Gary Francione on Animals as Persons


In a recent essay for Rorotoko, Gary Francione writes about his book Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation.

His essay explains his rejection of conventional animal welfare reform and his belief in the abolitionist theory of animal rights. Francione argues “that we cannot justify using animals as human resources, irrespective of whether our treatment is ‘humane'” and that animals should not be kept as chattel or property.

Francione also suggests that we suffer from a kind of “moral schizophrenia” when it comes to nonhuman animals. In one of the more provocative portions of his essay, he writes:

Our moral thinking about animals is confused to the point of being delusional. We say that we regard as morally wrong the imposition of “unnecessary” suffering and death on animals. Whatever the finer points about the meaning of necessity, if it means anything at all in this context, it must mean that we cannot justify imposing suffering and death on animals for reasons of mere pleasure, amusement, or convenience. We excoriated Michael Vick for participating in dog fighting because the dogs suffered and died only because Vick and his friends derived pleasure from this activity. But how is Vick any different from those of us who eat meat and animal products?

We kill and eat approximately 56 billion animals annually, not including fish. There is no doubt that the overwhelming majority—almost all—of these animals have absolutely horrible lives and deaths and are treated in ways that clearly and undisputedly constitute torture. The animal you ate for dinner last night—even if raised in the most “humane” or in “free-range” circumstances—was treated as badly if not worse than Michael Vick’s dogs.

Francione concludes the piece by clarifying his abolitionist approach:

The abolitionist position presented in Animals as Persons does not mean that we release domesticated animals to run wild in the street. If we took animals seriously and recognized our obligation not to treat them as things, we would stop producing and facilitating the production of domestic animals altogether. We would care for the ones whom we have here now, but we would stop breeding more for human consumption.

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