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A Debunking Argument Against Speciesism

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Jaquet François,
Project Normative Issues in Metaethics
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Synthese
Title of proceedings Synthese
DOI 10.1007/s11229-019-02080-5

Open Access

Type of Open Access Repository (Green Open Access)


Many people believe that human interests matter much more than the like interests of non-human animals, and this “speciesist belief” plays a crucial role in the philosophical debate over the moral status of animals. In this paper, I develop a debunking argument against it. My contention is that this belief is unjustified because it is largely due to an off-track process: our attempt to reduce the cognitive dissonance generated by the “meat paradox”. Most meat-eaters believe that it is wrong to harm animals unnecessarily, yet they routinely and deliberately behave in ways that cause great unnecessary suffering to animals. As recent research suggests, this practical inconsistency puts them in an unpleasant state of dissonance, which they try to escape by resolving the paradox. And they do so in part by adopting the speciesist belief—if animal suffering matters much less than human suffering, then harming animals cannot be so wrong after all. Since this belief-forming process does not track moral truth, I conclude that we are not justified in believing that human interests matter more than the similar interests of non-humans.