Monthly Archives: June 2009

Is there anything that you want to eat that badly?

Dear Colleagues:

I never fail to be amazed when I hear people—including well-known promoters of animal welfare—claim quite remarkably that animals do not have an interest in continued life; they just have an interest in not suffering. They do not care that we use them; they care only about how we use them. As long as they have a reasonably painless life and a relatively painless death, they do not care if we consume them or products made from them. I have discussed this issue in a number of essays on this site (see, e.g., 1; 2; 3) and in my books and articles. It will be a central topic in my forthcoming book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, which I have co-authored with Professor Robert Garner and that will be published by Columbia University Press this fall.

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Another Welfarist “Revolution” That Wasn’t

Dear Colleagues:

As you know, I do not believe that welfare reforms provide significant benefits for nonhuman animals even when these reforms are implemented. But they often are not even implemented. That is, there are campaigns and fundraising efforts and declarations of “victory” (accompanied by parties complete with celebrities) but the supposed reforms often never even come about.

A good example of this phenomenon is found in the announcement on June 24, 2009 that Smithfield Foods will delay the ten-year phase-out of gestation crates for sows for financial reasons. Although alternatives to gestation crates have been demonstrated by agricultural economists to increase production efficiency in the long term, the short-term capital costs of converting from the crate system are apparently causing Smithfield to delay the ten-year phase out plan.

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A Disturbing Partnership

Dear Colleagues:

In much of my writing, I have argued that the promotion of the “happy meat” approach has led not only to making the public more comfortable about consuming animal products but it has resulted in the creation of a disturbing partnership between animal advocates and institutionalized exploiters. This topic is one of the many issues debated by me and Professor Robert Garner, who defends the new welfarist or “protectionist” (as he prefers to call it) position in our book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, forthcoming from Columbia University Press this fall.

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And Another…

Dear Colleagues:

The Associated Press has reported the following story:

(AP) A 23-year-old woman who got a friend to kill her Jack Russell terrier was charged with skinning the puppy to make a belt out of its hide.

Krystal Lynn Lewis and Austin Michael Mullins, 26, were being held Friday in the Muskogee County jail on $25,000 bail each. They were charged with one felony count of cruelty to animals.

“We’re talking about a 6- or 7-week-old defenseless puppy,” said sheriff’s deputy George Roberson. “That’s pretty heinous and sadistic.”

A Muskogee County judge ordered a mental competency hearing for Lewis.

Lewis wanted the puppy, named Poplin, killed because it was a gift from a female ex-lover with whom she doesn’t get along, said Muskogee County sheriff’s deputy George Roberson.

Roberson said Mullins shot the terrier 10 times with a .22-caliber pistol. Lewis skinned the animal at her apartment and nailed the hide to a board.

It was obviously wrong to kill the dog to make a belt (or for any other purpose). But what about the cows and other nonhumans who provide the belts or shoes that almost everyone wears?

In the case of the dog, we charge a felony and set bail at $25,000. In the case of the cow, we don’t give the matter a second thought. Why don’t we see both as “heinous and sadistic”?

This is yet another example of the confused and deluded way that we think about animals. We need to educate others to get them to see that they should have the same reaction in the case of the cow as they do to that of the dog.

There is no rational explanation or moral justification for a different reaction.

Gary L. Francione
© 2009 Gary L. Francione

Poor Che Guevara

Dear Colleagues:

Although I am opposed to all violence, and, therefore, I do not approve of the violence that Ernesto “Che” Guevara used to liberate Cuba from the U.S. backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, I found it profoundly sad to see the latest PETA campaign that features Che’s granddaughter, Lydia Guevara, posing semi-nude in a PETA campaign ad promoting the “vegetarian revolution.”

This ad trivializes the struggle for social justice that Che believed in and for which he gave his life. Can you imagine Che Guevara “going naked for liberation rather than be a U.S. puppet?” No, of course not.

In 2007, PETA put out its State of the Union Undress, a video of a woman doing a full striptease “for the animals” that ended with a quotation from Dr. Martin Luther King.

In my comment on the PETA video, I stated:

The idea that PETA thinks it appropriate to end a striptease video with a quote from Martin Luther King about injustice is further indication that PETA is willing to trivialize anything and anyone in its relentless attempt to promote itself. Perhaps PETA should recall that Dr. King significantly advanced the cause of justice through intellect, tenacity, dignity and courage and without ever “going naked” to win civil rights or engaging in any of the sensationalism and tawdry cheapness that has become PETA’s trademark.

This is the problem with all of PETA’s pathetic attempts to liken its campaigns to civil rights struggles or other struggles for social justice. The people involved in those struggles were serious people who made serious sacrifices and tried to effect fundamental changes in the way that people think. PETA is doing nothing more than seeking publicity and donations for itself. That is unfortunate.

Moreover, it is tragically ironic that PETA is using sexist imagery when Che Guevara, a committed Marxist, rejected sexism.

But I guess that in the end, it does not really much matter as I suppose that most of PETA’s membership has no idea who Che Guevara was. To the extent that people in other parts of the world remember Che, they will, like me, feel profound sadness at this campaign. And unfortunately, many will use this silly publicity stunt as an excuse for dismissing animal rights as a serious issue.

Che Guevara was not a vegetarian. Perhaps, had he lived, he would have come to see animal rights as a serious social issue. I doubt, however, that he would have been prompted to do so by PETA’s campaigns.

Gary L. Francione
© 2009 Gary L. Francione