Monthly Archives: September 2013

“Eat Like You Care” Now in Paperback!

You wanted it. We did it. Eat Like You Care is finally in paperback!

Direct link to buy paperback book at our Amazon Create Space Store

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Background with empty wooden tripod

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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

©2013 Gary L. Francione

On Violence as “Entertainment”

Grand Theft Auto 5, which involves cyber participation in all sorts of violence against humans, including homicide, torture, and rape (but maybe it’s “just” cannibalism), as well as nonhumans, has apparently become the fastest selling entertainment product in history.

When I made a Facebook comment criticizing the game, I had a horde of gamers become apoplectic at the mere suggestion that these sorts of “games” were encouraging us to become numb to violence. They insisted that we can separate the “game” from reality.

The violent imagery that we think of as “entertainment” may not be causing people in any direct sense to act in ways that they wouldn’t act otherwise, but it is, without doubt, causing a general coarsening of society; it is distorting our moral perception. It is making violent imagery something that no longer repulses us. And that is unquestionably significant.

Do you want to know why many “good” people did not object to race-based slavery in the U.S.? One reason is that they were surrounded by many others who supported slavery and regarded the ownership of Africans to be “normal.” They were numb to the violence of slavery because it surrounded them. It did not repulse them because it was part of the moral reality that they saw. When we are surrounded by, and wallow in, a culture of violence, we similarly become numb to violence. To deny that is beyond absurd. And that is why we stand around and record a violent episode we see on the street on our smartphones rather than intervene to help.

Years ago, the late feminist Andrea Dworkin argued that pornography depicting violence against women resulted in sexual assaults against women. Whether she was right about any causal link is beside the point; even if eroticizing violence against women cannot be linked directly with the sexual assault of a particular woman, that sort of “entertainment” necessarily makes us as a society more numb to violence against women. And that is, perhaps, what accounts for the epidemic of violence against women that currently exists.

So can we in one sense separate the “entertainment” from reality? Sure. But can we deny that by treating violent imagery involving humans and nonhumans as “entertainment” that we are numbing ourselves morally? No, we can’t. And it strains credulity to say otherwise.

I agree with those who say that our entertainment has always been violent. But is just silly to say that there is not a qualitative difference between Bela Lugosi’s “Dracula,” and films like “Saw” and “Hostel” and these video games that involve extreme, and, in the case of the games, “participatory” violence, against humans and animals.

One of the things that animated opposition to the war in Vietnam was the imagery of children being burned by napalm. After Vietnam, reporters were “embedded” so that they could no longer show that sort of imagery. But it would not matter anyway. We are so used to seeing things that make napalming look like a picnic that the image of an actual suffering child may trouble us but no longer has the emotional force it once had and it can no longer compel us to raise our voices in sustained protest.

Please understand: I am not arguing in favor of government censorship of films, video games, or anything else. Governments have a bad track record here. And I am not disputing that we can, on one level, separate the “entertainment” from reality in that not everyone who finds violence to be entertaining engages in violence.

I am, however, in favor of our asking ourselves why we find images of extreme violence against humans and nonhumans to not be repulsive and, indeed, to be entertaining.

*****

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

©2013 Gary L. Francione

We’re Going in a New Direction. Are You Coming?

Someone wrote to me and said that a welfarist who promotes “cage-free” eggs and other forms of “happy exploitation” suggested that the abolitionist approach was limited and did not provide an effective program for change while welfare reform had a wider and more effective effect.

I would call that nonsense but it would be an offense to nonsensical things.

Think about it.

First of all, imagine the effect we would be having if all of the large groups promoted veganism as a moral baseline instead of promoting “cage-free,” “crate-free” “meatless this,” and “veg/veggie/veg*n that.”

Imagine what would be happening if all of the millions of animal dollars spent by these groups on promoting welfare reform and “happy exploitation” went into a clear, unequivocal vegan message that recognizing the moral value of animals *means* that we cannot eat, wear, or use them–however “humane” we may be. Just imagine how the social discussion about animal ethics would shift.

Second, in 2013, *everyone* has the ability to reach many. I am one person. I have no organization. I have no employees. We can all educate many!

Third, never underestimate the effect of engaging in creative, nonviolent vegan advocacy with small numbers of other people. Your effect will be exponential even on that level.

Fourth, the primary effect of the welfare reform/”happy exploitation” movement is to make the public feel *more* comfortable about animal exploitation. Indeed, it is silly to suggest otherwise. Would so many exploitative corporations be investing in “happy exploitation” if it was going to cause them to go out of business? Of course not! Does Whole Foods think that its “Animal Welfare Rating” program, promoted by the welfarist crowd as “pioneering,” is going to lead to veganism and to their meat/dairy/egg sales drying up? Come on. Get real already.

Fifth, look at the effect that the abolitionist movement has had in a few short years. Without any big organization and fundraising efforts, there is a grassroots movement emerging. We have changed the conversation within the movement. We can extend this to the society as a whole. Unfortunately, it’s the welfarists, who control the large organizations and who have formed actual partnerships with institutional exploiters, who are the biggest impediment.

You can choose to promote animal rights or you can choose to promote “happy exploitation.” There is no third choice. Don’t choose the latter just because welfarists tell you that nothing else will be effective in helping animals. That’s just wrong–on several levels.

*****

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

©2013 Gary L. Francione

Let’s Change the Conversation

Let’s Change the Conversation

Right now, the discussion about animals is focused on treatment and how to “improve” animal exploitation. As of this time, there really isn’t any serious discussion about whether we should use animals at all.

But, according to these researchers, if we had 10% of the population firmly convinced that no animal use can be justified, that would result in a spread of that idea and we would be having a different social discussion. And the paradigm would begin to shift.

So let’s work toward changing the conversation from treatment to use; from welfare to abolition; from “happy exploitation” to no exploitation.

*****

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

©2013 Gary L. Francione

“Compassionate” Violence is Not the Solution

BBC News reports: Almost a quarter of men surveyed in a UN report looking at violence against women in parts of Asia have admitted to committing at least one rape.

That is disgusting but not surprising. Rape and sexual assault are daily realities for many women and girls throughout the world.

Whenever I compare promoting “humane” animal exploitation to promoting “humane” rape, welfarists claim that there is a difference because everyone agrees that rape is wrong and few object to animal exploitation so promoting “humane” exploitation in the latter context is a good or “compassionate” interim step.

Putting aside the illogical reasoning of the welfarists–the fact that something is not accepted widely as immoral does not mean we should not be clear in rejecting it–the welfarists are simply wrong to say that just about everyone opposes rape. Rape and sexual assault constitute an epidemic of violence against women and girls.

And it’s not just in Asia (so please spare us all the ethnocentric/racist comments). It’s all over the world. One out of six American women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape, and rape and other forms of sexual assault are often not reported.

We should say “no” to violence, whether against vulnerable humans or vulnerable nonhumans. The solution is not “kinder” violence against either.

Violence should never be characterized as “compassionate.” Violence is violence.

*****

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.

And never, ever buy into the nonsensical notion that we need to promote “happy exploitation” in order to get people to go vegan. It’s the opposite: the entire “happy exploitation” industry has one goal: to make the public more comfortable about animal exploitation.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2013 Gary L. Francione

UNDERSTANDING THE WELFARIST POSITION

Think about this:

Joe the Bully is hitting a little child with a big stick. He then picks up a slightly smaller stick, which causes the child a bit less pain, and proceeds to continue to hit the child.

Is it better that he uses the smaller stick? Yes.

It’s always better to do “less bad” rather than “more bad.” But “less bad” and “more bad” are both still bad.

Should we have campaigns to urge that bullies like Joe use smaller sticks when brutalizing innocent children? No, of course not.

But that is exactly what animal groups are doing with their welfare reform campaigns promoting “cage-free” eggs, “crate-free” pork, etc.

Should we praise Joe because he’s taking a “baby step” toward not being a bully by hitting the child with the smaller stick? No, of course not.

But that is exactly what animal welfare groups are doing when they encourage people to eat “cage-free” eggs or “crate-free” pork, or when they give awards to animal exploiters.

Should we claim that those who criticize what Joe is doing in hitting the child with the smaller stick are not being “compassionate” toward Joe because he’s taking a “baby step” in the “right” direction? No, of course not.

But that is exactly what animal welfare supporters claim: if we say those who consume “happy” animal products are engaged in action that is morally wrong, we are not being “compassionate.”

Should we claim that those who criticize what Joe is doing in hitting the child with the smaller stick are “bashing” Joe? No, of course not.

But that is exactly what animal welfare supporters say. If an abolitionist says to a welfarist or a welfarist group that promoting “cage-free” eggs or “crate-free” pork (or other “happy” animal product) is not a good idea, they are accused of “bashing” the person or group.

The choice between the abolitionist approach and the welfare approach is crystal clear. You just have to decide where your moral compass points.

*****

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.

And never, ever buy into the nonsensical notion that we need to promote “happy exploitation” in order to get people to go vegan. It’s the opposite: the entire “happy exploitation” industry has one goal: to make the public more comfortable about animal exploitation.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2013 Gary L. Francione

Making a Mockery of Gandhi

In the 5th century, St. Augustine wrote the phrase “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum,” which means “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” This became popularized by Gandhi as “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”

This is good advice. We should not judge another person because we can’t really see into her or his heart. But we can judge conduct as right or wrong. And when conduct involves imposing suffering and death on others, we not only should judge that conduct, we must judge it. That is what it means to take morality seriously.

Applying this to the animal context, we can say, for example, that we are not going to judge those who engage in animal exploitation but we are going to be clear that animal exploitation is morally wrong.

This is how I think about animal ethics. I am not really interested in judging individuals; I am, however, most interested in presenting the case for why all animal exploitation is morally wrong and that if animals matter morally, we cannot justify eating, wearing, or using them. I am most interested in making clear that if animals really do matter morally, veganism is the only rational response.

Welfarists seem to have a big problem with this.

They think that we should not only not judge the individual, but they think it’s wrong to say that the conduct of animal exploitation is morally wrong. The welfarist says that we should not only not judge the person who is, for example, consuming cage-free eggs, but also that we should not reject “cage-free” eggs as involving animal exploitation because that would not be “compassionate” toward the person who is consuming the “happy” eggs.

The welfarists say that we should not only not judge the “vegetarian” who consumes dairy and eggs, but also that we should not say that continuing to consume dairy and eggs constitutes animal exploitation because that is to behave without compassion and empathy toward the non-vegan.

Whenever I say something about veganism being the unequivocal moral baseline and I reject any “happy exploitation,” I get the chorus of welfarists chanting the mantra that to criticize non-veganism and “happy exploitation” is to act without compassion and empathy for those who are engaged in animal exploitation.

If you think about this, it’s absurd. The welfarist renders Gandhi’s (and Augustine’s) good advice to be meaningless: “Love the sin and love the sinner.” The welfarists want us to say that animal exploitation should not be condemned because it might offend those who are doing it and discourage them from stopping.

That is nothing more than a rejection of the moral value of animals. And that is the fundamental problem with welfarism. It rejects the notion of moral equality between humans and nonhumans and reinforces the anthropocentrism that has justified animal exploitation for thousands of years. That is why Peter Singer, the so-called “father of the animal rights” movement can, on one hand, talk about all animals–human and nonhuman–being equal at the same time he characterizes consistent principled veganism as “fanatical” and talks about the “luxury” of eating “humane” animal products.

Welfarists have appropriated a wonderful word–compassion–and they have turned it into a stamp of approval for conduct that harms. We should not only not judge the actor but we should not judge the conduct.

Not judging conduct, or not judging it soon enough, is what has accounted for most of the moral disasters we have had throughout history. It is what is at the root cause of the problem of animal exploitation and why the dominant response to that problem is the absurd and unjust “happy exploitation” movement.

None of this has anything to do with compassion. It has to do with putting a stamp of approval on harm. It has to do with declaring injustice to be acceptable for the sake of compassion.

And that is deeply twisted thinking.

*****

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.

And never, ever buy into the nonsensical notion that we need to promote “happy exploitation” in order to get people to go vegan. It’s the opposite: the entire “happy exploitation” industry has one goal: to make the public more comfortable about animal exploitation.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2013 Gary L. Francione