Author Archives: Gary L. Francione

“When It’s Raised Right, It Tastes Right.” And This is Not Right.

Yesterday, I visited Whole Foods and my purchases were placed in this bag:

WholeFoodsBag

Think about the message: When an animal, a commodity, an “it”–is “raised right,” “it tastes right.”

And just about every large animal organization in the United States expressed their “appreciation and support” to Whole Foods for its “happy” exploitation program:

support1

This is shameful. And the blame does not lie with Whole Foods. Whole Foods is just a corporation that is trying to make money for its shareholders. The problem is that animal organizations think of Whole Foods as a partner in the promotion of “happy” 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!

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2013 Gary L. Francione

Human and Nonhuman Rights as Inextricably Intertwined: In a Nutshell

As animal advocates, we oppose speciesism because, like racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other forms of discrimination, it uses a morally irrelevant criterion (species) to discount and devalue the interests of sentient beings.

But our opposition to speciesism means that we do have a position on these other forms of discrimination. That is, we cannot oppose speciesism but claim that, as animal advocates, we do not have a position on these other forms of discrimination. We cannot say: “We reject species as a morally objectionable criterion to discount or devalue the interests of nonhumans but we do not have a position on whether race, sex, or sexual orientation/preference are morally objectionable criteria when used to discount or devalue human interests.”

Our opposition to speciesism requires that we oppose all discrimination.

*****

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!

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2013 Gary L. Francione

Single-Issue Campaigns and the Adoption/Fostering of Homeless Nonhuman Animals

I am critical of single-issue campaigns (SICs). I am often asked if promoting the adoption or fostering of homeless animals is a single-issue campaign. The answer is that it is not and the question indicates confusion about what an SIC is and why SICs are objectionable.

Although all welfarist campaigns can be characterized as SICs, that term is usually applied to campaigns that at least appear to seek to abolish or prohibit, and not just regulate, certain animal uses, such as the use of animals for fur, or for meat (or for certain kinds of meat), the use of wild animals in circuses, particular sorts of blood sports, such as bullfighting, the use of horses in the carriage-horse trade, hunting (or particular sorts of hunting or the hunting of particular species), etc.

I have at least four problems with SICs.

First, SICs convey the idea that some forms of exploitation are worse than other forms of exploitation. In a culture in which animal exploitation is pervasive, that necessarily means that the target of the campaign is seen as being morally more objectionable than what is not focused on, which is seen as being morally “better” or even morally acceptable.

So if most people think that eating meat and dairy and eggs is “natural” and raises no moral problem, focusing on meat necessarily conveys the idea that dairy and eggs are different and that their consumption is morally acceptable or, at least, morally distinguishable, and not as morally objectionable as consuming meat.

A campaign focused on foie gras treats that particular product as morally distinguishable from other animal products, such as fried chicken or hamburgers. It tells people that it’s morally better to eat chicken and hamburgers because foie gras is morally distinguishable and morally worse. A campaign that focuses on fur implies that wool and leather are morally “better” than fur.

I reject that sort of thinking in favor of promoting the idea that veganism is the only rational response to the recognition that animals have moral value. I do not believe that there is a coherent moral distinction between meat and dairy/eggs or between foie gras and beef, chicken, or fish or between fur and leather or wool. It’s all morally unacceptable. I think that it confuses matters seriously to promote the idea that there are moral distinctions where there are none.

I discuss this more here.

Second, SICs simply cannot work as a practical matter. They are seen as arbitrary and they make no sense to people who consume animal foods. Think about it. Those who consume animal products think it’s morally acceptable to impose suffering and death on animals for the trivial reason of palate pleasure and they participate in this animal use every day, several times a day. Why would they think that hunting is wrong when they go to the supermarket and buy products made from animals who have suffered every bit as much, if not more, than animals who are hunted? Why would they think that using animals for other trivial reasons is morally unacceptable?

I discuss this more here.

Third, many single-issue campaigns encourage speciesism. Campaigns that focus on dolphins, elephants, and nonhuman primates maintain that these animals are supposedly more “like us” in terms of their intelligence and, therefore, they have greater moral value. That sort of thinking assumes that human characteristics are the measure of moral value and that human-like interests count for more. For the purposes of determining who can be used as a replaceable resource, assuming that human and human-like characteristics count for more is speciesist.

I discuss this more here.

Fourth, some single-issue campaigns often promote other forms of human discrimination. For example, the anti-fur campaign has had decidedly sexist overtones from its inception decades ago. Campaigns against eating dogs and cats are often and usually accompanied by anti-Asian rhetoric. Campaigns against kosher and halal slaughter have expressed anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiment.

I discuss this more here.

A central part of the abolitionist approach is that domestication is inherently wrong and that we should stop producing domesticated animals for human use. I do, however, maintain that we have a moral obligation to care for those domesticated animals now in existence. I maintain that we should offer homes to nonhuman refugees of *any* species. I do not limit it to dogs and cats. I am very explicit in saying that there is no “responsible” breeding of domesticated animals.

Here are some additional thoughts on domestication.

I am not saying that some form of exploitation is morally better than another form of exploitation. I am not suggesting that we replace one form of exploitation with another form of exploitation. I am not, for example, claiming that we should adopt/foster animals and then train them for use in circuses.

I am saying that we have a problem that we have created: we have many domesticated animals who are in existence now and need homes now. We have no other morally acceptable choice but to care for those animals when we have the opportunity to do so. I have stressed that caring for domesticated animals is not without moral dilemmas. For example, some cats apparently cannot exist without eating meat. I maintain that feeding meats to cats is not morally justifiable but it may be excusable in some circumstances.

Finally, I always couple any discussion of adoption/fostering and my rejection of domestication with the other central part of the abolitionist message: veganism as the only rational response to the recognition that animals have moral value.

In sum, promoting the adoption/fostering of homeless animals is clearly not a single-issue campaign. Caring for the domesticated nonhumans of all species is a moral obligation that is central to the abolitionist approach to animal rights.

And it is beyond absurd to claim that promoting veganism is an SIC. As I discuss here, veganism, as it is conceptualized in abolitionist theory as a rejection of the injustice of animal use, encompasses our rejection of all institutionalized exploitation.

I hope that this has clarified any confusion.

*****

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.

Please, if you can adopt a homeless animal—a dog, cat, bird, mouse, fish, cow, chicken—anyone who needs a home, do so. Adoption is an important form of activism; they’re in this mess because of us. The least that we can do is to take care of the ones we can.

The World is Vegan!

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2013 Gary L. Francione

*****
Postscript added June 13, 2013:

As I have said since first writing on SICs in the mid-1990s, if animal advocates want to pursue SICs, which I discourage in favor of focusing exclusively on creative, nonviolent vegan education and advocacy, they should, at the very least, use the campaign to illustrate that veganism must be the moral baseline and, therefore, veganism should be an explicit, consistent, and central part of the campaign.

Let’s be clear here: I am not talking about a campaign that focuses on a particular use but where the advocates involved say “but we’re really against all animal use.” I am talking about a campaign where the particular use is explicitly and consistently coupled with a vegan message that is central to the campaign.

For example, several months ago, I was told that a Spanish group had a campaign against bullfighting that urged people to get bulls out of the ring and animal products off the table. That is, they were, I am told, using the bullfighting campaign to educate about veganism. That sort of campaign, if done properly, minimizes the risks that result when bullfighting is identified as an animal use that is morally distinguishable from, and worse than, other animal uses.

The overwhelming number of SICs do not explicitly and consistently couple the particular use with a clear vegan message. Indeed, they intentionally do the opposite. They very deliberately avoid veganism in favor of making the “issue” the particular thing that is the focus of the SIC.

The promotion of adopting/fostering homeless animals is not an SIC because it is simply of a different category; it is not seeking to identify some animal use that is “worse” than other animal uses and that, if addressed, will make animal exploitation “better.” The promotion of adopting/fostering is a direct implication of the abolitionist principle that domestication cannot be morally justified and that it should stop, but that we have a moral obligation to animals in existence to care for them in non-exploitative situations until they die.

Having said that, whenever I talk about adoption/fostering, I always emphasize the other fundamental abolitionist principle: veganism as a moral baseline.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2013 Gary L. Francione

Sentience and Personhood

According to this article:

India has officially recognized dolphins as non-human persons, whose rights to life and liberty must be respected. Dolphin parks that were being built across the country will instead be shut down.

In a statement, the government said research had clearly established cetaceans are highly intelligent and sensitive, and that dolphins “should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights.”

The movement to recognize whale and dolphins as individuals with self-awareness and a set of rights gained momentum three years ago in Helsinki, Finland when scientists and ethicists drafted a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans. “We affirm that all cetaceans as persons have the right to life, liberty and well-being,” they wrote.

Since yesterday, I have received a significant number of requests to comment on this report.

I have two responses.

First, I refer you to an essay, “Our Hypocrisy,” which I wrote for The New Scientist in June 2005:

Our Hypocrisy

Do Great apes, dolphins, parrots, and perhaps even “food” animals have certain cognitive characteristics that entitle them to be accorded greater moral consideration and legal protection?

A considerable literature has so argued in recent times. The central idea behind this enterprise is the notion that we must rethink our relationship with non-humans if we find they are intelligent, self-aware, or have emotions. To the extent that non-humans have minds like ours, runs the argument, they have similar interests, and they are entitled to greater protection because of those interests. This “similar-minds” approach has spawned an industry of cognitive ethologists eager to investigate – ironically often through various sorts of animal experiments – the extent to which they are like us.

It is astonishing that 150 years after Darwin, we are still so surprised that other animals may have some of the characteristics thought to be uniquely human. The proposition that humans have mental characteristics wholly absent in non-humans is inconsistent with the theory of evolution. Darwin maintained that there are no uniquely human characteristics, and that there were only quantitative and not qualitative differences between human and non-human minds. He argued that non-humans can think and reason, and possess many of the same emotional attributes as humans.

What is more troubling about the similar-minds approach is its implications for moral theory. Although it appears to be progressive, to indicate that we really are evolving in our moral relationship with other species, the similar-minds approach actually reinforces the very paradigm that has resulted in our excluding non-humans from the moral community. We have historically justified our exploitation of non-humans on the ground that there is a qualitative distinction between humans and other animals: the latter may be sentient, but they are not intelligent, rational, emotional or self-conscious.

Although the similar-minds approach claims that, empirically, we may have been wrong in the past and at least some non-humans may have some of these characteristics, it does not question the underlying assumption that a characteristic other than sentience – the ability to feel pain – is necessary for moral significance.

Arbitrary lines

Any attempt to justify our exploitation of non-humans based on their lack of “human” characteristics begs the moral question by assuming that certain characteristics are special and justify differential treatment. Even if, for instance, humans are the only animals who can recognise themselves in mirrors or can communicate through symbolic language, no human is capable of flying, or breathing under water without assistance. What makes the ability to recognise oneself in a mirror or use symbolic language better in a moral sense than the ability to fly or breathe under water? The answer, of course, is that we say so and it is in our interest to say so.

Aside from self-interest, there is no reason to conclude that characteristics thought to be uniquely human have any value that allows us to use them as a non-arbitrary justification for exploiting non-humans. Moreover, even if all animals other than humans were to lack a particular characteristic beyond sentience, or to possess that characteristic to a lesser degree than humans, such a difference cannot justify human exploitation of non-humans.

Differences between humans and other animals may be relevant for other purposes. No sensible person argues that non-human animals should drive cars, vote or attend universities, but such differences have no bearing on whether we should eat non-humans or use them in experiments. We recognise this conclusion when it comes to humans. Whatever characteristic we identify as uniquely human will be seen to a lesser degree in some humans and not at all in others. Some humans will have the same deficiency that we attribute to non-humans, and although the deficiency may be relevant for some purposes, it is not relevant to whether we exploit such humans.

Consider, for instance, self-consciousness. Any sentient being must have some level of self-awareness. To be sentient means to be the sort of being who recognises that it is that being, and not some other, who is experiencing pain or distress. Even if we arbitrarily define self-consciousness in an exclusively human way as, say, being able to think about thinking, many humans, including those who are severely mentally disabled, lack that type of consciousness.
Again, this “deficiency” may be relevant for some purposes, but it has no bearing on whether we should use such humans in painful biomedical experiments or as forced organ donors. In the end, the only difference between humans and non-humans is species, and species is no more a justification for exploitation than race, sex or sexual orientation.

This is why the similar-minds approach is misguided, and will only create new speciesist hierarchies, in which we move some non-humans, such as the great apes or dolphins, into a preferred group, and continue to treat all others as things lacking morally significant interests.

If, however, we want to think seriously about the human/non-human relationship, we need to focus on one, and only one, characteristic: sentience. What is ironic is that we claim to take the suffering of non-humans seriously. As a matter of social morality, we are virtually unanimous in agreeing that it is morally wrong to inflict “unnecessary” suffering or death on non-humans. For such a prohibition to have any meaning, it must preclude inflicting suffering on non-humans merely for our pleasure, amusement or convenience.

The problem is that although we express disapproval of the unnecessary suffering of non-humans, most of their suffering and death can be justified only by our pleasure, amusement or convenience, and cannot by any stretch be plausibly characterised as “necessary”. We kill billions of animals annually for food. It is not “necessary” in any sense to eat meat or animal products. Indeed, an increasing number of healthcare professionals maintain that these foods may be detrimental to human health. Moreover, environmental scientists have pointed out the tremendous inefficiencies and costs to our planet of animal agriculture. In any event, our justification for the pain, suffering and death inflicted on these farmed non-humans is nothing more than our enjoyment of the taste of their flesh.

And it is certainly not necessary to use non-humans for sport, hunting, entertainment or product testing, and there is considerable evidence that reliance on animal models in experiments or drug testing may even be counterproductive.

In sum, when it comes to non-humans, we exhibit what can best be described as moral schizophrenia. We say one thing about how non-humans should be treated, and do quite another. We are, of course, aware that we lack a satisfactory approach to the matter of our relationship to other animals, and we have for some time now been trying to find one.

If we took seriously the principle that it was wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering on non-humans, we would stop altogether bringing domestic animals into existence for human use, and our recognition of the moral status of animals would not depend on whether a parrot can understand mathematics or a dog recognise herself in a mirror. We would take seriously what Jeremy Bentham said over 200 years ago: “The question is not, can they reason, nor can they talk, but can they suffer?”

I discuss these ideas at greater length in my essay, “Taking Sentience Seriously,” which was published originally in 2006 and is reprinted as Chapter 3 in my book, Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation.

Second, I would emphasize that although Bentham correctly identified sentience as the only characteristic required for moral significance, he made a significant error. He believed that animals do not care that we used them, but only about how we treat and kill them. According to Bentham, animals live in the present and are not aware of what they lose when we take their lives. If we kill and eat them, “we are the better for it, and they are never the worse. They have none of those long-protracted anticipations of future misery which we have.”

Echoes of Bentham’s views persist in the thinking of certain animal advocates, such as Peter Singer, who states:

You could say it’s wrong to kill a being whenever a being is sentient or conscious. Then you would have to say it’s just as wrong to kill a chicken or mouse as it is to kill you or me. I can’t accept that idea. It may be just as wrong, but millions of chickens are killed every day. I can’t think of that as a tragedy on the same scale as millions of humans being killed. What is different about humans? Humans are forward-looking beings, and they have hopes and desires for the future. That seems a plausible answer to the question of why it’s so tragic when humans die. (Indystar.com, March 8, 2009)

[T]o avoid inflicting suffering on animals—not to mention the environmental costs of intensive animal production—we need to cut down drastically on the animal products we consume. But does that mean a vegan world? That’s one solution, but not necessarily the only one. If it is the infliction of suffering that we are concerned about, rather than killing, then I can also imagine a world in which people mostly eat plant foods, but occasionally treat themselves to the luxury of free range eggs, or possibly even meat from animals who live good lives under conditions natural for their species, and are then humanely killed on the farm. (The Vegan, Autumn 2006.)

In a recent essay, “On Killing Animals,” which was published in The Point, I argued that it is Bentham’s thinking that leads even those who claim to subscribe to an “animal rights” position to think that killing healthy dogs and cats can be regarded as morally acceptable.

This view–that an interest in continued life is contingent on humanlike self-awareness–is precisely the sort of thinking that has led to the position that, although all sentient animals have interests in not suffering that count morally, only certain animals have an interest in not being used at all or killed for human purposes.

I think that the “similar minds” approach, which serves as the foundation of the “happy” exploitation movement, which is presently dominating the animal movement, is very much misguided and should be rejected in favor of the position that sentience is sufficient to ground an obligation not to treat a being exclusively as a means to an end, however “humane” our treatment may be.

*****

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!

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2013 Gary L. Francione

No, They Don’t “Dig” Cage-Free Eggs

Chicks Dig

In addition to the connection between sexism and speciesism illustrated here:

The birds do not dig being in a cage-free facility, which is like being in one large cage.

They don’t dig the fact that they are bought from hatcheries that kill all the male chicks. The male chicks do not dig that much either.

They don’t dig being debeaked.

They don’t dig forced molting, which is still used by some egg producers (conventional and “cage-free”).

They don’t dig the terrifying journey to the slaughterhouse, often transported long distances without food and water.

They don’t dig being subjected to an absolutely horrendous death.

They don’t dig being treated as commodities by a bunch of trendy wannabe do-gooders who are desperate to pat themselves on the back for being “compassionate” as they continue to support the torture and death of sentient nonhumans for the sole reason that they like the taste of animal products.

They don’t dig the obscenity that most of the large animal organizations express “appreciation and support” to Whole Foods:

support1

Come to think of it, there’s not much that they dig, actually.

What these poor creatures would dig is if you went vegan and stopped exploiting them.

*****

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 Brief Note on “Ag Gag” Laws

I think that the “Ag Gag” laws are not a good idea for a number of reasons related generally to the suppression and chilling of speech. But to listen to the large animal groups, one would think that the “Ag Gag” laws are a death knell for the animal movement. That’s just wrong.

We don’t need more footage from factory farms. There is already more than enough. For the most part, the objection to these laws concerns the fact that large animal groups need a steady stream of “exposés” so that they can continue to promote the idea that there are “responsible” farms and “irresponsible” farms, “abusive” treatment” and “non-abusive” treatment. The animal groups get footage of some farm employees doing something hideous; they have a big campaign; the factory farm does a mea culpa or gets a wrist slapping; the animal groups declare “victory” and proclaim that the “abusive” behavior has been stopped. Even if the farm or abattoir is sanctioned heavily, or closes, the demand is picked up by another facility. The public is reassured that the animal groups are ensuring that animals are being treated “humanely” and keeps demanding animal products.

It’s a win-win. The animal groups get praise and, more important, donations; the public is reassured and feels better about consuming animal products.

Only the animals, who continue to be tortured in the most “humane” situations, lose.

We need to get people thinking differently about animal ethics. We need to focus people away from the issue of treatment–and away from the idea that there is “abusive” treatment and “non-abusive” treatment–and toward the idea that we cannot morally justify use. Period. We need to get people to see that the moral idea that they and just about everyone else already accept–that animal suffering and death must be “necessary” and that pleasure, amusement, or convenience cannot suffice as “necessary”–leads to the conclusion that we cannot justify using animals and that our recognition that animals have moral status means that we cannot eat flesh, dairy, or eggs, even if they have a “happy” exploitation label that is praised or endorsed by one or more of the large animal groups.

I plan to write at greater length about this in the future.

*****

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!

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2013 Gary L. Francione

Robert Jensen and Species Equality

According to Professor Robert Jensen, an otherwise progressive thinker:

“[N]o one really believes the quip, “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy,” suggesting the equality of all life (or, at least, all mammalian life). To test that: If there were a rat, a pig, a dog, and a human child in the road facing an oncoming truck and you could save only one, which would you chose?”

Let’s take Jensen’s test. Even if we answer that we would save the human child, what does that tell us about the morality of eating animals and animal products, or using animals in circuses, zoos, or rodeos, or wearing animals?

Answer: nothing at all.

To see this clearly, assume that there are two humans in front of the truck–an extremely old person and a baby. Even if we would save the baby, does that mean it’s morally acceptable to eat old people, or makes shoes out of them, or use them in circuses, zoos, or rodeos, use them as forced organ donors to save the young, or otherwise treat them exclusively as resources?

No, of course not.

Assume that the two humans in front of the truck are two human babies: Jensen’s child and the child of another. Jensen would clearly save his child. Does that mean that the other child has lesser moral value and may be treated exclusively as a resource?

No, of course not.

Moreover, when we are deciding what to eat tonight, we are not in any situation that is analogous to the either/or situation that Jensen posits. If, as Jensen acknowledges, we don’t need to consume animal products, then we are under no compulsion that forces us to choose. If we eat meat, dairy, or eggs when we can choose to eat vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, and nuts, then we are participating in suffering and death simply for palate pleasure. If animals matter morally at all, imposing suffering and death on them for a reason as transparently frivolous as palate pleasure cannot be justified.

Jensen simply ignores the very question that we need to examine: can we justify speciesism? If you asked a white person in 1830 whom he would save from death–another white person or a black person–the answer would be crystal clear. In fact, the white person would probably not even understand the question and would think it lunacy even to ask it. So our moral intuitions are a most unreliable guide when the very problem is that our moral intuitions are affected and infected by pervasive prejudice that we cannot seem to explain or justify rationally.

When I say “all sentient beings are equal,” what I mean is that, with respect to any sentient being, we are required to give a compelling moral reason to justify or excuse imposing suffering and death on that being. I maintain that my view here is not only not controversial, but that most people actually agree with it.

What we need to see is that pleasure, amusement, or convenience cannot suffice as “compelling moral reasons” for eating, wearing, or using animals. That necessarily leads us to rule out 99.99% of all animal use as morally unjustifiable from the outset.

Robert Jensen is a generally progressive person. He really needs to rethink his views on animal ethics. I hope he will consider that if we fed all the grain we feed to livestock directly to human beings, we could go a long way toward reducing human starvation. It takes many pounds of plant protein to produce one pound of flesh; it takes many more gallons of water to produce a pound of flesh than a pound of potatoes. Frankly, if Jensen were to think that animals have no moral value whatsoever, and he accorded moral value to humans alone, he would still be committed to a vegan diet.

*****

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!

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2013 Gary L. Francione