Today is World Day for the End of Speciesism. Many animal rights groups around the world are holding campaigns today. For the rights of animals and against their discrimination. In doing so, they bring the exploitation of animals to the fore and raise public awareness of speciesism, a widespread form of discrimination.
Influencer and activist Fabian Grischkat explains what speciesism is. He enlightens his community about a wide variety of issues with funny videos on Instagram, is a filmmaker, moderator and lives vegan. Together with the animal rights organization PETA Deutschland e.V., he conducted a street poll on the occasion of the World Day for the End of Speciesism and asked around in Berlin: How many people even know this word?
Can you explain in two sentences what speciesism is?
So, of course, the definition that's on Wikipedia and PETA's website is that speciesism is discrimination against animals or living beings, respectively. Their exploitation as food, research objects, clothing, toys and entertainment.
To put it more simply: from the point of view of humans, living beings are divided into categories. Namely in farm animals and pets, i.e. in "Who do we eat?" and "Who do we pet?".
Why is this a problem?
Basically, the world-wide illusion of sovereignty prevails. So man takes the right to put himself above other living beings without any reason. This is a big problem for other animals and creatures, but it is now actually the biggest problem for us humans.
What do you mean, "It's the biggest problem for ourselves"?
When I talk about speciesism or veganism, I'm often put in an extreme or radical corner. I think we've reached a point where this idea of treating animals differently is no longer extreme, but ultimately only ensures our own survival. Animals both on land and in the water are becoming extinct. And with this extinction of certain animal species, we are destroying entire ecosystems. It is precisely this destruction of ecosystems that subsequently means the destruction of our own species.
what are you requesting
We have to fundamentally rethink how we deal with other living beings because they feel pain like we do and their needs must finally be taken into account. But also to save ourselves. And I don't think it's radical at all to think: How should we perhaps treat animals in the next 100 years - compared to the last 100 years - in order to benefit from them ourselves? Because animals don't just produce CO2. We should ask ourselves: How do we manage to live with animals on this planet in times of climate change without ending up dying ourselves?
For the World Day for the End of Speciesism you did a survey for PETA in Berlin. You asked passers-by if they knew what the term means. what did you learn
With the street poll, we wanted to support a PETA poll on speciesism. So we asked if people really don't know what speciesism means. And indeed: Very few of the people interviewed gave us answers in the right direction or gave us the completely right answer. There were correct answers, but I think that was the case at most three times.
Three out of how many times?
From 20-30 interviews that we conducted there.
What did people answer instead?
There was a guy who didn't know, but he made fun of it. He said: "Yes, Spezi is a drink..." Another said: "That's a doner kebab plate." They already knew that that wouldn't be the right answer, but they didn't know the right answer anyway. There have also been theories that it might have something to do with "special". A few years ago I might have given a similar answer, but of course that wasn't the right answer.
How would you have answered yourself a few years ago?
I have to admit, before I worked with PETA on the subject - we had another campaign almost a year and a half ago - I didn't know what the term meant either. So I should have pulled something out of my fingers.
So the result of the poll didn't surprise you that much - apart from the creativity of the people?
Tell us what you can do as a private person against speciesism?
First: inform. Because it is also much more difficult to act before you have no knowledge of the subject. You can do that with PETA, for example, but of course also with other animal rights organizations. There are documentaries and books. But it might be enough to read a short article first to understand the basic problem.
And then you can work on your own actions. It is important for me to mention that not every person in this world can of course do this, but especially as a privileged person in the Global North, we have opportunities to question our diet and our clothing, for example. Do we really want to continue visiting zoos? How awesome are animals in the circus?
But just because some people no longer go to the zoo doesn't mean it closes immediately.
Every single person has an impact through their actions. And when many individuals act in the same way, that also has a big impact. And then a third tip: Of course there are always actions, campaigns, petitions on a larger level that you can try to support. PETA works a lot with these mechanisms.
These three points: informing, questioning one's own actions and supporting actions and campaigns on a higher - often even global level. And of course be open in such discussions and constantly question your own point of view. Of course, that's difficult for a lot of people. Many have lived in a value system for years, decades, which is now being turned completely upside down. In times of various crises on this planet, perhaps one of the simplest measures is to realize that an elephant is a little out of place in the circus.
So, as an individual, am I most effective in fighting animal exploitation when I support others in their work against it?
There are a variety of ways: the simplest is probably to support animal rights organizations. So before you make big changes to your own actions, send donations to them. Of course, you can also start at the personal level. At that time I started to eat vegetarian and then I lived vegan - not only did I eat vegan, but also questioned whether, for example, leather makes so much sense, or - above all - whether, for example, new leather goods have to be bought.
I've always found fur strange, too. Fur has never been in my closet. There are several steps some individuals in the Global North can take. I always find it difficult – and this brings us to other forms of discrimination – to dictate to the whole world: “You have to understand what speciesism is now and everyone has to be vegan tomorrow.” No. Nobody has to be vegan tomorrow.
Was there a trigger for your vegetarian and vegan lifestyle and diet?
I think there is always a trigger. Sometimes they are harmless, sometimes more radical. For me it was relatively harmless. In 2014, a good friend started to eat vegetarian and told me when we were eating burgers that I should try a vegetarian burger too. And then I said: "No, I couldn't. For some reason, I wouldn't even consider going without meat." Then, a few weeks later, I dared to do it and realized that it's actually relatively easy and, of course, I have me at the same time also a bit informed about the ecological connections that have.
So for example: What I also passively use in energy and water when I eat a piece of beef compared to a piece of tofu. And to see that I am fueling climate change incredibly strongly, through my own consumer behavior, that got me a bit exhausted at the time. I always thought I was part of a solution and not part of a problem. And then I just slowly started to leave out meat. Dairy products came a bit later. But that wasn't difficult for me either, because I didn't eat a lot of cheese, for example.
The same with the next steps: What do I actually have lying around in the bathroom? Which products do I buy there? Where else could I pay attention to become completely vegan? And I believe that if people who can afford it start somewhere on a similar construction site - it can be the bathroom, it can be the refrigerator, it can be the clothes - then we are on the right track.
What is your top tip for people who are considering going vegan?
Don't stress! I know it's easier these days. When I started eating vegan eight years ago, it was much more complicated. We now have many offers. Nevertheless, I think a slow start makes more sense in the long term than "I have to be perfect overnight." That also demotivates pretty quickly. So: set small goals. For example, start by leaving out milk first, then cheese and then meat . And above all: There are thousands of good cookbooks. There are great Instagram accounts on the subject of veganism. There are so many ways to make life simple in this regard. You can also start by ordering a vegan cookbook or one follow the vegan side These are all steps that make for a relatively smooth, easy transition.
How do you react when someone tells you a stupid joke about veganism?
I'm in a too woken bubble. I don't get that kind of thing every day. But if someone gives me the wrong lecture on a topic, for example, then I don't get offended, I try to calmly meet the person and explain: "Yes, I understand your train of thought, but I don't think that's right at all, like you're saying it." Vegan is a very negative term. I think if we aim to give it a bit more positive connotations, then we have to start very calmly and gently. Because missionary vegans like them Neither do I. I don't want anyone to explain how the world works either. But I believe that many well-known vegans are on the right track by making the topic very easy and accessible and thus reach new people faster.
Back to speciesism: what speaks against this world view?
That in the end we suffer the most from it. It may have worked halfway in some way for the past thousand years that we have maintained this human sovereignty. But we are at a point where we are jeopardizing the very existence of the human species if we continue to treat animals the way we are now doing. I think that's the strongest argument. In the end, if nothing changes, we suffer the most ourselves.