Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement

Gary L. Francione
Temple University Press, 1996

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Are “animal welfare” supporters indistinguishable from the animal exploiters they oppose? Do reformist measures reaffirm the underlying principles that make animal exploitation possible in the first place? In this provocative book, Gary L. Francione argues that the modern animal rights movement has become indistinguishable from a century-old concern with the welfare of animals that in no way prevents them from being exploited.

Francione maintains that advocating humane treatment of animals retains a sense of them as instrumental to human ends. When they are considered dispensable property, he says, they are left fundamentally without “rights.” Until the seventies, Francione claims, this was the paradigm within which the Animal Rights Movement operated, as demonstrated by laws such as the Federal Humane Slaughter Act of 1958.

In this wide-ranging book, Francione takes the reader through the philosophical and intellectual debates surrounding animal welfare to make clear the difference between animal rights and animal welfare. Through case studies such as campaigns against animal shelters, animal laboratories, and the wearing of fur, Francione demonstrates the selectiveness and confusion inherent in reformist programs that target fur, for example, but leave wool and leather alone.

The solution to this dilemma, Francione argues, is not in a liberal position that espouses the humane treatment of animals, but in a more radical acceptance of the fundamental inalienability of animal rights.

What People Are Saying:

In the past decade, a number of progressive social movements have become increasingly moderate and even reactionary in their attempts to become more ‘mainstream.’ Francione’s book brilliantly analyzes this phenomenon in a particular context–the animal rights movement. He argues that although many animal advocates claim that they seek rights for animals in the long run, they are pursuing means to that end that are morally and logically inconsistent with even a minimal notion of animal rights. The result is a movement, which began in the 1970s as truly radical, but that now embraces the very positions that it once rejected. Francione’s analysis is an articulate and insightful warning not only for those interested in animal rights but for those interested in understanding the current paralysis of other movements for social justice. This is an important book.

Drucilla Cornell, Professor of Women’s Studies and Law, Rutgers University

Francione’s book is a major contribution to the literature on applied ethical and jurisprudential theory, as well as an intriguing sociological analysis of a political movement. The context for Francione’s development of his theory is the current confusion within the animal movement over the distinction between animal ‘rights’ and animal ‘welfare.’ Although some people claim to accept a rights view, they believe that they can use welfare as an interim strategy to achieve certain rights for animals. Francione argues that animal welfare has certain ‘structural’ defects and proposes an alternative theory of applied animal rights ethics. This theory is creative, original, and provocative and will be popular with the large and growing segment of the society in favor of animal rights.

Alan Watson, Ernest P. Rogers Professor of Law, Research Professor, The University of Georgia, School of Law

Gary Francione’s work is both refined and exhaustively documented. He helps the reader see clearly what the differences are between the animal welfare and animal rights positions, as well as understand their respective ideologies and opposing ethical imperatives. More than this, Francione makes a strong case for viewing the animal rights position as both realistic and practicable, as providing a constructive program for social change. This is, in itself, a major contribution to the literature and one that will change the course of debate over animals.

Michael Fox, Professor of Philosophy, Australian National University

Rain Without Thunder is a must read for all those interested in the difficult but extremely important issues centering on how nonhuman animals are used and abused by human animals. Francione, a well-known legal scholar, writes in a clear and concise manner about how welfarist and rightist views differ in their basic assumptions, and how advocacy for each leads people–who really DO care about nonhuman animals–in vastly different directions concerning the future of nonhumans in a world dominated by humans. Francione is not shy and does not hesitate to take on ‘big names’ on both sides of the fence. In his view, welfarists’ concerns are not enough. As long as nonhuman animals are used as instruments for humans and are viewed as dispensable property, they are in big trouble. The only way to give nonhumans the protection to which they are entitled is to accept the fundamental inalienability of their rights and to grant them personhood. No matter what you think about Francione’s own views, a careful reading of this bold and tightly argued book will expose you to the important and complex issues that must be given serious attention as we head into the 21st century. These issues simply will not disappear if we ignore them, and we cannot afford to put them on the back burner longer.

Marc Bekoff, Professor of Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder

Gary Francione has written a very important, very timely book about the contemporary animal movement in America. In it he offers a more insightful, better reasoned and altogether more persuasive analysis of this ‘social protest’ movement than other would-be commentators. . . . No less importantly–and, quite likely, more importantly–he has crafted a book that will be of enormous interest to and influence on the very movement whose confused ideology he endeavors to clarify, as well as the powerful special interests that are financially, and in other ways, committed to resisting it. . . . No other scholarly observer of the animal movement has seen this movement’s lack of a consistent ideology as clearly as Francione. . . . Francione’s book represents a quantum leap forward in every respect by which anyone might reasonably measure an understanding of both the ideology of animal rights and what this movement can and should be.

Tom Regan, Professor of Philosophy, North Carolina State University, author of The Case for Animal Rights

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