Monthly Archives: February 2010

New Book Coming Soon!

Dear Colleagues:

My newest book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, will be published by Columbia University Press in November or early December. In the first section, I defend the abolitionist approach. In the second section, Professor Robert Garner of the University of Leicester (U.K.) defends the protectionist approach (what I refer to as “new welfare”). In the third section, Professor Garner and I discuss and debate issues such as the moral status of nonhuman animals and the efficacy of welfare reform.

I hope that this book will help you to think through the issues involved and that it will assist you in your advocacy efforts.

If you are not vegan, go vegan! Animal products are injurious to your health and animal agriculture is an ecological disaster. But most importantly, veganism is the morally right thing to do. It represents your daily celebration of nonviolence.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Opposing Views: On Violence

Dear Colleagues:

Opposing Views posted my essay, On Violence. It generated a lively discussion with well over 200 comments. Read the various threads and make up your own mind.

If you are not vegan, go vegan! Animal products are injurious to your health and animal agriculture is an ecological disaster. But most importantly, veganism is the morally right thing to do. It represents your daily celebration of nonviolence.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

On Violence

Dear Colleagues:

Unfortunately, there are people who identify themselves as animal advocates who claim that the solution to the problem of animal exploitation is violence.

Some of these people have actually engaged in acts of violence against institutional exploiters. Others incite acts of violence by calling on people to use “intimidation” against animal exploiters or to make animal exploiters “fearful” of retaliatory violence.

Putting aside the moral/spiritual aspects of violence, those who promote violence are deeply confused about the basic economics of animal exploitation. Institutional users engage in animal exploitation because the public demands it. Institutional users are, for the most part, indifferent to whether they are selling beef or bananas. They will put their capital wherever they’ll get the best return.

Most people regard animal use as “normal” in the same sense that breathing and drinking water are considered as “normal.” They demand animal products. If you destroy ten slaughterhouses today, as long as demand remains, ten more slaughterhouses will be built or ten existing ones will expand production (and probably make production more economically efficient). If you shut down a supplier of animals used for vivisection, and the public continues to support vivisection, which it clearly does, then another supplier will emerge. So as a purely practical matter, violence is a strategy that cannot work.

As long as animal use is regarded as normal and as not raising a fundamental moral question, nothing will ever change. But we are not going to get people to think about animal use through intimidation, fear, and acts of violence. Education, if it is to be effective, can never be violent; it can never seek to intimidate or make people fearful. It must open their hearts and their minds. The non-violent strategy is anything but passive; it involves our working actively, constantly, and creatively to shift a fundamental paradigm—the notion that animals are things, resources, property; that they are exclusively means to human ends.

And it is clear that our efforts to educate are working. There is a dialogue emerging about the use of animals that goes beyond questions of “humane” treatment. There is a constant stream of stories about how people are becoming increasingly aware of the moral schizophrenia that characterizes the human/non-human relationship.

Those who advocate violence are not only confused about basic economic issues, but they are hindering this progress because they provide an easy target that gives people an excuse to dismiss the issue of animal exploitation. In this respect, the pro-violence people are similar to those who promote sexism.

Would Martin Luther King have campaigned for civil rights, claiming “I’d rather go naked than sit in the back of the bus”?

Of course not.

Would King or Gandhi have urged us to “intimidate” others and to make others “fearful” that they were going to become victims of violence?

Of course not.

Sometimes, when I see some of the things that the pro-violence people say or do (or when I see a video with a woman stripping “for the animals”), I shake my head and wonder what people could do that could be worse in terms of getting the public to take this issue seriously. Indeed, it seems that these people are trying to sabotage meaningful change.

For further discussion of these issues, listen to the Commentary I did on this subject, or read A Comment on Violence, More on Violence and Animal Rights, and On Violence and Vivisection, all of which are on this site.

I also discuss the issue of violence in my forthcoming book, which I co-authored with Dr. Robert Garner, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, which will be published by Columbia University Press in May 2010.

THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Vegetarianism First?

Dear Colleagues:

The Vegan, the magazine of the The Vegan Society (U.K.), is about to release its Spring 2010 issue. In that issue, I have an essay, Vegetarianism First?, which discusses the notion that we should promote vegetarianism as a “gateway” to veganism and proposes that this is an error on both a theoretical and practical level. I have addressed that issue in other blogs essays on this site (see 1, 2, 3, 4) as well as in my books and articles.

The Vegan Society will be providing me with a higher resolution PDF that I will make available as soon as I can. I hope that this will be useful to you in your advocacy efforts as you engage in creative, nonviolent vegan education.

Also, ROROTOKO is a respected site that selects certain books and interviews authors. My book, Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation, published in 2008 by Columbia University Press, was chosen as the cover interview of the February 1, 2010 issue of ROROTOKO.

THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Veganism: Morality, Health, and the Environment

Dear Colleagues:

At least five times a week, I get some version of the following question:

In arguing for veganism, should we stay with just the moral argument and is it somehow “wrong” or “selling out” to rely on the arguments based on human health and the environment?

I am going to do a podcast on this in the near future but I wanted to make one point clear now: the lines between these arguments is not as bright as you might think in that health and environmental arguments have moral dimensions.

When I talk about animal rights, I emphasize the moral argument based on a reinterpretation of the western philosophical tradition. I also discuss the spiritual component of Ahimsa or nonviolence which, for me, has been an important part of my veganism for the past 28 years. The spiritual component is certainly not necessary to get to an abolitionist conclusion; I do not rely on it, for instance, in the philosophical argument that I make in Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog?. But my commitment to nonviolence is a significant part of my thinking.

I also talk about health and the environment as part of the moral/spiritual analysis.

We have a moral obligation that we owe to ourselves to be healthy; ingesting products that cause us harm is a form of violence we inflict on ourselves. The empirical evidence becomes stronger each day that animal products are not only not needed for health; they actually cause harm to our bodies in all sorts of ways. Even small amounts of animal products can be harmful. Just as we have a moral obligation not to smoke cigarettes (even a “few”), we have an obligation to make sure that the things we put in and on our bodies (remember that what you put on your skin gets into your body!) do not cause harm. We owe this obligation not only to ourselves, but to the humans and nonhumans who love us and who depend on us.

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Is Every Campaign a Single-Issue Campaign?

Dear Colleagues:

In response to my comments (1,2) about the Johnny Weir matter and to my general comment on single-issue campaigns, some have suggested that if the Johnny Weir matter is a single-issue campaign, then all campaigns, including efforts to promote adoption/rescue, sanctuaries, and even veganism are single issue-campaigns.

This suggestion reveals a profound lack of understanding of the nature of a single-issue campaign.

A single-issue campaign involves identifying some particular use of animals or some form of treatment and making that the object of a campaign to end the use or modify the treatment. The problem of a single-issue campaign is that it presents some particular use or treatment as morally distinguishable from other forms of use or treatment and by doing so explicitly or implicitly suggests that other forms of exploitation are morally less problematic.

The Weir matter presents a classic example of the problem. An Open Letter was written to Weir complaining about his use of fur on the shoulder of his costume. It was not an Open Letter written to the whole team concerning the use of animal skins, including their leather skates or any wool or silk garments. The Open Letter focused on a single animal product being used by a single person in a single instance.

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And You Wonder Why the Public Thinks That “Animal Rights” People Are Crazy?

Dar Colleagues:

From an article, The Rise of Dog Identity Politics, in New York Magazine

For Singer, and for Newkirk, bestiality is not, in all circumstances, prohibited. “If it isn’t exploitation and abuse, it may not be wrong,” she has said.

Singer, you will recall, argued a few years back that there can be mutually satisfying sexual activities between humans and nonhumans.

But I am puzzled by Newkirk’s statement. When is sex with a nonhuman not exploitation and abuse?

The New York Magazine article article also states:

Although PETA’s mission statement includes language suggesting that each animal life is intrinsically valuable, the organization’s actions describe a more nuanced picture. PETA kills a surprising number of the animals it takes in. In the decade beginning with 1998, PETA euthanized 17,000 animals—85 percent of those it rescued.

Perhaps the answer to my question is that sex with a nonhuman is not exploitation and abuse after the “rescued” animal is killed (by an “animal rights” group) but is still warm.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione