Category Archives: Blog

Welfarists Have Always Been Hostile to Abolishing Animal Exploitation

In doing research into the history of veganism, I was interested to see that Lewis Gompertz (1783/84–1861), a vegan on moral grounds who also believed in the notion of human and nonhuman equality, was a co-founder in 1824 of the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which became the RSPCA.

The SPCA governing Committee included people who hunted and who ate meat and other animal products. They objected to Gompertz’s veganism and moral views. So they engineered a resolution that limited membership in the SPCA to Christians. Gompertz was a Jew, and he was forced to resign.

It is interesting that from the very beginning of the modern “animal movement,” the welfarists have been hostile to vegans and those who opposed animal use.

It is also the case that anti-Semitism has a long history amongst some “animal advocates” that persists to this day.

*****

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
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

An Observation

In human history, no conduct has generated more vacuous excuses than animal use.

Attempts to justify animal use have generated some of the most profoundly silly statements ever made.

The desire to consume animal products has clouded some of the most brilliant minds who ever lived, reducing them to making statements that a small child could easily see are just nonsense.

If animals matter morally, we cannot morally justify eating, wearing, or consuming them. Period. End of story.

You can try as hard as you want to come up with excuses, justifications, and rationales. You will, however, only generate nonsense.

Going vegan is the only rational response to the recognition that animals matter morally. If you reject the idea that animals are things that exist only as resources, you have no rational option other than to go vegan.

*****

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
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

The Animal Confusion Movement

All of the large animal charities are partnering with industry to promote happy exploitation.

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All of the large animal charities and their supporters reject abolition as it is presented here:

* a rejection of the status of animals as property and recognition of nonhuman personhood based only on sentience;

* an emphasis on veganism as a moral imperative;

* a rejection of welfare campaigns, which merely increase production efficiency, and single-issue campaigns, which normalize animal exploitation by reinforcing the idea that the problem is the “abuse” being targeted and not our eating, wearing, and using animals and are often used to promote discrimination against humans; and

* a recognition that human rights and animal rights are inextricably intertwined and that sexism, racism, heterosexism, or violence have no place in the animal rights movement.

All of the large animal charities and their supporters simultaneously claim to be “abolitionists” who support welfare regulation, happy exploitation, single-issue campaigns, and reject the human rights/animal rights connection.

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The level of confusion is profound.

To those who claim that no one has a monopoly on “abolition” and they can describe themselves as “abolitionists” even they support welfare reform, happy exploitation, and single-issue campaigns, I would reply that no one has a monopoly on “apple” either. You can choose to call a banana an apple if you want. But that does not mean that a banana is an apple.

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If animals matter morally at all–if animals are not mere things that exist as resources for human use–than veganism is the only rationally response.

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Going vegan is easy, better for your health and the heath of the planet, and most important, it is what we owe morally to nonhuman animals.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

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

©2014 Gary L. Francione

Statement on “Abolitionist” and “Abolitionist Vegan” Groups

I have no formal affiliation with any organization, including those that characterize themselves as “abolitionist” or “abolitionist vegan” organizations.

Some people who get exposed to my work get excited and decide to start “abolitionist” or “abolitionist vegan” groups. I am not sure why these people feel motivated to do this. After all, if they are rationally persuaded by my position (and rational persuasion is the only thing in which I have any interest; I am not interested in “followers”), why not just use the materials that I have developed and made available for free, and engage in creative, nonviolent abolitionist vegan advocacy? Why do they have to start a new “group”?

I don’t know the answer to that question.

In almost all of these cases, the person involved is a relatively new vegan, has often come from a welfarist background, and has little understanding of, or perspective on, how the modern animal movement developed and the ways in which it has gone seriously wrong, and really has no grasp on abolitionist theory. Being able to recite the Six Principles of the Abolitionist Approach does not mean you understand what those principles mean in the context of the overall theory.

These new groups are more or less centralized. Some have a more democratic structure; some have “executive directors” and are more authoritarian. Some engage in merchandizing and produce buttons, bags, and t-shirts to “brand.” Some don’t. But all basically purport to use my theory as a way to distinguish themselves from large animal charities and from smaller, more grassroots but still overtly new-welfarist efforts.

My experience is the moment I observe that these “abolitionist vegan” groups are engaging in advocacy that involves welfarism, single-issue campaigns, or any of the things that I have argued are inconsistent with abolition, or that they engage in advocacy that I believe is superficial and trivializes or even misrepresents the abolitionist position, or that they are engaging in deliberate efforts to keep people away from my work in favor of promoting their “brand” for the sake of it, these “abolitionist” groups complain that they have been victimized in some fashion by my observation. They apparently believe that I have some obligation to support them because they are supposedly representing my views even when I believe that they are not, and, in some cases, have seriously misunderstood and misrepresented my views. Some attempt to denigrate my ideological concerns by claiming or intimating in a dishonest way that my criticism is a matter of “personal conflict” or engaging in overtly ad hominem or defamatory attacks. But all go on to claim that they are really abolitionist vegan groups even though they incorporate some element or elements that I reject as inconsistent with abolitionist theory as I have developed it over the past three decades.

I cannot stop people from calling themselves “abolitionists,” “abolitionist vegans,” or from starting groups of this sort that purport to represent my position while not doing so. But I want to be clear that I have nothing to do with any of these groups and I believe that some of them are contributing in significant ways to the confusion that is impeding effective advocacy for nonhuman animals.

I do believe that there is room for collective “think tank” efforts that will develop intellectually sound materials to facilitate grassroots abolitionist advocacy, and develop and promote reading groups and other similar activities. I regard reading groups as extremely important. But these efforts should never become efforts in merchandizing, branding, or the promotion of superficial or trivial actions, and they should adhere to the main tenets of the abolitionist approach: a rejection of animals as property and and recognition of nonhuman personhood; veganism as the moral baseline; a complete rejection of welfare reform and single-issue campaigns, and a recognition that human rights and animal rights are inextricably intertwined.

Those who are persuaded rationally by the abolitionist theory I have developed would be better advised to educate themselves thoroughly–both as to the theory of abolition and how to teach others–and then go and advocate in creative, nonviolent ways. In my experience, groups of this sort have nothing to do with helping animals and everything to do with why the animal “movement” is in the mess it is in.

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If animals matter morally at all–if animals are not mere things that exist as resources for human use–than veganism is the only rationally response.

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Going vegan is easy, better for your health and the heath of the planet, and most important, it is what we owe morally to nonhuman animals.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

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

©2014 Gary L. Francione

An HSUS Reprimand and My Reply

Someone from the The Farm Animal Protection Corporate Outreach Program at the Humane Society of the United States sent me a poster bearing the standard welfarist slogan, “don’t be divisive,” apparently to reprimand me for not getting with the corporate program:

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I liked the color scheme and general layout. Here is my reply to my friends at HSUS:

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And here’s a combined one:

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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.

And criticizing welfare reform and happy exploitation does not make you “divisive.” It means that you realize that animal rights means we reject animal exploitation, not seek to make the public more comfortable with it.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

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

©2014 Gary L. Francione

Vegan Society “Ambassador”: Veganism is not “for everyone” and “it’s not probably for very many people.”

Marathan runner Fiona Oakes is an “Ambassador” of The Vegan Society.

Here’s what Ms. Oakes had to say in a June 2014 BBC Radio interview (at 3:00 minutes in):

I run in a positive proactive kind of way to promote a vegan diet…I’m not saying that it’s for everyone, I’m saying that it’s not probably for very many people…

Listen yourself:

Ms. Oakes fits perfectly with The Vegan Society’s position that veganism isn’t a moral baseline; it’s just a matter of consuming vegan trainers, lipstick, etc.

Veganism, which involves not eating, wearing, or using/consuming animals, is for everyone who believes that animals have moral value and are not just things. Indeed, veganism is the the only rational choice for those who believe that animals are not mere things.

**********

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
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

ADDENDUM, added July 20, 2014:

Yesterday, Martin Morgan and other supporters of Ms. Oakes participated in the discussions of this matter on my Facebook page: (see 1; 2). Subsequently, an
“official” response
was issued.

Ms. Oakes takes the approach that is taken by all of the bloated new welfarist “flexible-vegan” animal charities, including The Vegan Society: we cannot promote veganism as a moral baseline because that would be to tell people what to do, force people, dictate to people, be perceived as fundamentalist, radical, etc.

Promoting veganism as a moral baseline does not involve “forcing” anyone to do anything. It is a matter of explaining to people that for the very reason that they think that it’s wrong to harm dogs or stuff cats into rubbish bins, most people already accept the moral principles that make veganism anything but “radical.”

That’s the whole point. I am sorry that Ms. Oakes missed it.

And, as is typical of the welfarist/flexitarian crowd, Ms. Oakes does not engage the substantive criticisms. Rather, she reprimands those who criticize as being “aggressive and hostile.”

No, Ms. Oakes, I am just critical of your making a statement on BBC Radio that trashes veganism as a moral principle and states that veganism is not “for everyone” and “not probably for very many people.”

And I am critical of your now attempting to cover by negatively depicting those who regard veganism as a moral imperative and saying that the alternative to selling out is forcing people and “dictating to everyone what they should and should not do,” etc.

Ms. Oakes is reinforcing the very stereotypes she claims to want to distance herself from. Rather than making it clear that veganism makes a great deal of sense given other beliefs we unquestionably have as a cultural matter, she reasserts and reinforces the notion that those who believe, through reasoned analysis, that veganism is a moral imperative are “fundamentalist nutters.”

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Ms. Oakes’ statement refers to the “masses” who won’t be able to understand veganism as a moral principle. What elitist rubbish. And what a convenient excuse for someone who wants to be as uncontroversial as possible because she thinks that is the way to get more radio spots.

It’s a good thing that the slavery abolitionist movement was not dependent on people like Fiona Oakes. The slaves would still be picking cotton. But Ms. Oakes would be doing more radio shows.

Creative, nonviolent vegan advocacy is the opposite of “forcing” and “dictating.” It is using reason, and commonly shared moral principles, to get people to see a moral issue in a different light.

Fiona Oakes ought to try it sometime. It works.

PROFILE OF A MODERN “ANIMAL ACTIVIST”: JENNA WOGINRICH

Jenna Woginrich, supposedly a former vegetarian/vegan (she has used both terms), has been aggressively pimping “happy meat” for about five years now. She claims:

My beef, after all, wasn’t with beef. It was with how the cow got to my plate in the first place. One way to make sure the animals I ate lived a happy, respectable life was to raise them myself. I would learn to butcher a free-range chicken, raise a pig without antibiotics and rear lambs on green hillside pastures. I would come back to meat eating, and I would do it because of my love for animals.

She advises those who care about animals:

If you really care about the humane treatment of livestock then I strongly suggest you eat them.

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Jenna Woginrich with someone whom she will kill out of love, respect, and gratitude

Ms. Woginrich has a new essay: An Open Letter to Angry Vegetarians.

It starts:

This is a letter for the angry folks who think not eating meat makes them morally superior to those of us who do.

Oh, oh: we can see where this is heading.

She goes on to tell us that she was a vegetarian/vegan (she uses both terms) for nearly 10 years, a PETA supporter, and “animal activist,” but has decided that all food involves killing because animals are killed in plant agriculture and harvesting, and growing crops involves other harms, including war, so she produces and promotes “happy” meat.:

The simplest backyard salad from your own organic garden to the fake bacon in your shopping cart — both take lives. I have simply chosen to take lives in a way that causes the least amount of suffering and causes the least amount of wasted global resources. And yes, it means there is blood on my hands now.

The truth is there is no meal we can eat without killing. None. A trip to your local grocery store for tofu and spinach may not include a single animal product but the harvesting of such food costs endless animal lives. Growing fields of soy beans for commercial clients means removing habitat from thousands of wild animals, killing them through deforestation and loss of their home.

Eating meat you raised means eating food infused with integreity [sic], sweat, loyalty, determination, love, friendship, memories, loss, perserverance [sic] and respect.

And none of these things are ingredients you will not find on a package of tofu no matter how close you look.

And Ms. Woginrich complains that those who disagree are violating her human rights:

Eat in whatever way invokes respect and gratitude in your soul. Be grateful we live in this time of contrived and soon-to-be over luxury and abundance. But do not come to battle here, accusing those of us raising good meat of murder. Those are fighting words, unkind words, and for someone so intensely passionate about treating animals well you seem to have no issue treating human beings like crap. I’m an animal, too. I would appreciate some ethical treatment.

So what is there to say about Ms. Woginrich’s position? I could say a great deal. But I think four comments will suffice.

First, and as a preliminary matter, Ms. Woginrich should not confuse disagreement with “anger.” It is very common these days for those who are criticized for promoting animal exploitation to whinge about being “attacked” or “bullied,” or lament their status as victims of “anger.” I certainly agree that people should not address Ms. Woginrich in uncivil ways. But disagreement with and reasoned criticism of Ms. Woganrich, who is profiting from exploiting and killing animals, and who is actively promoting animal exploitation, does not amount to incivility or anger.

Second, Ms. Woginrich has no clue about basic ethical reasoning. She appears to think that morality is a matter of personal preference and nothing is inherently morally wrong. People may be put in jail for killing other humans, but that’s just a matter of a legal convention. There’s nothing inherently morally wrong with intentionally killing a human.

I suspect that this is a good part of the reason why Ms. Woginrich sees herself as victimized by disagreement. If she sees fundamental moral issues as involving nothing more than a preference, then it would be natural for her to think that disagreement, including substantive, principled, and reasoned disagreement, is an expression of “anger.”

I note that her blog says that we can look forward to see her writings about the Civil War. Given her moral subjectivism, I will be curious to see if she defends human slavery as well. After all, on Ms. Woginrich’s view, the morality of human slavery is just a matter of preference. There’s no moral truth there.

And if Ms. Woginrich maintains that there is moral truth where humans are concerned but not where nonhumans are concerned, then’s she is merely another speciesist who begs the question from the outset and engages in circular reasoning.

So, without saying more, if you don’t accept moral subjectivism (and no one does except when they are thrashing about continually trying to convince themselves that exploiting the vulnerable is morally acceptable), and you reject speciesism, then Ms. Woginrich’s position collapses.

I should add that Ms. Woginrich seems to think that murder, as a legal term, involves killing with “malevolent intent” and that deliberate killing done with “gratitude,” “respect,” and “love” is not the requisite culpable mind state for murder. That’s wrong. Murder involves killing a human in a premeditated or deliberate way. The mercy killing of a loved one suffering from a painful illness done out of love and compassion is premeditated killing and constitutes murder. And Ms. Woginrich clearly is killing animals with premeditation even if, as she rather incredulously claims, her heart is overflowing with “gratitude,” “love,” and “respect” for the nonhumans she exploits and kills. This is, of course, not to say that Ms. Woginrich is guilty of murder because murder is a crime defined to involve humans only. But her claim that her mind state in killing animals is not the mind that would allow for a conviction of murder if a human were involved is, like most of what else she says, wrong.

Third, Ms. Woginrich’s argument in a nutshell is: we can’t live perfectly so it’s fine to kill nonhumans. But that’s just silly.

I agree that living involves indirectly harming nonhumans and humans. When we build a road, we know that some humans will be killed on that road. Does that mean that there’s no difference between building a road and intentionally killing humans? Of course not.

I agree that everything we consume involves indirect harm to nonhumans and humans, and that we all need to consume a great deal less. But does the fact that the manufacture of a product may have resulted in the negligent death of a human or nonhuman mean that there’s no difference between that negligent death and an intentional killing of a human or nonhuman? Of course not.

I agree that the harvesting of crops involves unintentionally harming animals and humans who are killed or injured in the agricultural process. But if we were all vegans, there would be many fewer acres under cultivation. Professor David Pimentel of Cornell University has written that livestock in the United States consume 7 times as much grain as is consumed by the entire U.S. human population and the grains fed to livestock could feed 840 million humans who had a plant-based diet.

Should we do everything possible to avoid any unintentional nonhuman (and human) deaths that occur during harvesting? Of course. But does the fact that unintentional deaths will occur however careful we are mean that intentional deaths of nonhumans and humans are morally justifiable? Of course not.

And if we all took veganism seriously as a fundamental moral issue, would we develop better ways to avoid that unintentional harm? Of course we would.

Ms. Woginrich proudly proclaims that the animals that she raises and kills are being fed with “local non-GMO feed grown by our neighbors.” And do her neighbors harvest that feed without unintentionally killing animals? No, of course not. So she’s participating in the unintentional deaths and the intentional ones. It is clear that her position–that unintentional deaths cannot be avoided so the intentional ones are morally acceptable–is frivolous on this basis as well.

In a passage that actually caused me to laugh out loud, Ms. Woginrich, who remarkably appears to think that her happy exploitation of nonhumans is a matter of progressive politics, claims that because plant fertilizers are made from petroleum and because petroleum is used to transport plants, the choice is between supporting local farmers or supporting wars that are really about oil. This is political analysis that makes George W. Bush look like Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Fourth, and most problematic from my perspective, Ms. Woginrich is the quintessential modern animal activist. She represents the happy exploitation movement that is the modern “animal movement.” She is the result of an ideology that expresses “appreciation and support” for the “pioneering” happy exploitation of Whole Foods.

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So according to Peter Singer, PETA, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, Compassion Over Killing, Vegan Outreach, and the other welfare charities that compromise the “animal movement,” Ms. Woginrich is doing just fine. I am surprised that she has not received a letter from Singer. Maybe she has. After all, there’s no difference between Ms. Woginrich and Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey. I am shocked that HSUS CEO/President Wayne Pacelle, who sits on the Board of Directors of the Global Animal Partnership, has not visited her farm for a pre-slaughter photo opportunity with her animals.

Ms. Woginrich’s animals have it great:

They have had one bad day, one bad moment actually, and that moment surprised the hell out of them.

That’s actually even better than Whole Foods’ Animal Welfare Rating Step 5! I don’t think John Mackey would make that claim.

Indeed, what Ms. Woginrich is promoting is sounds similar to what Singer describes:

[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.

(Peter Singer, Interview in “The Vegan,” 2006)

So where’s her letter from Singer? Where’s her award from PETA, who gave Whole Foods an award?

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Interestingly, the large animal charities also embrace the moral subjectivism that informs Ms. Woginrich’s position. There is no moral truth; it’s just a matter of preference. But you cannot have a movement for social justice that sees justice simply as a matter of preference.

So, alas, in all respects, Ms. Woginrich is the “animal activist” that Peter Singer and the rest of the “movement” want her to be.

Ms. Woginrich even has a “donate” button on her page. That makes perfect sense. The whole happy exploitation movement is about buying indulgences for engaging in morally unjustifiable behavior. So I don’t blame Ms. Woginrich for cashing in as well.

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And the fact that Jenna Woginrich fits so comfortably as an “animal activist” is precisely the problem. She is a perfect illustration of the animal confusion movement that embraces 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.

And never, ever buy into the nonsensical notion that we need to promote “happy exploitation” in order to get people to go vegan. In addition to the whole “happy exploitation” effort being profoundly speciesist, the “happy exploitation” effort has one goal: to make the public more comfortable about animal exploitation.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

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

©2014 Gary L. Francione