The Abolitionist-Regulationist Debate From Another Era: Sound Familiar?

During race-based slavery in the United States, there were those who said that they believed that slavery should be abolished eventually (whatever that meant) but who refused to criticize the institution of slavery openly and call for its end, and, instead, campaigned for more “humane” slavery.

And there were those who believed in abolition and would not endorse the system of slavery in any way. The former group criticized the latter group claiming that their refusal to jump on the regulationist bandwagon would only strengthen slavery.

Does this sound familiar?

This quote from William Lloyd Garrison, an 19th-century abolitionist, is instructive.

What an idiotic absurdity

Garrison was clear: If you oppose slavery, you stop participating in the institution. Period. You emancipate your slaves. You reject slavery and you aren’t ashamed of your opposition. You don’t try to hide it. You openly and sincerely, but nonviolently, express your “persistent, uncompromising moral opposition” to slavery, which is “a system of boundless immorality.”

Similarly, if you believe that animal exploitation is wrong, the solution is not to support “happy” exploitation. The solution is to go vegan, be clear about veganism as an unequivocal moral baseline, and to engage in creative, nonviolent vegan education to convince others not to participate in a system of “boundless immorality.”

It would have been absurd in the 19th century to claim that there was no difference between those who opposed slavery and those who favored its regulation. It is absurd now to claim that there is no difference between those who propose veganism as a clear, unequivocal moral baseline and those who promote the “humane” regulation of animal exploitation and “compassionate” consumption, and who claim that being a “conscientious omnivore” is a “defensible ethical position.”


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!

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

My Interview On Philosophy Bites

Philosophy Bites is a site that provides podcast interviews of philosophers. Philosophy Bites is made in association with the Institute of Philosophy, which is an Institute of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study.

On a lovely sunny day in July, I had the great pleasure to sit down with David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton at the University of London and do an interview on Philosophy Bites.

The interview is posted on the Philosophy Bites site and is you can link directly to the audio site here

I hope that you enjoy it and that it provokes your thinking on issues of animal ethics.


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!

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2012 Gary L. Francione

A Response To PETA’s Position On “Happy” Or “Humane” Exploitation

Ingrid Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has written a PETA Alert concerning PETA’s position on “happy” exploitation.

This Alert reads in part:

PETA has pushed hard and will continue to push hard to reduce the sum total of suffering in the meat, dairy, and egg industries—because that makes a huge difference if you are a pig or a chicken on a factory farm. We’ve stopped PETA protests outside Burger King or McDonald’s restaurants when those companies agreed to reforms, but that doesn’t mean that we would ever suggest eating meat from Burger King or anywhere else—because we know that massive suffering still goes into every bite. Yes, it’s better to pay extra for an egg from a chicken who had a marginally less hideous life than one who suffered more, but we must do better by animals. In fact, we have yet to find a “humane” factory farm where animals don’t have their tails cut off and their ears painfully notched, where they aren’t debeaked, dehorned, or castrated without anesthesia, where they aren’t kept in crowded conditions without sunlight or fresh air, where they don’t have their beloved children taken away from them, where they aren’t denied the companionship of others, where they aren’t sent to a feedlot, or where they are instantly dispatched without the trauma of capture, the horror of transportation, or the terror of seeing other animals killed before suffering the same fate.

PETA has pushed for vegan living since our inception in 1980. Our motto is: “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.” With so many vegan cookbooks and meal options available and with programs like the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s 21-Day Vegan Kickstart and our wildly popular vegan starter kit, we can all help animals—and not miss a thing. Let’s live and let live, and tell others to come along with us, reminding them that animals have emotions and needs just as human beings do.

There is no such thing as humane meat. Giving animals a few more inches of living space is simply not enough. Animals deserve more. The momentum is on our side, but it will take every one of us to bring this change about by being active advocates of animal rights. Thank you!

I acknowledge with gratitude that Ingrid Newkirk introduced me to veganism. Although I had become a vegetarian in the late 1970s, I continued to eat dairy and eggs, believing that it was necessary to do so given that I was not eating meat, poultry, or fish. I had never even heard the word “vegan” and I was unaware that it was possible to live a healthy life (let alone a healthier life) without consuming any animal products. I met Ingrid quite by chance in October 1982–30 years ago this month–and she literally threw away all of the dairy products in my refrigerator! I have been vegan ever since. I appreciate what she did and I have no doubt that she is committed to veganism.

But PETA has changed dramatically since those early days. In addition to its steady stream of sexist campaigns that merely reinforce thinking of others as commodities, which characterizes both sexism and speciesism, and its position on the no-kill movement, there can be no doubt that PETA has become deeply involved in the whole “happy” or “humane” exploitation movement.

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Means And Ends

Some say that there is no real difference between:

A. someone who advocates that we ought to abolish animal use and that the means to achieve that end is promoting veganism as a moral baseline and rejecting “happy” exploitation and

B. someone who says they hope one day to to see the end of all (or most) animal use and that the means to that end is “happy” exploitation and animal welfare regulation.

But that is like saying that there is no difference between:

A. someone who wants world peace and advocates nonviolence in our dealings with each other as a means to that end and

B. someone who says that they want peace as their goal but who advocates the use of war to get to the state of peace.

To say that the differences are only matters of strategy assumes that the means do not have to be consistent with the ends and may even be inconsistent. So it’s fine to advocate “happy” animal use to get to (supposedly) no use; it’s fine to advocate war to get to peace.

I suggest that, putting aside the matter of whether “happy” use will get to no use or whether war will really lead to peace, to dismiss these differences as mere matters of strategy ignores the fundamental differences involved.

World leaders who wage war always claim to want to achieve lasting peace. I am quite certain that many of these leaders, if not most, really do want peace in the end. But to say that we cannot distinguish Stalin from Gandhi is, I think, wrong.


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!

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2012 Gary L. Francione

Our Choice

To those who support animal welfare:

It’s not, as many of you claim, a choice of helping animals “today” or “now,” or letting them suffer while we achieve a much greater number of vegans.

It is a choice of whether we are going to:

A. put resources into expensive campaigns that go on for years and, if they don’t fail completely:

* result in some modification that is then supposedly phased in over more years and usually never enforced anyway; and
* even if implemented and enforced, result in, at best, a de minimis change akin to putting padding on a water board; and
* do nothing to change thinking about the moral status of animals and, indeed, reinforce the status of animals as commodities or things that exist for human use;
* have the counterproductive effect of making people more comfortable about consuming animals; and
* make animal advocates partners with institutional exploiters whom they ask animal advocates to support


B. engage in creative, nonviolent advocacy that promotes veganism as the moral baseline, and that will reduce demand and effect a paradigm shift in our thinking about animals.

Every second of time and cent spent on doing A is a second less or a cent less spent on doing B.

A and B are different, and mutually exclusive, ways of thinking about animal ethics.

Neither A nor B is immediate; neither helps animals “now,” and both involve incremental efforts. The question is which you choose to do.


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!

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

©2012 Gary L. Francione

“Carnism”? There Is Nothing “Invisible” About The Ideology Of Animal Exploitation

There are some who claim that the ideology that supports animal exploitation is “invisible.” The basic idea is that animal exploitation is something that we are conditioned or caused to engage in because of some hidden or “invisible” ideology or psychological process that needs to be exposed.

Variations of this position have been around for years now. The most recent version of the position is labeled as “carnism.”

I suggest that this position is in error and seriously so.

The ideology that supports animal exploitation is the ideology of animal welfare.

And this ideology is not invisible or hidden in any way: on the contrary, the animal welfare position is an explicit part of our culture. We know about it, think about it, and talk about it. Most people–members of the general public and many “animal advocates” alike–accept some version of it.

Moreover, the “invisibility” position is, in reality, nothing more than an attempt to make invisible what the real problem is. That is, to say that the animal welfare ideology is “invisible” is to encourage us to avoid a hard examination of animal welfare in favor of embracing some fantasy that we exploit animals as the result of some “invisible” conditioning.

That can only have the effect of keeping the welfarist ideology firmly in place. Indeed, an explicit goal of the “invisibility” position is precisely to stifle dissent and debate about the welfarist position. As such, the “invisibility” position is itself nothing more than a version of welfarist ideology.

Further, the “invisibility” position purports to relieve us from moral responsibility for our conduct, claiming that if we participate in animal exploitation, it’s because we are being “victimized” by the “invisible” ideology. So if you eat animal products, that’s not because you are making the wrong moral decisions and victimizing animals; it’s because some “invisible” conditioning is victimizing you.

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Animal Rights: Marginalized By The “Animal Movement”

A number of writers have claimed that we need to support other than an abolitionist approach because that approach has been marginalized politically and has been unsuccessful.

For example, in their book, Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights, Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka observe:

A central task for the movement is to figure out why ART [animal rights theory] remains so politically marginal. Why is the general public increasingly open to welfarist and ecological reforms, such as Proposition 2 or endangered species legislation, while remaining implacably resistant to animal rights? Having acknowledged that animals are living beings whose suffering matters morally, why is it so hard to take the next step and acknowledge that animals have moral rights not to be used as means to human ends?

Donaldson and Kymlicka claim to be very sympathetic to the abolitionist perspective. But they ask: why has this position remained so marginal?

I will have a great deal more to say about this book in a response that I am writing to Professors Kymlicka and Donaldson, as well as to others who have written recently about abolitionist theory. But I find it odd that they think that there is mystery here.

The “animal movement” is dominated by large groups that promote welfare reform and actually go out of their way to marginalize the abolitionist perspective.

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