“Journeys” Into Speciesism

For some reason that eludes me, some animal advocates believe that because it took them while to go vegan, the position of the animal rights movement should be that individual “journeys” are just fine.

But that is absurd.

Imagine someone saying, “It took me a while to stop being a racist so I think that the civil rights movement should promote the idea that it’s fine for everyone to learn to embrace equality at their own pace. If someone thinks that it’s okay to discriminate against people of color, we cannot make judgments. To say that equality is an unequivocal moral baseline is to take a ‘my way or the highway’ approach. We need baby steps. Let’s start with Racist-Joke Free Monday.”

If someone said that, we would think that such a person was seriously confused and did not understand the nature of morality.

Those who say this in the animal context are similarly seriously confused about what morality means. And if they agree that “baby steps” are not acceptable when it comes to racist discrimination but are acceptable in the animal context, they’re just being speciesist.

We should always seek to teach others in a nonviolent manner. But we have an obligation to the animals to be crystal clear that the moral status of nonhumans means that any exploitation–however “humane”–is morally unjustifiable.

We would never say that racism (or sexism or homophobia or any other sort of human discrimination) is acceptable if it is “humane” or if we eliminate “the worst abuses.” We would never say that we should “meet racists (or sexists or heterosexists) where they are” and respect that they are on a “journey.”

Let’s stop being speciesist and saying such things where nonhuman animals are concerned.

Let’s embrace animal rights.

******

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2015 Gary L. Francione

The Ringling Circus Elephants: Another “Victory” That Isn’t

According to the animal welfare corporations, the decision to remove elephants from the Ringling Circus in three years represents a victory of monumental proportions. In fact, I received this email (my email program thought it was a “scam”!) from Paul Shapiro of HSUS, who, quoting no less a figure than Nelson Mandela, declared it to be a “historic announcement”:

ScreenHunter_818 Mar. 06 12.47

(click to enlarge)

I have been expressing my view that to call this a “victory” is beyond absurd and I have gotten the usual reaction from “animal people” who are so taken in by the fundraising propaganda of the large groups that they can’t see the very serious problems here. They are upset with me that I just won’t get with the welfarist, single-issue program.

Here is one of the many, many messages (at least this one did not contain name calling and vulgarity) I received and my reply:

I am really upset to see that you are criticizing the victory we had about the Ringling elephants being freed. Why are you doing that? Do you want the elephants to suffer?

My reply:

First, no, of course I do not want the elephants to suffer. If that was a serious question, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Second, they’re not “free[ing]” the elephants. In three years, they will be moved from the circus to a “conservation center” where Ringling breeds elephants and where research is done. If that is a “victory,” I’d hate to see what “defeat” looks like.

Third, Ringling is continuing to use other animals and is *adding* new animal acts. They just added camel “stunt” acts. It’s not as if the removal of elephants means a reduction in the numbers of animals used. It just means that different animals will be used. And elephants are not morally more valuable than any of those other animals.

Fourth, the animal welfare corporations have spent *35 years* focused on (and fundraising off of) elephants in the circus. And what is the result? Elephants are moved from one exploitative context to another one and other animals keep getting exploited. Great. Some “victory.”

Fifth, and what about all of the animals who are being tortured and killed so that people who go to the circus can stuff their faces with meat, cheese, ice cream, milk, etc.?

Bottom line: if we focused on unequivocal vegan education for those 35 years, and put all of the millions and millions of dollars and other resources into abolitionist vegan education that have been wasted on the elephant campaign, we’d have far more vegans than we presently have now and these vegans would be vegans for the right reason: that it’s wrong to exploit sentient beings however “humanely” we may treat them.

And vegans don’t go to circuses.

I hope you understand things more clearly now.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

**********

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2015 Gary L. Francione

Is Veganism Elitist? No. But Nonveganism Is!

A purported objection to veganism I’ve heard about 12 million times:

“But veganism is elitist.”

What complete nonsense.

Elitism involves promoting a perceived superiority of some sort. It involves the idea of according less moral value to the “inferior.”

As 2 seconds of thinking make clear, veganism is not elitist in any way. On the contrary. Veganism is about rejecting the idea that it’s morally acceptable to exploit sentient nonhumans because they are “inferior.”

Nonvegans believe in the “inferiority” of animals. It is they who embrace elitism.

Should a vegan believe that s/he is “better than” or “superior” to a nonvegan? No, Of course not. It’s not about judging people; it’s about evaluating the morality of conduct.

Is the vegan ethic of egalitarianism better than or superior to the position that it is morally acceptable to exploit the vulnerable? Yes, of course it is. A moral position is always better than an immoral one. A position that protects fundamental rights is always better than one that violates fundamental rights.

To say that veganism is “elitist” is like saying that thinking that all humans are equal morally is “elitist.”

The next time someone tells you that veganism is “elitist,” take that opportunity to educate that person in a creative, nonviolent way that the opposite is true.

**********

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2015 Gary L. Francione

Chris Hedges: “All Forms of Life Are Sacred”

I had the very great pleasure to meet and share a (vegan) meal with Chris Hedges and his partner, actor Eunice Wong. Hedges is, with Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, one of the leading progressive writers and thinkers of our time. Hedges wrote a column that included some of what was discussed at our meeting.

When people like Hedges and Wong see the common sense of veganism, and recognize its connection to the ethic of nonviolence, you know that a paradigm shift is occurring.

**********

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2015 Gary L. Francione

The Vegan Society is a “Proud” Partner With Vivisectors

In August 2014, I wrote an essay about the fact that The Vegan Society in the U.K. had become “corporate partners” with a bank that invested in “sustainable” animal agriculture.

Now I write about The Vegan Society joining a campaign being led by a group that promotes vivisection.

Here is a page from The Vegan Society site that states:

The Vegan Society prides itself on being an evidence-based organisation with an active Research Advisory Committee. Our policy work is guided by accurate information based on the latest scientific evidence and research. We have many values in common with Sense About Science and are therefore proud to be part of their Ask for Evidence campaign.

I visited the Sense for Science page and looked to see who supported their funding. The funding sources are here and include:

British Pharmacological Society
British Psychological Society
British Toxicology Society
Cancer Research UK
Coca-cola
Institute of Cancer Research
Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Royal Society of Chemistry
Society for Applied Microbiology
Society for Endocrinology
Society for Experimental Biology
Society for General Microbiology
Society of Biology
Society of Chemical Industry
The Physiological Society
Understanding Animal Research

Sense for Science has also received help with equipment, facilities and services from various groups, including:

Association of Medical Research Charities
British Pharmacological Society
The Physiological Society
Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Science Council
Society of Biology

I was very surprised that The Vegan Society would be joining a campaign with such a group. So I wrote to Sense for Science and asked a simple question:

Can you please tell me your position on the use of animals in experiments?

I received this reply:

Thanks for getting in touch with us. We tend not to have official positions as an organisation and we have not campaigned on the use of animals in experiments. In our guide, Making Sense of Drug Safety Science, we say:

“For safety reasons, before a drug is tested on any humans, preclinical studies are carried out on animals in order to learn more about any toxic effects the drugs may have. Although some consider the use of animals in research unacceptable, their similar anatomy and physiology means that until alternatives can be found, their use in drug development is compulsory. Once researchers are satisfied with the safety/toxicity of a drug in animals, human trials can start.”

Otherwise, when people come to us with questions about the use of animals in experiments, we generally point them to Understanding Animal Research http://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/

Please do let me know if you have any further questions about our work.

I then visited the website that Sense for Science refers people to, which also happens to be one of its funders: Understanding Animal Research. The site is a completely pro-vivisection website:

ScreenHunter_748 Jan. 06 18.22

(click to enlarge)

The website of Understanding Animal Research states explicitly and clearly:

Understanding Animal Research was founded at the end of 2008 by bringing together two UK organisations, Research Defence Society and Coalition for Medical Progress. It is a membership organisation with over 110 member organisations and many more individual supporters. Organisational members are drawn from various sectors including academic, pharmaceutical, charities, research funders, professional and learned societies.

The leader of both the Research Defence Society and the Coalition for Medical Progress that formed Understanding Animal Research was none other than Colin Blakemore, the notorious defender of vivisection. And here, Understanding Animal Research states that:

UAR is delighted that Colin Blakemore was awarded a knighthood in the Queens Birthday Honours. Sir Colin was recognized ‘for services to scientific research, policy and outreach’.

Sir Colin was instrumental in the creation of UAR. He chaired the councils of both the Research Defence Society and the Coalition for Medical Progress as they fused to become UAR and then chaired UAR’s council in its first year.

And Understanding Animal Research is the group that Sense About Science refers people to? The Vegan Society proclaims publicly:

We have many values in common with Sense About Science and are therefore proud to be part of their Ask for Evidence campaign.

Colin Blakemore must be delighted that The Vegan Society is now involved with groups that promote his views.

This is absolutely shocking on many, many levels.

I can understand that The Vegan Society wants to be an “evidence-based” group. They should be. But I am completely bewildered as to why The Vegan Society would formally join any campaign with a group that so shamelessly promotes pro-vivisection propaganda, much less be “proud” to do so. Putting aside the scientific controversy about the efficacy of vivisection, vivisection cannot be morally justified despite any efficacy.

As my past posts have made clear, there is a great deal about The Vegan Society that bewilders and deeply troubles me, not the least of which is that they have explicitly rejected veganism as a moral baseline. So I suppose that its partnership with pro-vivisection PR groups should not surprise me.

The one thing that is crystal clear: Donald Watson, who founded The Vegan Society in 1944, would not recognize what now bears that once magnificent name.

**********

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2015 Gary L. Francione

Addendum: Friday, January 9, 2015:

The Vegan Society responded to a complaint about this by claiming that The Vegan Society is “confronting” vivisectors.

ScreenHunter_758 Jan. 09 10.07
(click to enlarge)

Okay, so let’s see if I have this right. The Vegan Society joins a campaign being led by a pro-vivisection group and makes a statement:

We have many values in common with Sense About Science and are therefore proud to be part of their Ask for Evidence campaign.

And that’s “confronting” vivisectors? For those who think this is anything but nonsense, let me sell you the Brooklyn Bridge!

Some “Animal Advocates” Never Miss An Opportunity to Exploit Animal Exploitation

Just when I think it can’t get worse, it does.

Humane Society International is an arm of The Humane Society of the United States. Andrew Rowan is the Chief International Officer and Chief Scientific Officer of The HSUS, and President and CEO of Humane Society International.

HSI has a new campaign: rescuing dogs from South Korean farms:

ScreenHunter_744 Jan. 06 13.43
(click to enlarge)

Here is a story about this campaign:

Alexandria (United States) (AFP) – A dozen dogs originally destined for dinner tables in South Korea arrived in the Washington area to be adopted as pets.

They were the first of a total of 23 dogs being imported into the United States this week as part of a campaign to combat the eating of dog meat in East Asia.

Washington-based Humane Society International (HSI) located the dogs at a farm in Ilsan, northwest of Seoul, where they were being bred specifically for human consumption.

The farmer — who acknowledged a personal fondness for dogs — agreed to give up the animals and accept an offer of compensation and grow blueberries instead, HSI director of companion animals Kelly O’Meara told AFP, as the mongrels settled into kennels Monday at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, Virginia after a long flight from Seoul.

HSI has been working with local groups in China, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to raise public awareness of the dog meat trade.

“But South Korea is unusual because it actually farms dogs to supply demand,” O’Meara said, while other countries target feral dogs as food.

Every year, between 1.2 million and two million dogs are consumed in South Korea, she said, supplied by farms that number “at least in the hundreds.”

O’Meara said it was the first time that dogs from South Korea intended for human consumption had been rescued and brought into the United States, where a brisk demand for adopted dogs and cats is met by a thriving network of animal rescue groups and shelters.

All 23 South Korean dogs — the second batch is due to arrive Tuesday — will undergo veterinarian checks in Alexandria, before being distributed among five other shelters in the Mid-Atlantic states for adoption.

“By helping these 23 dogs, we’ll be helping a lot of other dogs in South Korea” by raising public awareness of the dog meat trade, said Megan Webb, executive director of the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, which finds homes for about 1,000 dogs a year.

Okay. So let’s see if I have this right:

HSUS/HSI objects to the eating of dogs. Okay. I understand that. I don’t think anyone should eat dogs either. Surely, it makes no sense to object to eating dogs if you eat other animals.

But HSUS CEO/President Wayne Pacelle sits on the Board of Directors of the Global Animal Partnership, which develops the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards of “happy exploitation” used by Whole Foods and other vendors of “happy meat,” such as the Niman Ranch Pork Company:

ScreenHunter_740 Jan. 06 13.08
(click to enlarge)

And Joe Maxwell, a Vice President of HSUS, is a pig farmer:

ScreenHunter_745 Jan. 06 14.05
(click to enlarge)

And HSI has it’s own “happy exploitation” label:

ScreenHunter_742 Jan. 06 13.18
(click to enlarge)

So the evil Koreans should not eat dogs but good folks elsewhere should feel just fine about consuming other animals and animal products–especially if they have the stamp of approval from HSUS/HSI.

And the reason why HSUS/HSI is flying dogs from Korea to be adopted in the United States is because in the U.S., there is “a brisk demand for adopted dogs and cats [that] is met by a thriving network of animal rescue groups and shelters.”

Really?

But HSUS itself states that 2.7 million healthy animals are killed in shelters every year.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 1.2 million of the 2.7 million animals killed in shelters are dogs.

So HSUS/HSI is objecting to Koreans eating dogs while

HSUS explicitly promotes consuming “happy” animals;

an HSUS Vice President is a pig farmer; and

HSI has its own “happy exploitation” label.

The reason for this is that we need to fly dogs from Seoul to Washington, D.C. so that we have more dogs to adopt in the United States even though we are killing 1.2 million dogs per year.

You can’t make this stuff up.

And 23 dogs who are in languishing in U.S. shelters won’t be adopted so that HSUS can have photo ops and do fundraising.

If you think this has anything to do with anything other than exploiting animal exploitation (as well as promoting xenophobia), you’ve lost sight of what it’s all about.

It makes me sad that my friends at HSUS/HSI most certainly have.

**********

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2015 Gary L. Francione

Veganism, PETA, “Personal Purity,” and Principles of Justice

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
says
:

Being vegan is about helping animals, not maintaining personal purity. Boycotting products that may contain trace amounts of animal products can actually be harmful to animals in the long run. For example, by refusing to eat a veggie burger from a restaurant because the bun may contain traces of milk or eggs, you are discouraging that restaurant from offering vegan options because it is seems too difficult a task. So use our list as a guide, and do your best to avoid animal ingredients.

This is speciesist. A social movement that seeks justice for nonhumans says that we should never choose to participate in animal exploitation. Period. We should not decide to eat the product with milk or eggs to make the owner think it’s easier to serve vegans. That is like saying that we ought not to object to “small” instances of misogyny or racism because we don’t want misogynists or racists to think that the equality of woman and people or color is “too difficult.”

And what’s a “trace”? How much is “okay”? And what if it’s a small amount of meat? How is that different from a small amount of egg or dairy? Answer: it isn’t. So if you buy this nonsense, go ahead and eat the pork sprinkled on your dish as well–as long as there’s not a lot.

A number of “animal advocates” support this approach. For example, Bruce Friedrich, formerly of PETA and now with Farm Sanctuary, says:

We all know that the number one reason why people don’t go vegan is that they don’t think it’s convenient enough, and we all know people whose reason for not going vegan is that they “can’t” give up cheese or ice cream.

But instead of making it easier for them to help animals, we often make it more difficult. Instead of encouraging them to stop eating all other animal products besides cheese or ice cream, we preach to them about the oppression of dairy cows. Then we go on about how we don’t eat sugar or a veggie burger because of the bun, even though a tiny bit of butter flavor in a bun supports significantly less suffering than eating any non-organic fruit or vegetable, or using a plastic bottle, or about 100 other things that most of us do. Our fanatical obsession with ingredients not only obscures the animals’ suffering—which was virtually non-existent for that tiny modicum of ingredient—but nearly guarantees that those around us are not going to make any change at all. So, we’ve preserved our personal purity, but we’ve hurt animals—and that’s anti-vegan.

Peter Singer, considered by some to be the “Father of the Animal Rights Movement” says:

I think it’s more important to try and produce a change in the right direction than to be personally pure yourself. So when you’re eating with someone at a restaurant, and you ordered something vegan but when it comes there’s a bit of grated cheese or something on it, sometimes vegans will make a big fuss and send it back and that might mean the food is wasted. And if you’re in company with people who are not vegan or not even vegetarian, I think that’s probably the wrong thing to do. It’d be better off just to eat it because people are going to think, ‘Oh my god, these vegans…’

I agree that being vegan is not about “personal purity.” But I don’t see not exploiting vulnerable beings–human or nonhuman–as being about “personal purity.” I see it as a matter of caring about fundamental justice and acting on it. To call that a matter of “personal purity” is simply to say that justice should not be a matter of clear moral principle. And I could not disagree with that more.

So if the restaurant won’t give you a vegan meal, don’t eat the non-vegan meal just because you think it will help animals. It won’t. What it will do is to send a very clear message that you do not regard animal rights as a matter of moral principle.

And that is very harmful to animals.

People are more likely to embrace veganism if they agree that there’s something serious and important at stake. And as long as you choose to eat any amount of meat, dairy, and eggs, they will never see veganism as a matter of fundamental justice.

*****

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2015 Gary L. Francione