of politics and speciesism


How can enlightenment about one subject change the way you think and give you a whole new perspective about something completely different?

The answer: with adept subtlety

Category:Westminster constituencies in the Rep...

Image via Wikipedia

Since the UK general election I’ve been feeling a little disenchanted with my current political position, in the main I suspect because it was the closest fought general election I have ever seen. The first one I really had any knowlege of was the infamous 1997 Labour landslide victory and every election since had seen the slow but steady loss of majority that kept us under the Blair-Brown regime until this May.

The closeness of this election made a lot of people re-evaluate their positions, I would hope that many people gave the generational ping-pong a wide berth and made them really think about why they were putting their X in that box, and not the next one; but I doubt it. When I came to vote I voted pragmatically and for the purposes of my career, not my idealogical leanings, but I took a close look at the three main party manifestos and realised something very interesting; I don’t actually have majority agreement with any parties, even idealogically.

How does this have anything to do with the “completely different” perspective I already mentioned?

This is to do with my reaction to this realisation, I did very little about it other than not renew my party membership, I voted pragmatically and thought little more about it.

Original Cover of The Blind Watchmaker

Original Cover of The Blind Watchmaker - image via Wikimedia Foundation, USA

That is until I recently read “The Blind Watchmaker” yet another book by Richard Dawkins (say what you like about his outspoken irreligious tendencies, he’s a damn fine science writer) in which he talks about human conceit and speciesism. Speciesism is the view that animals, plants and so on have different (or do not deserve any) rights and priviliges equivalent to human rights. Dawkins’ fires his thoughts on this concept with the accuracy of a sniper and the power of a small logical cruise missile, and it runs as follows:

“Such is the breathtaking speciesism of our Christian-inspired attitudes, the abortion of a single human zygote (most of them are destined to be spontaneously aborted anyway) can arouse more moral solicitude and righteous indignation than the vivisection of any number of intelligent adult chimpanzees! […] The only reason we can be comfortable with such a double standard is that the intermediates between humans and chimps are all dead”

Now I’m not suggesting for one minute that I will stop eating meat because I agree with Dr Dawkins, because I enjoy meat. It would be infinitely preferable if that meat came from an animal that lived well and died swiftly though, rather than suffered in a factory farm or otherwise.

So what’s the link? Well to my mind the speciesist argument correlates to politics rather well in so far as from birth we are conditioned (either knowingly or unknowingly) by parents, relations, friends and the media we are exposed to to fall into one of the political groupings of the previous generation. We are encouraged to ignore, debase and laugh at the views of the other groups on the grounds that they think differently – they don’t belong –  in a similar way to the general idea that “animals are animals, we are humans” seems to prevail, even in such an animal loving country as Britain.

This got me thinking. In light of my realisation about not having an overwhelming common ground with any political party, I’m going independent, to hell with political groupings and the devils they entail. Taking the pragmatic view of deciding where to put my cross on each policy at every election may be a tad more hard work than “I always vote Tory” but I’ll be leaving each polling booth with a damn sight more dignity and a clearer conscience as a result of it.

It does raise an interesting question in my mind though… Why do we only get a say on our political destiny every 5 years? Why don’t we have a more “Swiss” system with many referenda on more of the issues? I think that would be infinitely preferable to hoping that the political class are somehow psychic.

Ben Brooks

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