Richard Ryder coined the term speciesism to describe discrimination on grounds of species. This is concept is explored by Peter Singer in Animal Liberation Now and described by nature:

Singer rests his arguments on the rejection of ‘speciesism’: a type of discrimination that Singer likens to sexism or racism, but on grounds of species. For Singer, we might differ in how we treat an animal on the grounds of cognitive capacity, but never just because it is a different species. For example, he argues, if you would be willing to kill a pig and harvest its organs to benefit people (if they were human-compatible), you should be willing to do the same to a human infant born without parts of its brain and skull, which has less mental capacity than the pig.

Is there a word like this but at a higher level than species? An example of the concept I would like to describe is our tendency to consider birds of less intelligence than mammals, and therefore treat them worse. This may explain the particularly poor conditions of intensive poultry production despite for example recent work showing that chickens can recognise themselves in the mirror. As mammals and birds are different classes "classism" may have been chosen, but that is already "taken". Another example may be the protection given to vertebrates by UK animal welfare legislation, but denied to invertebrates including octopuses and lobsters that are recognised as sentient.

  • 1
    I've found the word "vertebratism" in a paper but it's in what may be scare quotes, and sources generally just talk about bias or discrimination with specific categories.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 9:37
  • 2
    Vertebratism is not properly analogous to racism or sexism but would rather be analogous to white-ism or male-ism respectively, if those terms had currency, which they don't. Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 14:03
  • @BrianDonovan While "white-ism" is infelicitous, Aryanism does exist, as does Nordicism and some other -isms based on the superiority of the root group. But -ism is messy in general. Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 15:03
  • "At a higher level" than the human species?
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 16:04
  • @Lambie Higher than species in terms of Taxonomic_rank
    – User65535
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 16:07

2 Answers 2


Yup, but it isn't associated with just higher taxons, it can be any cladistic group.

As previously mentioned racism existed in the world since the characteristic distinction of the 1st biological organism. To understand this concept lets replace the world racism with taxonism. It is the practice of taxonomy that indeed created the now infamous idea of discrimination in the world. Taxonism is word created to describe discrimination from one biological organism to the next based on their morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, behavior, and properties of behavior.


  • The text you quote does not seem to appear in the link you provide. Is that intensional?
    – User65535
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 19:38
  • @User65535 That's bizarre, the first several stories have disappeared. Let me try to dig it out again.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 19:53
  • @User65535 - Fixed it.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 19:57

The nonce term phylumism has been used to refer to discrimination at the level of a phylum, that is, groupings like chordata (which humans are in, along with all vertebrates and a few other subphyla), arthropoda (esp. insects), mollusca (mollusks), and others). This isn't a formal dictionary term but results like these show up in more casual, often humorous or satirical contexts:

"It's rank phylumism," PETI spokesman Harvey Foonman says in the release. "Those murdering trout devour millions of mayflies, mosquitoes, and other insects every day. If anglers are banned from the Smokies, their numbers will increase and even more of our innocent six-legged friends will die. ..." (Brent Conklin. "Comic 'Release'." The Daily Beacon, 23 Feb. 1998.)

"Is this racism?" "Speciesism I think." "Phylumism this dudes talking shit about all amphibians." "Classism. Amphibian is a class." ("Idiot frog." Reddit, 6 May 2019.)

A bunch of "isms" reflect the belief that human beings are no more valuable then deer ticks or any other form of life - speciesism, biocentrism, kingdomism, phylumism, anthropocentrism. (John Leo. "A Plague of 'Isms' On Your Politically Correct House." The Seattle Times, 9 June 1992.)

Not including invertebrates is Phylumism at its worst. Everyone knows that the Blue Ringed Octopus would kick all of Chordata's ass. ("Tournament of Animal Power (choose which class of animals is the strongest." ResetEra, 10 March 2018.)

These uses most likely come from a comparison to speciesism: take another taxonomic layer, slap -ism on the end, and use it for funny effect. That suggests at least some degree of generativity.

  • The concept and term kingdomism can be useful in responding to arguments that the rights of animals require us to be vegans. (But what about the rights of vegetables?) The argument though not the term was put forth in Samuel Butler's Erewhon. Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 14:14

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