Animal Protection >
DEBATING FRANCIONE (and loving it) – PART
|The interview continues below.....................
Q. There are many people in our movement who are
content to work for, say for example, humane slaughtering
practices to be enforced. Would you see this then as a
bastardization of ARightist views?
A. Yes, and for three reasons. First I do not think
that such regulations do much to reduce suffering in the first
place. As I and others have noted, "humane slaughter" laws are
very difficult to enforce, and the economic realities of the
meat-packing business militate against conscientious
self-enforcement of these standards. And given the millions of
animals that we kill every day, it would be impossible for the
government to police the industry.
Second, I think that such laws actually increase animal
suffering overall because they make the general public feel
better about eating meat (or about any other animal use that
is regulated to be "humane"). This is the "catch 22" of animal
welfare: to the extent that welfarist measures make people
feel better about animal exploitation, then animal
exploitation actually increases and overall animal suffering
increases and does not decrease.
Third, I think that making slaughter more "humane" should
not be the point of the animal rights movement. There will
always be welfarists who will promote longer chains for the
slaves. I think that the animal rights movement should be
working toward the abolition of animal slavery.
Q. Your work identifies that while the status of
animals is only seen as "property" value, then whatever good
that ushers out of that will always be checkmated back to a
fundamentally wrong origin. ie, welfarist. Why?
A. If what you are asking is whether I think that
the property status of animals is the reason that animal
welfare is a miserable failure, the answer is "yes." Animal
welfare – both as a moral theory and as a legal principle –
requires in part that we "balance" human interests against
animal interests in order to determine whether particular
animal use or treatment is "necessary." If the human interest
outweighs the animal interest, the use or treatment is
considered as "necessary" and morally or legally justifiable.
If the animal interest outweighs the human interest, then the
use or treatment is considered "unnecessary" and morally and
As I first explored in my 1995 book, "Animals, Property,
and the Law", the problem is that because animals are
property, what we really balance is the interest of property
owners against the interests of their property. And that is
absurd. It makes no sense about balancing the interests of
property against that of the owner of the property; property
has only that value accorded to it by the owner. That is
precisely why laws that supposedly regulated race-based
slavery in the United States failed completely to protect the
interests of slaves: it was simply not possible to "balance"
the interests of a slaves against those of a slave-owner. The
slave was a piece of property, a thing that was owned by the
slave owner, and only had that value assigned to her by her
owner. Similarly, because animals are property, they, too, are
merely things that we own, and only have the value that we
accord to them. As a matter of logic, we cannot balance their
interests against ours, any more than we can balance our
interests against those of our cars or wrist watches.
Q. I think that you are right when you say that many
people in the AR Movement today think that writing out a
cheque or just paying their annual membership is being part of
the Movement. It's easy to manipulate people into handing
personal responsibility over to the "experts". This in turn
inculcates a strong sense of powerlessness in people while
feeding them illusions of individual choice and power. So what
would be your advice to animal activists then?
A. First of all, I would advise every animal
advocate to practice what they should be all preaching:
absolute and uncompromising veganism in our own lives. I am very
distressed that I meet "self-styled" "animal-rights" people
who tell me that they can't give up ice cream or cheese or fish
or chicken or leather. Indeed, many of the so-called "leaders"
of the American animal movement are not vegans, and some are
not even vegetarians. That is unacceptable.
Second, I would advise people to stop sending their money
to the large corporate animal charities. We must face it: the
modern animal "movement" is really more of a business than it
is a social movement. As American animal rights lawyer Lee
Hill says, it is better called the "animal rights industry."
Most of the large national and international organisations are
thoroughly corrupt. Their "leaders" are corporate executives
who receive a very large salary. In the United States, many of
the so-called "leaders" of the "industry" have salaries well
over $100,000. And that does not include expense accounts and
other "fringe" benefits. There was one prominent U.S. "leader"
who boasted that he did not take a salary. What he did not
tell the public, however, was that his organisation paid over
$200,000 per year for his "living expenses".
Third, I would encourage animal advocates to understand a
fundamental principle: radical change cannot be imposed by
large corporate animal charities. Meaningful and pervasive
change can only come from the grassroots. Rather than
focusing on developing large national and international
animal corporations, we should concentrate our labour and
financial resources on local effects. Neighbours should
educate neighbours about the need for change.
Q. Henry Spira said that constructive negotiations
are far more productive than ongoing confrontations. How would
you respond to that?
A. I knew Henry Spira well but the reality is that
Henry's theory of "constructive negotiation" with exploiters
is a term synonymous with selling out to the exploiters. Henry
ended up becoming a spokesperson for the cosmetics industry
and attacked those who demanded an end to all testing. In his
later years, Henry, joined by Singer, advocated "constructive
negotiations" with the meat industry to bring about "humane"
Although Henry has passed on, he would be happy to know
that his "constructive negotiations" approach has become the
norm. In 1996, when I wrote "Rain Without Thunder", I quoted
PeTA's Ingrid Newkirk as criticizing Spira for making deals
with the cosmetics industry. And now – in 2001 – Newkirk and
PeTA are making deals with McDonalds. As you probably know,
PeTA – with the support of Singer – withdrew its boycott of
McDonald's after the largest exploiter of animals and the
environment promised to provide hens with a couple of
additional inches of cage space. The praise of McDonalds by
PeTA and Singer will, I fear, do much to increase animal
suffering because the general public will feel better about
eating at MacDonalds given that it is now identified with
prominent animal advocates as a corporation that takes animal
welfare seriously. McDonalds will even make more money and
sell even more animal products. Some may call this
"constructive negotiations" with large animal exploiting
corporations, it usually means that it will be "constructive"
only for the corporation and the sell-out, such as Henry Spira
or PeTA, who is doing the sell out. It is never "constructive"
for the animals.
Q. You have spoken about our "moral schizophrenia"
about animals. Please outline your thoughts on the subject
A. By "moral schizophrenia," I mean to describe a
phenomenon that exists on both a personal and social level.
The personal level is illustrated by the fact that many of us
live with dogs, cats and other animals. We regard them as
members of our families. But we stick dinner forks into other
animals who are no different from the animals whom we claim to
regard as our family members. This is an odd behaviour when
you think about it.
The social manifestation of moral schizophrena is
illustrated by the fact that almost all of us would agree with
the statement that it is morally wrong to impose "unnecessary
suffering" on animals. Although we may disagree about what
"necessary suffering" means, we must agree that it is wrong to
impose suffering on animals for human amusement, pleasure or
convenience. After all, a rule that says it is wrong to impose
suffering on animals unless we find it pleasurable and amusing
would be a rather meaningless rule. The problem is that 99.9%
of our use of animals cannot be justified by any reason other
than human amusement and convenience. It is 2001; no one
maintains that we need to eat meat to lead an optimally
healthy life style. Indeed, an increasing number of health
care professionals maintain that eating meat and dairy is
detrimental to human health. And animal agriculture is an
ecological disaster. It takes between 6 and 12 pounds of plant
protein to produce one pound of animal protein and it takes
about 100 times more water to produce a pound of animal
protein than to produce a pound of wheat. Our best
justification for eating meat and dairy is that it tastes
good. Our best justification for rodeos, circuses, zoos,
hunting, etc is entertainment.
In short, western culture claims to take animal interests
seriously, and we all claim to accept the principle that
imposing "unnecessary" suffering is wrong. But in reality, we
impose suffering and death on them in situations that cannot
be described as involving "necessity" of any sort. That is
what I call "moral schizophrenia."
Q. What is your opinion of the relationship between
vivisectors and the AR Movement of today? Within the context
of your views, how can this relationship ever evolve or
A. In many ways, there is a much closer relationship
today between the "movement" and vivisectors because the
"movement" has become much more welfarist and is no longer
demanding the abolition of the practice. For example, several
months ago, the American Animal "movement" joined forces
behind Jane Goodall (who, by the way, has become a paid
spokesperson for an American dairy company, Stoneyfield
Dairies) to press for passage of the Chimpanzee Health
Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection ("CHIMP") Act. The
CHIMP Act will create a federally run "sanctuary" for
chimpanzees but there is a catch: the chimpanzees can be used
for further research if the government decides it is necessary
to do so. This terrible law was supported by all of the major
animal groups except for "Friends of Animals". So if I were a
vivisector -especially in the United States – I would say that
the relationship has improved. After all, the vivisectors have
Jane Goodall, PeTA, and even "anti-vivisection" groups such as
the National Antivivisection Society, on their side.
As far as the future is concerned, I think we are on the
verge of new horrors for animals as genetic engineering,
cloning, and other technologies promise great corporate
profits. Unfortunately, the "movement" is not prepared for the
Q. What are your views on the motivations of medical
A. I do not pretend to know what goes on in the mind
of others. I am interested in getting people to stop
oppressing others – whether the "others" are animals, or
women, or people of colour, of the differently-abled or
As far as I'm concerned it is not the vivisector, or the
furrier, or the butcher, who is the problem. The problem is a
patriarchal society that treats animals (or women, or people
of colour, etc) as means to the ends of men. Vivisection would
not exist if enough of us rejected the idea that it is
acceptable to use animals as a means to our ends. Furriers
would not exist if there were not a demand for fur. Furriers
do not create a demand for fur; they merely satisfy a demand
that is created by a patriarchal society that finds it
appealing (and appropriate) for women to dress in animal
skins. Butchers exist because most of us think that the
pleasure we derive in eating meat justifies an animal-based
agriculture. By focussing on the individual exploiter, we
sometimes lose sight of the fact that animal exploitation is
just a symptom of a larger social problem. The problem is not
really "them". The problem is a society that treats animals as
Q. Could you provide some basic guidelines that
would give shape to your vision of what an animal rights
movement ought to promote?
A. I hope that my books and articles have provided
some guidance, but I was asked recently by some animal
advocates to article a set of principles that might be used as
shorthand for what I regard as the moral baselines of a real
animal rights movement. Here goes:
The animal rights position maintains that all sentient
beings, humans or non-humans, have one right: the basic
right not to be treated as the property of others.
Our recognition of this one basic right means that we
must abolish, and not merely regulate, institionalised
animal exploitation because it assumes that animals are the
property of humans.
Just as we reject racism, sexism, ageism, and
homophobia, we reject speciesism. The species of a sentient
being is no more a reason to deny the protection of this
basic right than is race, sex, age, or sexual orientation a
reason to deny membership in the moral community to other
We recognise that we will not abolish overnight the
property status of nonhumans, but we will support only those
campaigns and positions that explicity promote the
abolitionist agenda. We will not support positions that call
for supposedly "improved" regulation of animal exploitation.
We commit ourselves to educating the public about the need
to abolish animal exploitation.
We recognise the principle of nonviolence as the guiding
principle of the animal rights movement.