Yearly Archives: 2011

“Compassionate” Animal Use is Nonsense

Dear Colleagues:

Animal rights is a binary matter: you exploit animals or you go vegan.

There’s no third choice.

You cannot exploit “compassionately.” You just exploit. Your “compassion” is about making you feel better about continuing to exploit animals. “Compassionate” exploitation has nothing to do with the obligation of justice that we owe nonhuman animals.

Justice requires that we stop using animals altogether. “Humane” exploitation is nothing more than a fantasy. All animal use involves torture. And even if it did not, and even if we could treat animals we exploit “humanely,” we cannot justify using and killing animals for our palate pleasure, sense of fashion, entertainment, or any other purpose.

But make no mistake about it: “compassionate” animal exploitation is nonsense, just as “compassionate” slavery or “compassionate” genocide is nonsense.

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. You will never do anything else in your life as easy and satisfying.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2011 Gary L. Francione

Nothing to Do with Science

Dear Colleagues:

Once again, we are told that there really is no significant or qualitative difference between plants and animals. In No Face but Plants Like Life Too, Carol Kaesuk Yoon writes that although she gave up eating meat:

My entry into what seemed the moral high ground, though, was surprisingly unpleasant. I felt embattled not only by a bizarrely intense lust for chicken but nightmares in which I would be eating a gorgeous, rare steak — I could distinctly taste the savory drippings — from which I awoke in a panic, until I realized that I had been carnivorous only in my imagination.

Temptations and trials were everywhere. The most surprising turned out to be the realization that I couldn’t actually explain to myself or anyone else why killing an animal was any worse than killing the many plants I was now eating.

She found that:

formulating a truly rational rationale for not eating animals, at least while consuming all sorts of other organisms, was difficult, maybe even impossible.

She states:

Plants don’t seem to mind being killed, at least as far as we can see. But that may be exactly the difficulty.

Unlike a lowing, running cow, a plant’s reactions to attack are much harder for us to detect. But just like a chicken running around without its head, the body of a corn plant torn from the soil or sliced into pieces struggles to save itself, just as vigorously and just as uselessly, if much less obviously to the human ear and eye.

What is troubling about this essay is that it is in the Science section of the New York Times. But there is no science here.

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Why Veganism Must Be the Baseline

Dear Colleagues:

Imagine that you are talking with a group of people who are classic car enthusiasts and who drive just for the pleasure of driving and not for any particular purpose. In fact, these people believe that driving classic cars for pleasure is an important tradition; a crucial part of their culture and every day, they get into their cars and drive just because they enjoy it so much and regard it as integral to who they are.

If you were try to argue to such a group of people that it is morally wrong to use their cars to drive to a physician’s office for a medical examination or test, or to drive an injured family member to the emergency room, they would most certainly think that your position made no sense. After all, they think it’s acceptable to drive purely for pleasure. Indeed, driving for pleasure is an important aspect of their lives. Why would they accept that driving for an important reason is a bad thing when they think that driving just for the pleasure of driving is a good thing?

Imagine a second scenario. Instead of trying to persuade this group of people that driving for an important medical reason is wrong, you maintain that driving for pleasure to a particular destination, which is no different than any other destination, is wrong. Again, the group of pleasure drivers would find your position to be bizarre because it is entirely arbitrary. Why is driving for pleasure to one place any different from driving to another place? And if they were to accept that driving to some arbitrarily chosen destination was wrong, that would leave open whether driving for pleasure as a general matter was wrong. Their treasured activity would be threatened.

This simple hypothetical helps us to understand the moral, logical, and psychological reasons why veganism must be the baseline of the animal rights movement and why single-issue campaigns make no sense whatsoever.

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Upcoming Lecture at Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Dear Colleagues:

I am honored to have been chosen as the 2011 Foster P. Boswell Distinguished Lecturer in Philosophy at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York.

As Boswell Distinguished Lecturer, I will present, “Animals: Our Moral Schizophrenia,” on Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 4:30 p.m. The event will be held in Albright Auditorium.

The lecture is open to the public and I hope that those of you in that part of upstate New York will attend.

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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. You will never do anything else in your life as easy and satisfying.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2011 Gary L. Francione

Science Weighs In: Animal Welfare Reform Is Useless

Dear Colleagues:

Those who support welfare reform are all excited. They are pointing to an article in the Journal of Agricultural Economics entitled “Impacts of Animal Well-Being and Welfare Media on Meat Demand,” and welfarists claim “Science Weighs in At Last: Campaigns for Welfarist Reforms Cause People to Buy Significantly Less Meat.”

(Note: The paper from the Journal of Agricultural Economics, which was originally available on line is no longer available and has to be accessed from a subscription to the Journal. But the working paper entitled, “Media Coverage of Animal Handling and Welfare: Influence on Meat Demand,” is available here.)

I am presently talking with colleagues trained in economics and statistics/study design to present a full reply to this study, which I think suffers from multiple methodological problems and is poorly designed. But I would suggest that even a casual review of the article indicates that the claims by welfarists are, to say the least, hyperbolic.

First off, meat consumption is increasing and not decreasing. This study does not say that welfare campaigns have resulted in any actual decrease in consumption. Rather, it says that demand, measured over an approximately ten-year period, did not increase as much as the authors would have thought if media attention on welfare issues had not increased. The authors acknowledge that this reduction in demand increase is “small, but statistically significant.”

There are many, many problems with the study. For example, the authors were not able to find the same “small” result in the case of cows. Moreover, the authors claim that “this lost demand is found to exit the meat complex rather than spillover and enhance demand of competing meats.” But they define the “meat complex” as involving cows, pigs, and poultry. The lower rate of demand increase, small as the authors acknowledge it is, may have shifted to many of the other animal products that are not part of the “meat complex” as defined. The authors also make clear that there are problems linking the results they found to animal welfare concerns.

In short: animal consumption is increasing but it did not increase as much with respect to pigs and chickens and that might have been due to animal welfare concerns but it might not have had anything to do with animal welfare concerns, and any failure of demand increase may very well reflect a shift to fish, eggs, dairy products, and prepared meat foods.

And welfarists are excited about this?

In the past ten years, welfare organizations have spent billions of dollars in promoting welfare campaigns. Putting aside the methodological problems with this study, if this is the best that welfarists can show, then I would agree that science has, indeed, weighed in: animal welfare reform is useless and completely cost-ineffective.

I will post further information about a more formal reply as things shape up.

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. You will never do anything else in your life as easy and satisfying.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2011 Gary L. Francione

Postscript added August 1, 2013

After my post in March 2011, my interest in doing a formal reply diminished in part because the study seemed to be so obviously flawed–and useless for the purpose that welfarists promoted it when it first came out–that it seemed a complete waste of time. In addition, my statistics expert was otherwise occupied at the time. So it fell off my radar screen.

However, when I spoke at the “Animal Rights 2013 National Conference” several weeks ago, I heard people from Farm Sanctuary and the Humane League remarkably claim that this study proved that “billions” of animals had been saved by welfare reforms. That’s astonishing and, at best, just silly.

It is still not clear to me that this study merits any formal response given the many other more worthwhile projects that need to be done. And, frankly, people who want to believe the “happy” exploitation propaganda fed to them by the new welfarists wouldn’t be dissuaded anyway even if they could persuaded to read something that criticized the study.

The bottom line: I repeat the above synopsis of the study. The study claims that:

animal consumption is increasing but it did not increase as much with respect to pigs and chickens and that might have been due to animal welfare concerns but it might not have had anything to do with animal welfare concerns, and any failure of demand increase may very well reflect a shift to fish, eggs, dairy products, and prepared meat foods.

In other words, the not-as-rapidly-as-expected increase in the consumption of pigs and chicken (but not beef despite there being lots of campaigns that focused on the welfare of cows) may be related to animal welfare campaigns. But it may also have been related to the weather, health concerns, economic concerns, or it may well have been related to the advocacy of those who maintain that veganism is the moral baseline and had nothing to do with welfare reform campaigns, or it may have been related to any number of other things having nothing to do with welfare campaigns.

In short, this study, and however much it costs to buy a Starbucks soy latte, will get you a Starbucks soy latte. If you think that it proves that animal welfare campaigns cause or incline people to go vegan, that is because you want to believe that, not because this study supports that belief.

And What About the Four Other Dogs?

Dear Colleagues:

On Friday, February 25, an Oklahoma animal control officer gave lethal injections to five stray dogs. On Saturday, the officer discovered that one of the dogs, a puppy to whom he had given two lethal injections, was still alive. The puppy was taken to a veterinary technician who noted the dog’s survival on a pet adoption website. And now, hundreds of people from the United States and Canada are trying to adopt the dog.

Why?

Millions of healthy animals are killed every year in shelters because no one wants them. And now, because this dog escaped death in an ostensibly miraculous fashion, hundreds of people want to adopt him. According to one comment, “people are interested in the puppy because his story is unique.”

This story is similar to the stories about farm animals who escape from slaughterhouses and are then given homes to live out their lives. They, too, are “special.” They escaped from the institutionalized exploitation that we have established. They have cheated death.

Many people think that when an animal escapes death in this fashion, it is some sort of divine sign. These sorts of events ironically reinforce our view that because there is no divine intervention for all the other animals that are killed at “shelters” or in slaughterhouses, then this is the way things ought to be for those other animals. They are killed as part of the “natural” order.

My guess is that if God exists, s/he is as concerned about the four other dogs that were killed on Friday by the Oklahoma officer, the millions of others who are killed in “shelters,” and the billions who are killed for no better reason than that we are so selfish that we think that our palate pleasure justifies depriving another sentient being of her or his life.

And whatever God’s view of the situation, I suggest that our reactions in these sorts of situations should compel us to think about why we engage in the injustice of animal exploitation at all rather than thinking that only the “lucky” animals who escape our institutionalized injustice matter morally.

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. You will never do anything else in your life as easy and satisfying.

And, if you are able, adopt or foster a homeless nonhuman. We got them into this mess; we have a collective obligation to help them out of it. There are plenty of dogs, cats, and other homeless nonhumans in your area. And they are all special.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2011 Gary L. Francione

Addendum, March 5, 2011:

In an ABC news video Miacle Mutt: Puppy Rises Again from March 4. the animal control officer who attempted to kill the dog said: “I’d say the Lord had plans for that dog.” Apparently, the Lord did not have plans for the others that that the officer killed. Another commenter on the dog, referred to in the story as “our hero”: “He’s here for a reason.” The other dogs were not here for a reason. They were just trash.

In the past two days alone, there have been 44 dogs on the New York City kill list but, according to ABC News, there are “thousands” of people from all over the world who want to adopt the “miracle mutt.” And as most people watch the ABC report, they consume a meal that includes flesh and other animal products.

We are a very strange species and our moral schizophrenia about nonhuman animals certainly undermines our claim to be superior on the basis of our rationality.

Gary L. Francione
©2011 Gary L. Francione

Upcoming Interview on WRIR-Indymedia Live

Dear Colleagues:

On Tuesday, March 1, I will be interviewed by on Richmond Independent Radio, WRIR, 97.3 FM, by Rebecca Faris. The show is aired from 12:30-1:00 p.m. (eastern). The show will be archived for those who cannot listen to the broadcast.

The interview will focus on my new book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, a debate book that I co-authored with Professor Robert Garner. In the book, I argue that veganism must be the moral baseline of the animal rights movement and that veganism involves a fundamental matter of justice and is not merely a matter of reducing animal suffering.

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. You will never do anything else in your life as easy and satisfying.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2011 Gary L. Francione