Yearly Archives: 2012

Upcoming Abolitionist Approach Podcast on Effective Animal Rights Advocacy: A Preview

This past week, I posted two essays: Moral Concern, Moral Impulse, and Logical Argument in Animal Rights Advocacy and Violent Imagery in Animal Advocacy.

The response I got was overwhelming and it’s only been a few days. I have received 52 emails (as of right now) asking questions about applying these ideas in concrete circumstances.

I will do a podcast on this topic as soon as I have a chance but, depending on how my work on various projects goes, that may not be for a week or two. I have not done a podcast for a while and this topic seems to be as good as any to have as the subject of one or two podcasts. Continue reading

Violent Imagery in Animal Advocacy

I am asked with some frequency about whether it is advisable to use violent imagery, such as films depicting slaughterhouses or factory farms, as part of abolitionist vegan education. When I express hesitation and concern, people who know of my background will often say, “But didn’t your visiting a slaughterhouse have a profound effect on you?”

It certainly did. But we have to distinguish between the source of our moral concern about animals and the arguments we make in favor of abolition and veganism. In my last post, Moral Concern, Moral Impulse, and Logical Argument in Animal Rights Advocacy, I maintained that rationality is absolutely essential to effective animal rights advocacy but that for a person to be receptive to rational argument, she must first have at least some moral concern about animals. She must have a moral impulse to want to do the right thing concerning at least some animals in order for her to be able to respond positively to logical arguments about what the right thing to do is. Moral concern and moral impulse may come from many sources. If, however, a person simply does not care morally about animals and does not regard animals as members of the moral community in any sense, logic and rationality aren’t going to be very helpful. Continue reading

Moral Concern, Moral Impulse, and Logical Argument in Animal Rights Advocacy

Anyone who has ever done animal advocacy has had the experience of explaining rationally why animal exploitation can’t be morally justified, only to have the person with whom they are talking say something like, “Yes, that’s interesting but I just don’t think that it’s wrong to eat animal products,” or “I think you’re being perfectly logical but I just love ice cream and cheese and am going to continue eating them.”

How can this be? How can people reject logical and rational arguments?

The answer is simple: logic and rationality are crucial to moral analysis. But they can’t tell us the whole story about moral reasoning. It’s more complicated than logical syllogisms. Moral reasoning—about animals or anything else—requires something more than logic. That something else involves two closely related but conceptually distinct notions: moral concern and moral impulse, which precede our engagement on a rational or logical level.

To put this in the context of animal ethics: in order to accept an argument that leads to the conclusion that all sentient beings are full members of the moral community and that we should abolish, and not regulate, animal exploitation, you must care morally about animals. You do not necessarily have to “like” or “love” animals. You do not have to have a house full of rescued animals or even have one rescued animal. But you have to accept that at least some animals are members of the moral community; that they are nonhuman moral persons to whom we have direct moral obligations.

And you have to want to act morally with respect to animals; you have to have a moral impulse concerning animals. You have to feel your moral beliefs in the sense that you want to do the right thing by animals. If you do, logic and rationality can be used to make compelling arguments that all sentient beings have that moral status and no animal exploitation can be morally justified.

But if you don’t care about animals morally and you don’t want to do right by them, then all of the arguments in the world won’t make much difference. If you do not think we owe animals anything, you won’t be very interested in arguments that concern which animals we have direct moral obligations to, or what those obligations require us to do. Continue reading

Garbage as Property

A sign on the side of a dump truck in Los Angeles:

It is not enough to be unashamed that we have the level of poverty that we do; we criminalize the efforts of the poor to survive by asserting property rights over garbage.

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

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2012 Gary L. Francione

Some Thoughts for Mother’s Day 2012

There is no better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than by putting an end to your support of the exploitation of nonhuman mothers represented by milk, cheese, and other dairy products.

A cow raised for her milk is forcefully impregnated yearly, and her babies are taken away within a few days. She is either pregnant or lactating 9 or 10 months out of a year only to have the cycle repeat once she gives birth.

All calves are taken from their mothers within a few days. Some female calves become dairy cows and the rest, along with male calves, are sold for veal.

Many organic or local dairies advertise with pictures of happy cows. In reality, “organic” only means that the cows are fed organic food and are not given antibiotics and growth hormones but they are still, under the very best of circumstances, tortured. And all of those mothers–whether on a conventional or “organic” farm–end up in the same hideous slaughterhouse.

There is no such thing as “happy” milk or “happy” animal products of any type.

Today, think about the suffering and death you support just because you like the taste of dairy, cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, etc. Think of what that means for cows, the gentle mothers whom we exploit. Ask yourself if it’s worth it. If your heart says “no,” go vegan.

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Being vegan is a matter of nonviolence. Being vegan is your statement that you reject violence to other sentient beings, to yourself, and to the environment, on which all sentient beings depend.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2012 Gary L. Francione

New Atheism, Moral Realism, and Animal Rights: Some Preliminary Reflections

Certain secularists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens, often referred to as “New Atheists,” are the latest to tell us that we should look to rationality and science to figure out what to think about important moral issues. These New Atheists generally reject the notion that there can be independent moral truths or that actions can be intrinsically wrong; and they reject the notion of absolute moral rules. They maintain that morality informed by spiritual or religious considerations should be rejected.

I want to examine some aspects of this position as a general matter which, in many ways, is really not new with the New Atheists. I want also to discuss how this position affects our thinking about animal ethics given that, for the past several years, I have noted an increase in animal advocates who believe that animal rights are able to be grounded securely on rationality and science alone and who reject the notion that there can be independent moral truths or that actions can be intrinsically wrong.

Let me make two points at the outset: First, this is an involved issue that requires more than a single blog post. I am offering my preliminary thoughts here and will have much more to say at a later time in work that I am doing on moral realism and animal rights.

Second, I want to stress that if we reject scientific rationality as providing what we need to know about morality, we are not relegated to embracing “supernatural” beliefs or retreating to some sort of moral relativism or subjectivism. One may subscribe to views about moral realism or may accept the principle of nonviolence as a moral truth, for example, without subscribing to views about a creator deity or the survival of personality past death. Indeed, part of the problem is that this debate is often characterized as one requiring that, if we reject relativism, subjectivism, or some similar view, we must choose between the supernatural or scientific rationality. That is a false choice. Continue reading