Author Archives: 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

Abolition: Making Sure the Means and the End Are Consistent

If you say that you are an “abolitionist” but support welfare reform as a means to abolition, you are using “abolition” in a fundamentally different way from the way in which I use that term. I use that term to identify a position that excludes regulation/welfare reform.

Think about it this way:

X and Y both claim to be peace advocates. X wants to achieve world peace as a goal and advocates nonviolent conflict resolution as a means to that end.

Y says s/he, too, wants to achieve world peace as a goal and advocates war as a means to end of peace. (This second position pretty much describes American foreign policy, actually.)

Both X and Y claim to be peace advocates but Y advocates a means–violence–that is directly contrary to the claimed end of peace. Y argues that non-peace (war) is an acceptable means to end of peace.

Animal advocates who support welfare reform often claim that they seek abolition as a goal; they claim to want to eliminate all animal use. But they advocate “happy” use as a means to the end of no use. This is similar to using war as an means to the end of nonviolence and peace. The welfarist who claims to be an abolitionist argues that “gentle” or “compassionate” or “happy” use is a morally acceptable means to the end of no use.

See the problem?

I maintain that “abolitionist” is properly used only if the means are consistent with the end and the means I advocate are veganism on the individual level and creative, nonviolent vegan advocacy on the social level. The end is no use and the means chosen to get to the end are no use on the individual level and advocacy of no use on the social level.

Abolition, as I use that term, rules out welfare regulation. Abolition, as I use that term, rules out the position that “happy” use is an acceptable way to get to no use just as I regard war as a morally unacceptable way to achieve peace.

*****

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

My Plenary Talk (Audio) at the Animal Rights 2013 National Conference

On Saturday, June 29, I gave the plenary talk at the Animal Rights 2013 National Conference. You can listen to the audio here. The title of my talk: “The Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights.”

I understand that a video will be available at some point, which will allow you to see the PowerPoint presentation.

I hope you enjoy, and learn from, this presentation.

*****

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

Postscript Added July 7, 2013:

At the Animal Rights 2013 National Conference, in addition to my Plenary Talk, I had a discussion with Bruce Friedrich that you can hear here. You can read a commentary on the exchange here and here.

I will be doing a longer discussion directly with Bruce in early August that will be released under my new podcast series, “VEGAN.FM,” which was kindly given to me by Adam Kochanowicz.

The Consequences of New Welfarism

I was recently in one of the two Whole Foods in my area. I passed by the meat counter and I saw the signs about how the animals whose corpses are sold by Whole Foods are so very well treated. I saw people buying “happy” meat.

And I heard a shopper say to an employee that she is so happy that can get meat that is produced “humanely.”

But what should she to think when Peter Singer, the “father of the animal rights movement,” and every corporate animal group–HSUS, PETA, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, Compassion Over Killing, Vegan Outreach, etc.–expresses “appreciation and support” for the Whole Foods “happy exploitation” program?

support1

What should she to think when Whole Foods receives an award from PETA?

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What should she to think when Whole Foods CEO John Mackey shows up on the front page of “VegNews”?

CoverMackey

That woman clearly cares about animals morally and the “animal movement” has given her a way to do that that allows her to continue to consume animals and feel good about it.

How sad.

*****

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 New Book: Eat Like You Care

Our new book is now available. You can get it here.

Book2

If people adopt a vegan diet for ethical reasons, everything changes. If they don’t adopt a vegan diet, they stay stuck with anti-fur protests and single-issue campaigns and nothing changes.

*****

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

Some Clear Thinking About Animal Welfare

Animal welfare reform focuses on the supply side of exploitation. The idea is to provide a supply of more “humanely” produced animal products. The idea also is to make that supply more expensive so that consumers buy fewer animal products.

But the theory and the reality are different. Even those who support welfare reform often still buy conventional, “lower welfare” products (in my view, all animal products are low welfare) and, even if the price of some animal products increases as a result of welfare reforms (as opposed to myriad other factors that affect price), demand does not change much because demand for many animal products is what economists call “inelastic,” or not sensitive to price increases within a particular range.

And even if the price goes up so that demand is affected, consumers will simply buy processed or cheaper animal foods. In other words, there is no reason to think that if the price of beef goes up, consumers buy tofu.

The only effective way to deal with animal exploitation is to focus on the demand side and to educate people about why they should not consume animal products. Period. There are many people out there who care about animals as a moral matter. Rather than telling those people that they can discharge their moral obligations to animals by consuming “happy” animal products, we should be educating them about why the only sensible response to recognizing that animals matter morally is to stop consuming them and to go vegan.

To put it another way: if you think that what Michael Vick did was wrong because we should not impose suffering and death on other sentient beings just because we enjoy doing so, you are committed to not consuming animals, which can only be justified by palate pleasure. Just as pleasure does not work for Vick, it does not work for the rest of us.

*****

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