The 6 Principles of the Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights, With Professor Gary Francione
Professor Gary Francione, American legal scholar and Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law & Philosophy at Rutgers School of Law in Newark and Professor Anna Charlton Adjunct Professor of Law at Rutgers University, present the Six Principles of the Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights at the World Vegan Summit II, on July 29-31, 2016 in Berkeley, California.
Abolitionists maintain that all sentient beings, human or nonhuman, have one right—the basic right not to be treated as the property of others.
Animals are still considered property in the U.S. You have the right to value your property, even to a zero value. Just like human chattel slavery is wrong, so is animal slavery wrong. If a human is a slave, then they exist completely outside the moral and legal community. All people should be regarded as persons, whose interests and intrinsic values matter morally. If you are a slave you have no moral standing, and you are only treated as a thing, someone else’s property. Animals are treated as chattel property today. As long as animals are property, animal welfare laws are worthless and will never protect them. As long as animals are property they are slaves, and their rights don’t matter. Humans and animals cannot be deemed “property” in order not to be treated like slaves. It’s an oppressive economic system that imposes slavery onto animals, that as sentient beings have moral value and interest, just like humans do.
Abolitionists maintain that our recognition of this one basic right means that we must abolish, and not merely regulate institutionalized animal exploitation, and that abolitionists should not support animal welfare reform campaigns or single-issue campaigns for animals.
We must stop trying to regulate animal exploitation and instead seek to abolish it. If animals have a right not to be property, and it’s morally wrong to exploit animals—then it’s wrong to promote the continuation of exploiting animals by just increasing their welfare, or just making their abuse and exploitation slightly more humane. Animals have interests, just like people do. Animals suffer and feel pain, just like people do. Animal welfare measures just make animal exploitation more economically efficient, but they still treat animals as slaves. Is it any different really to give 9 slashes to a slave, or 10? Is 9 slashes really any better? That’s what the animal welfare groups are doing, justifying the exploitation of animals by not eliminating it altogether. It’s the efficient thing for industry to do. Industry wins and animals still lose, period. It just makes people feel better about animal exploitation if they eat a cage-free egg. Look at the Anti-Fur campaign – the fur industry is more profitable now than ever before, and more people are wearing fur now than ever. There is no morally significant difference between wearing leather, wool, silk, or fur—it’s all animal cruelty. Every form of animal exploitation is equally bad and morally unjust. Individual animals experience deep cruelty and exploitation equally, all are property. You cannot promote one and condemn the other. They are all forms of animal exploitation and are equally bad, and must be eliminated, to promote true animal rights and moral justice for them. Refrain from using all animal products. It is institutional exploitation. Bottom line, if slavery is bad, then you don’t promote “humane” slavery. There is not a right way to do the wrong thing. Animal welfare is a total failure, and we’re exploiting more animals now, in more horrific ways—than at any other time in our history.
Abolitionists maintain that veganism is a moral baseline and that creative, nonviolent vegan education must be the cornerstone of rational animal rights advocacy.
You need to become vegan. Period. Educate everyone you can to become vegan as well. Each of us can become an agent of change. If you’re not vegan, you are participating directly in animal exploitation. If you are not vegan you are an animal exploiter. To change people’s perspectives and start a conversation about going vegan, you can say, “Isn’t it funny how we love some animals, and eat others?!” There’s just no difference between the animal you love and the one’s that you’re sticking a fork into. There’s no moral distinction between a dog or a cow, they are morally the same. Read the book Eat Like You Care by Gary Francione and visit How Do I Go Vegan to learn more. There is no moral justification for eating, wearing or using animals. Period.
The Abolitionist Approach links moral status of non-humans with sentience alone not with any other cognitive characteristic.
Certain animals don’t matter more than other animals. If an animal is sentient, and feels pain and pleasure, then that being has an interest in continuing to live, and does not want to die. They wish to continue to perpetuate their own life, just like we do. It’s purely speciesist prejudice to think that animals don’t wish to continue to live. It’s unjust prejudice and downright wrong to even consider that.
Abolitionists reject all forms of human discrimination, including racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism, and classism—just as they reject Speciesism.
When you reject speciesism it is because we think it is unjust to exclude sentient beings from the moral community, simply on the basis of species. Cat, dog, elephant, horse, or cow or boy—one is not included into the moral community while the other species are excluded from the moral community. No, all animals are included in the moral community, all are beings like us, and deserve respect and moral value, justice and protection.
If you’re a feminist and you’re not a vegan, you’re promoting the commoditization of those female animals that are horrifically abused like dairy cows, goats, female pigs, and hens. This idea of promoting vegetarianism is unconscionable because the cruelty is so appalling and horrifying in the dairy and egg industry. It’s the worst cruelty of all. We all need to condemn injustice, all injustice. It doesn’t matter who is doing the injustice, it is all wrong.
Abolitionists recognize the principle of nonviolence as a core principle of the animal rights movement.
This is the new peace movement. We all need to embrace non-violence. In a society which 90-95% of people in the society eat animal products, you cannot commit violence on them and expect to get our message of nonviolence to animals across. You can change the system to some degree, but if YOU don’t change, if WE don’t change each one of us individually, then the paradigm shift will not happen that needs to. Each of us needs to go vegan. The enemy is not the institutional exploiter—the enemy is us, each person—our own selfishness, our egoism, our materialism, our unwillingness to act on what we know is wrong. Morally wrong. Sentience is all that matters. Reject all forms of discrimination. Reject violence and embrace non-violence to all animals and humans.
It will never stop until people become vegan. Animal exploitation, animal slavery and institutionalized cruelty will never stop until each one of us becomes vegan. This systemic and institutionalized cruelty will not end, until we become vegan – and get everyone we know and they know – to go vegan. Nothing changes until you stop eating animals, that’s the first step. There’s no such thing as happy exploitation – it’s just never, ever OK to exploit animals.
Video Length: 1 Hour / 3 Minutes
More About Gary Francione
Visit Animal Rights: An Abolitionist Approach for more about Gary Francione and the Abolitionist Approach, which means veganism!