Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation

Gary L. Francione
Columbia University Press, 2008

Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation

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A prominent and respected philosopher of animal rights law and ethical theory, Gary L. Francione is known for his criticism of animal welfare laws and regulations, his abolitionist theory of animal rights, and his promotion of veganism and nonviolence as the baseline principles of the abolitionist movement. In this collection, Francione advances the most radical theory of animal rights argued to date. Unlike Peter Singer, Francione maintains that we cannot morally justify using animals under any circumstances, and unlike Tom Regan, Francione’s theory applies to all sentient beings, and not only to those who have more sophisticated cognitive abilities.

Francione introduces the volume with an essay that explains our historical and contemporary attitudes about animals by distinguishing the issue of animal use from that of animal treatment. He then presents a theory of animal rights, which focuses on the need to accord all sentient nonhumans the right not to be treated as our property. Our recognition of such a right would require that we stop bringing domesticated animals into existence for human use. He takes a hard look at our “moral schizophrenia” toward animals and our ability to regard some creatures as beloved companions and others as food and clothing. Subsequent essays explore recent changes in animal welfare and the sad fact that these advances have not only failed to bring us closer to the abolition of animal exploitation, but have made the public feel more comfortable about supposedly more “humane” animal treatment. In two essays, Francione explores the importance of sentience as the necessary and sufficient condition for the moral significance of animals and explains how the status of animals as economic commodities prevents the equal consideration of their interests. He also discusses the issue of using animals in experiments, arguing that the empirical necessity of animal use is at best suspect and that animal use cannot, in any event, be morally justified. After a chapter addressing ecofeminism and its ethic of care, Francione concludes by challenging the rationale of Tom Regan’s position that death imposes a greater harm on humans than nonhumans.

This collection of essays demonstrates why Francione’s abolitionist theory is widely regarded as the most exciting innovation in modern animal ethics.

What People Are Saying:

Gary L. Francione builds on the themes of his first three rights-based books, synthesizes them, adds new ingredients, and brings it all up to date in a striking restatement of animal rights philosophy for the twenty-first century. This new volume is not only high-quality scholarship but also provides the theoretical foundations for a new social movement which takes rights seriously as its core claims about human-nonhuman relations.

Roger Yates, University College, Dublin

Gary L. Francione’s searing and insightful theoretical vision shines through in this key work that extends and deepens the substantive area of inquiry in abolitionist animal studies that he has singlehandedly created. Part iconoclast, part theorist, and part activist, Francione is unafraid to upend conventional theoretical and practical approaches to our treatment of animals in his analytical rigor. Without a doubt, this volume will remain a central work in animal studies for years to come.

Bob Torres, assistant professor of sociology, St. Lawrence University, and author of Making A Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights

In this uncompromising and stimulating call for the abolition of all forms of oppression of other animals, Gary L. Francione establishes himself as one of the leading advocates for justice in the world today. In these powerful essays, Francione methodically and unflinchingly examines and deconstructs the ineffectual positions of many professed advocates for other animals and points the way toward true animal liberation. He exposes the pragmatic and moral flaws in the arguments of those who call merely for reduced cruelty and better regulation of industries that are based on animal oppression. His forceful and compelling arguments against contemporary ‘animal welfarism’ and in favor of true animal rights should be required reading for scholars, activists, and anyone interested in justice for all the inhabitants of this planet.

David Nibert, author of Animal Rights/Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation

Coolly, lucidly, and uncompromisingly, with a minimum of horror stories, Gary L. Francione argues for the right of all sentient beings to a full life. His critique of animal-welfare legislation, with its many escape clauses that allow the business of animal exploitation to proceed as usual, is particularly devastating.

J. M. Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

Virtually all the articles and essays collected here are milestones in the formation of the modern theory of the legal and moral rights of animals. Gary L. Francione knows his philosophy as well as his law and these juridical studies work close to the line where law and philosophy merge. His prose, furthermore, is clear and free of legal jargon. I strongly recommend this collection of important essays. It provides a lucid summary of a significant body of thought on animal rights.

Julian H. Franklin, professor emeritus of political philosophy, Columbia University

Darwin once made a note to himself: “Never use the words ‘higher’ or ‘lower.’” Well it took all this time before finally somebody did just that! That somebody is Gary L. Francione, thinking, as always, just beyond what anyone else has already thought. He is a radical, in the best sense of that word, always striking out (sometimes on his own) into areas where the rest of humanity has feared to tread. He goes out, and he comes back with treasure that the rest of us are only to happy to use and appropriate. That’s o.k., I am sure, with him. He is not in this for his sake, but for their sake. So anything that will get us to take the vegan plunge (as I recently did, partly because I can see no way to avoid the arguments that Francione so cogently sets forth in this wonderful collection of essays), to stop making excuses for the Eichmann’s of the animals and to recognize that when a nonhuman animal dies before his or her time, and under conditions of someone else’s making, a tragedy has occurred that is every bit as momentous as the same tragedy in the life of a human animal. We are, all of us who are concerned with the lives (as opposed to the deaths) of animals, deeply in Francione’s debt, whether we know it or not, whether we like him or not, and whether we want to acknowledge it or not.

Jeffrey Masson, author of Altruistic Armadillos, Zenlike Zebras: A Menagerie of 100 Favorite Animals

The most wholly consistent animal rights position available today is Gary L. Francione’s. In philosophical essays such as these his dedication to defining what it means to give the interests of nonhumans equal moral consideration shines through in a remarkably clear and uncompromising way. Francione conducts a rigorous cross-examination of utilitarianism (animal liberation theory), alternative animal rights and animal welfare views, feminist care ethics as applied to animals, and United States animal protection law, all of which creates a more meaningful and compelling context for his own approach. Those who seriously engage with this book will not only expand their horizons but also demand a much higher standard of argument in this field ever after.

Michael Allen Fox, professor emeritus of philosophy, Queen’s University, Canada, adjunct professor, School of Humanities, University of New England (Australia), and author of Deep Vegetarianism

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