The incident in question took place last summer, but honestly, I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. Looking out the kitchen window one morning while getting my lunch ready for work, I noticed an injured animal in the middle of one of the traffic lanes in front of my house. It was hard to see, but it looked big enough to be a puppy, so I quickly grabbed a plastic bag with the intention of at least removing the poor thing off the road so that they wouldn't be run over again.
Cars dutifully stopped (at 7:45am they may not have been too happy about it, but the alternative was to run me over as well) while I gently scooped the now-clearly-dead creature with the plastic bag and placed them underneath a tree across the road. I was late for work, so said a few words of "I'm so sorry this happened to you, rest in peace." and went on to do my shift.
The kicker of the story though is that while I felt badly for the being and was glad I had at least prevented more cars from carelessly driving across them, I also felt more than a tinge of relief (and subsequent pangs of guilt) when I saw that it [clearly it wasn't an it, but the rules of the English language are complicit in reducing animals to objects] wasn't a puppy, or even a large cat, but a raccoon. So what does that say about me? Because the truth is that I would have been more upset had the dead animal been a dog or a cat. Does that make me speciesist?
I believe the general definition of speciesism is being prejudiced when it comes to species and favouring your own above all others (please correct me if I'm wrong), but what about favouring some species over other species? Omnivores do it all the time when they happily munch on a pig while petting their pup, and while vegans make an effort to be less speciesist, is it possible to eradicate this tendency entirely? (Please note that I'm not trying to justify speciesism, but to understand it a bit better.) Especially when studies have shown that human infants as young as three months already exhibit signs of favouring those they perceive to be in their own group, and "othering" others, I can certainly see that discrimination based on species is the most difficult ism to recognize, let alone tackle.
And it reminds me of when as a brand new vegan six years ago, I ran across a group on Flickr called Speciesism and thought that that was going a bit far. Or when my sister-in-law (the most supportive of veganism in my family and the one who actually purchases some vegan products for herself) saw my Alice Walker "The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans anymore than black people were made for white, or women created for men." button and let out an abrupt whoa as if to say, now that's definitely going too far. Ms. Walker, by the way, is no longer vegan and has decided that chickens are, for example, made for humans, otherwise I can't imagine why she's eating them again. Tsk, tsk, Alice.
My point is that speciesism is probably not the best place to start with pre-vegans or perhaps even vegan newbies, as the indoctrination of Animals Are Ours To Do With As We Will is just too strong and deep. Better to begin with animal cruelty and suffering methinks. But even to a more-seasoned-by-now vegan such as yours truly, speciesism remains a challenge. Because let's take those silly and worn-out hypothetical scenarios involving burning buildings or leaky lifeboats where you're asked if you'd save the puppy or the baby. First, why is it always a dog and a baby? Have we no imagination? What if you had to choose between, let's say, a piglet and an opossum? Or a rabbit and a baby rhinoceros? Then what? If the deciding factor is no longer our species versus any other species, what factor determines who gets saved? Familiarity? Cuteness? Fairness? And how the hell would you decide what's fair? And to whom? As for the hypothetical burning building, if I was babysitting my niece in my apartment and a fire broke out, speciest or not, I'm fairly certain I'd instinctively grab the baby before the kitty no matter which one I loved most.
So there you have it. Speciesism is a toughie, even if you're a vegan who believes that beings of all species have a right to their own lives, and that human animals don't have the right to discriminate based on species, especially when said discrimination is manifested in cruelty or exploitation.
I have, sadly, in the past year, removed several kinds of animals off the same road. :(
p.s. I was serious before -- feel free to explain or elaborate on the notion of speciesism if I haven't gotten it quite right.