Activists + > Authors > Quotes - Index

Animals are Sentient - Following Quotes from Scientists & Experts

"For as long as humans have domesticated animals and have articulated a social consensus ethic, it has included an ethic for the treatment of animals, albeit a very limited one. That traditional ethic has been an ethic forbidding cruelty to animals, that is, deliberate, sadistic, useless, unnecessary infliction of pain, suffering, and neglect on animals."
    -- Bernard E. Rollin, Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at Colorado State University, in his book Farm Animal Welfare: Social, Bioethical, and Research Issues

"You are not handling a lump of plastic. You are handling animals with central nervous systems that feel pain and suffering."
    -- Janice Swanson, animal behavior specialist at Kansas State University, addressing a United Egg Producers meeting

"Killing an animal is not the same thing as mowing the grass. A life ends. That's something you take seriously. What does the word 'sacred' mean? You do not treat it as an ordinary thing. Killing cattle is not the same as running grain through a mill."
    -- Temple Grandin, Ph. D., Assistant Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University

" Recent research has revealed that birds are capable of complex cognition . . . it is now clear that birds have cognitive capacities equivalent to those of mammals, even primates . . . it should be realized that even vastly improved intensive systems are unlikely to meet the cognitive demands of the hitherto underestimated chicken brain. . . . With the increased knowledge of the behaviour and cognitive abilities of the chicken has come the realization that the chicken is not an inferior species to be treated merely as a food source."
    -- Lesley Rogers, Ph. D., Professor of Physiology, University of New England, in her book The Development of Brain and Behavior in the Chicken

"That's one sad, unhappy, upset cow. She wants her baby. Bellowing for it, hunting for it. It's like grieving, mourning----not much written about it. People don't like to allow them thoughts or feelings."
    -- Temple Grandin, Ph. D., Assistant Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, referring to a reaction of a mother cow when her calf was taken from her, as quoted in Oliver W. Sacks's An Anthropologist on Mars

"Animals are sentient beings with an intrinsic worth."
    -- Margareta Winberg, Swedish Agricultural Minister, speaking to an EU conference focusing on humane treatment of animals in Europe

"The very fact that companion animals are so highly regarded raises difficult issues for agricultural and performance animal doctors. Some of these animals are not markedly different in their mental capacities from many companion animals. At a time the profession seeks to promote companion animals as members of the family, to what extent must it also advocate the interests of its food, farm, and performance animal patients?. . . Nevertheless, discussions devoid of attention to animal interests are appearing with frequency in the literature espousing the model of the veterinarian as herd health consultant."
    -- Jerrold Tannenbaum, M.A., J.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, in his book Veterinary Ethics: Animal Welfare, Client Relations, Competition and Collegiality

"There is much evidence showing that animals have sophisticated systems for regulating their lives and that they are much disturbed if they cannot control certain aspects of what happens to them. There is also good evidence for elaborate systems for detecting and responding to painful stimuli."
    -- A. F. Fraser, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and D. M. Broom, Professor of Animal Welfare at Cambridge, in their book Farm Animal Behavior and Welfare

"Humans who enslave, castrate, experiment on and fillet other animals, have had an understandable penchant for pretending animals do not feel pain. A sharp distinction between humans and 'animals' is essential if we are to bend them to our will, wear them, eat them--without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret. It is unseemly of us, who often behave so unfeelingly toward other animals, to contend that only humans can suffer. The behavior of other animals renders such pretensions specious. They are just too much like us."
    -- Dr. Carl Sagan & Dr. Ann Druyan, in their book Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

Animal Rights and the Future

by Gary Francione

Gary Francione, Rutgers law professor and co-founder/director of the Rutgers Animal Rights Law Center, is among the most ideologically-committed professionals championing abolition of all institutionalized animal usage. In this speech -- delivered before the World Vegetarian Congress at the University of Pittsburgh (at Johnstown) on August 3, 1996 -- Francione offers an empowering dictum on the need for ongoing individual/collective action to halt injustices toward animals, humans and the environment.


There are more people than ever before who claim to identify with the "animal rights movement." More and more people are giving up meat and dairy products; more and more reject the use of animals in biomedical experiments; more and more now accept that whatever educational benefits are provided by zoos cannot justify what zoos really are: prisons for animals. Recent surveys show that a majority of the population expresses some endorsement of the animal rights position, and most people are horrified when they become aware of the details of exactly how that steak got to their dinner plate. But at the same time there are more animals being used in more horrific ways than ever before.

In the United States alone, over 8 billion animals are consumed for food every year. These animals are transformed into meat through a process known as "intensive agriculture," which is shorthand for rearing practices that cannot be described as anything other than barbaric. Pigs live their lives in stalls, unable to turn around or to escape the suckling of the constant streams of litters that they are forced to have; calves live confined in small crates in dark, windowless buildings; laying hens are confined four to a cage measuring 12 inches square; broiler hens are confined so severely that cannibalism and disease kills many of the birds. Animals continue to be used in bizarre and often horrific experiments in which they are confined, shot, shocked, burned, and otherwise mutilated. The law says that anesthesia need not be used if anesthesia would interfere with the results of the experiment. And it is the researchers themselves who are entrusted with the decision about whether pain relief would interfere with their "science."

Researchers claim that animals are like us, and we need to use them in order to understand and treat our diseases. But these same researchers claim that animals are unlike us, so that we need have no moral concern about our exploitation of them. And, despite almost universal social acceptance of the notion that we ought not to impose "unnecessary" suffering on animals, we continue to use animals in all sorts of contexts in which we cannot even claim the pretense of benefit. For example, every year on Labor Day in Hegins, Pennsylvania, shooters pay about $100 each for the privilege of shooting, crippling, and ultimately beating to death about 8,000 pigeons.

The Pennsylvania courts have thus far refused to hold that such conduct violates the state anticruelty law. Many animal advocates understandably feel a sense of defeat. The system does not seem to be responding, even though there are more of us than ever before, and even though those who support animal exploitation have yet to come up with any justification of animal use other than it is "traditional or "natural' -- the same vacuous explanations that have been offered throughout human history to justify virtually every form of social oppression. Perhaps animal advocates have failed to appreciate the enormity of the problem.

The plain fact is chat this country and other industrial countries are deeply dependent on animal exploitation to sustain their present economic structures. The plain fact is that we are more dependent on animal exploitation than were the states of the southern United States on human slavery. Animals are property, and many animals, such as cows, horses, breeding "stock," transgenic animals, and racing horses, are particularly valuable forms of property. Although there are laws that supposedly protect animals, these laws almost always require that courts defer to the interests of human property owners. After all, animals are our property, and what sense would it make to allow our property to prevail in a conflict with us!

So, although there are more people concerned about animals and the environment, little progress has been made because those who profit from animal exploitation and the governments that exists to serve their interests have a lot to lose and are not budging -- not an inch. But there are signs that the pendulum may, as a general matter, be swinging back.

People are starting to realize that democracy has been hijacked by corporate special interests. People are getting tired of the resurgence of racism and anti-Semitism. People are getting tired of the rampant and disempowering sexism that pervades our culture. People are becoming increasingly aware that our "representatives" in Congress are nothing but pawns of the highest bidder, and are so devoid of integrity that they will attack "welfare mothers" as a financial drain on an economy that spends more money on a few new war toys than it spends on the entire system of welfare on a yearly basis. People want change.

More and more people are becoming concerned about matters of social justice and nonviolence generally. Many people opposed the Gulf War; we just were not told about them by media that just happened to be controlled by the same corporations that make the bombs that we dropped on a lot of people and animals. Change will come, sooner or later. We can only hope that it will be sooner rather than later. We can only hope that it will be nonviolent. We must ask ourselves, however, whether that hope is itself morally justifiable in light of the violence that we have caused and tolerated to be caused by others who claim to act on our behalf.

If the animal rights movement is to survive the backlash of animal exploiters, and if the movement is going to harness both its own internal energy and the general level of political dissatisfaction, the movement needs to re-strategize and re-organize in light of the New World Order. Now is the time to develop a radical nonviolent approach to animal rights as part of an overall program of social justice. The solution will not be simple, but we must make a start. Consider the following suggestions:

1. We must recognize that if animal rights means anything, it means that there is no moral justification for any institutionalized animal exploitation. Many people believe that as long as a person "cares" about animals, that caring makes someone an advocate of animal "rights." But that is no more the case than merely "caring" for women makes one a feminist. If animals have rights, then the interests protected by those rights must receive protection and cannot be sacrificed merely because humans believe that the beneficial consequences for humans of such sacrifice outweigh the detriment for animals. We cannot talk simultaneously about animal rights and the "humane" slaughter of animals.

2. We need to reshape the movement as one of grassroots activists, and not "professional activists" who populate the seemingly endless number of national animal rights groups. Although it is important to give financial support to worthy efforts, giving money is not enough and giving to the wrong groups can actually do more harm than good. For the most part, support local groups that you work with or that operate in your area. Significant social change has to occur on a local level.

3. We need to recognize that activism can come in many forms. Many people think that they cannot be good activists if they cannot afford to have big, splashy campaigns, often involving the promotion of legislation or big lawsuits. There are many forms of activism, and one of the most potent is education. We were all educated, and we need to educate others -- one by one. If each of us succeeded in educating five people per year about the need for personal and social nonviolence, the results multiplied over ten years would be staggering. Those of us inclined should reach out to greater audiences -- on radio or television talk shows, in print media, in the classroom, or in the context of peaceful demonstrations to teach about nonviolence as a paradigm of justice. But it is important to realize that these issues are too important to leave to anyone else. We -- each of us -- has an obligation to seek justice for all persons, human and nonhuman. And we -- each of us -- can help effect that justice on a daily basis by sharing our ideas with those with whom we come in contact. Never underestimate the power of the individual and of small groups.

4. If we decide to pursue legislation, we should stop pursuing welfarist solutions to the problem. Animal welfare seeks to regulate atrocity by making cages bigger or by adding additional layers of bureaucratic review to ensure that the atrocity is "humane." We should pursue legislation that seeks to abolish particular forms of exploitation. Animal advocates should always be upfront about their ultimate objective, and use all campaigns as an opportunity to teach about nonviolence and the rejection of all institutionalized animal exploitation.

5. We should recognize that there is a necessary connection between the animal rights movement and other movements for social justice. Animal exploitation involves species bias or speciesism, and is as morally unacceptable as other irrelevant criteria such as race, sex, sexual orientation, or class, in determining membership in the moral universe.

6. Animal advocates should stop worrying about being "mainstream." How long will it take us to understand that the mainstream is irreversibly polluted. Animal advocates -- indeed, many progressives -- are afraid be labeled as "extremists." But what does it mean to an "extremist" when people like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh are revered by millions! When a man of color in Harlem has a lower life expectancy than a man living in the poorest of nations! When millions go without health care or even minimal shelter or adequate food in the wealthiest nation on earth! When billions of animals are slaughtered yearly for absolutely no reason other than "it tastes good!" Perhaps it is time that animal advocates learned to be proud called "extremists."

In closing, I emphasize that the most important point is that we can no longer look to others to solve the enormous problems that we confront. We must work with other like minded people, but we can never ignore or underestimate the ability or the responsibility --of each person to affect significant change on a personal and social level. And we cannot wait any longer for "moderation" to work. Time is running out for us, for nonhuman animals, and for the planet.

-If we are to understand the animals with whom we share the world, we need to watch them, interact with them, without too much prejudice. Understanding them, we may also understand ourselves a little more. By seeing what constrains and motivates our kindred we may, perhaps, discover what the morals and manners of the human beasts might be.
Professor Stephen L.Clark (1945- )

Animal Rights and the Easy Option
by Black Sheep

Campaigners for the rights of women and of the ethnic minorities in this country have got to be admired for the progress they have made in their respective causes. Of course, they'd be the first to point out - and I'd be the first to concede - that they've still got a long way to go; but what they have already managed to achieve, in the old, hard struggle to open/change minds of the great 'British Public', is nothing short of phenomenal, especially when you consider the relatively short time-span concerned.

When I was growing up, in the 6O's and 7O's, it seemed that little had advanced on those fronts since the time of the abolition of slavery and women getting the vote. Black people were still regarded as alien and inferior; women were thought of as being next-to-nothing (completely negligible outside of their 'traditional' roles as 'chattels'). These atrocious attitudes were not only perfectly 'respectable', they were the norm.

By the end of the 80's, however, things had changed a great deal for the better, thanks to the campaigners. By this time, it was the people who held those views who seemed to be in the minority - alien, primitive and 'negligible'. The change in attitudes had been so marked that further, far-reaching legislation came unavoidably.

As I've already pointed out, I'm very much aware that these causes haven 't by any means reached the ends of their roads yet. Prejudice is still disproportionately strong where it does most harm - particularly in the workplace, government and the most deprived levels of society. But it's still not a bad distance to have covered in twenty or so years. What have we in the animal rights movement managed to achieve in that same span of time'?

It can, of course, be argued - and with good reason - that the comparative success of the 'equal rights movements has more than a little to do with the fact that they are campaigning for the rights of fellow human beings. Fighting for women's rights, it could be said, will automatically get half the population on your side - and no-one in this country is seriously going to argue back, any more, that there are 'grades' of human beings who merit different grades of treatment.

Convincing human beings (by which I mean junkcultured, McDonalds - munching, scientist-worshipping consumers) that other species are worthy of equal respect is a much harder task - especially when (and this is another point of difference) to do so means them having to make a large number of personal, practical, fundamental changes to their lives; what they eat, what they wear, what they buy, who they trust to deal with their health, and so on, as well as what jobs and businesses they should allow to exist.

Nevertheless, I believe that looking at the campaigning strategies of these movements can teach us a thing or two about how to go about things, especially in that we have twice the job to do.

The most important lesson we can learn, it seems to me, is a political one: work from within. No group (unless it has an army behind it) can change society from an isolated position outside of it. It's no good occupying the moral high ground and trying to persuade people they should come up and join you. The equal rights movements made sure that the moral high ground was set up everywhere in the media, the office, the factory and the home, they forced people to face the issues, talk about them, make their choice and made them feel like social lepers if they got it wrong.

The Animal Rights movement has tried to do that, but in such a wishy-washy sort of way that its effects have been far weaker than should have been the case. We have also, in my opinion, made several mistakes which have made sure that the issues have never reached deeply enough into the British social 'psyche' to be un-ignorable in the same way that sexism and racism are.

The equal rights movements managed to achieve this because they realised they had to be deliberately populist. Now, before you reach for your guns, I want to stress immediately that by populist I do NOT mean the "don't upset anyone" compliance and compromise adopted by so many of our 'Nationals'. I am talking about its dictionary definition: "claiming to represent the whole of the population".

The equal rights campaigners NEVER had the mental attitude of people who hold a "minority belief". They worked on the assumption / knowledge, that their causes were self-evidently right to the vast majority of the population and deliberately set out to corner everyone into admitting it. They did this by bombarding us with the issues, encapsulated in jargon, until everyone was forced to face them and decide where they stood. That way, the fact that it was their opposition who were in the minority was highlighted and emphasised, to the point where it was they who became isolated, and hardly dare open their mouths.

One of the main ways in which they managed to do this was to use the old trick of labelling and pigeonholing - for which we have always been suckers. Each of the movements managed, as outlined above, to encapsulate their issues into an easily swallowed form: the buzz words "racism" and "sexism". They repeated the words to us ad nauseam (even to those who sympathised), but in reality they were quite readily accepted by the ever-lazy British public as the easiest of tools with which to pass on the message to others. How many times did you hear an argument actually concluded with the magic words, "Oh, that's just sexist" or "You're just a racist". The fact that these labels were weighted with pejorative associations of, respectively, women-hating / sexual insecurity and Fascism / genocide, meant that everywhere (and I mean everywhere) such arguments took place, the conclusion of the argument was already decided before it took place. Out with the magic words and the opposition are left with nothing further to say, except to feebly try to deny the label.

These simple words managed to do the job because the use of them manipulated certain common characteristics of people within this society: laziness, the taboo factor, fear of non-acceptance, etc. Pretty soon, the herd were all following this lead; few daring to contemplate disagreement. The introduction of these words even managed to oust a few old ones from the thesaurus. It may not seem much on the face of it, but when a movement can actually alter the language, it is a sure sign that it is really getting somewhere.

This use of words is a strong weapon, but it is also indicative of the strong position of the groups who used them. What I've described above could never have been done by any movement whose supporters were seen to be apart from the society they were trying to influence. I believe that, although our cause does have the potential, fundamental sympathy of the majority, our arguments, issues, jargon (Richard Ryder's buzz-word "speciesism/specism") and associated taboos (death camps, holocausts, etc.) have not reached a similarly influential and all-pervading acceptance because we have got ourselves into the position of being perceived as isolated and apart - a fringe concern.

I think there is, specifically, a danger at present of our movement being 'swallowed' by - and being seen to be 'just another part of' - the 'alternative', pagan, New Age counter-culture, call it what you will.

I know that a lot of our support comes from this quarter and I'm not by any means denigrating it as a movement in its own right - but I still think it's a big step in the wrong direction. There's nothing wrong with this alternative culture - who knows, it may be a blueprint for a much better world, one day, but one day is the operative phrase.

If we want radical change as quickly as possible, then we've got to influence as many people as possible. That way, the decision-makers are either influenced in their turn, or they are by-passed. It's as simple as that.

The alternative culture's principles may be spot on, but their power to influence is nil. This is probably because they don't want to influence, they just want to be left alone to live as they wish. They want to separate themselves from society; we cannot afford to, for the sake of the animals. We are in the business of conversion, not opting out.

Thus, in the here and now, I don't think we can afford the luxury of being identified with an amorphous, aimless body who, if they survive at all, will have no real sway for many, many years to come; and who, in the meantime, have proved to be a ready target for media scorn and general fear and/or contempt among the people we're trying to change or activate.


Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin,