Egalitarianism: Giving Priority To Non-Human Animals
The concept of egalitarianism – that all subjects are equal and should have equal rights and opportunities – has been debated for hundreds of years, most often in a political context. The notion of equality, however, is more complicated than it appears on the surface because not all subjects operate on an equal playing field. To bring about a truly egalitarian society, many have argued, means that some subjects must be given priority, to lift them up to the same level of opportunity enjoyed by others.
For most animal advocates, the idea of egalitarianism is obviously incompatible with speciesism. The above definition of equality suggests “that we must not only abstain from harming non-human animals, but also work actively for them.” Of course, the vast majority of egalitarians currently do not recognize non-human animals as part of their sphere of concern, and “a detailed explanation of the consequences of egalitarianism for non-human animals hasn’t been carried out yet.”
This paper offers tips by “explaining how egalitarianism can ground an antispeciesist viewpoint.” Following a thorough explanation of the various facets of egalitarianism and how it should serve as a deep defense of non-human animals, the author presents a compelling argument that egalitarianism that excludes animals is not true egalitarianism. Furthermore, the author argues that egalitarianism should actually be a more central argument for animal advocates than other theories.
Repeatedly, the author underlines how egalitarianism “implies refraining from harming (animals), but also trying to improve their situation.” The article goes further than the need to spread an antispeciesist message. It also suggests extending egalitarianism to animals who do not suffer at human hands, “but who are nevertheless in need of aid (as happens in the case of many animals who suffer and die due to natural causes).”
The full article provides an in-depth discussion of egalitarianism, speciesism, and animal advocacy. This summary has only scratched the surface. Thankfully, the full article is available online, where it is likely to generate discussion among advocates and others interested in the philosophy behind animal advocacy.