Author Archives: 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.

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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

“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

Enabling Animal Exploitation

McDonald’s has announced a new non-vegan vegetarian wrap.

And some of the welfarist groups, such as Vegan Outreach, are declaring “Progress for the animals!”

Progress?

I think not.

Think about it: There are, in essence, two groups of people: (1) those who are concerned about animals morally but are continuing to eat animal foods and use animal products; (2) those who really do regard animals as things and who don’t care about animals.

We might be able to change the hearts and minds of some of those in the second group but the real target audience is the first group.

And, with respect to those who care about animals morally, we should never be encouraging the consumption of any animal products. We ought to make clear at every point that if we regard animals as having moral value, veganism is the only rational response. We should not be promoting anything short of veganism. We certainly should not be encouraging people to think that we do right by the animals when we eat a non-vegan wrap at McDonald’s.

If someone who cares about animals wants to do less than be vegan, that should be her/his choice and not as a result of “animal advocates” putting a stamp of approval on any consumption of animal products.

The new McDonald’s product is not vegan. For that ground alone, vegans should not promote it or praise it or encourage its consumption. And it remains a mystery to me as to why welfarists believe that promoting McDonald’s is ever in the interest of animals.

*****

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

Animal Welfare Regulation, “Happy Exploitation,” and Speciesism

The Problem: Treating Humans and Nonhumans Differently

I maintain that if we cannot morally justify animal exploitation, we ought not to be advocating for (supposedly) more “humane” or “happy” animal exploitation.

Some of my reasons for my position are more practical.

For example, I do not think that the welfare reforms that are the subject of the welfare campaigns pursued by the large organizations provide any significant level of protection for nonhuman animals. For example, for laying hens, I think the difference between a conventional battery cage and an “enriched” cage is the difference between “torture” and a “tiny bit less torture”–at best. These “reforms,” such as they are, are usually phased in over a lengthy period and sometimes not phased in at all. And there are always problems enforcing these “reforms” to make sure they are implemented.

Moreover, I think that most of these reforms would occur anyway because they seek to modify practices that are economically inefficient (e.g., electric stunning of chickens in favor of controlled-atmosphere killing; eliminating the veal crate in favor of small social units) or, to the extent that they increase production costs, they do so slightly and industry benefits overall (e.g., the “enriched” battery cage).

And I think that when animal organizations support welfare reforms, they cannot help but present the supposedly “higher welfare” products as morally desirable and as resulting in more “compassionate” exploitation, and that has the effect of encouraging people who are concerned about the morality of consuming animals to continue to consume animals, rather than to focus them on veganism as a moral baseline and as the clear answer–both as an individual matter and as a social matter–to the problem of animal exploitation. So pursuing welfare reform has the effect of being counterproductive in terms of advancing veganism.

In this essay, I will discuss some of these practical issues, but I will do so in the context of exploring a more theoretical reason for rejecting welfare reform–what I view as the inherent speciesism of the welfarist approach.

Although rape occurs with alarming frequency, we don’t have campaigns for “humane” rape. Child molestation is an epidemic, but we don’t campaign for “humane” child abuse. Chattel slavery exists in various parts of the world and there are millions who are enslaved, but we don’t campaign for “humane” slavery.

But where animals are concerned, many animal advocates campaign for and promote (supposedly) “humane” or “happy” exploitation.

I see this behavior, which differs depending on whether the context involves human or nonhumans, as problematic.

An Example: What a Bargain! $1.99 per pound for “Happy” Chicken

Let’s consider one example of what I am talking about.

Here is a sign that I saw by the entrance to my local Whole Foods:

WholeFoods222

In addition to advertising the selling of some poor little chicken whose sad little life is apparently worth $1.99 per pound, the sign says “Global Animal Partnership, Animal Welfare Rating 2: Enriched Environment.”

The “Global Animal Partnership” is “a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 2008,” which

brings together farmers, scientists, ranchers, retailers, and animal advocates—a diverse group with the common goal of wanting to improve the welfare of animals in agriculture. Our signature program, the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards, recognizes and rewards producers for their welfare practices, promotes and facilitates continuous improvement, and better informs consumers about the production systems they choose to support.

An “enriched environment” means that the chickens are kept indoors but are provided with things, such as raised platforms and bales of hay, that allow for expression of natural behaviors.

Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, is on the Board of Directors of the Global Animal Partnership.

But before you criticize HSUS, be aware that Pacelle is not alone in his support of the Whole Foods “happy exploitation” program. In the mid-2000s, when Whole Foods started its “happy exploitation” program, just about every large animal organization in the United States–People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and Vegan Outreach–joined Peter Singer and HSUS in expressing their “appreciation and support” for the “pioneering” Whole Foods program of what I call “happy exploitation.”

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Whole Foods–quite understandably–used this letter for PR purposes. Peter Singer was asked about this:

How do you feel about that letter being posted in the PR section of the Whole Foods website and when asked about the treatment of farmed animals and humane standards, John Mackey refers to it?

Singer replied:

I don’t have any problem with that. I support what the letter says and they’re welcome to use it. I mean, we wrote it to them expecting them to use it. It wasn’t just a personal letter to John Mackey to be put in his filing cabinet.

PETA gave Whole foods an award:

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VegNews had Whole Foods CEO on its cover, gave Mackey an award, and named Whole Foods “Favorite Natural Foods Store” for four consecutive years.

CoverMackey

Let me state clearly here that I regard the partnership between animal advocates and Whole Foods as nothing short of obscene. It is truly morally repugnant. Most of us would never think that something like this would be acceptable in the human context. Imagine promoting some–any–”humane” version of torture. Imagine giving awards to humans who tortured other humans but did so more “humanely.” Imagine issuing public statements expressing “appreciation and support” for “pioneering” sorts of torture.

These things are hard to imagine because most of us would rule them out from the beginning where humans are concerned. That is, we would say that, although it’s always better to impose less suffering than more suffering, and so it’s better to torture less than more, having a campaign for more “humane” torture–even if it could reduce the torture slightly–would be wrong because it would miss the point: it is wrong to torture humans at all. It is imperative that we be clear that our opposition to torture is not about reducing suffering; it is about affirming a basic human right.

But those who promote animal welfare campaigns and who express their “appreciation and support” of “pioneering” programs of “happy exploitation” in situations in which they would not support similar campaigns if humans were involved are doing just that: they are denying the fundamental moral right of nonhuman animals not to be treated as replaceable resources.

In my view, this involves speciesism: we are treating human exploitation and nonhuman exploitation in different ways and we don’t have a good reason to do so. Continue reading

Social Justice, Human Rights, and Being Vegan

Non-vegans frequently point to the admittedly terrible condition of the world and ask vegans: what about important issues of social justice involving humans?; why aren’t you doing more to address those issues?

I have four responses:

First, there is no conflict here. Being vegan does not require that you stop doing any other good work you do on any other social justice issue. Being vegan just requires that while you are doing that good work, you don’t eat, wear, or use animal products.

Second, 99% of the people who ask these questions aren’t doing anything about the other issues except asking vegans why they are not doing something about them instead of promoting veganism.

Third, veganism–at least as I discuss it–is about nonviolence and violence is what is at the root of all of the other social justice problems.

Fourth, animal agriculture is causing a great deal of human suffering and is exacerbating social injustice.

*****

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