The Animal Turn

S6E5: Abolition with Gary Francione

December 11, 2023 Claudia Hirtenfelder Season 6 Episode 5
The Animal Turn
S6E5: Abolition with Gary Francione
The Animal Turn +
Help us continue making great content for listeners everywhere.
Starting at $3/month
Support
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Claudia talks to lawyer and philosopher Gary Francione about abolition. Gary provides an overview of how ideas related to animals have emerged and changed since the 19th century. This includes the emergence of animal welfare, animal rights, and abolitionism. Throughout the interview Gary asserts that animal welfare and animal rights will not achieve anything until there is a paradigm shift whereby animals are no longer understood as property, food, or things to use. 

 

Date Recorded: 5 October 2023. 

 

Gary Francione is a is a published author and frequent guest on radio and television shows for his theory of animal rights, criticism of animal welfare law and the property status of nonhuman animals. He has degrees in philosophy and clerked for U.S. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. He is the author of numerous books and articles on animal rights theory and animals and the law. His most recent book is the 2020 publication Why Veganism matters: The Moral Value of Animalsand other titles include The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation? (Columbia University Press, 2010) and Animals, Property, and the Law (Temple University Press, 1995). He is also the editor of Critical Perspectives on Animals: Theory, Culture, Science and Law, a series published by Columbia University Press. Gary has been teaching animal rights for more than 25 years and, together with Professor Ana Charlton, started and operated the Rutgers Animal Rights Law Clinic from 1990-2000, making Rutgers the first university in the U.S. to have animal rights law as part of the regular academic curriculum and to award students academic credit, not only for classroom work, but also for work on actual cases involving animal issues. 
 

Featured: 

 

 Animal Highlight: Honeybees

 
The Animal Turn is part of the  iROAR, an Animals Podcasting Network and can also be found on A.P.P.L.E, Twitter, and Instagram


Thank you to Animals in Philosophy, Politics, Law and Ethics (A.P.P.L.E) for sponsoring this podcast; Gordon Clarke (Instagram: @_con_sol_) for the bed music, Jeremy John for the logo, Rebecca Shen for her design work, Virginia Thomas for the Animal Highlight, and Christiaan Mentz for his sound editing. 

A.P.P.L.E
Animals in Philosophy, Politics, Law and Ethics (A.P.P.L.E)

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Support the show

The Animal Turn is hosted and produced by Claudia Hirtenfelder and is part of iROAR Network. Find out more on our website.

00:00 - Introduction 

  •  Alan Watts was an expert in slavery and said slave law didn’t work because slaves were chattel property “and I started thinking, wait a minute now, that’s exactly what’s going on with animals” – Gary
  • Episode 5, halfway through the season. 
  • Brace yourself, this is a long interview.  
  • Gary Francione is a is a published author and frequent guest on radio and television shows for his theory of animal rights, criticism of animal welfare law and the property status of nonhuman animals. He has degrees in philosophy and clerked for U.S. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. He is the author of numerous books and articles on animal rights theory and animals and the law. His most recent book is the 2020 publication Why Veganism matters: The Moral Value of Animals and other titles include The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation? (Columbia University Press, 2010) and Animals, Property, and the Law (Temple University Press, 1995). He is also the editor of Critical Perspectives on Animals: Theory, Culture, Science and Law, a series published by Columbia University Press. Gary has been teaching animal rights for more than 25 years and, together with Professor Ana Charlton, started and operated the Rutgers Animal Rights Law Clinic from 1990-2000, making Rutgers the first university in the U.S. to have animal rights law as part of the regular academic curriculum and to award students academic credit, not only for classroom work, but also for work on actual cases involving animal issues. 

 

03:18 – Gary’s journey to veganism 

  • Used to live in New York city but after getting third dog decided to move and now lives west of Philadelphia. 
  • Have five dogs but have had seven in the past but didn’t grow up with animals.
  • Went to a veal slaughterhouse when he was in law school when he was at the University of Rochester and “the violence of it was overwhelming” so he decided he couldn’t contribute to that and stopped eating meat immediately. This was an emotional reaction, not a philosophical one. 
  • Ate fish for another year and then read something about how fish are sentient so he stopped eating fish
  • Was clerking for Sandra O’Connor and a dog was hit by a car. Gary called the Washington Humane Society who sent someone over but the dog died before they got there. The officer was Ingrid Newkirk who said her boyfriend (Alex Pacheco) and her have just started a new group called PETA. 
  • Gary confessed he knew nothing about animal rights, so he met up with Ingrid and Alex to learn more. 
  • When they had dinner, Ingrid say Gary had milk in his fridge and she poured it down the drain and Gary didn’t understand what the problem was – “Why, they don’t kill the cow for milk?” and she asked “Are you serious?”
  • “Vegetarianism is incoherent” – Gary
  • Ramped up on dairy when he went vegetarian so ate a lot of eggs and ice-cream.
  • “If someone confronts you and you don’t have a good answer, you don’t fight” – Gary. 
  • 41 years ago in October (1982) – “I never ever knowingly ate another animal product as long as I live” – Gary
  • Had never heard the word vegan.


16:48 – Animal Rights, Philosophy and Law

  • When he became a vegan, it changed his life. 
  • Went to work for a large firm in New York and did a case for the ASPCA in New York. And won.
  • Building his relationship with PETA, who was very small at the time. 
  • Took a job teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, fall 1984, and a group claiming to be the Animal Liberation Front stole video tapes of animals being tested on at the university. PETA made a 20 minute version of this. 
  • Came out against his university and the lab was closed down – he still got tenure. 
  • “If I was a woman, or a black person, or anyone else other than a white guy I would have been thrown out of my ear from the University of Pennsylvania” – Gary
  • During this time, doing work related to the head injury clinical research lab, became friendly with Tom Regan. Before this time he was reacting as a lawyer and representing activists. “I was a law professor doing law stuff” – Gary
  • Got close with Tom Regan who was trying to understand animal rights “in a practical way” – “How do you turn animal rights into an activist theory?” – Gary
  • Historically, up to this point it had been animal welfare. 

 

23:48 – Animal Welfare

  • Animal welfare was the dominant theory, starting in the 19th century, in the west. 
  • In western thinking animals are considered thing until the 19th century. They are property and things and we have no moral obligations to them. 
  • This starts to change when people like Jeremy Bentham say they suffer so they matter. He rejected the idea that they didn’t matter because they weren’t rational. But he though their cognitive inferiority was relevant to continuing to exploit them. 
  • Bentham plops animals between things and humans. He thought it was alright for us to continue using animals as long as we treated them in a “humane way” – That is animal welfare. 
  • In terms of the history of ideas it is fairly unique, you enter the 19th century no one thinks animals matter and you leave the 19th century with people thinking animals matter but it’s okay to continue using them. 
  • In the middle of the 20th century as people are talking more about women’s rights and civil rights people started to ask questions about animals. 
  • Peter Singer comes along in 1976 and writes Animal Liberation which is “basically Bentham on steroids.” He believes that it may be justifiable to continue using and killing animals because they don’t have a morally significant interest in their lives. He has a lot of utilitarian balancing because he doesn’t believe in rights. 
  • Singer thinks that if an animal is self-aware that animal may have an interest in continuing to live, and they may have an interest in presumptions against using them. But, especially in the beginning, he didn’t think that most animals had any sort of sense of their future. But even if they have a sense of their future that doesn’t preclude as using them because he is a utilitarian. 

 

29:06 – Animal Rights and Property Rights 

  • Tom Regan comes along and says he doesn’t accept Singer’s ideas saying he is a deontologist and a rights theorist. Regan says that if an animal is a subject of a life then that being enjoys a right of respectful treatment that prohibits you from using them as a means to an end. 
  • “That’s sort of where I came in” – Gary
  • At the time was much more interested in practical things not so much theory. 
  • But became interested in trying to understand how activists where different to the work of groups like the humane society. So became interested in how animal rights is different to animal welfare. 
  • Alan Watts was an expert in slavery and said slave law didn’t work because slaves were chattel property “and I started thinking, wait a minute now, that’s exactly what’s going on with animals” – Gary
  • Comes to the conclusion that animals are chattel property so animal welfare “is never going to amount to anything” – Gary
  • “Animal welfare has nothing to do with morality. It has to do with economics. It has to do with making sure that animals are exploited in an economically efficient way” – Gary 
  • This was the subject of Gary’s first book “Animals, Property, and Law”  
  • Are people using “animal welfare” differently. Are all welfare programs problematic?
  • “When you are talking about human welfare you are talking about the welfare of persons. When you are talking about animal welfare you are not talking about persons. You are talking about things. Remember something, animals are chattel property. They are things.” – Gary 
  • Property owners get to value their property or they can discard it. 
  • Because animals are property the level of protection you were afford them will be tied to how much care you need to exploit them in an efficient way. 
  • Animal welfare has to do with what a rational property owner would employ – factory farming is a logical outcome of thinking about efficiency. 
  • Animal welfare can’t work in the same way slave law couldn't work – the institutional status requires that the interests of the slave owner or the animal owner is protected.

 

38:00 - Translating Animal Rights into an Activist Program

  • What does this mean for activism? Rejection of welfare reform and single-issue campaigns. 
  • The anti-fur campaign was sexist but there is also no distinction between fur, wool, and leather. 
  • Thought that the focus needed to be on veganism.
  • Until you convince someone that not eating animals is morally significant it becomes hard to achieve anything else. 
  • Also need to promote human rights. 
  • Parted ways with PETA, one of the early reasons was because of the “I’d rather go naked than wear fur campaign” (1989). Carol Adams would not take a position against PETA because Ingrid was a woman. 

 

41:36 – Domestication and Hierarchy 

  • Could targeting fur instead of wool have to do with a hierarchy between wild and domesticated animals? – Claudia
  • Always thought it had to do with sexism because fur was generally a woman’s clothing item at the time – Gary.
  • Very few people at the start who were vegan. People who protested the use of fur but then went to eat animals. 
  • Fund for Animals, Cleveland Amory – went to dinner with him. He was a leader of an anti-hunting group and he ordered chicken. 

 

44:48 – Veganism and Abolition 

  • Could only go so far with Regan because he believed in rights, the problem was that he saw personhood as lined to cognitive capacities beyond sentience. “I thought that was wrong” – Gary
  • “If an animal is sentient then that animal does have a connection with a future self, the self in the next second. In other words, even if the animal is not cognitively sophisticated, even if the animal can’t think about what the animal is going to do on the animal’s sabbatical next year. The animal still has a sense of connection to the next second of consciousness and that, as far as I am concerned, anything else is arbitrary. Anything else requires you to draw completely arbitrary lines” – Gary 
  • Neither Singer nor Regan wanted to go there. Regan still had a hierarchical view as is evident by his boat metaphor. 
  • Wrote an article in a philosophy journal that the idea that humans have greater opportunity for satisfaction based on species was problematic – “I wanted to shift it over to sentience” – Gary. 
  • Animal advocacy groups function by keeping their donor base as broad as possible so people responded passionately to Gary’s views in the mid-1990s. 
  • When Tom Regan died, Gary wrote an essay “between the species” and he talked about how the movement fell apart. His paper was title: Reflections on Tom Regan and the Animal Rights Movement That Once Was.
  • Abolition disrupted the work of animal advocacy groups who were functioning well with Peter Singer’s views – as long as the described their work as reducing suffering. “It was a business model that couldn’t fail … you could endlessly generate welfare campaigns. Which is what they were doing” – Gary. 

 

52:06 – Pluralism and Changing Norms

  • If you’ve got people out there saying you can still use animals that marginalizes the people who are saying “no use”
  • Abolitionists don’t tend to be part of groups at a grassroots level. 
  • Once you say the issue is treatment that drowns out the use paradigm. 
  • It requires a paradigm shift – it won’t be achieved with policy or law. We are talking about mega industries and until you shift the paradigm and get a critical mass of people saying use is not justified then nothing is going to change. 
  • More animals are being used now in more horrific ways than when animal welfare was first introduced – it doesn’t work. 
  • Have to navigate the social world and you don’t want to be ostracized so you give concessions – Claudia.
  • “Concessions is a word I’m not particularly fond of” – Gary. 
  • Take any opportunity to talking to people about veganism.

 

57:26 – Veganism and Realizing an Abolition Dream

  • “It’s easy” – Gary.
  • We need to spend our time and labour on educating people about veganism. 
  • “The bottom line is we are never going to change anything as long as people are eating them. As long as people think animals are things to eat, nothing is ever going to change. All we are going to be doing is sitting around having mental masturbation fests about how we make it better and that’s never going to work because they are economic commodities. So there limits on what we can do. So the bottom line is, we need to make a vegan world.” – Gary 
  • Wrote a piece for Cambridge for the Journal “Think” called “Are you a vegan or are you an extremist?” You either care about them or you don’t. 
  • If you think animals matter you need to be vegan
  • Book: Why Veganism matters: The Moral Value of Animals. 
  • “If animals matter we cannot eat them, wear them or use them. It’s that simple.” – Gary
  • What does a world look like if we have achieved abolition? Animals are not property so what would our world look like?
  • Will Kymlicka and Sue Donaldson think it might be a dystopian world without animal and I think the only way we get there is if we reject violence. 
  • The world is sick with violence including racism, misogyny, and inequality. 
  • “Violence is a part of who we are but it doesn’t have to be that way” – Gary

 

01:04:00 – Domestication, Pets, and the Future

  • Domestication is horrible – we bring animals into existence who are intentionally subversive so that they can entertain us. 
  • Gary introduces Duncan, his elderly dog who was abused. 
  • Breeding animals is hugely problematic. For Gary you should not allow them to reproduce. 
  • What about dogs who are not pets? Or animals who have gone feral? – Claudia 
  • Animals who have historically been domesticated, even if we stop breeding them, are likely to still exist in future. What does that future look like? – Claudia 
  • Leave non-domesticated animals to do what they want and prevent domesticated animals from breeding. 
  • We have dogs and cats because we feel alienated from other humans and if we had a world that embraced nonviolence that need might not exist. 

 

01:13:06 – The Abolitionist Approach and Nonviolence

  • Abolitionism is a utopian situation where we really embrace nonviolence.
  • Th reality is that violence is a part of our lives and something we engage in multiple times a day.
  • The Abolitionist Approach has 6 principles that every sentient being has the right to not be regarded as property, if animals have tat right we should advocate or the abolition of exploitation, third that veganism is a moral baseline, fourth that sentience is the only cognitive requirement, fifth that all forms of discrimination is wrong, and 6th that violence is wrong. 
  • It is not clear how animal welfare has made anything better or reduced anything. 
  • Single issue campaigns are great opportunities for various forms of discrimination but they are money makers. 
  • It takes a lot to realise that animals are subjects of their lives and this requires a paradigm shift. 

 

01:18:15 – Quote (Gary Francione)

 

  • “An Abolitionist world, which would be far less alienating than the world in which we presently live, would be anything but bleak. And although I have not discussed other reasons that militate in fabor of veganism, a vegan world, or a largely vegan world, may be the only way we will avoid a climate catastrophe. And a vegan world would make possible the eradication of human hunge r, as well as the elimination of the specter of more pandemics and other zoonotic diseases” – Gary Francione, Why Veganism matters: The Moral Status of Animals (2020), 172.
  • Would add to that quote that a vegan world would be a much less violent world.
  • So often people think that vegans are violent but when you really think about it at the heart of veganism is “not hurting” – Claudia 
  • The vegan movement has never really rejected violence. Screaming at people is a bad idea and the level of hostility prevents discussion  – Gary 
  • Nonviolence is the most important principle and value in the universe – Gary 
  • Veganism is the most expansive peace movement. 
  • There is always going to be harm, even if you only eat vegetables. 
  • The reactivity to veganism suggests that it is heading in the right direction. 

 

01:24:08 – What are you working on now?

 

01:27:43 – Animal Highlight: Honeybee

  • Honeybees are one among 20,000 species of bees and they are one of the social species. They can live in colonies that are considered super organisms. 
  • Honeybees have a strict division of labour in their colonies. 
  • Honeybees can communicate with dancing – “the waggle dance” and “the circle dance”.
  • They also pollinate and make honey independently of humans but humans have learned ways to exploit this and have come to rely on them for crop production. 
  • Bees contribute over 22 billion dollars a year to European agriculture. 
  • Gary was talking about veganism and this would include avoiding honey and wax. 
  • Over their entire lives a worker bee will make only one teaspoon of honey. Think of the sheer scale of lives and work and effort that have gone into making a jar of honey. 
  • Bees get a sugary syrup that is deficient and it is suspected that this might be contributing to hive collapse. 
  • Industrial beehives being driven around 

 

01:35:56 - Credits 

  • Thank you to Animals in Philosophy, Politics, Law and Ethics (A.P.P.L.E) for sponsoring this podcast; Gordon Clarke (Instagram: @_con_sol_) for the bed music, Jeremy John for the logo, and Rebecca Shen for her design and social media work. This episode was edited by Christiaan Mentz and produced by the host Claudia Towne Hirtenfelder.  

 

Show notes compiled by Claudia Hirtenfelder 





Introduction
Gary's journey to veganism
Animal Rights, Philosophy, and the Law
Animal Welfare
Animal Rights and Property Rights
Translating Animal Rights into an Activist Program
Domestication and Hierarchy
Veganism and Abolition
Pluralism and Changing Norms
Veganism and Realising and Abolition Dream
Domestication, Pets, and the Future
The Abolitionist Approach and Nonviolence
Quote (Gary Francione)
What are you working on now?
Animal Highlight: Honeybees
Credits

Podcasts we love