Yearly Archives: 2009

The Santería Case: Michael Vick, Part 2

Dear Colleagues:

Many people are very unhappy with a recent decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Merced v. Kasson, in which the court enjoined officials of the city of Euless, Texas from enforcing various ordinances to stop Santería practitioners from performing animal sacrifices using goats, lambs, and other animals, including ducks, chickens, and guinea hens. The Santería practitioners offer animal blood to deities and then cook and consume at least part of some of the animals. The federal court did not decide the case under the federal Constitution but under a state law guaranteeing freedom of religion (although the decision would probably have been the same if the matter were analyzed under the federal Constitution).

The moral issue involved in this case is similar to the one presented in the Michael Vick case. To the extent that there are differences, this case is actually stronger than the Vick case. In Euless, it is explicitly legal for individuals to kill “domesticated fowl considered as general tablefare such as chicken or turkey.” In response to the argument that butchering a larger animal such as a goat might present health problems, the court pointed out that large animals, such as deer, may be butchered and disposed of in Euless as long as they are dead when brought into the city.

So if you kill “domesticated fowl” because you want to eat them, that’s fine. If you kill them because you want to offer them to a diety (and then eat them), then that’s not fine. If you kill a deer outside of Euless and bring it into Euless to butcher it, that’s fine. If you kill and butcher the goat in Euless as part of a religious ceremony, that’s not fine.

This, of course, is nonsense.

Please do not misunderstand me. Continue reading

It’s Time for a Change

Dear Colleagues:

Animal welfare—the notion that we should treat animals “humanely”—has been around for 200 years. It has gotten nowhere. We are using more animals now in more horrific ways than at any time in human history.

The 19th century founders of animal welfare opposed human slavery but they never opposed the property status of animals because they thought that although animals could suffer, they had no interest in their lives. That is, animals do not care that we use them but only care about how we use them. According to the welfarists, animals are not self-aware and do not have an interest in continuing to live; they only have an interest in not suffering a painful death.

So the welfarists of the 19th century did not advocate the abolition of animal slavery as they advocated the abolition of human slavery. Instead, they advocated that we have laws that require the “humane” treatment of animals. What the welfarists did not realize, however, was that as long as animals remained property, the level of protection provided by these laws would necessarily remain very low because it costs money to protect animal interests. As a general matter, we will spend that money and protect those interests only when it results in an economic benefit for us.

Nothing has changed.

The welfarists of the 21st century still maintain that animals do not have an interest in their lives and that killing them does not itself raise a moral problem. Peter Singer, who is the modern proponent of the welfarist theory of the 19th century, states this explicitly. This view that animals have no interest in continued life explains why PETA has no problem with killing 90% of the animals it rescues. For the welfarists, death is not itself a “harm.”

And, for the most part, animal welfare regulations only improve the economic efficiency of animal exploitation. In other words, we protect animal interests only when we get an economic benefit. Animal welfare campaigns, such as the campaign for the controlled-atmosphere killing/stunning of poultry, or the elimination of the gestation crate are based explicitly on economic efficiency. That is, these reforms are promoted on the ground that they will improve production efficiency.

After 200 years of a doctrine that is speciesist (nonhuman animal life itself has no moral value) and that has demonstrated that it is useless as a practical matter, it is time for a change.

Gary L. Francione
© 2009 Gary L. Francione

In Defense of Mark Bittman

Dear Colleagues:

In Spring 2009, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman announced that:

All day long, he eats a vegan diet. But after about 6 p.m., anything goes.

And then, in July 2009, Bittman announced that in training for the New York City Marathon, he was advised that he needed more animal protein so he:

started eating a “concentrated protein,” usually tofu, a can of sardines, an egg thrown onto whatever else I’m eating, or something equally simple, right after six-miles-or-longer runs.

And today, Bittman informed us that he had taken yet another step away from veganism (which was not veganism anyway) because in making an “almost-vegan” grain dish for breakfast, he added:

fish sauce (non-vegan, but one teaspoon, and I swear it made the dish – though it would have been okay without it).

Now there are animal rights people who are pretty upset about this. How can Bittman claim to be a vegan when it seems that he isn’t at any point during the day—before or after 6 p.m.?

I am sorry but I must come to Bittman’s defense here.

Continue reading

Creative, Non-Violent Vegan Education—Easy and Effective

Dear Colleagues:

I recently posted several essays (e.g.,1, 2, 3) on various creative, non-violent vegan education. I am interested in canvassing the range of things that people are doing. So I posted a note on Facebook asking for people to tell me about their efforts at non-violent, creative vegan/abolitionist education. In one day, I got dozens of excellent replies.

Here are some:

Continue reading

On Vivisection and Violence

Dear Colleagues:

In today’s Mail Online, the internet edition of the Daily Mail, a U.K. newspaper, there is a fascinating article about vivisection by Dr. Danny Penman, a former research biochemist who now does science journalism for New Scientist and the Daily Mail.

Penman makes it clear that he supports vivisection:

Like most people, I would sacrifice the lives of countless lab animals to save my fiancèe or other members of my family.

Putting aside that most people would, if in a situation which they were forced to choose, sacrifice the lives of countless other humans to save those close to them (so the animal issue is beside the point), Penman goes on to express concern that there has been an increase over last year of half a million animals used in Britain labs and that the number of animals used for research in Britain now stands at 3.7 million.

Penman maintains that some use of animals is necessary but he argues that vivisection may actually threaten human health. He quotes New Scientist as reporting that the results of vivisection are “no more informative than tossing a coin,” and although he, Penman, would not go so far, he does agree that “vivisection is, at best, unreliable and, at worst, lethal.” He cites several examples where drugs that were tested on animals without there being any adverse reaction caused humans to become critically ill and to die. He argues in favor of new technologies that do not involve animals and that are much more reliable.

Penman’s critique of vivisection is quite remarkable given that he supports vivisection. I cannot recall the last time that I saw such an essay.

Continue reading

“Truth, Love and Liberty”

Dear Colleagues:

Let me preface the following remarks with the observation that I am no way questioning the sincerity of the individuals involved in the event that I am about to discuss. The purpose of this essay is to focus on what I regard as the very confused and morally problematic message that such an event involves.

On Tuesday, July 21, 2009, The Humane Society of the United States held an event to encourage prominent chefs and restaurants to support the HSUS boycott of Canadian seafood as a means to pressure the Canadian government to end the commercial seal slaughter in Canada.

Some details:

Continue reading