More on Violence and Animal Rights

Dear Colleagues:

A number of people have written to me in the past several weeks asking that I blog on the use of violence in the struggle for animal rights. I already did an essay—A Comment on Violence—on this topic and I direct those interested to that essay. My forthcoming book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, which I am writing with political scientist Dr. Robert Garner of the University of Leicester, will also address this topic.

I would like to supplement my previous essay with the following thought.

There are those who claim that creative, nonviolent vegan education, which is what I propose that we pursue in order to shift the moral paradigm, is insufficient because that approach will not work fast enough given the severity of the problem and the various social, political, economic, and ecological consequences of animal exploitation.

I do not doubt that animal use is nothing short of a disaster in every respect and that it is the most significant contributing factor to the overall peril of our planet. But it is beyond pure fantasy to believe that violence, even if it were morally justifiable, which I maintain it is not, is going to be the solution that will move things along faster and address this admittedly alarming situation in an effective way.

As I mentioned in my earlier essay, most humans see animal use as the default, “normal” position. Acts of violence cannot be seen as anything other than attacks on conduct that is regarded by most people as entirely unobjectionable and morally acceptable (at least as long as it is “humane”).

Engaging in violence, which will necessarily be interpreted by most people as pathological, is not going to cause people to think that animal use is objectionable; if anything, violence will serve the ends of those who want to portray any effort to shift the paradigm—including peaceful and nonviolent efforts—as part of an overall pathological and objectionable ethic. Promoting violence is not only inconsistent with the ethic of peace; it will serve to frustrate its acceptance.

Creative, nonviolent vegan education is hard work. But, unlike the alternatives, it is the only option that will shift the paradigm and result in a fundamentally different way of assessing the underlying moral issue. Unlike the alternatives, creative, nonviolent vegan education can work to cause a revolution—of the heart.

In the end, those are the only revolutions that work.

Gary L. Francione
©2009 Gary L. Francione