In short, animalism is similar to humanism, but inclusive of all sentient animals.
Humanism is a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values; especially : a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual’s dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason.
Animalism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value of sentient beings. Animalism is similar to humanism, except that it does not exclude non-human sentient animals simply because they don’t belong to our species. Animalism promotes the consideration of the interests of all animals.
An animalist considers the animals as individuals and as sentient beings, able to feel physical pain.
Animalism disputes the confusion between what it means to be a moral agent (a being who is capable of acting with reference to right and wrong) and a moral patient (cannot formulate or follow moral principles and rules). Just because an animal is not a moral agent doesn’t mean that it cannot have rights or that moral agents can’t have duties towards them.
Animalism can be seen as an expansion of humanist values towards all other animal species able to suffer.
In practice, animalists take into account the interests of animals (sentient non-human animals) in their daily life and when making lifestyle and political choices.
Of course, a spider, a fish, a rabbit, a chicken or a human do not have the exact same needs and rights, yet they all have an interest to live and not suffer. Taking a chicken’s life and interest to live and not suffer into account, there is no way an animalist could justify buying broiler chicken meat, for instance. In this case, it is a moment of culinary satisfaction compared to a lifetime of suffering. Removing or killing a dangerous animal, such as venomous spiders, from a place where they could seriously hurt young children is also a logical reaction, taking into account the interests of a young (in this example, human) child to live and not be in severe pain compared to the interests of a spider to live. Of course, even then, moral considerations suggest the death should be as painless as practically possible.
It is logical for animalists to embrace compassionate lifestyles such as reducetarianism, vegetarianism or a plant based diet. Activities such as animal racing or rodeos, where animals are treated as commodities for our entertainment are clearly morally questionable. Animalists will also consider including animal charities when donating time or money.
Animalists, just like humanists, generally prefer critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or superstition.
Animalism can be associated with animal welfare, animal rights, animal equality, animal liberation, anti-speciesism or veganism. Animalism differs from veganism in that veganism prescribes a very specific lifestyle, and offers no variance. Analytically, one cannot pretend to be a vegan if they make exceptions to the rules. Animalism is, much more broadly, a statement of anti-speciesism, and prescribes discussions on choice and ethics, allowing for variance.
“I love the [term] ‘The Animalist’. It’s really effective, I think, and describes what I want to work towards. I like it because it’s positive: it’s not anti-anything, it’s proactive and uses positive terms.” (Wayne Simmons)