Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gary Francione's abolitionist theory

Gary L. Francione is Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark and an author of several animal rights books (including Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement pictured in this post). I mentioned him briefly a few months ago. He is a proponent of abolitionism and in his work he examines how, in order to truly make some headway to reduce animal suffering, we need to destroy our view of animals as property -- i.e. to abolish the concept of our right to legally own them. He also argues that animal rights supporters need to set veganism as their moral baseline to avoid what he calls ''moral schizophrenia''.

Francione compares supporting animal rights while eating animal products to being against
slavery while owning slaves.
He also stresses that there is as much suffering in a bowl of ice cream as there is in a piece of steak (since animals raised for milk production are often kept in condition similar or even worse to those raised for their flesh, plus are kept longer before their production value is deemed worth of being sent off to slaughter). To claim to be an animal rights advocate while continuing to contribute to their suffering by eating their flesh or products (e.g. milk or eggs) because one enjoys their taste, therefore, would be illogical and even hypocritical.

Francione is an outspoken critic of animal welfarist groups, into which he also counts PETA. He argues that these groups have evolved into corporate-like entities and have become effective at merely making people more comfortable with consuming animal products (e.g. consuming eggs from hens kept in barns rather than battery cages, rather than considering not consuming the eggs so that how the hens are treated becomes a non-issue in the first place). Some members of the animal rights movement, as well as animal welfarists who advocate more moderate reforms, criticize Francione by calling him divisive and claiming that his position concerning animal welfare reforms only harms the animals in the end. In response to this, he asserts that large animal welfarist groups such as PETA as stifling dissent and discussion and creating a false dichotomy -- you either support moderate animal welfare reforms, or, you're against the animals!

In the following two-part interview with Claudette Vaughn of Abolitionist-Online, Francione discusses his abolitionist theory in greater detail, explaining why it's the only logical approach to ending the the suffering imposed on animals through our use of them for our own consumption.

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