Category Archives: Podcast

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:

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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

Commentary #23: Lennox and Moral Reasoning in Animal Rights

It’s been a while since I did a Commentary and I have been meaning to start up again but, alas, it’s been a busy time.

I was planning to do a podcast on the topic of my essay, Moral Concern, Moral Impulse, and Logical Argument in Animal Rights Advocacy, which I published in May and that got a terrific response.

And then I saw the story yesterday that, on Wednesday, June 11, 2012, the Belfast (Northern Ireland) City Council, killed Lennox, a dog that was alleged to be a pit bull, a breed which is illegal in Northern Ireland. There had been a worldwide campaign to save Lennox and after he was killed, there were protests in Spain, the U.S., Serbia, and other places.

I posted an essay, The Legacy of Lennox as soon as I heard the news and I decided that it was a good time to do the Commentary because the reaction to Lennox’s situation required that we think generalizing our moral concern to other animals. In my view, if you are upset about the killing of Lennox, but you are not vegan, you are not thinking clearly. Lennox’s case raises some of the same issues as did the matter of Michael Vick.

In the first part of the Commentary, I discuss Lennox. I go on to talk about moral reasoning animal rights advocacy. I also discuss the concept of sentience in the second part.

I hope that you enjoy Commentary #24 and that you find that it helps your thinking about animal ethics.

And many thanks to Paola Aldana de Meoño for designing the new Commentary avatar.

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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

©2012 Gary L. Francione

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Commentary #22: A Discussion on Abolition vs. Regulation with Robert Garner

Dear Colleagues:

My most recent book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, involves a debate between me and Professor Robert Garner of the University of Leicester.

In this Commentary, Professor Garner and I discuss our book. Garner’s position, although a form of what I call “new welfarism,” is different from that of Singer and most others. To start with, Garner is not an act utilitarian, as is Singer. Like Singer (and Regan), Garner does not recognize that animal life has moral value equal to human life but he thinks that an animal’s interest in not suffering should be protected with a “right.” He equivocates about whether this right is a right not to suffer “unacceptably,” in which case his position collapses into a form of welfare (similar to what I have discussed in my 1995 book, Animals, Property, and the Law, as the new welfarist “right to humane treatment”), or whether the right not to suffer is an absolute right, in which case Robert’s position would rule out all animal use because, as I point out in our book, all use involves some form of suffering, distress, etc. As I also discuss in our book, if Garner understands this right in an absolute sense, then there are theoretical problems understanding the derivation of any such right and Garner’s promotion of welfarist reform is both theoretically and practically inconsistent with any such right.

In our discussion here, we focus on the following questions that I prepared:

1. In our book, you state that animals have a right not to suffer “unacceptably.” How do you determine what levels of suffering are “acceptable”?

2. Although you think that factory-farming cannot be morally justified, if animals could be raised in a pleasant way with minimal suffering and killed in a relatively painless way for food, or if animals could be used in experiments with minimal suffering and significant benefits for humans, you could not object, could you?

Let’s take a very clear example: I have a cow who lives in the back garden. I treat her very well. I shoot her (one bullet; instantaneous death) and kill her and eat her. Have I done anything morally wrong?

3. In our book, you state: “I am accepting the view that, all things being equal, nonhuman animal life (of most nonhuman species at least) is of less moral value than human life.” p. 187 Why do you take this position?

4. A central point of disagreement between us is that you believe that regulationist groups, such as the RSPCA, CIWF, PETA, HSUS are seeking and achieving “worthwhile” wins. Do you believe that any of these “wins” does much more than make animal use more economically efficient? If so, can you identify them?

5. Do you believe that these groups are stimulating demand for “higher welfare” products in a way that will adversely affect overall demand? Given that all of these groups are promoting “happy” exploitation labels, can you doubt that whatever the effect will be, these groups believe that these labels will make people feel more comfortable about exploitation?

I hope that you enjoy the discussion.

If you are not vegan, go vegan. It’s easy; it’s better for your health and for the planet. But, most important, it’s the morally right thing to do.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2011 Gary L. Francione

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Commentary #21: “The Animal Rights Debate,” the Abolitionist Approach Discussion Forum, and a Response to Nicolette Hahn Niman

Dear Colleagues:

In this Commentary, I discuss three issues.

First, I talk about my new book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, co-authored with Professor Robert Garner, and published by Columbia University Press.

This book focuses on the debate ongoing in the animal advocacy community: should we pursue welfare reform as a means to the end of achieving animal rights? I argue against welfare reform; Garner argues for it.

Second, two weeks ago, on October 26, 2010, we launched the Abolitionist Approach Forum, a place where those interested can discuss the theoretical issues concerning abolition and veganism and practical ideas on creative, nonviolent vegan education, as well as exchange information about nutrition, vegan food, raising vegan children, etc.

So far we have 200+ members and the discussions are terrific. There are only two rules: civil, respectful discourse and no promotion of violence.

If you are interested in learning more about vegan philosophy and the abolitionist approach to animal rights, consider joining the Forum.

Third, I present a response to Nicolette Hahn Niman, of the Niman Ranch, which sells “happy” meat that is, according to the website, “Humanely Raised on Sustainable U.S. Family Farms and Ranches.”

In a recent essay published in The Atlantic, Dogs Aren’t Dinner: The Flaws in an Argument for Veganism, Ms. Niman denies that we suffer from moral schizophrenia when we treat some animals as members of our families but stick forks into others. Her analysis, in a nutshell, is that, as a cultural matter, we have a different relationship with dogs than we do pigs.

That is precisely the problem: as a cultural matter, we treat some sentient nonhumans as things and some as persons. But cultural norms cannot serve as any sort of justification of cultural norms! If they could, then racism, sexism, and all sorts of discrimination and human rights violations would be justified.

I hope that you enjoy the Commentary.

If you are not vegan, why aren’t you vegan? It is not necessary in any way for humans to exploit nonhumans. So why do it? Going vegan is easy; better for your health; and, most important, the very least you can do if you regard animals as having moral significance.

If you are vegan, then educate others in a creative, nonviolent way.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

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Commentary #19: Talking With Non-Vegans About Veganism: Five Principles

Dear Colleagues:

In this Commentary, I address a topic that I have been asked to cover by a number of you: how do we talk with non-vegans about veganism?

I present five general principles:

Principle #1: People are good at heart.

Our default position when we talk with people ought to be that they are good at heart, and interested in, and educable about, moral issues. There is a tendency among at least some advocates to have a very misanthropic view of other humans and to see them as being inherently immoral or uninterested in issues of morality. I disagree with that view.

Principle #2: People are not stupid.

There is a tendency among animal advocates to believe that the general public is not able to understand the arguments in favor of veganism and that we must “go easy” and instead of talking about veganism, we should talk about vegetarianism, “Meat Free Monday,” “happy” meat and animal products, etc. I disagree with this very elitist way of thinking about other people. There is no mystery here; there is nothing complicated. People can understand if we teach effectively.

Principle #3: Do not get defensive; respond, don’t react.

Yes, some people will try to provoke us or will ask questions or make comments that we find insulting or that we take not to be serious. If someone is really not interested in what we are saying, they will, as a general matter, walk away. Treat every comment and question—even the ones you find abrasive, rude, or sarcastic—as an invitation being offered to you by someone who is more provoked (in a positive way) by you and engaged than you might think.

Principle #4: Do not get frustrated. Education is hard work.

You will get the same question many times; you will be asked questions that indicate you must start at the beginning with someone. But if you want to be an effective educator, you have to answer every question as if it is the first time you heard it. If you want others to be enthusiastic about your message, you have to be enthusiastic about it first.

Principle #5: Learn the basics. You have to be a student first before you become a teacher.

Many animal advocates become excited about abolitionist veganism and the next thing that happens is that they set up a website or start a blog that is motivated by the right feelings but not informed by clear ideas. Before you teach others, learn about the basics. Take advantage of abolitionist vegan resources, such as the videos, pamphlets, and other materials available on this site and materials available on other abolitionist sites such as animalemancipation.com and the Boston Vegan Association.

The sad fact is that the biggest obstacles to vegan education are the large, new welfarist groups that have become partners with institutional animal exploiters to promote the consumption of animal products by giving various forms of “animal rights approval” to animal exploitation (see, for example 1, 2).

These new welfarist groups are part of the problem; they are not part of the solution.

I hope you find the Commentary to be useful. As I indicate, I will be pleased to do future Commentaries in which I address further issues related to vegan advocacy depending on the feedback I receive on this Commentary.

Go vegan. It is easy. It is better for your health and for the planet. But most important, it is the morally right and just thing to do.

Gary L. Francione
© 2010 Gary L. Francione

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Commentary #18: A Step Backward, the Importance of Veganism, and the Misuse of “Abolition”

Dear Colleagues:

In this Commentary, I discuss several topics:

First, I talk about the announcement by the new welfarist Mercy for Animals that the retail giant Costco has taken a “step forward” by agreeing to market “humane” veal. I maintain that having animal advocates praise this as a “step forward” and characterizing the issue of eating veal (as opposed to all animal products) as an important issue is a step backward.

Second, I address the argument made by certain large organizations that because we cannot avoid animal products altogether, any baseline moral principle that we should adhere to veganism is just artificial “personal purity.”

Finally, I talk about the misuse of “abolition” by those who advocate welfare reform and violence.

I also discuss briefly the abolitionist workshop that we held at Rutgers in late May and my forthcoming book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, which is being published by Columbia University Press.

I hope you enjoy the Commentary.

Gary L. Francione
© Gary L. Francione

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Commentary #17: Discussion with Ronnie Lee and Roger Yates

Dear Colleagues:

In this Commentary, I have two guests: Ronnie Lee, who founded the Band of Mercy in 1972 and the Animal Liberation Front in 1976, and Roger Yates, an adjunct lecturer in sociology at University College, Dublin.

As I am sure you are aware, I am opposed to all violence and I do not support militant direct action. This is the starting point for my discussion with Ronnie and Roger but we go on to talk about a variety of topics. And we are all agreed about the importance of creative, nonviolent vegan education.

I hope that you enjoy the Commentary.

And by the way:

Go vegan. It’s better for your health (animal foods cause physical harm); it’s better for the environment (animal agriculture is an ecological disaster); and, most importantly, it’s the morally right thing to do.

Gary L. Francione
© 2010 Gary L. Francione

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