As animal rights advocates we cannot fail to appreciate the depth of speciesism that exists in society. Most societies are saturated in speciesist norms and values. We are confronted with this reality all the time. When I first moved to Ireland, for example, I was struck by the fact that there could be three or four dairy-related advertisements in any given ad-break on the national TV station, RTE (there are no Irish-based TV channels that do not feature commercial advertisements). Even though subject to this sort of reinforcement of speciesism on a daily basis, every now and then something – not shocking but, perhaps, disappointing - turns up which really underlines the situation.
In my Ph.D thesis, I cited The Culture Of Narcissism, written by Christopher Lasch in 1980, who explores the concept of an "easygoing oppression." I was remind of this idea the other day as I caught a repeat edition of the Sean Moncrieff show which is transmitted on Newstalk Radio in Ireland. This show often includes a feature called ‘Kidstalk’ in which “reporter Henry McKean visits schools all over the country to find out what goes on in their heads!”
On this occasion, the final contribution was from a young girl of about ten years old who said she was a vegetarian and she thought it was wrong that cows are killed to be eaten and have leather made from their skins or that sheep are killed to be eaten and have their wool taken. After she finished speaking, listeners were transferred back to the Newstalk studio and the first thing Moncrieff said, Homer Simpson style, was, “mmmmm, rashers.”
This example of easygoing oppression within the context of speciesism really jarred with me and I was left pondering just what on earth possessed an adult radio presenter to respond to a youngster explaining her vegetarianism in such an infantile way. It seems hardly credible that he felt that the morality of his own food choices had been highlighted and criticised by a vegetarian school kid to such an extent that he had to try to somehow defend himself. But I suppose it could have been that. Pathetic to say the least but it could also go some way to explain why the very presence of a non-meat eater can create upset and outrage and, of course, the suggestion that no-one in their right mind could even contemplate the giving up of bacon.