some functions or nature of our own is in itself morally relevant, and I don’t actually think we have some “nature” defined by our functions, they can vary. Besides, I don’t think we can identify the possession of certain traits or the performance of certain function with membership to some species. I’m not sure if I’ll say this view is speciesist, although it’s certainly an idea that all speciesist adopt. However, those who propose this view could defend a milder version of it in a different way which need not be linked to speciesist thinking in any way (although in that way it would be less Aristotelian). They may claim that beings fulfill their own ends when they act in accordance to the features that are intrinsic to themselves. I’d still disagree with this view, but it would no longer be related to assumptions that speciesist often make.
Of course, another way in which we can be speciesist is by claiming that the functions or traits that are characteristic of human beings are “superior”. But the milder version of Aristotelianism I’ve just mentioned need not assume this. And actually I don’t think Dan assumes this either, he just says that speciesist do assume this, and shows that claim to be contradictory. In this point I think his text is very good."


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