Monthly Archives: November 2010

On Veganism From a Medieval Arab Poet

Dear Colleagues:

A reader sent me the following, written by medieval Arab poet Abu ‘L’Ala Ahmad ibn ‘Abdallah al-Ma’arri, known as Al-Ma’arri. He was born in 973 and died in 1057. He was blind. The translation was obtained from here.

I No Longer Steal from Nature

You are diseased in understanding and religion.
Come to me, that you may hear something of sound truth.
Do not unjustly eat fish the water has given up,
And do not desire as food the flesh of slaughtered animals,
Or the white milk of mothers who intended its pure draught
for their young, not noble ladies.
And do not grieve the unsuspecting birds by taking eggs;
for injustice is the worst of crimes.
And spare the honey which the bees get industriously
from the flowers of fragrant plants;
For they did not store it that it might belong to others,
Nor did they gather it for bounty and gifts.
I washed my hands of all this; and wish that I
Perceived my way before my hair went gray!

Al-Ma’arri

I thank the person who sent it and I share it with you as I regard it as most inspiring.

If you are not vegan, go vegan. It’s easy; it’s better for your health and for the planet. But, most important, it’s the morally right thing to do.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Peter Singer and I Agree on One Thing: Nonviolence

Dear Colleagues:

Peter Singer recently posted the following Tweet in response to the receipt by a UCLA vivisector of razor blades allegedly infected with contaminated blood:

Ugh…how will this help the animals? All it does is give the animal movement the worst possible image. http://tinyurl.com/27xmlkr

I agree with Singer that violence like this provides a negative image of the animal movement and I think the problem is more complicated than just public image. Putting aside any general moral problem with violence, the UCLA antic simply makes no sense. Sure, the UCLA vivisector is unjustifiably exploiting animals. But so is anyone who uses animals, including those who consume animal products. There is really no principled way to distinguish those who engage in vivisection and those who consume any meat, dairy, or other animal products, including “happy” ones. Are those who promote violence willing to regard their grandparents, who cooked a turkey for Thanksgiving, as a proper target of violence? Are they willing to treat their family members or friends who eat ice cream or drink milk or consume any animal products, as “animal-abusing scum” who are the legitimate targets of violence? No, of course not.

The only way the problem of animal exploitation will be solved is through shifting the paradigm away from property and toward personhood, and that is not going to happen—we will never find our moral compass here—as long as we consume animal products. It certainly is never going to happen as the result of violence. If social thinking and public demand for animal use remains the same, nothing will ever change. If you close ten slaughterhouses today and demand remains the same, ten more will open tomorrow or ten existing ones will expand production capacity. For more on this topic, see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and listen to my Commentary on the subject. I also discuss this topic in my new book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, which was published in November 2010 by Columbia University Press.

So although Singer and I disagree concerning just about every other issue in animal ethics, I am glad that we agree on the important issue of violence in animal advocacy. I hope sincerely that Singer is not the subject of threats and defamatory attacks such as those aimed at me because I have been vocal in my condemnation of violence.

The animal rights movement makes sense only as a movement of peace and nonviolence. Gandhi said:

We must become the change we want to see in the world.

If we want to see a world in which there is no violence against the most vulnerable, we must ourselves become non-violent and present our views in a non-violent way. Non-violence begins with our own veganism and our use of creative, non-violent ways to educate others about veganism.

If you are not vegan, go vegan. It’s easy; it’s better for your health and for the planet. But, most important, it’s the morally right thing to do. Veganism is nonviolence in action.

If you are vegan, then spend as much time as you are able to engaged in creative, non-violent vegan education.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

A Thought for Thanksgiving, 2010

Today, as you give thanks for what you have, please do not celebrate by participating in the suffering and death of another. Please do not take what is not yours to take. Please do not participate in the injustice of animal exploitation.

Give thanks by appreciating the peace in your heart that you celebrate today and extending that peace to all other humans and to nonhumans.

If you are not vegan, go vegan. It’s easy; it’s better for your health and for the planet. But, most important, it’s the morally right thing to do.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

“Humane” and “Compassionate” Pedophilia

Dear Colleagues:

For many years, I have been making the argument that if animal exploitation cannot be morally justified (and I do not think it can be), then we ought, as an individual matter, to stop our direct participation in animal exploitation by going vegan and we ought, as a social matter, to advocate the abolition of, and not the regulation of, animal exploitation. I have argued, for example, that, having determined that pedophilia is morally wrong, we would not, even in the face of widespread child molestation in our society, advocate for “humane” pedophilia. Similarly, we should not advocate for “humane” animal exploitation. If animal exploitation is morally unjustifiable, we ought to say that and we ought to say that clearly. (I have also argued that as a practical matter, animal welfare reform does not work and is actually counterproductive.)

So it was with considerable interest that I read about the public reaction to Amazon.com’s advertisement of an e-book, “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct,” which is described by its author as an “attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian [sic] rules for these adults to follow.” CNN reports:

An e-book for sale on Amazon.com that appears to defend pedophilia has sparked hundreds of angry user comments and threats to boycott the online retailer unless it pulls the title.

Nearly 1,700 users who had commented on the title as of 9:40 p.m. ET deplored its publication and vowed to boycott Amazon until it removes the self-published title from the site. At least two Facebook pages have been set up dedicated to boycotting Amazon because of the book.

Amazon.com has apparently stopped selling the book in light of the public outrage.

The reaction to this book proves my point: even though we all know that pedophilia is rampant in society, and even though promoting “humane” pedophilia might lead to the reduction of suffering of children who are victimized in this way, no one who thinks that pedophilia is morally wrong thinks that we ought to advocate for “humane” or “compassionate” pedophilia.

Similarly, those who believe that animal exploitation is morally wrong ought not to be campaigning for “happy” or “compassionate” exploitation or promoting “happy” meat labels. The message should be clear: we cannot justify animal use, however “humane.” The reality, of course, is that the most “humane” animal use still involves what would be considered torture were humans involved. But no animal use, however “humane” or “compassionate” can be justified, just as no pedophilia, however “humane” or “compassionate” can be justified.

Until animal advocates react with as much outrage to the promotion of “happy” exploitation as we all react to the promotion of “happy” pedophilia, there will be no real animal rights movement.

If you are not vegan, go vegan. It is very easy, better for your health and for the planet. And, most important, it’s the morally right and just thing to do.

If you are vegan, then educate others in a creative, nonviolent way.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Commentary #21: “The Animal Rights Debate,” the Abolitionist Approach Discussion Forum, and a Response to Nicolette Hahn Niman

Dear Colleagues:

In this Commentary, I discuss three issues.

First, I talk about my new book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, co-authored with Professor Robert Garner, and published by Columbia University Press.

This book focuses on the debate ongoing in the animal advocacy community: should we pursue welfare reform as a means to the end of achieving animal rights? I argue against welfare reform; Garner argues for it.

Second, two weeks ago, on October 26, 2010, we launched the Abolitionist Approach Forum, a place where those interested can discuss the theoretical issues concerning abolition and veganism and practical ideas on creative, nonviolent vegan education, as well as exchange information about nutrition, vegan food, raising vegan children, etc.

So far we have 200+ members and the discussions are terrific. There are only two rules: civil, respectful discourse and no promotion of violence.

If you are interested in learning more about vegan philosophy and the abolitionist approach to animal rights, consider joining the Forum.

Third, I present a response to Nicolette Hahn Niman, of the Niman Ranch, which sells “happy” meat that is, according to the website, “Humanely Raised on Sustainable U.S. Family Farms and Ranches.”

In a recent essay published in The Atlantic, Dogs Aren’t Dinner: The Flaws in an Argument for Veganism, Ms. Niman denies that we suffer from moral schizophrenia when we treat some animals as members of our families but stick forks into others. Her analysis, in a nutshell, is that, as a cultural matter, we have a different relationship with dogs than we do pigs.

That is precisely the problem: as a cultural matter, we treat some sentient nonhumans as things and some as persons. But cultural norms cannot serve as any sort of justification of cultural norms! If they could, then racism, sexism, and all sorts of discrimination and human rights violations would be justified.

I hope that you enjoy the Commentary.

If you are not vegan, why aren’t you vegan? It is not necessary in any way for humans to exploit nonhumans. So why do it? Going vegan is easy; better for your health; and, most important, the very least you can do if you regard animals as having moral significance.

If you are vegan, then educate others in a creative, nonviolent way.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Play

The New York City Bar Association Sets a Low Bar for Balance

Dear Colleagues

I just got an announcement that on November 11, 2010, the New York City Bar Association, Committee on Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals, is having a program that is described in this way:

Happy Cows Come from California’ – Puffery or Consumer Fraud?
Thursday, November 11, 2010 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Labeling of animal products, including animal food products and consumer goods, which contain such labels and marketing messages as “humane,” “cage-free,” “free range,” “non-puppy mill,” and “100% faux fur,” which may mislead consumers as to the animal welfare standards of the product bearing such a label.

As those of you who are familiar with my work know, I am very critical of the “happy” exploitation phenomenon.

I have criticized The Humane Society of the United States for being a partner in exploitation by promoting “happy” exploitation.

I have criticized Mercy for Animals for proclaiming that the retail giant Costco has taken a “step forward” by agreeing to market “humane” veal.

I have criticized Farm Sanctuary for focusing on the treatment of factory-farmed animals, as if more “humane” treatment would make animal exploitation more acceptable.

I have pointed out that HSUS, its ideological subsidiary Compassion over Killing, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, and other animal welfare groups explicitly endorsed the Whole Foods Animal Compassionate “happy” meat label.

So when I got the announcement from the New York City Bar Association was having a discussion on whether “happy” exploitation was really misleading consumers, I was interested to see who was speaking:

And the line up is:

Speakers:
CHERYL LEAHY, General Counsel, Compassion Over Killing;
ALISON LONGLEY Campaigns Manager, Farm Sanctuary;
JONATHAN R. LOVVORN, Vice President & Chief Counsel, Animal Protection Litigation & Research, Humane Society of the United States;
MATT RICE, NYC Campaign Coordinator, Mercy for Animals

I am a member of the Bar of the State of New York and I have great regard for the New York City Bar Association. And I also accept that reasonable minds can differ about the issue of “happy” exploitation. But I am sad to see that the Committee on Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals is holding such a ludicrously unbalanced session and is apparently acting as a cheerleading squad for particular organizations that support “happy” exploitation.

“Puffery”? Yes, I think so.

If you are not vegan, go vegan. It is very easy, better for your health and for the planet. And, most important, it’s the morally right and just thing to do.

If you are vegan, then educate others in a creative, nonviolent way.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione