Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Brief Note on “Ag Gag” Laws

I think that the “Ag Gag” laws are not a good idea for a number of reasons related generally to the suppression and chilling of speech. But to listen to the large animal groups, one would think that the “Ag Gag” laws are a death knell for the animal movement. That’s just wrong.

We don’t need more footage from factory farms. There is already more than enough. For the most part, the objection to these laws concerns the fact that large animal groups need a steady stream of “exposés” so that they can continue to promote the idea that there are “responsible” farms and “irresponsible” farms, “abusive” treatment” and “non-abusive” treatment. The animal groups get footage of some farm employees doing something hideous; they have a big campaign; the factory farm does a mea culpa or gets a wrist slapping; the animal groups declare “victory” and proclaim that the “abusive” behavior has been stopped. Even if the farm or abattoir is sanctioned heavily, or closes, the demand is picked up by another facility. The public is reassured that the animal groups are ensuring that animals are being treated “humanely” and keeps demanding animal products.

It’s a win-win. The animal groups get praise and, more important, donations; the public is reassured and feels better about consuming animal products.

Only the animals, who continue to be tortured in the most “humane” situations, lose.

We need to get people thinking differently about animal ethics. We need to focus people away from the issue of treatment–and away from the idea that there is “abusive” treatment and “non-abusive” treatment–and toward the idea that we cannot morally justify use. Period. We need to get people to see that the moral idea that they and just about everyone else already accept–that animal suffering and death must be “necessary” and that pleasure, amusement, or convenience cannot suffice as “necessary”–leads to the conclusion that we cannot justify using animals and that our recognition that animals have moral status means that we cannot eat flesh, dairy, or eggs, even if they have a “happy” exploitation label that is praised or endorsed by one or more of the large animal groups.

I plan to write at greater length about this in the future.

*****

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

©2013 Gary L. Francione

Robert Jensen and Species Equality

According to Professor Robert Jensen, an otherwise progressive thinker:

“[N]o one really believes the quip, “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy,” suggesting the equality of all life (or, at least, all mammalian life). To test that: If there were a rat, a pig, a dog, and a human child in the road facing an oncoming truck and you could save only one, which would you chose?”

Let’s take Jensen’s test. Even if we answer that we would save the human child, what does that tell us about the morality of eating animals and animal products, or using animals in circuses, zoos, or rodeos, or wearing animals?

Answer: nothing at all.

To see this clearly, assume that there are two humans in front of the truck–an extremely old person and a baby. Even if we would save the baby, does that mean it’s morally acceptable to eat old people, or makes shoes out of them, or use them in circuses, zoos, or rodeos, use them as forced organ donors to save the young, or otherwise treat them exclusively as resources?

No, of course not.

Assume that the two humans in front of the truck are two human babies: Jensen’s child and the child of another. Jensen would clearly save his child. Does that mean that the other child has lesser moral value and may be treated exclusively as a resource?

No, of course not.

Moreover, when we are deciding what to eat tonight, we are not in any situation that is analogous to the either/or situation that Jensen posits. If, as Jensen acknowledges, we don’t need to consume animal products, then we are under no compulsion that forces us to choose. If we eat meat, dairy, or eggs when we can choose to eat vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, and nuts, then we are participating in suffering and death simply for palate pleasure. If animals matter morally at all, imposing suffering and death on them for a reason as transparently frivolous as palate pleasure cannot be justified.

Jensen simply ignores the very question that we need to examine: can we justify speciesism? If you asked a white person in 1830 whom he would save from death–another white person or a black person–the answer would be crystal clear. In fact, the white person would probably not even understand the question and would think it lunacy even to ask it. So our moral intuitions are a most unreliable guide when the very problem is that our moral intuitions are affected and infected by pervasive prejudice that we cannot seem to explain or justify rationally.

When I say “all sentient beings are equal,” what I mean is that, with respect to any sentient being, we are required to give a compelling moral reason to justify or excuse imposing suffering and death on that being. I maintain that my view here is not only not controversial, but that most people actually agree with it.

What we need to see is that pleasure, amusement, or convenience cannot suffice as “compelling moral reasons” for eating, wearing, or using animals. That necessarily leads us to rule out 99.99% of all animal use as morally unjustifiable from the outset.

Robert Jensen is a generally progressive person. He really needs to rethink his views on animal ethics. I hope he will consider that if we fed all the grain we feed to livestock directly to human beings, we could go a long way toward reducing human starvation. It takes many pounds of plant protein to produce one pound of flesh; it takes many more gallons of water to produce a pound of flesh than a pound of potatoes. Frankly, if Jensen were to think that animals have no moral value whatsoever, and he accorded moral value to humans alone, he would still be committed to a vegan diet.

*****

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

©2013 Gary L. Francione

It’s Really Very Simple

If you are not vegan, then you are participating directly in animal exploitation.

It really is that simple.

If animals matter morally, then there is one and only one rational response: go vegan.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

© 2013 Gary L. Francione