Human Rights and Animal Rights: Perfect Together

Dear Colleagues:

“There are too many human problems in the world that we have to solve first before we think about animals.”

“Let’s work on world peace first; we can then work on animal rights.”

Anyone who pursues animal advocacy frequently encounters these and similar comments. I am often asked how I respond to such comments.

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Abolitionist Vegan Literature

Dear Colleagues:

As you know, I maintain that for those concerned about animal exploitation, the decision to go vegan is the single most important thing one can do. If you want to do more, then you should engage in creative, nonviolent vegan education.

This week, I became aware of another example of nonviolent vegan education in action. The Vegan Abolitionist site has a nice, one-page, simple, and straightforward description of the meaning, basis, and importance of veganism. It is available in English and several foreign languages.

This joins other similar efforts, including our own Abolitionist Approach pamphlet, now available in English and eleven other languages, the Boston Vegan Association pamphlet, the bilingual (English and French) pamphlet distributed by The Starting Point is Veganism, and, of course, the vegan/abolitionist materials of the Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary.

These are just a few examples of low-cost efforts to educate the public about veganism. There are many people out there who, in their everyday lives, are engaging in creative, nonviolent vegan education. Just talking with your friends and family about veganism is a most important form of activism.

The only way that we will ever end animal exploitation is by shifting the paradigm away from the status of animals as property and toward the status of animals as moral persons. That is not going to be accomplished either by legislative fiat or by violence of any sort. It is going to come from determined individuals who embrace nonviolence, apply it in their own lives, and share it with others.

I know that animal advocates get discouraged at what seems to be a lack of progress. This is true of all advocates for social justice. But always keep in mind the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

And keep working everyday at creative, nonviolent vegan education.

Gary L. Francione

© 2009 Gary L. Francione

No, It’s Not Natural

“But isn’t eating animals natural?”

This question is probably the one that I have gotten most frequently in the almost thirty years that I have been promoting veganism. Students in our courses; people in public lectures; listeners who call in on a radio show that I am on; the passenger sitting next to me on an airplane who inquires about why I have a vegan meal when everyone else is eating chicken or fish—they all seem to think that what I am advocating as a moral position is not “natural.”

As I have argued elsewhere on this blog, many heinous practices and traditions, including slavery and sexism, have been justified by appeals to arguments that assume that certain people are naturally superior and others are naturally inferior.

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Swine Flu: A Problem of Animal Treatment or Animal Use?

Dear Colleagues:

The animal welfare movement led by The Humane Society of the United States is claiming that the swine flu outbreak is the result of factory farming and that the solution is to provide more “humane” treatment for farm animals by supporting HSUS efforts like California’s Proposition 2.

This approach is problematic for several reasons.

First, it has been claimed that the current outbreak began in the Mexican state of Veracruz as the result of a Smithfield Farms plant that processes 800,000 hogs annually and has no sewage treatment facility. The hog wastes are apparently being dumped in local lagoons. Even if the confinement conditions in the plant itself were made more “humane,” that would not solve the sewage problem.

Second, whether the source of the current outbreak involves exposure to pig wastes and although there can be little doubt that the intensive confinement and resulting animal stress of modern factory farming is a factor that contributes generally to the development of things like swine flu, the reality is that pandemics have existed throughout recorded history—well before the advent of factory farming. We have had pandemics ever since we have been domesticating animals for our use and living in close proximity with them. We have had pandemics even when the conditions of animal exploitation were far more “humane” than they are now.

Even if the confinement of modern factory farming were the primary culprit here, the sorts of solutions that HSUS is proposing—measures like Proposition 2—will certainly not solve the problem. Putting aside that Proposition 2 does not even come into effect until 2015, its requirements, which have many loopholes, will do little, if anything, to provide greater protection for animal interests or to reduce animal stress in any significant way.

The swine flu outbreak provides a great opportunity to focus attention on a more relevant question: why, in 2009, are we continuing to eat any animal products? We have no moral justification for doing so. There is no necessity. Indeed, animal agriculture is not only killing nonhumans—it is killing us and destroying our planet.

The issue is not “humane” treatment; the issue is the immorality and irrationality of animal use.

Gary L. Francione
© 2009 Gary L. Francione