chapter  6
(Over)Valuing “Humanness” as an Aggravator of Intergroup Prejudices and Discrimination
ByGORDON HODSON, CARA C. MACINNIS, KIMBERLY COSTELLO
Pages 25

Upon seeing her first orangutan in a public zoo (and even “taking tea” with her), Queen Victoria was both captivated and repulsed by the exotic creature. She considered this close cousin of humanity “frightful and painfully and disagreeably human” (Lemonick & Dorfman, 2006). Victoria’s displeasure clearly originated in the very closeness of this nonhuman primate to herself and humans more generally. Humans devote considerable energy to the abstraction that we are inherently different from, superior to, and hence more “valuable” than animals, and consequently are jarred when confronted with evidence to the contrary (see Heflick & Goldenberg, this volume [Chapter 7]). We arguably place a premium on humanity relative to other species, which virtually guarantees that human needs precede those of nonhumans, placing other species outside our domain of moral concern (Opotow, 1990). The irony of our relations with other animals is that we recognize what we share in common with animals while systematically exploiting them (e.g., testing experimental drugs intended for humans). Moreover, we can promote our physical and psychological differences as the very grounds for such actions (denying animals used for research their freedom, relief from pain, and instinct-driven mating and offspring nurturing). Such actions reflect more than a passive perception of similarity or difference, but suggest a motivated, possibly ideologically driven construal of interspecies relations, one stressing the inherent value in humans and humanity.