Antispeciesism, a term in full swing

Demonstration by the personality of guinea pigs


The International Day to End Speciesism was celebrated last August. Let's take advantage of this day to discuss economics and animal personality.

Speciesism? What is it? The beginning of the article by Alexis Carlier and Nicolas Treich published in the International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics in 2020 gives a pictorial definition: "Imagine that a super-intelligent species invades Earth. Current living humans cannot make sense of their technology, knowledge, art or culture, nor can they comprehend their moral rules and legal obligations. Aliens only police their society. If animals commit violence towards humans in the natural environment, aliens do not interfere. Aliens like to eat humans but they care about human welfare to some extent. For instance, while most humans raised for food live inside big production factories, some are free-range, which is better for their welfare but increases the price of human meat."

Speciesism is an ideology that places humans above other animals. This term is opposed by antispeciesism, a school of thought that considers the species to which an animal belongs to be an irrelevant criterion for deciding how it is treated and regarded. The current world is predominantly speciesist, as evidenced by the numerous exploitations of animals, whether for eating, experimenting, dressing, performing, etc.

Anti-speciesist thinking is based on the fact that unlike stones, water, or plants, other animals have, like humans, a brain and a nervous system. They even develop their own personalities, and numerous studies show that animals are endowed with intelligence.

Researchers Zipster, Kaiser and Sachser from the University of Münster in Germany studied the personalities of domestic guinea pigs in a 2013 paper. By conducting an experiment on male guinea pigs undergoing experimental testing, they showed that these animals have personality traits, which are not only correlated with dominant/dominated behaviors, and aggression could be an individual specific behavior. Their emotional behaviors are unstable over time, a trait that might be due to domestication. However, the authors found that the sexual behavior of these animals is stable between individuals. With low, medium or high libido, each individual is unique and its behavior is once again not correlated to its position as dominant/dominated in the group. This trait has been studied in isolated domestic guinea pigs, and it is possible that hierarchy, and thus accessibility to females in a colony, erases this personality trait.

In their article, Carlier and Treich talk about economics, and point out that it is currently only interested in human welfare, as other animals are only considered as "resources"; they suggest ways to include other animals in the research, especially on their welfare and sensitivity. Links between animal science and economic studies should be considered.

The creation of a day to fight the end of speciesism lends credence to the positivity of the two authors: "We may reasonably expect that our descendants as well as future (environmental) economists will more conscientiously value the welfare of animals."

Carlier, Alexis, and Nicolas Treich. "Directly valuing animal welfare in (environmental) economics." International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics 14.1 (2020): 113-152.

Zipser, Benjamin, Sylvia Kaiser, and Norbert Sachser. "Dimensions of animal personalities in guinea pigs." Ethology 119.11 (2013): 970-982.