Moral Concern, Moral Impulse, and Logical Argument in Animal Rights Advocacy

Anyone who has ever done animal advocacy has had the experience of explaining rationally why animal exploitation can’t be morally justified, only to have the person with whom they are talking say something like, “Yes, that’s interesting but I just don’t think that it’s wrong to eat animal products,” or “I think you’re being perfectly logical but I just love ice cream and cheese and am going to continue eating them.”

How can this be? How can people reject logical and rational arguments?

The answer is simple: logic and rationality are crucial to moral analysis. But they can’t tell us the whole story about moral reasoning. It’s more complicated than logical syllogisms. Moral reasoning—about animals or anything else—requires something more than logic. That something else involves two closely related but conceptually distinct notions: moral concern and moral impulse, which precede our engagement on a rational or logical level.

To put this in the context of animal ethics: in order to accept an argument that leads to the conclusion that all sentient beings are full members of the moral community and that we should abolish, and not regulate, animal exploitation, you must care morally about animals. You do not necessarily have to “like” or “love” animals. You do not have to have a house full of rescued animals or even have one rescued animal. But you have to accept that at least some animals are members of the moral community; that they are nonhuman moral persons to whom we have direct moral obligations.

And you have to want to act morally with respect to animals; you have to have a moral impulse concerning animals. You have to feel your moral beliefs in the sense that you want to do the right thing by animals. If you do, logic and rationality can be used to make compelling arguments that all sentient beings have that moral status and no animal exploitation can be morally justified.

But if you don’t care about animals morally and you don’t want to do right by them, then all of the arguments in the world won’t make much difference. If you do not think we owe animals anything, you won’t be very interested in arguments that concern which animals we have direct moral obligations to, or what those obligations require us to do. Read more

Garbage as Property

A sign on the side of a dump truck in Los Angeles:

It is not enough to be unashamed that we have the level of poverty that we do; we criminalize the efforts of the poor to survive by asserting property rights over garbage.


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

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2012 Gary L. Francione

Some Thoughts for Mother’s Day 2012

There is no better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than by putting an end to your support of the exploitation of nonhuman mothers represented by milk, cheese, and other dairy products.

A cow raised for her milk is forcefully impregnated yearly, and her babies are taken away within a few days. She is either pregnant or lactating 9 or 10 months out of a year only to have the cycle repeat once she gives birth.

All calves are taken from their mothers within a few days. Some female calves become dairy cows and the rest, along with male calves, are sold for veal.

Many organic or local dairies advertise with pictures of happy cows. In reality, “organic” only means that the cows are fed organic food and are not given antibiotics and growth hormones but they are still, under the very best of circumstances, tortured. And all of those mothers–whether on a conventional or “organic” farm–end up in the same hideous slaughterhouse.

There is no such thing as “happy” milk or “happy” animal products of any type.

Today, think about the suffering and death you support just because you like the taste of dairy, cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, etc. Think of what that means for cows, the gentle mothers whom we exploit. Ask yourself if it’s worth it. If your heart says “no,” go vegan.


Being vegan is a matter of nonviolence. Being vegan is your statement that you reject violence to other sentient beings, to yourself, and to the environment, on which all sentient beings depend.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2012 Gary L. Francione