Yearly Archives: 2012

“Carnism”? There Is Nothing “Invisible” About The Ideology Of Animal Exploitation

There are some who claim that the ideology that supports animal exploitation is “invisible.” The basic idea is that animal exploitation is something that we are conditioned or caused to engage in because of some hidden or “invisible” ideology or psychological process that needs to be exposed.

Variations of this position have been around for years now. The most recent version of the position is labeled as “carnism.”

I suggest that this position is in error and seriously so.

The ideology that supports animal exploitation is the ideology of animal welfare.

And this ideology is not invisible or hidden in any way: on the contrary, the animal welfare position is an explicit part of our culture. We know about it, think about it, and talk about it. Most people–members of the general public and many “animal advocates” alike–accept some version of it.

Moreover, the “invisibility” position is, in reality, nothing more than an attempt to make invisible what the real problem is. That is, to say that the animal welfare ideology is “invisible” is to encourage us to avoid a hard examination of animal welfare in favor of embracing some fantasy that we exploit animals as the result of some “invisible” conditioning.

That can only have the effect of keeping the welfarist ideology firmly in place. Indeed, an explicit goal of the “invisibility” position is precisely to stifle dissent and debate about the welfarist position. As such, the “invisibility” position is itself nothing more than a version of welfarist ideology.

Further, the “invisibility” position purports to relieve us from moral responsibility for our conduct, claiming that if we participate in animal exploitation, it’s because we are being “victimized” by the “invisible” ideology. So if you eat animal products, that’s not because you are making the wrong moral decisions and victimizing animals; it’s because some “invisible” conditioning is victimizing you.

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Animal Rights: Marginalized By The “Animal Movement”

A number of writers have claimed that we need to support other than an abolitionist approach because that approach has been marginalized politically and has been unsuccessful.

For example, in their book, Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights, Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka observe:

A central task for the movement is to figure out why ART [animal rights theory] remains so politically marginal. Why is the general public increasingly open to welfarist and ecological reforms, such as Proposition 2 or endangered species legislation, while remaining implacably resistant to animal rights? Having acknowledged that animals are living beings whose suffering matters morally, why is it so hard to take the next step and acknowledge that animals have moral rights not to be used as means to human ends?

Donaldson and Kymlicka claim to be very sympathetic to the abolitionist perspective. But they ask: why has this position remained so marginal?

I will have a great deal more to say about this book in a response that I am writing to Professors Kymlicka and Donaldson, as well as to others who have written recently about abolitionist theory. But I find it odd that they think that there is mystery here.

The “animal movement” is dominated by large groups that promote welfare reform and actually go out of their way to marginalize the abolitionist perspective.

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One For Your “Humans Are An Odd Bunch” File


(photo: Yahoo! News)

This is Tracy Arnold. Her story is here.

Ms. Arnold found what she claims is a man’s toenail in the sauce that she prepared. She did not know whether it came from a jar of pasta sauce or from the minced beef that she added to the sauce. She thought at first that it was a piece of gristle, or cartilage, from a dead cow.

And then she realized it was a human nail.

That disgusted her.

The fact that she was eating decaying flesh did not disgust her.

The fact that she thought that there was a piece of cartilage from the dead cow in her sauce did not disgust her.

But she was disgusted about the human nail, which is also made of cartilage.

Think about that.

*****

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan!

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2012 Gary L. Francione

Eat A Sausage. Do It For The Animals.

Fantasy #1: The Humane Society of the United States is not promoting the “compassionate” consumption of meat.

The HSUS caption with the Facebook post: “More great news for pigs! “Like” this to give props to these companies for doing the right thing. :)”

So let’s support companies marketing meat and animal products that are doing “the right thing.” Think about that message.

And HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle makes it very clear that “happy” meat is a morally good thing.

I don’t think that everyone needs to adopt a vegetarian diet to make a difference. I think that little choices that we make — getting animal products from a farmer who is raising animals in a proper and humane way or reducing consumption by a little bit — all of these things matter. You don’t need to go the full measure in order to have an impact. One thing I don’t want is people to feel paralyzed, that somehow you’ve got to fit some orthodox regimen in order to be a part of this. Absolutely not. Little decisions that all of us make can have an enormous consequences.

You can have an impact by eating meat and animal products “from a farmer who is raising animals in a proper and humane way.”

So Pacelle is not only suggesting that products made “in a proper and humane way” are available, but that consuming them is consistent with treating animals as members of the moral community and caring morally about them.

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My Debate with Libertarian Philosopher Tibor Machan

On January 12, 2012, I debated prominent libertarian philosopher Tibor Machan. Machan holds the R. C. Hoiles Chair of Business Ethics and Free Enterprise at the Argyros School of Business & Economics at Chapman University in Orange, California. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.

Machan is a prominent opponent of animal rights.

Our topic: “Do Animals Have Rights?”

The debate was videotaped and a number of people have asked to see it. The video was originally available on the Rutgers Library site but we have moved it over and you can now watch it here:

Professor Francione Debates Professor Tibor Machan: “Do Animals Have Rights?”

January 12, 2012

*****

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2012 Gary L. Francione

A Response to James McWilliams–And It’s Not Debatable

Columbia University Press posted an article on the call in Slate.com by Professor James McWilliams for all animal advocates to support the welfare-reform efforts of The Humane Society of the United States.

On the following day, the Press printed my reply to Professor McWilliams.

After I read Professor McWilliams’ Slate essay, I thought it would useful for us to discuss these issues in a podcast as I had done in with Professor Robert Garner. Garner is a professor of political science at the University of Leicester and my coauthor on The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?. Like McWilliams, Garner defends a welfare approach. Advocates on both sides of the issue have said how useful they found that podcast discussion to be.

Although Professor Williams agreed to do a podcast discussion with me in October, after Columbia University Press printed my reply, he withdrew from the debate.

As I understand it, Columbia University Press also invited McWilliams to do a written debate with me on these issues, similar to the one that I did with Professor Marder on plant ethics. I was told that he declined that as well.

I am sorry to hear that Professor McWilliams, having put those issues on the table with his Slate essay, is apparently unwilling to engage in any direct debate, whether oral or written.

Professor McWilliams characterizes a discussion about these matters as a matter of “verbal sparring.” That trivializes the reality that there are important substantive issues here, including the notion, embedded very firmly in welfarist ideology, that animals do not have an interest in continuing to live, or, at least, that animal lives have less moral value than human lives for purposes of justifying their treatment as economic commodities.

Moreover, there is the matter of whether welfare reforms actually do provide significant improvements to animal welfare both as an absolute matter and in terms of encouraging continued consumption of “happy” animal products as a “defensible ethical position,” to use Peter Singer’s phrase. Surely, no one could deny that having large animal groups sponsoring “happy” labels for meat and other animal products is explicitly intended to make consumers feel that they are acting in a “socially responsible” way, to use an HSUS phrase, when they eat “happy” animal products.

And there is the issue of whether those reforms that are accepted or enacted actually increase production efficiency, and thus fail to represent any sort of incremental step toward abolition and, indeed, further enmesh animals in the property paradigm.

I hope that that Professor McWilliams will at some point decide that it is a good idea to engage in a direct discussion–written or oral–about these important issues.

My invitation remains open.

*****

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2012 Gary L. Francione

“Farmed Animals” vs. “Farm Animals”

I have been asked by a number of people as to my views on using the expression “farmed animal” rather than “farm animal.”

I suppose that the former is a good expression in that it emphasizes that these are nonhumans who are exploited by being farmed and gets away from the notion that they represent a type of animal. There are no “farm animals.” There are only animals whom we exploit by farming them.

The point is similar to saying that we should not use “laboratory animals” because there are no such animals. There are only animals we exploit in a laboratory.

I see the point. I do not think it is a particularly earth-shattering one and I do not think that it will make any practical difference. But I can appreciate the point.

However, what I find puzzling is that many (not all!) of the animal advocates who use this expression–indeed, many of those who have popularized it–talk about “happy” meat and animal products. They talk about how we should abandon the “worst abuses” (a meaningless concept when the entire process is abusive) of factory farming and move towards the idyllic “family” farm, which, by the way, misses the basic moral point and is just a fantasy anyway.

I heard one of these “happy” advocates say that we had to go from having “farmed animals” in factory farms to having “farm animals” on “family” farms.

To the extent that “farmed” refers to animals who are involved in the industrial agricultural process and that, if these animals were exploited (supposedly) more “humanely” on “family” farms, they would once again become “farm animals,” I see that as problematic precisely because it suggests that in a “humane” context, these animals are a type of animal.

Either way, I do not think that calling them “farmed” or “farm” animals will amount to much.

Promoting veganism as an unequivocal moral baseline and stopping the promotion of “happy” exploitation would, however, make a great difference.

*****

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2012 Gary L. Francione