Yearly Archives: 2010

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

Mary Bale, Michael Vick, and Moral Schizophrenia

Dear Colleagues:

Mary Bale dropped a cat into a dumpster where the unfortunate animal was trapped for approximately 15 hours before being released. Her callous act was captured on video and it was disseminated on YouTube. One report described the public reaction in this way:

The “cat bin woman” from Coventry became reviled around the world, receiving abusive phone calls and death threats from as far afield as Australia, after what she described as a “split second of misjudgment” – which was captured on CCTV and uploaded to YouTube.

Thousands of people signed Facebook pages claiming “Mary Bale is worse than Hitler” and calling for the “Death Penalty for Mary Bale” as she attracted newspaper headlines from “It’s a fur cop” to “Miaow could she?”

Bale was prosecuted by the RSPCA for causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and was fined £250 but was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge and costs, a total of £1,436.04.

Think about this.

The RSPCA, which actively solicits and encourages the public to engage in inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on animals through its “Freedom Food” program (read 1, 2), prosecuted Bale for causing unnecessary suffering to the cat.

The public, most of which consumes animal products and thereby directly supports and participates in conduct that is in no way morally distinguishable from what Mary Bale did, condemned Mary Bale.

This situation is very similar to the one involving American football player Michael Vick. Vick pleaded guilty to dog fighting. He served prison time for this horrible crime and is still vilified by many people. It seems that Vick liked to sit around the fighting pit and watch dogs tear each other apart; most people who vilify Vick enjoy sitting around a barbecue pit roasting the corpses of animals who are tortured every bit as badly as Vick’s dogs. And both Vick’s dogs and the animals humans eat suffer and die for one and the same reason: human pleasure.

Both the Bale case and the Vick case are stunning examples of moral schizophrenia.

As a friend of mine said, “If we experience no horror and shock when we drive past a McDonald’s, what’s the big deal over Mary Bale tossing her property into a dumpster?”

And just as no one would propose that “humane” dog fighting would be acceptable, it is absurd to suggest that the “happy” exploitation of animals used for food is morally acceptable.

There is a simple cure for moral schizophrenia: go vegan. It is easy, better for your health and the planet, and, most important, it is the right and just thing to do. It’s what we owe other animals.

If you are vegan, then educate others about veganism in creative, non-violent ways.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

The Friendly Face of Torture, Death, and Animal Exploitation

Dear Colleagues:

If you question whether animal welfare reform is in the interests of industry, look no further than the October 21, 2010 article in the New York Times about controlled-atmosphere stunning of poultry, which, as I discussed in an essay here in 2008, is promoted by PETA and PETA award-winning slaughterhouse designer, Temple Grandin.

From the New York Times article:

“When you grab a chicken, turn it upside down and put it on the line, it’s stress, stress, stress,” said Scott Sechler, the owner of Bell & Evans. “Our system is designed so that we put them to sleep without stress and we kill them without stress.”

Anglia Autoflow, the company that is building the knock-out systems for the two processors, calls the process “controlled atmosphere stunning,” but Mr. Pitman [owner of Mary's Chickens] said his company was considering the phrase “sedation stunning” for use on its packages. Also on the short-list: “humanely slaughtered,” “humanely processed” or “humanely handled.”

The trick, he said, is to communicate the goal of the new system, which is to ensure that the birds “not have any extra pain or discomfort in the last few minutes of their lives.”

Mr. Sechler said the system was designed to put birds to sleep gently, in the same way that a person undergoes anesthesia before surgery.

To evoke that image, he wants to put the words “slow induction anesthesia” on his packages and advertising, which already tell customers that the birds are raised in roomy conditions with natural light and given feed free of antibiotics or animal byproducts. Customers who want to know more will be able to go to the company’s Web site.

Mr. Sechler said the system he chose, after years of research, was better than similar gas-stunning systems used in Europe. Those systems, he says, often deprive birds of oxygen too quickly, which may cause them to suffer. They are also designed to kill the birds rather than simply knock them out, something that Mr. Sechler is not comfortable with.

“I don’t want the public to say we gas our chickens,” he said.

And, of course, better treatment means better meat:

Mr. Sechler and others promoting the new system said that they expected the meat to be of higher quality because the birds faced less stress and also there would be less bruising and broken wings when they died.

PETA, which promotes the gassing of chickens, also maintains that gassing is in the economic interests of producers. In its Analysis of Controlled-Atmosphere Killing vs. Electric Immobilization from an Economic Standpoint, PETA argues for the gassing of poultry, claiming that the electric stunning method of slaughter “lowers product quality and yield” because birds suffer broken bones and the process results in contamination dangerous to human health. The electric stunning method also “increases labor costs” in various ways. PETA argues that gassing “increases product quality and yield” because broken bones, bruising, and hemorrhaging are supposedly eliminated, contamination is reduced, “shelf-life of meat” is increased, and “‘more tender breast meat’” is produced. PETA also claims that gassing “lowers labor costs” by reducing the need for certain inspections, reducing accidents, and lowering employee turnover. Gassing provides “other economic benefits” to the poultry industry by allowing producers to save money on energy costs, and by reducing by-product waste and the need to use water.

This sort of campaign is doing nothing but making the public feel better about animal exploitation. Indeed, the large animal welfare groups have become active partners in animal exploitation by helping industry to put a little smiling happy face on death, torture, and exploitation while, at the same time, helping industry to make animal exploitation more economically efficient and profitable. If you are questioning whether “happy” meat is, and is intended to, make the public feel better about animal exploitation, you are not paying attention.

This “happy” exploitation nonsense represents a very big step backward. People are never going to go vegan if they believe that they can exploit morally. And that is exactly the message that the “happy” exploitation movement is trying to convey: we can continue to exploit animals and treat ourselves to animal products as long as animals are treated “humanely.” As Peter Singer has stated:

[T]o avoid inflicting suffering on animals—not to mention the environmental costs of intensive animal production—we need to cut down drastically on the animal products we consume. But does that mean a vegan world? That’s one solution, but not necessarily the only one. If it is the infliction of suffering that we are concerned about, rather than killing, then I can also imagine a world in which people mostly eat plant foods, but occasionally treat themselves to the luxury of free range eggs, or possibly even meat from animals who live good lives under conditions natural for their species, and are then humanely killed on the farm. (The Vegan, Autumn 2006.)

The “happy” exploitation movement represents the promise of “compassionate” exploitation so that we may indulge in the “luxury” of animal exploitation.

That’s a “luxury” that animals cannot afford.

There is no such thing as “humane” exploitation and even if there were, it would still involve the unjustifiable killing of sentient nonhumans. Singer and his “happy” exploitation movement are not bothered by killing because they do not believe that animals have an interest in continuing to live, as I have discussed in other essays, including these: 1, 2, as well as in my new book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, in which I debate the “happy” exploitation movement with Professor Robert Garner.

If you are opposed to animal exploitation; if you regard animals as members of the moral community; if you reject the notions that nonhumans are just things that exist as resources for humans, you have one choice: go vegan. It is easy, better for your health and the planet, and, most important, it is the right and just thing to do. It’s what we owe other animals. If you are not vegan, then you are participating directly in animal exploitation. You don’t get off the moral hook by eating gassed chicken.

If you are vegan, then educate others about veganism in creative, non-violent ways.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Added October 26, 2010:

PETA put a press release praising Bell and Evans. PETA quotes Bell and Evans:

“We are pleased to once again lead the way for the rest of the chicken industry,” says Scott Sechler, Bell & Evans’ chair and president. “Animal welfare is a key component of our business; we put our money where our mouth is because it’s the right thing to do.

It should be noted that Mr. Sechler conveniently ignores that gassing poultry is economically beneficial for his business, as this PETA analysis shows.

And PETA states:

“By pledging to adopt a slaughter system that greatly reduces the suffering of chickens, Bell & Evans shows that animal welfare and good business go hand in hand,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman.

It’s all rather breathtaking. But then, PETA and Bell and Evans are partners in exploitation and it’s just business for both of them.

The only way that gassing chickens is good for Mr. Sechler’s business if he sells more dead chickens or he reduces his production costs or both. And it is clear that gassing chickens reduces production costs and an indulgence from PETA, Mr. Sechler can expect to sell more dead birds. And PETA proclaims a “victory” for the animals and then collects the donations that the public pays in gratitude for PETA making everyone feel better about eating chicken.

Bell and Evans wins. PETA wins. Only the animals lose.

And what about the principle that animal rights means veganism? Well, Ingrid Newkirk summed it all up: “Screw the principle.”

Go vegan. Unlike eating gassed chicken, it’s the right thing to do.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione