An Open Request to PETA, Farm Sanctuary, HSUS, Viva!, and Others

You all claim to reject “happy exploitation.”

But John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, claims that you (and possibly others) were “stakeholders” in the actual creation of the Whole Foods “happy exploitation” standards.

You can listen to Mackey speak here.

Mackey claims that you worked with the meat industry to set the “happy” standards “a species at a time.”

If Mackey’s claim is accurate, you not only expressed your written “appreciation and support” for these supposedly “pioneering” standards of animal exploitation, but you actually helped to create them.

You cannot simultaneously reject “happy exploitation” when you not only expressed support for the Whole Foods program but actually help to set standards for “happy exploitation” and thereby facilitate the sale of these animal products by Whole Foods.

So unless Mackey is in error, you are not only supporting “happy exploitation” but you served as architects of the Whole Foods “happy exploitation” program.

I call on you and all of those who signed that infamous and shameful letter to Mackey, which inaugurated the modern “happy exploitation” movement, to state publicly and unequivocally that your expression of “appreciation and support” for the Whole Foods Program was an error, and your involvement as “stakeholders” who actually set standards for animal exploitation “a species at a time” was very, very wrong.

Thank you.

Gary L. Francione

ADDENDUM: Viva! Replies

In light of my exchange with Viva!’s co-founder, Tony Wardle, in London on October 11, I had previously posted about this matter as it concerned Viva! on the Abolitionist Approach my Facebook page. Tony Wardle of Viva! replied:

ScreenHunter_1198 Nov. 09 10.13

(Click to enlarge.)

Here is my reply:

Come on, Tony.

I asked you a question: Who was not stating the truth? Was it Mackey when he said that Viva! was involved in discussions with industry to set “happy exploitation” standards? Or was it you when you said that Viva! does not promote “happy exploitation”?

You did not answer my question although you are, it seems, admitting that Viva! was at those meetings to which Mackey refers.

I asked you about Viva’s participation in the meetings that set animal exploitation standards for the Whole Foods program. The fact that Viva! subsequently closed its U.S. office after apparently participating is completely irrelevant. And what does it mean to say that you participated in setting those animal exploitation standards but that’s acceptable because you had someone there to give a “vegan perspective”? A “vegan perspective” would mean you would not participate in setting exploitation standards. A “vegan perspective” would mean that you would not have expressed your “appreciation and support” for the “pioneering” Whole Foods standards of animal exploitation, as you did.

Why don’t you just withdraw the support of Viva! from the endorsement of the “happy exploitation” program that you provided and admit it was a bad idea for you to do that and for you to sit down with industry to formulate standards for the exploitation of animals?

Isn’t that the very least that you owe to the animals?

As for these comments about Rutgers, I am delighted to say that there are more vegans every year and more vegan food on campus every year. Rutgers does animal experimentation—quite a bit of it—and I am sure that everyone knows and appreciates that a faculty member in one part of the University does not get to shut down departments in other parts of the University. Similarly, the vivisection community is unable to stop my teaching and writing about why vivisection is morally unjustified and scientifically unsound although they are as unhappy with me as I am with them.

Let me add that at Rutgers, as everywhere else, the efforts of those of us who promote veganism could be far more effective if there were not groups like Viva! that are telling everyone that it’s fine for them to do less than go vegan. You endorse reducetarianism on every page of your website. On every page of your website, you reinforce the idea that meat is different from other animal products.

ScreenHunter_1099 Oct. 02 07.20

You sell cookbooks that have non-vegan recipes. You tell people that eating foie gras is somehow different from eating other animal foods, or that it’s worse to use the flesh of kangaroos to make shoes than the flesh of cows.

You have made a business of selling excuses to people so they can continue to exploit animals. That’s clear.

Gary Francione

P.S. I am still waiting for you to give me the support for your statement at VegfestUK about welfare reform leading to reduced numbers of animals being killed. I have asked for that at least three times. Thanks.

ADDENDUM: More from Viva!

Tony Wardle of Viva! sticks his foot further down his throat:

ScreenHunter_1204 Nov. 11 09.27

(Click to enlarge.)

My reply:


Viva! is promoting animal exploitation. In fact, Viva! sat down with the meat industry and helped to formulate actual standards of exploitation. You got called on it. You have no reply because there is no reply. So you behave like a pugilistic school child. I am sorry you feel compelled to do so.

As for your supposed skills as an investigative journalist, I am not a governor of Rutgers University. I am a Board of Governors Professor. That’s just the title of the academic position I have. I do not hold and have never held any administrative position at Rutgers. I have, however, turned generations of students on to animal rights and the vegan philosophy and we now have many more vegan options. It’s hard when we’re up against groups like yours, which tell the students that they can discharge their moral obligations to animals by eating cage-free eggs or wearing cow leather rather than kangaroo leather.

I am just one person, Tony. I don’t have a corporation or a “donate” button. I don’t have a PR budget. I don’t have celebrities that promote me. I am just one person making an argument that people are increasingly recognizing as sound–that welfare reform is ineffective and counterproductive, and that the “happy exploitation” you support and the standards for which you help to formulate, is obscenely immoral. Many people are coming to see that foie gras campaigns, and campaigns that declare “victory” when Tesco does not sell live turtles but, instead, kills them somewhere else, are nothing more than fundraising ploys. People are beginning to see that bloated charities like yours are doing more harm than good and that you are selling out the interests of animals. The better position will prevail. And I have no doubt what that position will be.

Gary L. Francione

A Lot of People Are Angry with Me–and They are Right

They are angry that I am what they call an “absolutist” who maintains that we cannot justify *any* animal use.

They are right.

I am an absolutist in this regard–just as I am an “absolutist” with respect to rape, child molestation, and other violations of fundamental human rights. Indeed, I would not have it any other way. Absolutism is the only morally acceptable response to the violation of fundamental rights whether of humans or nonhumans.

They are angry that I reject their purported “empirical proof” that promoting welfare reform and nonveganism is “effective” to help animals and is more “effective” than promoting veganism as a moral imperative.

They are right.

There is no such proof and their purported “studies” are nothing more pseudoscience that these groups use in a self-serving way.

They are angry that I regard all of the large corporate charities as nothing more than businesses that sell out the interests of animals so that they can have broad donor bases.

They are right

I am appalled that these organizations promote “happy” exploitation and “reducetarianism,” partner with institutional exploiters, give awards to slaughterhouse designers, and generally promote the idea that there is a “compassionate” way to exploit nonhuman animals. I reject the idea that we should promote harming animals in supposedly “better” ways so that we can raise greater amounts of money so we can supposedly thereby help animals.

They are angry that I reject the idea that we should not promote veganism as a moral imperative because it’s all a matter of being on a ““journey” and “baby steps” are just fine.

They are right.

Imagine someone saying, “It took me a while to stop being a racist so I think that the civil rights movement should promote the idea that it’s fine for everyone to learn to embrace equality at their own pace. If someone thinks that it’s okay to discriminate against people of color, we cannot make judgments. To say that equality is an unequivocal moral baseline is to take a ‘my way or the highway’ approach. We need baby steps. Let’s start with Racist-Joke Free Monday.”

To take a different position where nonhuman animals are concerned is just speciesist.

They are angry that I believe that everyone can understand why veganism should be a moral baseline.

They are right.

I reject the idea that “single mums” cannot understand moral principles (as stated by Viva! in my recent debate with them at VegFest in London), or that “we need to take into account the limitations of “‘ordinary people'” because they don’t possess the requisite “intellectual and moral abilities” (as stated by Ronnie Lee founder of the ALF), or that people just can’t understand the vegan message because it is too “extreme” (as stated by just about every “animal organization” out there).

I firmly believe that many–if not most–people already embrace moral ideas that can lead them to veganism. It is the large groups telling people that they can consume “with compassion” that is the problem, and not the supposedly limited intelligence of “ordinary people.” “Ordinary people” are not the problem. “Animal people” are the problem.

They are angry that I reject their single-issue campaigns as necessarily promoting animal exploitation.

They are right.

Such campaigns necessarily promote the idea that those animal products that are not being targeted are morally acceptable to consume and thereby perpetuate exploitation and speciesist ideology.

For example, a campaign to oppose foie gras necessarily promotes the idea to the public that foie gras is worse than other animal products, and that those other products are morally acceptable to consume. If this was not the message of the campaign, it would not receive support or donations from people who oppose foie gras but who think that eating animal products is otherwise fine.

They are angry that I maintain that we don’t need these large animal charities and that we instead need to build a grassroots movement of people without “donate” buttons.

They are right.

A shift in the paradigm from animal property to animal personhood is never going to happen unless and until we have a movement of people who are not dependent on donations (and who are not subject to the perverse incentives that thereby result), and who are working in their communities to educate their neighbors, friends, and relatives about veganism as a moral imperative.

The late Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Grassroots education does not require bloated organizations, CEOs or Executive Directors, or “donate” buttons. It requires individuals with commitment.

As Margaret Mead once observed: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

They are angry that I link animal rights and human rights.

They are right.

I have done so since I first began my work in the animal movement in the 1980s. We “otherize” humans and nonhumans and this permits us to violate the fundamental rights of all. We need to reject “otherization” altogether. I recognize that this is not a good idea for those who do fundraising because they want to get donations from people who are racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, etc. But that’s a pathetic reason to reject the clear connection between human and nonhuman rights.

They are angry that there is a grassroots Abolitionist movement emerging all over the world.

They are right.

The Abolitionist Movement is spreading. And that is precisely why they all spend so much time trying to suppress the ideas expressed here and on my websites, or reinterpret “abolition” as allowing for welfare reform, single-issue campaigns, “reducetarianism,” and all of the other sell-out approaches that they sell, or attempting to mischaracterize my position or attack me personally and defame me.

The Abolitionist movement promoted here has no office, no charitable status, no employees, and nothing but an idea. People are free to accept or reject that idea. People are free to accept the arguments I make in support of that idea as valid or as not valid. And a lot of people are accepting those arguments as valid and sound, and are embracing the Abolitionist position.

That is threatening the business of animal welfare reform and “happy” exploitation.

That is making petty and malicious people envious.

In sum, I really do understand why they are angry.

And I consider it a measure of the success of the Abolitionist position that they are reacting in this way.


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.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option — it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2015 Gary L. Francione