“If Animals Matter Morally, Then We Cannot Treat Them As Commodities”: Interview with Prof. Gary L. Francione

Prof. Francione was interviewed by Earth Island Journal on his latest book, his animal rights theory known as the Abolitionist Approach, and his views on animal welfare and the moral personhood of animals.

The online interview can be found here

A pdf of the interview can be downloaded here

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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.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option—it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at www.HowDoIGoVegan.com.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University Law School

©2016 Gary L. Francione

 

Animal Rights and Slavery/Rape Analogies

Ever since the early 1990s, I have been arguing that the regulation of animal exploitation is not only immoral (if it is morally wrong to exploit animals, it is wrong to promote the supposedly “humane” exploitation of animals), but is, as a practical matter, doomed to failure because the property status of animals means that animal interests can never prevail over the interests of human owners. I have argued that the regulation of animal exploitation fails for the same reason that the regulation of slavery failed.

Some “animal advocates” seem to think that discourse of this sort presents a problem of “appropriation” because only Black people can properly talk about slavery.

But the position that Black people have some sort of proprietary interest in discourse about slavery ignores that the race-based slavery that existed in the United States (or the West generally) in the 1600s-1800s was not the only slavery that has ever existed. Chattel slavery existed before that time and it exists now. And most of that chattel slavery has not been along lines of race but along lines of tribe and religion.

Moreover, even in the case of race-based slavery in the United States, I make it clear that it is the legal, political, and social mechanisms of slavery that are analogous to the use of animals as chattel property. It is that discussion that reveals the requirements of abolition rather than welfare reform. The analogy is most sharply focused on the mechanisms of oppression—not just the resulting suffering. That focuses on the analogy with animal rights rather than animal welfare. The essentialist vegans think the slavery analogy is all about the suffering of the slaves. That is incorrect.

I have always been critical of welfarist/new welfarist groups that juxtapose images of lynched Black people with pictures or other depictions of animals hanging in slaughterhouses in the same way that I object to comparing animal exploitation to the Holocaust. Comparing evils in this way does nothing to advance understanding and has a great potential for misunderstanding and offense. But the fact—and it is a fact—remains that there are important parallels between the regulation of chattel slavery and the regulation of animal exploitation.

African-Americans have experienced-based expertise in the legacy of slavery, but we must all understand the mechanisms and supporting principles of slavery—human and nonhuman—if we are going to rid the world of this evil.

The regulation of animal exploitation fails for the exact same reasons that the regulation of chattel slavery failed. If a sentient being is chattel property, the interests of that being will always count for less than the interests of the owners of that property. In substantially all of the conflict situations, the property must lose and the owner must prevail or else there is no institution of property in beings of that sort (whether human or nonhuman). In both chattel slavery and animal exploitation, beings are treated as having only an extrinsic or external value; they have no inherent or intrinsic value. They are merely things. Chattel slavery (race- based and non-race-based) and animals as property are completely analogous in legal and economic ways.

If there is any dis-analogy as a conceptual matter, it is not between chattel slavery and animal exploitation. There, the analogical fit is perfect and inescapable. Many welfarists/new welfarists compare the regulation of animal exploitation, which they promote, to the struggle for civil rights in the United States. The latter involved—and continues to involve because equality is a very long ways away—the issue of how to treat persons fairly. Animals are still chattel property. They do not have moral personhood. We cannot talk about how to treat things in a “fair” way.

When I talk about “abolition,” I am not using that term to refer to the experience of slaves. I am talking about the mechanism that has been used in the past and must be used now to dismantle any institution of property that establishes and perpetuates the status of sentient beings used exclusively as resources for others.

In any event, to say that such an analysis “appropriates” discourse that is properly that of Black people alone is, I am afraid, transparently absurd. I am not using the slavery analogy to denigrate the experience of slaves. I am using it because the analogy helps us to understand the legal, jurisprudential, and economic reasons why the regulation of sentient beings who are considered as property cannot work.

Other “animal advocates” declare that men cannot discuss rape in the context of talking about animal exploitation. That is, they cannot draw an analogy between the violation of fundamental rights that occurs in the context of rape and the violation of fundamental rights that occurs when we kill and eat animals.

As in the case of slavery, when I use rape as an analogical concept, I am not using it to denigrate the experience of rape victims. I am using the analogy because I believe it fits and it can help us to understand the deep structure of animal exploitation.

In my view, the use of words and concepts in contexts like this is a matter of analogy. Our experiences shape how we understand things but, in the end, the only relevant question is whether the analogy fits. Having been on dairy farms and seen the way that cows are impregnated and the way that they have to be secured because they don’t like what’s happening, I believe that it is analogous to rape as do many women I know who have actually seen what goes on in dairy farms, including women who have been rape victims. It is a sexual battery; the cows do not consent.

Rape is a violation of a fundamental human right. It is different from non-fundamental rights violations. It is analogous to the violations of fundamental rights that constitute domesticated animal use. The analogy holds. If someone is offended by the analogy and objects to its use, we need to know why the analogy does not hold and in many years of doing this work, I have yet to hear anything other than some version of “human women matter more morally.”

I was recently at an academic conference at which animal ethics were discussed but only as a part of the event. I argued that talking about “happy” exploitation was analogous to talking about “happy” rape or “happy” child molestation. A woman who identified herself as a feminist objected to my analogy. I asked her why. All she could say was that she did not think that exploiting animals was as “serious” as rape. I am not sure what she meant by that and she had no reply when I asked her what she meant. There is no non-speciesist response to that question.

And if we cannot talk about matters even as relevant analogies if we have not experienced them, then none of us can talk about the exploitation of nonhuman animals.

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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.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option — it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

Embracing veganism as a moral imperative and advocating for veganism as a moral imperative are, along with caring for nonhuman refugees, the most important acts of activism that you can undertake.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at www.HowDoIGoVegan.com.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2016 Gary L. Francione

Advocacy Tip: Judge Action, Not Individuals

You cannot have a useful discussion intended to change the behavior of another if you approach that other person as someone who is evil. That’s just common sense.

So always make sure that the person with whom you are talking understands that you are focusing on the immorality of animal exploitation as an institutionalized practice and that you are not judging that person as an individual. Approach that person as someone who has not yet really grappled with the issues involved in animal ethics and you are there to educate—and not to judge.

On the other hand, you should always be clear that veganism is a moral imperative. That is, if animals have moral value—if they are not just things—then our moral obligation is to stop eating, wearing, and using them. Anything less than that represents continued and direct participation in animal exploitation.

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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.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option—it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at www.HowDoIGoVegan.com.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University Law School

©2016 Gary L. Francione

 

The Importance of Veganism in Economically Deprived Communities

In economically deprived communities in the United States, health problems hit people harder than they do in other places because, despite Obama Care, there is still a tremendously inequitable distribution of health resources. Therefore, it becomes even more important to educate people in those communities about how animal foods are harming them, and how a plant-based diet can be healthier and less expensive than a diet involving animal foods. It is also important to stress how many healthy meals can be made easily and with a minimum of time and effort.

When I hear people spouting off about how it’s “elitist” to say that veganism is easy, or that veganism is a matter of “white privilege,” I am reminded of something a Black activist said many years ago (a paraphrase): “The standard American diet is the slave master’s revenge. We’ve got to educate poor people everywhere that the food in poor communities is as dangerous as the drugs.”

Finally, the idea that people in economically deprived communities cannot understand or identify with the message of animal rights is nonsense. I teach in a University in one of the poorest cities in the United States. Many people in that community understand the moral message more readily than many in affluent communities.

What is truly elitist is the position that some people, whether “single mums” (as someone from the UK animal welfare group Viva! said in a debate I had) or people in depressed urban areas, can’t understand veganism as a moral baseline.

I should add that the “animal advocates” who promote the “veganism is elitist” and “it’s not easy for the poor to go vegan so it is not a moral baseline for them” positions are all people who promote or support transparently speciesist positions.

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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.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option—it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at www.HowDoIGoVegan.com.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University Law School

©2016 Gary L. Francione

Animal Ethics: Simple Common Sense

Many animal advocates seem to think that if you deliver a vegan message to someone who is not willing to go vegan immediately, that person won’t do anything at all. These animal advocates conclude that we should, instead, promote cage-free eggs, crate-free pork, and reducetarianism.

On what is this assumption founded?

Common sense tells us the opposite. If you present a vegan message to someone who is concerned about animal ethics but is not prepared to go vegan yet, they will most likely do something short of going vegan, and will not do nothing.

But you can be absolutely certain that if you tell such a person that they do not have to go vegan to satisfy their moral obligations to animals, they won’t. If you tell people in this group that it’s acceptable to eat cage-free eggs, or “happy” meat, or that it is morally acceptable for them to be “conscientious omnivores” or reducetarians,  that is precisely what they will do and all that they will do.

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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.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option—it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at www.HowDoIGoVegan.com.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University Law School

©2016 Gary L. Francione

Guest Essay: Dear Vegan Feminists, Where Are You? An Open Letter

This essay was originally post on Ecorazzi.com. A troll appeared and posted a number of problematic messages. The matter was reported to Ecorazzi and they removed the post for the time being until they return from the Chicago Vegan Food and Drink Festival. In the interim, the essay is available here.

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Dear Vegan Feminists, Where Are You? An Open Letter

Judith Woolf

Dear Vegan Feminists,

Let me open this letter by stating that I’m one of you. It took too many years for me to understand the concept of justice as it related to both others and myself, but now I’m one of you. So while I address this letter to you it’s not a blanket condemnation of those of you who identify as such. It is, instead, a plea to those of you who’ve let me down to do better in the future.

I’m going to be upfront and tell you that Judith Woolf isn’t my real name. I can’t tell you what my real name is and I can’t tell you details of what I endured because I’m still afraid of him…so afraid that I can’t even say his name.

I survived domestic abuse. I won’t claim that I escaped, because I still live with it every day: the fear, self-hatred, doubting and questioning. What I’ve gone through is so deeply a part of me that at times I forget where it ends and I begin. And I haven’t yet begun; I mostly still see myself through his gaslighting and contempt; I don’t yet know who I am, and most of the time I hate the version of me that he tried to make me believe existed. But that’s another story that will probably never be told.

What I want to know is where you were when I needed you. Where were you when Vegan Publishers posted an essay comparing being uninvited from a conference or unfriended on Facebook to domestic violence? Where were you when I asked for my story and those of others like me not to be reduced to a comparison with a mere Facebook spat?

Did you forget about me and others like me when you circulated this comparison online to score points against people you don’t like…at any cost? Did you think about me, a survivor, when I explained what psychological abuse looks like (and how much it differs from personal grievances), or did you instead prefer to defer to the words of an “internationally recognized researcher in the area of violence and abuse prevention”?

You speak of the value of lived experience. Well instead of heeding mine you gave voice to an academically privileged white man despite repeatedly asking such men to stay in their lanes. Why wasn’t I heard? Is it because lived experience only matters to you when it fits with the story you want to promote, when it’s “testimony” about the perceived harms caused by those you paint as your enemy?

Why didn’t you come to my defence when someone with claimed that my profile was a sockpuppet account for Gary L. Francione?

ScreenHunter_1829 Jun. 23 17.27

By failing to amplify my voice and by failing to defend me when I was accused of not being a real person you erased the experiences of so many other women like me. We don’t exist for you, it seems, when we’re more useful to ignore…when we disrupt your narratives about who the “baddies” are. Because we don’t sing from your hymn sheet, we don’t count.

Dear Vegan Feminists, you’ve let me down. I’ve gone it alone for too many years now and I know what isolation is like (the one I survived made sure of that), so you can’t harm me any more than I’ve already been harmed.

I’m writing this because there are others. Some are struggling to find a way out and some don’t even know that what’s happening to them is abuse because they don’t have a sense of their own personhood. And every time you allow someone to turn our experiences into cannon fodder, or every time you close your ears to our voices when we’re pleading to be heard, every time stories of domestic abuse become battlefields for your pseudo-intellectual struggles, you force us to lose all over again.

Dear Vegan Feminists, listen. Our lives are not pawns in your games. Our stories aren’t weapons. Our experiences matter because we lived them. Our personhood has been denied once; don’t put us through that again.

The Speciesism of “Plural Approaches”

In response to a critique of welfare reform and other approaches that actually promote animal exploitation, some supposed animal advocates say that we need “plural approaches.” They say that, in addition to promoting veganism as a moral baseline, we need to promote “happy” exploitation, and moral relativism (e.g., veganism is a matter of “our journey” and of some totally subjective “who you are space).”

Think about this sort of position in any human rights context. Take, for example, the problem of racism. Imagine that someone said that, in order to deal with racism, we needed “plural approaches,” and that we should promote equality as an absolute matter but we should also promote equality as a non-absolute matter.

Imagine that they said:

“Every step in the journey toward equality is a good one so we ought to encourage Racist-Joke-Free Monday”; or

“People won’t stop being racist overnight so we need to encourage Racism Reducetarianism;” or

“My baseline is that there aren’t any baselines and it’s all on a continuum and opposition to racism is a matter of your personal ‘who you are space’.”

We would rightly regard that this proposal for “plural approaches” to racism was itself racist.

“Plural approaches” are never appropriate where fundamental rights are involved. We recognize that in the human context.

But where animals are concerned, many “animal advocates” think it’s fine.

That’s what we call “speciesism.”

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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.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option—it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at www.HowDoIGoVegan.com.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University Law School

©2016 Gary L. Francione

Harambe and the Chicken

Many people are very upset about the killing of Harambe, the gorilla imprisoned in an Ohio zoo.

They ought to be upset. It was wrong to imprison Harambe. It was wrong to kill him.

But what happened to Harambe is no more wrong than what happens to all of the animals we use for food (or any other purpose).

Harambe may weigh more than the little chicken whose body is sold at the store for a few dollars. But from a moral point of view, Harambe and that nameless chicken are moral equals.

If you object to what happened to Harambe and you are not vegan, you need to see that there is no morally significant difference between the animal you think is “special” and the animal you eat.

Please recognize the moral value of all sentient nonhumans and go vegan.

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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.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option—it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at www.HowDoIGoVegan.com.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University Law School

Anna Charlton
Adjunct Professor, Rutgers University Law School

©2016 Gary L. Francione and Anna Charlton

Veganism as a Moral Imperative

Principle Three of the Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights is that veganism is a moral imperative:

AAPrincipleThree

Abolitionists agree with welfarists that animal exploitation is not going to disappear “overnight” and that we need to take incremental steps—what welfarists call “baby steps”—to get to the goal of abolition. But abolitionists reject welfare reform campaigns and single-issue campaigns (SICs) as incremental steps because they are inconsistent with the idea that nonhuman animals are morally significant and have the right not to be used as resources for humans. Additionally, as a practical matter, these tactics do not work and, by their very nature, cannot lead to abolition.

Despite claims by welfarists that abolitionists have no practical plan for change, abolitionists have a very clear program for incremental change on both the individual and social levels: veganism and creative, nonviolent vegan advocacy and education. Veganism means not eating, wearing, or otherwise using animals to the extent practicable.

We should state at the outset that no one maintains that it’s medically necessary to eat animal foods. Mainstream professional organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, the British Dietetic Association, the British Nutritional Foundation, Dietician’s Association of Australia, Dieticians of Canada, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation; research and teaching institutions, including the Mayo Clinic, UCLA Health Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; governmental agencies, such as the British National Health Service, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and even large managed care organizations, such as Kaiser Permanente, all acknowledge that a sound vegan diet is perfectly adequate for human health and some of these groups claim that vegan diets may have significant health benefits over diets containing animal products.

It is also the case that there is little, if any, serious disagreement that animal agriculture is resulting in an ecological disaster. Animal agriculture results in the destruction of grasslands and top soil, deforestation, water depletion and pollution, and on all accounts, is a significant contributor to global warming with Worldwatch Institute estimating that at least 51% of annual worldwide greenhouse gases are attributable to animal agriculture.

In any event, let us focus on veganism as a moral principle.

The word “vegan” was coined by Donald Watson in 1944, coinciding with his founding The Vegan Society in Great Britain. Watson was opposed to animal exploitation and, in the first issue of the Society’s newsletter, The Vegan News, he wrote, “We can see quite plainly that our present civilisation is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilisations were built on the exploitation of slaves, and we believe the spiritual destiny of man is such that in time he will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the products of animals’ bodies.”

He maintained that abstaining from meat was not enough, “The unquestionable cruelty associated with the production of dairy produce has made it clear that lacto-vegetarianism is but a half-way house between flesh-eating and a truly humane, civilised diet, and we think, therefore, that during our life on earth we should try to evolve sufficiently to make the ‘full journey.’” Watson also rejected eating eggs. “Vegan” comes from the beginning and ending letters of the word “vegetarian,” as Watson thought that veganism was the logical place from which vegetarianism stemmed, as well as the point where vegetarianism would ultimately lead. He avoided wearing leather, wool, or silk; and used a fork, rather than a spade, in his gardening to avoid killing worms. Watson was opposed to hunting, fishing, blood sports, and the use of animals in experiments or for testing purposes.

Watson touted (and exemplified) the health benefits of a vegan diet but he clearly saw veganism primarily as a moral principle. He regarded the vegan movement as “the greatest movement that ever was” because it provided a solution to the crisis of greed and violence that affected and afflicted humankind and that threatened ecological disaster. Although he was not religious in a traditional sense, he had deeply held spiritual beliefs, which included the idea that being a nonvegan violated natural law and that, as a general matter, our violence against nonhuman animals was a violation of spiritual laws that resulted in our psychological unhappiness and physical ill-health.

The Abolitionist Approach embraces and develops Watson’s position and sees veganism as representing a fundamental moral principle. The Abolitionist Approach maintains that veganism and creative, nonviolent vegan education are the most important forms of activism and advocacy in which we can engage. Indeed, it is only through vegan education that we will shift the paradigm away from animals as property and toward animals as persons.

[Note: We do not in any way support The Vegan Society as we believe it does not promote veganism as a moral baseline and that it is abandoned Watson’s vision. See this essay and other essays about The Vegan Society on this site.]

The Abolitionist Approach regards veganism as a moral imperative. By this we mean that if animals matter morally, we are morally obligated to stop eating, wearing, and using them. That is, going vegan is not just an option for someone who agrees that animals matter morally; it is a fundamental moral obligation. Abolitionists do not see veganism as a matter of “compassion,” “mercy,” or anything other than as what is necessary to discharge their moral obligations to animals. Similarly, although some people may adopt a vegan diet for health reasons, or out of concern for the environment, an abolitionist vegan sees veganism first and foremost as a matter of moral obligation. It is what they owe to animals. An abolitionist vegan may have health or environmental concerns as well, but the primary motivating force for the abolitionist vegan is morality.

The Abolitionist Approach is clear: if one is not a vegan, one is participating actively in animal exploitation. Since abolitionists reject all animal exploitation, even supposedly “humane” exploitation, abolitionists have no choice but to be principled and consistent vegans.

Abolitionists see veganism as a rejection of the status of nonhuman animals as commodities. Humans exploit animals because they are viewed as things. They are property without moral value. Abolitionists reject the property status of nonhuman animals and refuse to participate in their institutionalized commodification. Abolitionists recognize that every time humans eat, wear, or use an animal product, they are reaffirming the insidious system that treats nonhuman animals exclusively as resources for humans.

Abolitionists see veganism as representing a fundamental principle of justice: it is simply unfair to treat nonhumans as replaceable resources, and to deny them the one right that we accord all humans irrespective of particular characteristics.

Abolitionists see veganism as an act of nonviolent defiance, as a refusal to participate in the oppression of the innocent and the vulnerable, and as a rejection of the insidious idea that harming other sentient beings should be considered as a “normal” part of life.

Abolitionists see veganism as applying the principle of abolition to one’s life. Animal advocates who claim to favor animal rights and to want to abolish animal exploitation but who continue to eat or use animal products are no different from those who claimed to be in favor of human rights and the abolition of slavery but who continued to own slaves.

Abolitionists see veganism as a necessary element of a nonviolent life. That is, if someone embraces nonviolence, they have an obligation to be vegan. They must also embrace nonviolence in other ways: veganism is not sufficient but it certainly is necessary.

From the foregoing, it should be clear that, as far as abolitionists are concerned, veganism applies not just to diet but to wearing or using animals. In other words, a vegan is one who does not eat, wear, or use animals in their life to the extent practicable. It is impossible to avoid all animal products. Given that we kill billions of animals every year, animal by-products are available cheaply and are included in many things, such as road surfaces, plastics, and in glues used to make shoes. But when we do have a choice—and that is just about always, unless we are on a desert island or shipwrecked—we are morally obligated not to eat, wear, or use animals. We also believe that veganism means not participating in or patronizing activities that involve animal exploitation, such as circuses, zoos, rodeos, or horse racing.

We do not believe, however, that veganism is synonymous with “everything morally good.” Although we talk about the rejection of human discrimination and it is an element of the Abolitionist Approach (see our discussion of Principle Five), we think it unhelpful to say, for example, that a person who is sexist is not a vegan. A person who is sexist is not an abolitionist as we use that term. But a sexist can be a sexist vegan. There is a tendency on the part of some vegans to use the term so broadly that it becomes shorthand for all the elements of that person’s view of ideal morality. That simply causes confusion.

Vegetarianism as a “Gateway”?

Although, as a moral matter, Watson rejected the consumption of all animal products, he thought that, as a psychological and sociological matter, it was necessary for people to pass through a period of vegetarianism first before they became vegan. He saw vegetarianism as a sort of “gateway” because he saw veganism as representing the conclusion of an evolutionary process that started with vegetarianism. Watson did not object to vegans promoting vegetarianism precisely because he viewed it as an essential part of this evolutionary process.

Abolitionists reject this notion and maintain that we should be clear that vegetarianism involves animal exploitation and must be rejected. There is no morally coherent distinction between flesh and other animal products. Promoting vegetarianism as part of an “evolution” supposedly culminating in veganism is equivalent to saying that we ought to promote consuming some animal products as a way of eliminating the consumption of all animal products. In this sense, the “gateway” argument concerning vegetarianism is exactly the same as the argument for welfare reform: that we should promote “humane” exploitation as a way of supposedly achieving no exploitation. Abolitionists reject the “gateway” argument in both contexts.

If humans and nonhumans are all equal in holding a right not to be used as property, then just as any sort of human slavery is a violation of that right, so is any sort of animal exploitation a violation of it. Abolitionists do not promote vegetarianism because there is no morally coherent distinction between flesh and other animal products. There is no coherent distinction between meat and dairy or eggs. Animals exploited in the dairy and egg industries live longer, are treated worse, and end up in the same slaughterhouse as their counterparts killed for meat. To not eat beef but still drink milk makes as little sense as eating flesh from large cows but not from small cows. Moreover, there is also no morally relevant distinction between a cow and a fish for purposes of treating either as a human resource. We may more easily recognize the pain or suffering of a cow because, like us, she is a mammal. But that is not a reason to ignore the suffering and death of the many billions of sentient fish and other sea animals whom we kill annually.

Abolitionists do not promote campaigns like Meatless Monday, which, among other things, reinforce the idea that there is something morally worse in eating flesh than in eating dairy or eggs. All animal products involve suffering; they all involve death; they all involve injustice. Veganism is a moral imperative; it is what we ought to do and we ought not to do anything less.

An excerpt from Gary L. Francione & Anna Charlton, The Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights (Exempla 2015), pp. 70-75 (footnotes omitted).

©2016 Gary L. Francione & Anna Charlton. All rights reserved.

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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.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option—it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at www.HowDoIGoVegan.com.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

Anna Charlton
Adjunct Professor, Rutgers University

©2016 Gary L. Francione and Anna Charlton

“Silencing” Fellow Advocates

Casey Taft, who co-owns Vegan Publishers with his spouse, has written an essay in which he attacks a “well-known advocate” for “silencing fellow advocates.” He is well aware that the essay is being interpreted to refer to me and that is precisely what he intended.

I have several responses:

First, Taft claims that I “silenced” advocates in connection with their inclusion in his book, Motivational Methods for Vegan Advocacy: A Clinical Psychology Perspective. He states:

I sent out a manuscript draft to a well-known advocate for feedback. This individual told me that if I didn’t remove references to certain pro-intersectional activists, all of whom were women and/or people of color (and therefore already struggle to have their voices heard), he would withhold support for the book.

If there was any “silencing” of “women and/or people of color ([who]…therefore already struggle to have their voices heard),” it was Taft who did the silencing. He had total control over the content of his book. He is the author. He is the publisher. He chose to make whatever edits he made.

Taft sent me his manuscript (which I still possess) and asked me to review it. In a telephone call, I pointed out that several of the people he used as references promoted speciesist positions and rejected veganism as a moral imperative or had dishonestly and irresponsibly characterized the Abolitionist Approach as racist or sexist, or both. Taft seemed largely unaware of the problem. I discussed it with him.

Taft and I had a subsequent email exchange in which Taft explicitly recognized in writing that several of these people did have problematic positions. For example, in response to my concerns that these people promoted speciesist positions, he admitted that he cited the book of one of these “intersectionalists,” a woman of color, before he read the book fully. He stated in writing that, after reading her book, he recognized the speciesiesm problem. When Taft’s book was published, the reference was removed.

With respect to another “intersectionalist,” also a woman of color, I pointed out where she had mocked the idea of veganism as a moral baseline. Taft admitted in writing that her statement was problematic and he removed a reference to her and to her organization from his book. Taft later told me that Vegan Publishers was no longer publishing this person’s book (she had apparently been under contract with Taft).

With respect to yet another “intersectionalist,” a man of color, I provided Taft with considerable evidence that this person advocated a speciesist position. Taft claimed that this person was not the same as some of the other “intersectionalists” that he acknowledged advocated speciesist positions. (I disagreed and offered support for my view; Taft did not.) Taft nevertheless removed this person entirely from the text of the book (he was discussed over several paragraphs) and left him as a single citation.

Taft retained citations to two white women whom I had identified as promoting problematic positions. With respect to one of those women, Taft stated in writing (several times) that he recognized that her position was problematic and that she was responsible for “drama.” Indeed, he grouped her with one of the women of color whose reference he had removed because of the substantive problems with her position.

In any event, given that he and his spouse are the publishers of his book, there’s an easy solution to the problem of the people he “silenced” by removing from the book: reprint the book, which Taft could do because he’s the publisher, and replace those references. He could replace them in the Kindle version immediately. He could even add more about them. Problem solved. Whining stopped.

Taft now characterizes his actions as responding to a “threat” from me and claims that my concerns had “nothing to do with the actual book content” (Taft’s emphasis). He is claiming that I wanted those references removed for personal reasons. Taft has repeated his remarkable claim that my concerns about the inclusion of these people in his book did not involve theoretical differences:

ScreenHunter_1799 May. 04 14.48

“[S]worn enemies”? Oh, the drama.

Taft’s claim is contradicted explicitly and repeatedly by the email exchange between us, which focused very much on the philosophical differences of the people we were discussing. There was nothing of a personal nature (i.e., concerns that did not address some aspect of substance) discussed. All our discussions focused on speciesism, claims that my work was racist or sexist, or both.

It is also contradicted by my writing on the topic of so-called “intersectionality.” See my essays here: 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6.

But let’s for a moment ignore the facts of what happened. For the sake of argument, let’s look at the situation as if we were to accept Taft’s false statement that I just wanted those people removed for some “personal feelings rather than philosophical disputes” and that I “threatened” him with my not supporting his book in order to vindicate those “personal feelings.”

Does that help Taft? No. On the contrary, it makes matters worse for him.

If Taft made the edits he made not because I had made substantive arguments that convinced him, but only because he wanted to indulge my “personal feelings,” and to thereby get me to promote his book, then he silenced those women and people of color only so that he could sell more books. If that is what he did, then he should be ashamed of himself.

So if Taft thinks that my recommending that he remove references amounted to “abuse” of the people who would have been referenced, then he—as the person who had complete control of his book and who chose to remove them—is the party responsible for that “abuse.”

I should add that at no time during those exchanges did Taft say a single word about my supposedly “silencing” or “abusing” anyone. On the contrary, he engaged my comments and he deleted certain references from his book. Indeed, in March, after the book was published, he thanked me for my comments. He even stated, in writing, that he found “irrational” the claims of people who had “personal” issues with me and who, as a result, rejected my work, which he claimed, all advocates should read. Taft’s accusations of “silencing” and “abuse” are not only baseless and absurd; they were made in manifest bad faith.

In the interests of not embarrassing Taft and the people that he and I discussed, I will not quote the email exchange we had.

Second, Taft claims that I “caus[ed] others to lose their jobs on the basis of personal grudges.” That statement is false and Taft made that statement knowing that it was false or acting in reckless disregard of the truth. I do not employ anyone and I have no ability to “caus[e] others to lose their jobs.”

Third, Taft claims that I have “silenced” and “abus[ed]” people by “having speakers removed from conferences.”

Taft’s position is absurd.

If I am invited to speak at a conference, and I respond to the invitation by saying that I refuse to participate in an event with people who promote animal exploitation, or who engage in other behavior that I find to be fundamentally morally wrong, and the organizer of the event chooses to have me there, I am not “silencing” or “abusing” anyone. I am exercising my right to choose the activities in which I participate and the organizer is making a choice as to whom they wish to have at their event.

There are a number of welfarists who refuse to participate in an event if I am also speaking. It has never occurred to me to claim that I was being “abused” or “silenced” by virtue of their exercise of their choice. I was disinvited from speaking at VegfestUK. Taft knew I had been disinvited but he spoke there anyway. As far as I know, Taft did not raise any claim that I was “abused” or “silenced.”

Taft’s characterization of not being invited to a conference as analogous to physical abuse (which he does in an earlier essay that he also intended to refer to me) is an absolutely breathtaking insult to those who suffer domestic abuse and other forms of physical abuse.

And it is 2016. No one who wants to speak can be silenced anymore. Everyone has their websites, YouTube channels, podcasts, Facebook pages, etc. To claim that not being invited to any particular event constitutes “silencing” is, as an empirical matter, not only false, it is absurd.

As a general matter, in addition to Taft’s co-opting the narratives of domestic abuse, I am concerned that Taft is misusing his status as an expert in trauma and abuse to retaliate against people who have different substantive views from his own, or to protect his company, Vegan Publishers, or both. Taft is unable or unwilling to deal with substantive arguments. So he’s just going to attempt to win those arguments by declaring his opponents to be “abusers” or to have various problematic psychological characteristics.

In addition to declaring those who disagree with him to be “abusers,” Taft appears to be willing to discuss the psychological status of other advocates. For example, Taft made statements to me on the phone (and I have very good notes) about another animal advocate whom he said had made certain accusations against him. He stated that this person was a victim of PTSD and suffered from all sorts of anxieties and insecurities in connection with her academic career.

If Taft had assembled his psychological profile of this person based on direct contact with her, then his comments to me were at least ethically questionable as I would have thought he would have some duty of confidentiality. If not, and he was just “guessing” about her based on her behavior, then he perhaps should be writing psychological profiles for fortune cookies or tabloid astrological columns.

In any event, Taft needs to stop misusing his position and attempting to psychologize substantive disagreement on matters of animal ethics. That is dishonest and dangerous.

Fourth, Taft admonishes us “to hold ourselves to the highest possible standards of conduct if we want to help teach others to behave ethically with respect to nonhuman and human animals.”

I could not agree more.

That is precisely why I object when I am called names in response to my substantive criticisms of the so-called “intersectionalist” position as speciesist.

For example, a Staff Writer for Vegan Publishers who identifies as an “intersectionalist,” has publicly accused me of racism and sexism because I object to the overt speciesism of this person and certain others who claim to be “intersectionalist.” In addition, he has called me more colorful names, such as “asshole” (actually, he called me an “ASSHOLE” in all caps in a Facebook comment) and “a complete piece of shit” on a public YouTube video. He participated in a Facebook page that Facebook agreed constituted harassment. Facebook removed the entire page, which is a very unusual action for Facebook to take. That page attacked me and members of my family, including posting pictures of my home and menacing comments suggesting actual physical violence. Taft’s Staff Writer even “liked” a suggestion that the harassing page be revived.

Taft has given his unqualified support to his Staff Writer.

Taft himself regularly participates on Facebook pages and groups in which I am attacked in ad hominem ways.

Taft pontificating to anyone about their need to observe “the highest possible standards of conduct” is, I fear, hypocritical in an extreme 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.

If animals matter morally, veganism must be a moral imperative. Veganism is not a matter of the “who you are space” and insisting on veganism as a moral imperative is not “divisive,” “fundamentalist,” “racist,” “sexist,” “ableist,” or a matter of any “journey.”

If animals matter morally, veganism is a simple matter of justice.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at www.HowDoIGoVegan.com.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University School of Law

©2016 Gary L. Francione

ADDENDUM (May 15, 2016)

I posted this essay on the Abolitionist Approach Facebook Page. A victim of domestic abuse posted this comment, which deals with the trivialization of violence:

Dear Professor Francione,

I understand that you have requested that there be no comments on this thread, but I was very distressed by a recent post of Dr Taft’s that talked about interpersonal disagreements in the context of domestic abuse, and he has not responded to me.

This is what I wrote in the comments section on his blog post. He hasn’t responded to me, and it is a month on. I thought I was being civil, and I really thought my comment warranted a response:

“As a survivor of domestic violence, I am very worried and hurt by what I feel to be a rather reductive view of psychological abuse, especially given the author’s training and expertise. Your list of sources cited places this discussion firmly within the context of domestic violence, and I therefore feel the need to speak out. I am writing anonymously because my abuser still has such a hold over me that even years later I still fear my own shadow, and am working hard to try to recover from something that I have trouble acknowledging as not my fault.

Here’s the thing: psychological abuse in domestic relationships relies on a psychological bond between victim and abuser that is utterly unlike anything that we find in online spaces. The abuser works to make the victim feel that they are dependent on them for everything. The abuser undermines most of the victim’s independence from them: they often exert financial control, even when it is the victim who is earning the money; they often tell the victim how to dress; they may control not only where the victim goes and who they see, but also how they get there. This is a relationship of total control, where the abused is ground down so far that they feel thankful to the abuser for moments of “permitted” independence. This is not a series of isolated incidents that interfere with an otherwise pleasant day. This is in no way comparable to someone trying to persuade someone else to remove references to an author, or name-calling, or no-platforming. Domestic abuse permeates every single aspect of one’s life, and I can tell you that years after it ends you’re never free of it.

The DV relationship is markedly complex, and it involves periods of pleasantness (that experts in domestic abuse refer to as “honeymoon periods”) followed by periods of isolation, denigration and demeaning. This is cyclical, and it repeats itself endlessly. The periods of pleasantness build the victim up and create trust in the abuser, and the rapidly-following and unexpected periods of isolation, denigration and demeaning cause the victim to believe that it is they who caused the episode of unpleasantness, and that they therefore deserve whatever comes of it: beatings, locking up, prolonged silent treatment, insults, etc. Again, this is in no way comparable to an online situation where we do not experience the intimacy, level of control, dependency, or cycles of good and bad that define the abusive relationship of DV. When you are in a situation of domestic abuse, you cannot escape your abuser. They are everywhere you turn. And even when they’re gone from your life, if you’re lucky enough to get away from then, they’re everywhere you turn.

Is unfriending of a relative stranger on Facebook psychological abuse? Is factionalism psychological abuse? Is removing someone from a food group because they won’t adhere to the rules of the group psychological abuse? Is deciding that someone can’t speak at a conference because it’s a conference on nineteenth-century German railroads and they want to speak on quantum physics psychological abuse? Is telling someone directly or indirectly that you can’t trust them, and therefore won’t associate with them, psychological abuse because they’re buddying up to someone who is intent on defaming you or trashing you?

None of these things, nor the things listed by Taft are instances of psychological abuse. At worst, they could be described as unpleasantness . But that is not abuse. And that doesn’t even come close to what the victim of domestic violence will have experienced every day for many years: that sense of self-doubt that permeates every moment of their lives, the sense of internalised resentment they feel towards themselves, their gratitude to the abuser for showing them kindness from time to time.

And I am extremely angry, hurt, and disappointed that someone who works with those involved in domestic abuse situations would dare to co-opt something so deeply traumatic and so difficult to recover from in order to create a “gotcha.””

Someone responded that they didn’t have a problem with the term. I replied with this:

“I appreciate that you have no problem with the author’s use of the term, and I’m glad for that. I do have a problem with it, however, and writing the comment that I wrote left me in great distress; it brought things back to me that I am trying to keep buried because I’m not ready to deal with them yet. But I had to write what I wrote because I know that it’s easy for people who have not been where we were, and, speaking for myself where I still am, to recount our narratives and to try to see the world through the lens of intimate partner violence without understanding what the world is like for us on an experiential level. If I make assumptions about Dr Taft personal life, then I apologise, but often when I see these casual references to domestic abuse it is not from someone who still jumps when they hear certain sounds or smell certain smells; it’s not from someone who dreads a ring at the doorbell, or who can’t visit certain places in case they run into the person who abused them.

That’s why I urge people who don’t have first-hand knowledge of domestic abuse as the abused to please step back; not to reduce what we have gone through by trying to adapt other narratives into our deeply traumatic, inescapable, ever-lingering experience.

I have had deeply unpleasant experiences online. I have been the target of online shaming campaigns and have watched with baited breath to see if a particular person was going to post something else about me. I have experienced the discomfort when they do. I write what I write not to trivialise anyone’s experience.

What I am asking, however, is that these situations not be conflated. They are in no way analogous, and it is damaging to survivors of domestic abuse to suggest they are.”

I don’t even know why I’m posting this here. I just wanted someone to hear my story and to acknowledge my perspective. Thank you in advance for reading this, and apologies for commenting on a thread when you asked us people not to.