Moral Schizophrenia: Alastair Graham, the “Michael Vick” of Scotland

Alastair Graham was sentenced to 9 months for killing a dog named Bruno, who apparently had bitten Graham. He tied the dog to a tree before dousing him in petrol and burning him to death. Graham, was also banned for keeping animals for life. He was sentenced to an additional 36 months for his part in a separate attempted robbery.

According to the BBC:

Graham pleaded guilty on indictment to causing the dog, called Bruno, unnecessary suffering by causing his death in the fire on 24 or 25 April.

Many people are outraged at what Graham did and regard it as unacceptable that the maximum jail term for Bruno’s killing is one year.

What Graham did was terrible. He inflicted suffering and death on an animal and had no justification for what he did. He caused unnecessary suffering and death.

But how is he any different from most of the rest of us?

I suggest that, before we condemn Graham as being a moral monster, we consider that we kill approximately 60 billion sentient land animals every year (and guesstimates of about a trillion fish) for food. No one with any expertise maintains any longer that eating meat, fish, dairy, eggs, etc. is essential for human health. Indeed, many mainstream health professionals are recognizing that animal foods are detrimental to human health. And animal agriculture is an ecological disaster.

The bottom line is that the best–indeed only–justification we have for inflicting all of that suffering and death is pleasure: we enjoy the taste of animal foods. The animals we eat and from whom we get milk and eggs have, under the best of circumstances, had lives filled with suffering and distress and have been killed in violent and painful ways. There may be a psychological difference between those who inflict suffering and death directly and those who pay others to do it. But there is no moral difference.

Like Graham, we are all responsible for the unnecessary suffering and death of other sentient beings.

If you believe that what Graham did was morally wrong–and it most certainly was–you should consider going vegan and thereby stop your direct participation in the exploitation of nonhuman animals. Indeed, if you believe that animals matter morally and are not merely things, going vegan is the only rational thing to do.

The Graham case is yet another example of the sort of moral schizophrenia that we see all the time: we all agree that it’s wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering and death on animals but the overwhelming majority of us do it every single day.

And we never spend a second of time in jail.


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