Category Archives: Blog

EAT LIKE YOU CARE–IN SPANISH!

EAT LIKE YOU CARE: An Examination of the Morality of Eating Animals is now available in Spanish.

COME CON CONCIENCIA: Un análisis sobre la moralidad del consumo de animales is now available on all Amazon sites:

U.S.; Spain; Mexico; Brazil; CanadaU.K.; Germany; Italy; Japan; India; Australia

You do NOT need a Kindle device to read the book. The book may be read on any phone, tablet, PC, or Mac with a free Kindle app.

Amazon allows you to send a copy of this to anyone with an email address!

Anna Charlton and I are grateful to Joanna Porter and Marianna C. Gonzalez for their very hard work in translating the book.

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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.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

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

©2014 Gary L. Francione

The Kapparos Campaign: A Good Example of What’s Wrong with Single-Issue Campaigns

On June 12, 2014, I spoke on a panel at the New York City Bar Association as part of a panel on Kapparos, which involves ritual use of chickens. An animal advocate, Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns, gave a presentation in which she showed photos of the various abuses of chickens used in the Kapparos event. Kapparos involves holding an object over one’s head and saying prayers that are supposed to transfer one’s sins to the object. Some Jews use live chickens as the “object” of transfer. Karen and her group are part of a campaign to end the use of chickens as Kapparos.

An audio recording of the event can be found here.

Let me be clear: I oppose the use of chickens as Kapparos–or for any other purpose. And I like Karen Davis personally; I am glad that she was out there beginning in the mid-1980s trying to sensitize people to the plight of chickens, who are, with fish, the animals most exploited by humans but were often overlooked even by animal advocates. I appreciate that she promotes veganism more than many other charities do but I disagree with some of the welfarist campaigns she has supported and I am bothered by the anti-Kapparos campaign.

Why?

Nothing Karen showed in her presentation is behavior that does not occur as part of the process of slaughtering all chickens. For example, she showed pictures of what appeared to be Hasidic men holding the chickens in ways that caused them pain. But the only difference between how chickens are often held and handled at slaughterhouses, and how they are held or handled at the Kapparos event, is the fact that in the latter, it is Hasidim or other Jews doing the holding and handling. If these poor birds were not used in the Kapparos ritual, they would have been sent to the slaughterhouse and would have had the exact same fate.

This is a perfect example of what is wrong with single-issue campaigns: they encourage the idea that what some group does is worse than what the rest of us do. A single-issue campaign focused on fur lets everyone who wears wool or leather off the hook and gives them an excuse to hate or attack those (mostly women) who wear fur. A single issue campaign about the dolphins at Taiji allows people, many of whom are not even vegan, to engage in vile ethnocentric and xenophobic hate speech against the Japanese. A single-issue campaign against a squirrel-shooting in a rural community encourages people to call those involved “rednecks” and “backward” when they are doing nothing different from what any non-vegan does or supports. And a campaign focused on Kapparos gives people an excuse to segregate the Jews as “bad people.”

I think that the Kapparos campaign enables and facilitates anti-Semitism. I am not saying that anyone connected with the campaign or who supports the campaign is anti-Semitic. I am saying that the campaign effectively segregates Jews as morally different from all other animal exploiters. It’s functionally indistinguishable from anti-Kashrut campaigns or the Islamophobic anti-Halal campaign in the United Kingdom.

Moreover, I spent some time looking at the Alliance to End Chickens as Koporos site. I saw nothing that indicated that the campaign was a vehicle for promoting veganism, which is what was claimed when I raised concerns. That is,the Kapparos campaign is not maintaining that Kapporos is like all other chicken slaughter and that it ought all to be stopped because we cannot justify consuming animals. Rather, it is very explicitly seeking to segregate this practice as objectionable without recognizing that it is indistinguishable from what most people support and participate in if they consume chicken or other animal products.

As Vincent Guihan has noted:

If a group ran a crusade against Jewish methods of circumcision — and just Jewish circumcision — and then denied that the campaign was Antisemitic, I think most people would likely disagree and see this for what it is: a shameful, calculating and completely unacceptable campaign that further denigrates an already marginalized community in order to ingratiate the majority.Almost all single-issue campaigns actively encourage segregation. And that is not a good thing for humans or nonhumans.

Single-issue campaigns are, on many levels, a very bad idea. They serve one primary purpose: fund-raising devices for animal charities. This is not to say that animal charities intentionally embrace campaigns that they know to be counterproductive in order to make money. It is, however, to explain the practical motivation that helps to account for why such welfare reform campaigns and single-issue campaigns are chosen and the failure to see how counterproductive they are.

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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.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

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

©2014 Gary L. Francione

ADDENDUM ADDED June 16, 2014:

I respectfully request that if the Alliance for Kaporos continues this campaign, that it place on the Alliance website, and include in all future petitions, correspondence, and presentations, a statement to the effect that:

“The Alliance acknowledges that the use of chickens as Kapparos is not distinguishable from the transport and slaughter of chickens in non-religious contexts and the Alliance does not maintain that anyone involved in the Kapparos event is engaged in conduct that is morally more odious than those who engage in the slaughter of chicken in non-religious contexts, or those who consume chicken (or other animal products). Therefore, the Alliance promotes veganism and its opposition to Kapparos should be seen in that context and not as directed specifically at the community involved in this practice.”

This is not to say that I would then agree with or support the campaign. I would not. I am still concerned that such a campaign segregates a group and makes them the “bad” people for doing whatever everyone else does. I am only suggesting a possible way that may help to mitigate the problematic tone of this campaign and make clear that animal exploitation is not something others do and, on the contrary, is something engaged in by almost everyone.

Gary L. Francione

ADDENDA ADDED JUNE 18/19, 2014

I have received a number of angry messages in connection with my concern about this campaign, including an accusation by a member of the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos that opposition to this campaign constitutes “bigotry.”

Another animal advocate stated, in response to my concerns: “it’s best I think to focus more on acknowledging and appreciating each other, rather than criticism that can be hurtful and discouraging.” But that just says that we should be complicit in campaigns that facilitate discrimination and segregation rather than speaking out against them; we should be tolerant of intolerance. That is a call to ignore our moral responsibility. It is not acceptable.

Several advocates said that because the Kapparos campaign was being conducted by vegans who were opposed to all animal use, the campaign was really about veganism and wasn’t problematic. But that’s just wrong. If a campaign identifies some group as involved in conduct that is indistinguishable from the conduct that every non-vegan participates in (directly or indirectly) and supports, as the Kapparos campaign clearly does, then it is problematic in the ways I have identified. The fact that people involved in the campaign may be be vegan is completely irrelevant.

And watch this video that is on the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos site. Ask yourself if this is in any way promoting veganism.

An advocate claimed that because some Jews supported the Kapporos campaign, that “serves to dispel the notion that it promotes anti-semitism.” But that is also clearly wrong. It is like saying that the fact that some people of color oppose efforts to increase civil rights means that there is no discrimination that needs to be addressed.

Another advocate claimed that if anyone thought the anti-Kapparos campaign was sending a message that the use of chickens as Kapparos was targeting Jewish conduct in any particular way, the Alliance Against Chickens as Kaporos should not be held responsible for that “cognitive dissonance.” (I believe he meant “misunderstanding” as “cognitive dissonance” would make no sense in this context.)

Again, that is plainly wrong. Let’s go back to Vincent’s Guihan’s excellent example. If a group that was opposed to all circumcision had a particular campaign called the Alliance Against Jewish Circumcision, would it be a matter of misunderstanding if the public saw that as particularly about a Jewish practice? Of course not. The very existence of the campaign suggests that the Jewish conduct is the particular problem.

I am sincerely sorry that some animal advocates feel the way that they do and are just dismissing concerns about the Kapparos campaign in favor of the sacred principle, “thou shalt never criticize what another ‘animal person’ does even if it is plainly problematic.” That is nothing but cult-like thinking that is inimical to the existence of a vibrant movement for social justice. I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that many animal advocates are apparently oblivious to systematic anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of discrimination, including racism and sexism, and how many single-issue campaigns, such as the Kapparos campaign, capitalize on, and exacerbate, the effects of, these forms of discrimination.

Gary L. Francione

ADDENDUM ADDED JULY 26, 2014

The Alliance for Kaporos has not accepted my suggestion that it place on the Alliance website, and include in all future petitions, correspondence, and presentations, a statement to the effect that:

“The Alliance acknowledges that the use of chickens as Kapparos is not distinguishable from the transport and slaughter of chickens in non-religious contexts and the Alliance does not maintain that anyone involved in the Kapparos event is engaged in conduct that is morally more odious than those who engage in the slaughter of chicken in non-religious contexts, or those who consume chicken (or other animal products). Therefore, the Alliance promotes veganism and its opposition to Kapparos should be seen in that context and not as directed specifically at the community involved in this practice.”

I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that this campaign is deliberately exploiting and promoting anti-Semitism.

Commentary: Vegan Education/Advocacy, “Forcing” Others to Go Vegan, and Animal Ethics as Involving Obligation and Not Choice

We are going to start podcasting again as time permits.

In fact, we are going to be creating a new series as “Vegan.FM.”

For now, it’s still the Abolitionist Approach Commentary.

In this Commentary, Anna Charlton and I discuss educating yourself so that you can educate others and the importance of doing education/advocacy in your community; the idea that vegan advocacy represents an attempt to “force” people to go vegan; and the idea that animal ethics is a matter of “choice” and not moral obligation.

It’s a short episode–about 15 minutes.

Join us:

Play

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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.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

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

©2014 Gary L. Francione

“Eat Like You Care” at Temple University

Here is a video of our presentation on Eat Like You Care at Temple University on March 10, 2014:

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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.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

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

©2014 Gary L. Francione

Debating Eating Animals at MoMA

On Thursday evening, April 17, I had the pleasure to participate in a program at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City in which we discussed the following proposition:

“Design can allow us to humanely include animal products in our diet.”

Nicola Twilley argued in favor; I argued against.

ScreenHunter_73 Apr. 19 08.11

You can watch the debate here.

As I tried to tease out in my presentation and in the question period that followed, I think that there are three ways to interpret this question: one purely empirical; one partly empirical and partly moral; and one completely moral.

First, can design result in less suffering? Of course it can. As a purely factual matter, we can design systems of animal exploitation that result in less suffering. That’s clear. But it is also an uninteresting way to interpret the question. I do not believe that Nicola and I had any disagreement here.

Second, we can ask whether design can reduce suffering to a point where we would feel comfortable in consider calling the resulting level of exploitation “humane.” That is how I understood Nicola to interpret the question.

This is a mixed question that involves moral and empirical components.

As I discussed in the debate, because animals are chattel property, there are structural limitations on how far industry can go in reducing suffering. For the most part, our “humane” treatment is limited by economic efficiency: we protect animal interests to the extent that we get an economic benefit from doing so. So efforts to make treatment more “humane” are usually coextensive with efforts to reduce inefficiencies and increase profitability. That is exactly what slaughterhouse designer and meat-industry consultant Temple Grandin does–and acknowledges that she does. She focuses on industry inefficiencies and proposes ways to reduce those inefficiencies through more “humane” treatment.

As long as animals are chattel property, the ability of design to address the issue is structurally constrained. The most “humanely” treated animals are still subjected to what could only be called torture if humans were involved.

The primary reason why we think that design can make exploitation “humane” in some morally acceptable way is that there are animal advocates, such as Ingrid Newkirk of PETA, who put their stamp-of-approval on people like Grandin and the “solutions” she provides. PETA gave an award to Grandin, declaring her as a “Visionary” and as “the world’s leading expert on the welfare of cattle and pigs.”

ScreenHunter_74 Apr. 19 08.22

(click on image to enlarge)

This not only assumes that “welfare” is consistent with exploitation, but it also tells us that meat-industry consultants who seek to increase the profitability of the meat industry have something to tell us about the welfare of animals as a moral matter. It establishes and reinforces the idea that we can exploit animals “humanely” in this mixed empirical and moral way. In my view, that is simply wrong on both the empirical and moral levels.

Although Newkirk’s praise for Grandin is ostensibly bewildering, it makes perfect sense. There is a symbiotic relationship here. Industry needs welfarists like Newkirk to provide a positive moral characterization of their efficiency efforts. Industry needs to have its efforts to achieve efficiency, resulting in largely minor changes to the institutions of animal exploitation, declared “humane” by those identified as animal advocates. But PETA needs industry as PETA uses these efficiency measures to proclaim “progress” and to fundraise. For the most part, the campaigns of animal welfare organizations target economically vulnerable industry practices for precisely that reason. These practices are “low hanging fruit,” so there is an easy “victory” for fundraising purposes.

As I have written in connection with this debate and elsewhere, including my academic work and blog essays, I regard the actions of groups like PETA to be problematic. I think that it is terribly wrong under any circumstance to say that some form of “better” exploitation should be normatively endorsed when the resulting situation still involves a violation of fundamental rights. To say that a slave owner who beats his slaves five times a week is “better” than one who beats his slaves six times a week does not mean that the former is practicing “humane” slavery, or that the “better” slavery is morally acceptable, or that the “better” slave owner ought to be declared a “Visionary.”

Third, the question can be interpreted as asking whether design can ever make it ethical to consume animals. This makes the question a purely moral one.

As I explained in the debate, I believe that we have already answered that question as a matter of our conventional wisdom, which maintains that we should not impose “unnecessary” suffering and death on animals. Whatever “necessity” includes, it must exclude suffering and death imposed for pleasure and convenience or else the moral norm about unnecessary suffering/death is meaningless.

But what is our justification for imposing suffering and death on 58 billion land animals and an estimated trillion sea animals every year?

We do not need to eat animals or animal foods for optimal health; indeed, mainstream health care professionals are increasingly telling us that animal foods are detrimental to human health. But animal foods are certainly not necessary in any sense.

Animal agriculture is, without question, an ecological nightmare.

So what’s the best justification we have for inflicting suffering and death–however “humane”–on all of those sentient (subjectively aware) beings?

The answer: they taste good; we derive palate pleasure from consuming animals.

And no one would accept such a justification in any other context. Think about Michael Vick, the football player who conducted a dog fighting operation. Everyone objects to what Michael Vick did.

Why?

Because he inflicted suffering on animals for no reason other than his pleasure.

But what is the difference between sitting around the ring watching dogs fight and sitting around a summer barbecue roasting the corpses of animals, or drinking milk or eating cheese, where–under the most “humane” circumstances–animals have suffered and died?

There is no difference. And as any first-year law student can tell you, it does not matter whether Mary with premeditation shoots Joe or hires Alan to shoot Joe. It’s murder in both cases. There may be a psychological difference between one who engages in violent conduct and one who pays another to do the deed but there is no moral difference, which is why the law treats them in the same way.

So I would suggest that the answer to the moral question posed in the MoMA debate is simple: no.

If animals matter morally, we have a moral obligation not to impose any level of suffering, or death, at least in the absence of a true conflict where there is compulsion. And that does not exist with respect to our consumption of animals.

So let me summarize: if you take morality seriously, and you regard animals as having moral value, go vegan. It’s the only option that is consistent with what we–you–say we believe about the moral status of animals. Anything else leaves us saying that we accept that animals matter morally but that we can disregard their fundamental interests for trivial reasons. That makes no sense.

Thanks to Paola Antonelli, Michelle Fisher, and all of the wonderful people at MoMA for having this program, and to Nicola Twilley for participating.

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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.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

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

©2014 Gary L. Francione

On “Journeys”

If many people said, “I did not reject racism overnight; it took me a long time to stop being a racist,” would we say that rejecting racism is a matter of a personal “journey”? Would we say that we should not take the position that racism is unequivocally and absolutely wrong? Would we say that our continuing to be racists–but more “compassionate” racists–is morally acceptable?

Of course not. To say that it is a matter of a personal “journey” is to say that there is no moral truth about racism.

It is the exact same situation when it comes to animals. To say that veganism is a matter of a personal “journey” is to say that there is no moral truth about speciesism.

It is to deny the idea that we cannot justify animal exploitation–however supposedly “humane.”

It is to say that various sorts of supposedly “happy” exploitation are morally acceptable and should be promoted.

We would not take such a position where human rights are concerned. We should not do so where animal rights are concerned.

Many people did not go vegan overnight. That is no big surprise, particularly given that not one of the large animal charities promotes veganism as a moral baseline, and many explicitly support various sorts of “happy” exploitation.

But how any one person–or most people–went vegan is completely beside the point. The point is what position a social movement for animal rights takes. Then, as slavery abolitionist William Wilberforce (1759-1833) said: “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

The animal rights position must be that we cannot morally justify animal exploitation and, if we agree that animals have moral significance, we are committed to veganism. There is veganism and there is continuing to participate in exploitation that cannot be morally justified. There is no third choice.

It’s not a matter of condemning or criticizing anyone; it is a matter of being clear about moral principles and educating in a clear, coherent, and nonviolent manner others who care about animals but who are not vegan.

If people who care about animals choose to do less, that should be their choice and not what a social movement for nonhuman justice promotes.

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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.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

Animal Ethics: Abolition, Regulation, or Citizenship?

Despite 200 years of animal welfare laws, which require “humane” treatment and prohibit the imposition of “unnecessary” suffering, animal exploitation is occurring in more horrific ways than at any time in human history.

On Friday, April 11, 2014, Rutgers School of Law–Newark will host a conference on “Animal Ethics: Abolition, Regulation or Citizenship” at which emerging approaches to acknowledging the moral value of animals will be explored in an interdisciplinary setting by some of the foremost scholars in the field.

These new approaches include: 1) arguing for the status of nonhuman animals as right-holders and challenging the use of animals as human resources and not just the treatment of animals whose use is assumed to be morally permissible (the rights or abolitionist approach); 2) retaining a welfarist framework of “humane” use but modifying it in certain ways (the regulationist approach); and 3) promoting a theory of animal rights that allows fora continued relationship between humans and nonhumans in various contexts and explores the various relational duties involved (the citizenship approach).

Speakers will include (in alphabetical order):

Anna E. Charlton, Adjunct Professor of Law, Rutgers School of Law–Newark, and former Director, Rutgers Animal Rights Law Clinic
Luis E. Chiesa, Professor of Law and Director, Buffalo Criminal Law Center, SUNY Buffalo
Sherry F. Colb, Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar, Cornell University
Sue Donaldson, independent researcher and author (co-author with Will Kymlicka of Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights)
Michael C. Dorf, Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law, Cornell University
Gary L. Francione, Board of Governors Professor, Distinguished Professor of Law, and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy, Rutgers School of Law–Newark
Will Kymlicka, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy, Queen’s University (Canada)
David Nibert, Professor of Sociology, Wittenberg University
Gary Steiner, John Howard Harris Professor of Philosophy, Bucknell University

The Conference will start at 10 am and conclude at 6 pm. Admission is free and open to the public but registration is required. You can register here as seating capacity will be limited.

A vegan lunch will be available from the Law School cafeteria. The cost of the lunch is approximately $6.00 exclusive of any beverages or other items.