Peter Singer and I Agree on One Thing: Nonviolence

Dear Colleagues:

Peter Singer recently posted the following Tweet in response to the receipt by a UCLA vivisector of razor blades allegedly infected with contaminated blood:

Ugh…how will this help the animals? All it does is give the animal movement the worst possible image.

I agree with Singer that violence like this provides a negative image of the animal movement and I think the problem is more complicated than just public image. Putting aside any general moral problem with violence, the UCLA antic simply makes no sense. Sure, the UCLA vivisector is unjustifiably exploiting animals. But so is anyone who uses animals, including those who consume animal products. There is really no principled way to distinguish those who engage in vivisection and those who consume any meat, dairy, or other animal products, including “happy” ones. Are those who promote violence willing to regard their grandparents, who cooked a turkey for Thanksgiving, as a proper target of violence? Are they willing to treat their family members or friends who eat ice cream or drink milk or consume any animal products, as “animal-abusing scum” who are the legitimate targets of violence? No, of course not.

The only way the problem of animal exploitation will be solved is through shifting the paradigm away from property and toward personhood, and that is not going to happen—we will never find our moral compass here—as long as we consume animal products. It certainly is never going to happen as the result of violence. If social thinking and public demand for animal use remains the same, nothing will ever change. If you close ten slaughterhouses today and demand remains the same, ten more will open tomorrow or ten existing ones will expand production capacity. For more on this topic, see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and listen to my Commentary on the subject. I also discuss this topic in my new book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, which was published in November 2010 by Columbia University Press.

So although Singer and I disagree concerning just about every other issue in animal ethics, I am glad that we agree on the important issue of violence in animal advocacy. I hope sincerely that Singer is not the subject of threats and defamatory attacks such as those aimed at me because I have been vocal in my condemnation of violence.

The animal rights movement makes sense only as a movement of peace and nonviolence. Gandhi said:

We must become the change we want to see in the world.

If we want to see a world in which there is no violence against the most vulnerable, we must ourselves become non-violent and present our views in a non-violent way. Non-violence begins with our own veganism and our use of creative, non-violent ways to educate others about veganism.

If you are not vegan, go vegan. It’s easy; it’s better for your health and for the planet. But, most important, it’s the morally right thing to do. Veganism is nonviolence in action.

If you are vegan, then spend as much time as you are able to engaged in creative, non-violent vegan education.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione