Theory of Animal Rights, by Professor Gary Francione
Gary Francione is an American legal scholar and Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law & Philosophy at Rutgers School of Law at Newark. Francione is recognized for his work on animal rights theory. His work focuses on three key issues: the property status of animals, the differences between animal rights and animal welfare, and a theory of animal rights based on sentience alone, rather than on specific cognitive characteristics. Francione has established the Abolitionist Approach to animal rights requiring the abolition of animal exploitation, and veganism as the moral baseline of the animal rights position. Francione is the author or co-author of several books about animal rights, and was the first professor to teach animal rights in law school.
Francione argues that non-human animals require only one right, the right not to be regarded as property. In regards to food, he says that our only justification for the pain, suffering and death inflicted on these billions of nonhumans is that we enjoy the taste of meat and dairy products. And, if it is wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering on nonhumans, our enjoyment in eating animal products cannot be a morally acceptable justification.
Animals Matter Morally
We need to rethink our relationship to animals. Animals deserve equal consideration. They are not things. Animals matter. Their interests are morally significant. All sentient beings can feel pain and suffering, and all have an interest in avoiding pain, suffering and death.
Animals as Slaves and Property
Slavery treats people like things to be used, like property. By treating people and animals as slaves and property, we deprive those who are enslaved of equal consideration and moral consideration. We treat animals as the property of humans because we “own” them. They only have the value we choose to give them. Nonhumans are the slaves of humans. Treating animals as “property” and as slaves cannot be justified, under any circumstances.
Animals are Used and Exploited
Animals used for food, entertainment, science and clothing are uses and exploitation. But animals are not mere resources to be “used.” They are individuals who have interests, they are sentient, they are conscious, they think, feel and they don’t want to be harmed, or suffer, or die.
Theory of Evolution
The Theory of Evolution by Charles Darwin maintains that there are no uniquely human characteristics. Darwin affirmed that nonhumans can think and reason, and that they possess many of the same emotional attributes as humans. Human characteristics are not morally superior. Humans can’t fly on their own, they can’t breathe under water, so there are characteristics of animals that humans do not possess as well as characteristics that humans have that animals don’t possess, but that absolutely does not justify animal exploitation.
The only justification for exploitation of animals is SPECIESISM. No different than sexism, racism, and ageism.
Animals are Sentient
We need to extend the right not to be treated as property to all sentient nonhumans irrespective of their other mental characteristics. If we recognize that all sentient beings have a basic, moral right not to be treated as property and that we have a moral duty to stop treating sentient beings as resources, we would stop bringing domestic animals into existence for our use. We need to completely abolish animal exploitation, not just regulate it.
Recognizing Animal Rights
As humans, we have a moral responsibility to take care of the animals that we have caused to come into existence. And not bring any more animals into existence for our use for food, clothing, entertainment or research experiments. The focus should not be put on the humane treatment of animals, but instead, on not bringing animals into the world in the first place for us to exploit, use, abuse and kill. Once we realize that we have no moral justification for exploiting a dairy cow, say – even humanely – then there is no reason to have cows come into being.
What You Can Do
- Go Vegan. Stop eating animals — dairy, meat, eggs, fish, all animal products
- Don’t hunt or kill wild animals
- Don’t buy products tested on animals
- Don’t wear animals or fur
- Don’t attend events, shows or zoos where animals are used and exploited as entertainment
Video Length: 26 Minutes
Theory of Animal Rights, Video and content by Gary Francione
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