Author Archives: 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

A Simple Question

An article, Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas, reports:

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion. The finding has implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideals.
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“When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,” said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. “Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.”

So here’s my question:

Why is every animal advocate and every large animal organization not working to get to that 10% rather than promoting welfare reform, “compassionate” consumption, and “happy” exploitation?

Why are HSUS, ASPCA, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Compassion Over Killing, Compassion In World Farming (CIWF), The Humane League, and World Society for the Protection of Animals campaigning for “enriched” battery cages, particularly when HSUS and CIWF have explicitly acknowledged that “enriched” cages fail to provide an acceptable level of welfare?

Why are PETA, HSUS, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, Compassion Over Killing, Viva!, and Vegan Outreach signing a public letter expressing “appreciation and support” to Whole Foods for its “pioneering” program, of “happy” exploitation?

Yes, I know “we won’t have a vegan world overnight” (the favorite way of welfarists to mischaracterize the abolitionist position) but we don’t have to get the whole world to go vegan “overnight.” We just need to build a solid vegan movement of 10%. But let’s be conservative and say that we need to reach 20%. We could do that.

But we’ll never get there as long as we are telling people that they can do right by animals by consuming “happy” animal products.

We will, of course, appeal to donors who want to continue eating animals and are happy to pay for a stamp of approval from animal advocates so that they can consume animal products with a clear conscience.

*****

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

Do Chimpanzees, Dolphins, and Elephants Matter More?

There is a tendency amongst some animal advocates to associate nonhuman personhood with animals, such as chimpanzees, dolphins, and elephants, who have more sophisticated–that is, humanlike–cognitive abilities. I would suggest that, for purposes of determining whom it is appropriate to treat as a replaceable resource, that is wholly arbitrary. Cognitive abilities may be relevant for some purposes but not for this purpose.

Consider a human example: Mary is a brilliant historian; Joe is severely mentally disabled. Is the difference in cognitive ability relevant? Yes, for the purpose of determining whom to appoint as a history professor; no for the purpose of determining whom to use as a forced organ donor or as a nonconsenting subject of a biomedical experiment. We should not use either Mary or Joe for those purposes.

What is morally relevant is sentience, or having subjective awareness. And most of the animals we routinely exploit every day–the cows, pigs, chickens, and fish–are sentient. If these animals have any moral value, we cannot justify treating them as resources, and we can never do so in the absence of compulsion or necessity. And we already recognize this on some level. For example, most of us were upset with Michael Vick’s dog fighting because we believe that it was wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering on animals and what Michael Vick did what he did only for his pleasure and amusement. It could in no way be regarded as “necessary.”

But most of us consume animals and animal products, which involve imposing horrible suffering and violent death even under the most “humane” circumstances. What justification do we have for imposing this suffering and death? We do not need to eat animal foods to be healthy. And animal agriculture is an ecological disaster. Our best justification: palate pleasure. Nothing more. In an important sense, we are all Michael Vick.

In an essay I wrote in 2005 for The New Scientist, I argued that the idea that those animals who deserve to be considered as nonhuman persons are those “special” animals who are more “like us”–chimpanzees, dolphins, elephants, etc.–is, not surprisingly, embraced by those who want to claim that only some animals, the “higher” ones, matter morally and that it’s still okay to keep eating “lower” animals. This way of thinking about animal ethics is similar to saying that people of color with lighter skin matter more than those with darker skin. They are more “like us” where “us” refers to the racist norm that being white is what’s right.

To say that the animals who matter more morally are those who are “like us” is nothing more than the reinforcement of speciesism and not a refutation of it. As far as morality is concerned, a chicken weighs as much an elephant.

It is time to rethink animal ethics in a more fundamental 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.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2013 Gary L. Francione