“Being vegan is easy. Are there social pressures that encourage you to continue to eat, wear and use animal products? Of course there are. But in a patriarchal, racist, homophobic and ableist society, there are social pressures to participate and engage in sexism, racism, homophobia and ableism. At some point, you have to decide who you are and what matters morally to you. And once you decide that you regard victimizing vulnerable non-humans is not morally acceptable, it is easy to go and stay vegan.”
Gary L. Francione
Vegan since 1982, Gary L. Francione is a Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scolar of Law and Philosopy at Rutgers School of Law – Newark, New Jersey. He has authored several books.
Well-known for his work on animal rights theory, Francione was the first academic to teach it in an American law school.
According to Wikipedia, his work is focused on three issues:
-the property status of animal
-the differences between animal rights and animal welfare
-and a theory of animal rights based on sentience alone, rather than on any other cognitive characteristics.
He is also a pioneer of the abolitionist theory of animal rights, arguing that animal welfare regulation is theoretically and practically unsound, serving only to prolong the status of animals as property by making the public feel comfortable about using them. He argues that non-human animals require only one right, the right not to be regarded as property, and that ethical veganism – the rejection of the use of animal products – is the moral baseline of the animal rights movement. Francione also rejects all forms of violence, arguing that the animal rights movement is the logical progression of the peace movement, seeking to take it one step further by ending conflict between human and non-human animals, and by treating animals as ends in themselves.
Let's look closer. (From Wikipedia.)
PROPERTY STATUS OF ANIMALS – Francione argues that because animals are the property of humans, laws that supposedly require their “humane” treatment and prohibit the infliction of “unnecessary” harm do not provide a significant level of protection for animal interests. For the most part, these laws and regulations require only that animals receive that level of protection that is required for their use as human property. Animals only have value as commodities and their interests do not matter in any moral sense. As a result, despite having laws that supposedly protect them, Francione contends that we treat animals in ways that would be regarded as torture if humans were involved. He argues that we could choose to provide greater protection to animals even if they were to remain our property, but legal, social and economic forces militate strongly against recognizing animal interests unless there is an economic benefit to humans.
ANIMAL RIGHTS AND ANIMAL WELFARE – In his book, ”Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement” (1996), Francione argues that there are significant theoretical and practical differences between animal rights, which he maintains requires the abolition of animal exploitation, and animal welfare., which seeks to regulate exploitation to make it more humane. Francione contends that the theoretical difference between these two approaches is obvious. The abolitionist position is that we cannot justify our use of non-humans however 'humanely' we treat animals; the regulationist position is that animal use is justifiable and that only issues of treatment are relevant.
Francione describes as 'new welfarists' those who claim to support animal rights, but who support animal welfare regulation as the primary way to achieve incremental recognition of the inherent value of non-humans. He argues that there is no factual support for this position because not only do regulations seldom if ever go beyond treating animals as economic commodities with only extrinsic value, but the perception that regulation has improved the 'humane' treatment of animals may very well facilitate continued and increased exploitation by making the public feel more comfortable about its consumption of animal products.
A central tenet of Francione's philosophy is that the most important form of incremental change within the abolitionist framework is veganism. Francione has also long argued that the animal rights movement is the logical extension of the peace movement and should embrace a non-violent approach. He maintains that an abolitionist/vegan movement is truly radical and that violence is reactionary.
RELEVANCE OF SENTIENCE – In his “Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog?” (2000), Francione argues that a theory of abolition should not require that animals have any cognitive characteristic beyond sentience to be full members of the moral community, entitled to the basic, pre-legal right not to be the property of humans. He rejects the position that animals have to have human-like cognitive characteristics, such as reflective self-awareness, language ability, or preference autonomy in order to have the right not to be used as human resources. Francione derives this right from the principle of equal consideration in that he maintains that if animals are property, their interests can never receive equal consideration.
As part of this discussion, Francione identifies what he calls our 'moral schizophrenia' when it comes to non-humans. On the one hand, we say that we take animal interests seriously. Francione points to the fact that many of us live with non-human companions who we regard as members of our families and whose personhood – their status as beings with intrinsic moral value – we do not doubt for a second. On the other hand, because animals are property, they remain things that have no value other than what we choose to accord them and whose interests we protect only when it provides a benefit – usually economic – to do so. According to Francione, if animals are going to matter morally and not be things, we cannot treat them as property.
ANIMAL RIGHTS MOVEMENT – Francione is also strongly opposed to the ideological support of animal welfarist organisations such as PETA and others. He claims these groups condone the continued exploitation of animals through supporting isolated improvements in animal welfare and 'happy meat'. Contrary to reducing the harm imposed upon animals, Francione argues this support of meat products leads consumers to further justify their consumption of unethical food products as they believe such an action is morally permissible or helpful.
Francione's theory of animal rights, particularly his views on animal welfare, is criticized by some sections of the animal protection movement, who argue that animal welfare does provide meaningful protection for animal interests. Moreover, many within the animal protection community maintain that certain animals, such as the great apes or dolphins, ought to receive greater protection based only on their cognitive similarity to humans – the so-called 'similar minds position' – a position opposed by Francione:
“I certainly agree that it is wrong to use non-human great apes in research or in circuses, or to confine them in zoos, or to , or to use them for any other purpose. But I reject what I call the 'similar minds' position that links the moral status of non-humans to their their possession of human-like cognitive characteristics. The exploitation of the non-human great apes is immoral for the same reason that it is immoral to exploit the hundreds of millions of mice and rats who are routinely exploited in laboratories or the billions of non-humans we kill and eat: the non-human great apes and all of these other non-humans are, like us, sentient. They are conscious; they are subjectively aware; they have interests; they can suffer. No characteristic other than sentience is required for personhood.”
See more about Gary L. Francione at
- Published: 05 May 2015
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