Non-humans as a second-class animal in the eyes of some vegans

I’ve noticed that even some vegans will often consider non-human animals as being worthy of different relevant moral consideration than human animals. They will be willing to make concessions about non-humans that they wouldn’t be willing to make for humans. Speciesism is so ingrained in us and our society/culture that even some people who fight for animal rights can be influenced by it.

There are some rights that I don’t think all animals should have. For example, I think only humans should be given the right to drive a car and to vote. But equal consideration in the right to not be exploited and the right to not suffer should be applied equally to all animals, humans included.

One example is relating to a vegan food company which packages (some of? all of?) it’s products in sheep’s wool. I saw at least one vegan defend, arguing that it’s a waste product and therefore is better than non-degradable plastic packaging. I would argue that if we wouldn’t accept the hair of a human taken against their will as being better than plastic, we shouldn’t accept the wool of a sheep taken against their will (let alone the fact that there are other biodegradable materials we can use).

Another example is around health. I know some vegans who will argue that if it turned out that consuming some animal products were necessary for optimal health (I don’t think it is, but IF), then people would be justified in doing so. I don’t think so, for the same reasons that I don’t think it would be justified to eat human babies (even if they were bred specifically for that purpose and had a good life!) if it meant being more optimally healthy.

Finally, I’ve seen vegans willing to make concessions to vote for a politician who has better human policies but doesn’t care about non-humans, but baulk at the thought of voting for a politician who has slightly worse human policies but cares about non-humans. Bernie Sanders vs Cory Booker is a prime recent example.

Given that human and non-human animals are all sentient and can experience suffering and pleasure, I’d argue that they should be treated similarly or the same in such situations.

tl;dr non-humans should not have the right to vote or to drive cars, but they should have the same right to be free of ANY exploitation and suffering as humans.

NB: As a utilitarian I don’t believe rights are an inherently valuable or tangible thing, but I think they’re a useful tool to maximise happiness and minimise suffering.

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