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Nov 22, 2006
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Even though i strongly disagree with the last part of this interview about the use of violence, this guy is really on the right spot for all that is around animal rights & speciesism!! i just hope he eventually changes his mind when it comes to direct actions

The Gary Yourofsky Interview

By Claudette Vaughan

Gary Yourofsky is an ex-employee of PETA’s and founder of his own organization ADAPTT- Animals Deserve Absolute Protection Today and Tomorrow. Here he speaks to the Abolitionist on animal rights and liberation, on Ingrid Newkirk, on violence as tactic and veganism as lifestyle.

Abolitionist: The dismal failure of these heads of the animal rights and animal welfare organisations that couldn’t or wouldn’t offer resistance to the current state of things for animals has now contributed to this current cul-de-sac the movement finds itself in. Isn’t it long overdue, esp now that new people are coming through, that we demand a regime change away the former administrators of the current animal rights movement, even though the media still churns out the same old names as the "radicals" of the movement?

Gary Y: PETA and HSUS are a hindrance to the animal liberation movement. Their endless compromises, persistent shenanigans and myopic tactics do NOT bring animals closer to freedom.

I am tired of being silent about it.

As long as PETA and HSUS exist, animals will remain enslaved by the billion. . Ingrid Newkirk, a serial cat killer, goes out of her way to trap homeless, healthy cats in the Norfolk, Virginia, area and then kills them in a shed located on the grounds of PETA's Norfolk headquarters. She has maniacally deified herself as the supreme arbiter of life and death, and convinced her clique that all cats (and dogs) who have no human family should be murdered. She rationalizes this psychosis by claiming that if the animals die they are no longer suffering. Everyone understands that dead animals (and humans) no longer suffer. But that approach is akin to America's invasion of Iraq in 2003, when U.S. mercenaries killed innocent Iraqi civilians and then proclaimed that they wouldn't be suffering anymore under the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein.

Rational people want to end the pain and suffering that animals endure, and eradicate dictators like Saddam (and his sons Uday and Qusay). However, killing innocent civilians in Iraq, and murdering homeless animals by pre-emptively assuming that one day they might suffer, or believing that they suffer without human companionship, is insanely delusional. If this movement rightfully condemns the meat and dairy industries for murdering cows and chickens, then this movement has to condemn PETA for the murder of homeless dogs and cats.

Sadly, I see no difference between Newkirk and a hunter like Ted Nugent or a slaughterhouse designer like Temple Grandin. They all prey on innocent creatures. They all rationalize their homicidal acts with diabolical excuses. They are one and the same; skulking serial killers who wouldn't know the meanings of honesty, compassion or decency if Noah Webster came back from the dead and bit them on their asses! Newkirk has turned PETA into an efficient killing machine mirroring the companies - like Neiman Marcus or HLS - she claims to despise.

Furthermore, under Newkirk's guidance, she has single-handedly turned the animal liberation movement into a mockery with her naked women campaigns and cartoon-costumed protests. And when rational vegans condemn PETA’s irrational approach, Newkirk tries to fool everyone with trite lines about “animals suffering without PETA” or “animals suffering from the infighting in the movement”.

Those aforementioned comments are deceptive and only allow PETA to continue on its course of destruction. Doing some good while intentionally doing bad is neither acceptable nor beneficial. Each person or group must always do good. You can make mistakes along the way. Acceptable mistakes like bringing the circus placards to the vivisection protest, or misspelling someone's name in an op-ed piece, or realising that you should be focusing your efforts on education instead of lobbying, or understanding that breaking laws is actually a valuable tactic to achieving liberation. But killing homeless animals by the thousands is more than a mistake. It is serial murder!

As for HSUS, they are just as destructive as PETA. Besides Wayne Pacelle’s $300,000 annual salary as the new head honcho of HSUS, his obsession with lawmaking is a waste of time. He loves to cite examples about the value of the U.S. civil rights act of 1964 and the 19th Amendment of 1920 that gave women the right to vote. But he doesn't understand that these laws were only approved BECAUSE of all the violent and non-violent protests, and because people took the issue of inequality to the streets FIRST. It was the culmination of violent and non-violent protests, countless acts of civil disobedience, and thousands of marches that created WIDESPREAD, MASSIVE support for the laws to be passed and, most importantly, enforced. Pacelle wants to jump the gun and pass laws even though society doesn't understand the immorality of speciesism.

It’s all fucking backwards. I will not deny that a few people have been prosecuted with anti-cruelty legislation, but no one has ever been prosecuted for any SERIOUS atrocities against the billions of animals killed in slaughterhouses or research labs. There are no Saddam Husseins on trial for the mass murder of animals. If anti-cruelty laws were effective, then everyone at a Smithfield slaughterhouse would be arrested and jailed. Every vivisectionist at HLS would be arrested and imprisoned for life. Furthermore, what’s the point of punishing someone after the fact anyway? It’s only revenge. Don’t misconstrue what I am saying. I enjoy revenge as much as the next person, but I want to get to a point where there’s no revenge. Revenge becomes unnecessary when there is no wrongdoing in the first place. This is where we need to be.

There will always be people who have no morals and no conscience and who will commit heinous acts like Nugent and Newkirk, and we need to be vengeful with these serial killers. But we have to enlighten the masses first via education, direct action, civil disobedience, and violent and non-violent activism ... in order to radicate the majority of the killings. We can’t only seek to prosecute a few psychos who punch dogs in the face at vivisection torture-houses while concurrently billions of animals are being massacred for sandwiches, and billions of humans are mindlessly taking part in the massacre. If we opened people’s eyes with education or violent force, then that would reduce the murders and be a BIGGER victory than any paltry law the HSUS got passed.

Abolitionist: It can be argued that the so-called "Humane Meat" Movement led by Newkirk’s PETA and Pacelle’s HSUS has a case to answer in that the Humane Meat Movement, running along side the Animal Rights Movement is doing far more damage than what introducing violence into the AR Movement ever would.

Gary Y: As ethical vegans, it's logical for us to proclaim that the only nice slaughterhouse is an empty slaughterhouse. This statement, however, is often challenged by those who believe that baby steps and compromise are the only ways to move forward. It is my belief that baby steps and compromise prevent any forward movement whatsoever. These tactics actually allow people to continue the killing with a clearer conscience. For example, in 2000 the state of Florida banned the use of gestation crates for sows. Florida, however, did NOT ban the abuse of pigs, the murder of pigs or the consumption of pig flesh. They removed one piece of torture, which is akin to asking a slave-owner 200 years ago not to rape female slaves on Sundays, nor beat male slaves on Fridays. The slavery problem would not have been solved if people spent their time asking for absurd baby-step concessions. The murder of pigs will not be solved by asking the murderers to no longer confine the females in gestation crates. People in Florida have a mistaken belief that pigs are no longer being abused because crates have been banned; therefore, it is okay to eat pork chops and ham.

When we deny every animal's inherent right to fly, swim and run freely via compromise and concession, we are being cruel and dishonest, because no animal would choose to be enslaved and killed. Many people who purport to care for animals rarely apply empathy to examine the issue from the animals' point of view. Empathy allows people to understand an injustice without over-analyzing the issue, especially when those in power deem the victims unworthy and expendable, something Hussein, GW Bush, slave-owners, meat-eaters, and organizations like PETA and HSUS have all done to their respective victims.

In the book DOMINION, Matthew Scully explained that people have a choice to be radically kind or radically cruel. This illuminates the hypocrisy of the meat-eating animal welfare movement, which seeks to regulate the enslavement and killing of billions of animals via "humane slaughter" laws. By definition alone, slaughter is radically cruel. Therefore, it can never be humane. Taking an animal's life for profit or preference is a crime. Killing "nicely" does not exonerate a killer from the killing. Buying meat, milk or eggs from organic or free-range farms doesn't exonerate the consumer from complicity either. From the animal's point of view, the killer and the consumer are one and the same.

Fortunately, de-programming the perfunctory ways of meat-eaters is possible.

During my annual vegan lecture tour (250 talks for 10,000 carnivores in college classrooms), thousands of people convert to veganism, vegetarianism or significantly reduce their meat, cheese, milk and egg intake. Reduction and abolition are the only options to ending a massacre. Regulating torture, abuse andmurder does not reduce nor eliminate torture, abuse and murder.
Regulations are an explicit stamp of approval to let the carnage continue unabated because compassionate ways of enslaving and killing billions of animals do not exist.

Abolitionist: In SATYA magazine March 05 article titled “A Whole New Alternative" ‘Compassionate Meat At Whole Food Prices, Bruce Friedrich from PETA had the sheer audacity to say "{PETA} …we’re trying to ensure that farmed animals are treated as well as dogs or cats until they’re killed…". First of all, PETA kills homeless animals in their thousands and secondly I don’t want Bruce Friedrich speaking on my behalf since there’s a presumption even today that PETA is the "voice of the international animal rights movement". What are your views Gary?

Gary Y: It's a damn shame that PETA has become synonymous with the phrase ‘animal rights’ ... in the same way Kleenex has become synonymous with the word tissue or Levi's with the word jeans. PETA does not and should not represent the animal rights movement. They are an absolute embarrassment. They have become a destructive enterprise that murders dogs and cats, praises animal killers like slaughterhouse designer Temple Grandin, exploits and degrades women in disgraceful (and ineffective) naked campaigns, and believes that revolutions can be won in the boardroom instead of realising that revolutions are only won in the classroom, on the street corner or in the jailhouse!

PETA has turned itself into a corporation like the environmental corporation that Greenpeace has become, and the civil rights corporation that is the NAACP. All three groups used to be hungry for progress, and used to demand change, and never back down nor compromise. However, they all decided along the way to focus their crosshairs on wallets and purses instead of scumbags who commit injustice.

Abolitionist: Where’s the cavalry? I mean where’s the cavalry for the weak, the disabled, the innocent and the defenceless in life and why did it never arrive in the animal rights movement?

Gary Y: Apathy, consumerism and complacency are powerful opiates. Even those who care enough to adopt a vegan lifestyle continue to selfishly love their jobs, houses and cars so much that they refuse to risk their freedom for those who have none. This is why there have been so few Gandhis, Malcolm X's and Cesar Chavez's. It's not that they were superhumans who possessed magical powers. They were simple humans who were determined to eradicate injustice at any cost. We all have the capacity to be a Gandhi, an X or a Chavez. We simply have to let go of that disgusting trait of selfishness and walk the talk. Be the epitome of altruism.

Gurdjieff, the Great Russian Seeker of Truth, explained that life is the payment of promissory notes one makes while in a waking sleep. He said that humans spend the majority of life going through the motions, making promises (marriage, employment) they never intended nor wanted, and then suffering from the burden of fulfilling those unintended commitments. Commitments to our jobs, our homes, to our spouses and family members are ignoble. The only commitment should be to justice by any means necessary.

Abolitionist: Has there been a deliberate ploy to dumb down Americans since the 1970’s? Take the media’s analysis on Iraq for example. Anyone who resists Amerikan foreign policy is a "terrorist" as are animal rights activists within Amerika. And now the US has a president who embodies this overly simplistic analysis. What are your comments on the current political state in the US today?

Gary Y: The USA defines the word imperialism. GW Bush commits evil acts, such as lying and murdering, on a daily basis. But what's even scarier than Bush’s iniquity is that 58,000,000 Americans voted him into office! Sometimes I am not sure if I am more embarrassed to be human or more embarrassed to be an American. Americans have been turned into walking zombies via religion, government, schools and the media. Buy this product or go to this university and you'll be happy. Wear this cologne and you'll get laid. Eat these dead animals and you'll be a man. Believe in this invisible being in the sky, and you'll go to a pretty place after you die. Sometimes I think that the only effective and productive method of destroying speciesism would be for each uncaring human to be forced to live the life of a cow on a feedlot, or a monkey in a laboratory, or an elephant in the circus, or a bull in a rodeo, or a mink on a fur farm. Then people would be awakened from their soporific states and finally understand the horrors that are inflicted on the animal kingdom by the vilest species to ever roam this planet: the human animal!

Deep down, I truly hope that oppression, torture and murder return to each uncaring human tenfold! I hope that fathers accidentally shoot their sons on hunting excursions, while carnivores suffer heart attacks that kill them slowly. Every women ensconced in fur should endure a rape so vicious that it scars them forever. While every man entrenched in fur should suffer an anal raping so horrific that they become disembowelled. Every rodeo cowboy and matador should be gored to death, while circus abusers are trampled by elephants and mauled by tigers. And, lastly, may irony shine its esoteric head in the form of animal researchers catching debilitating diseases and painfully withering away because research dollars that could have been used to treat them was wasted on the barbaric, unscientific practice of vivisection.

Abolitionist: Is not the problem the age-old problem lies in complicity and the silence of the by-standers, vegan or not?

Gary Y: The hate that humans hold toward animals is matchless. It is impossible to overcome with compromise, or with only entreaty. It is so vicious, aseptic and bitter that a thousand peaceful Gods and Goddesses couldn't eradicate it. This is why corporations like PETA and HSUS must be destroyed. And why their naked women campaigns and inane cartoon costumes must be stopped. This is why violence must be employed at some point, in association with education and civil disobedience and direct action. And this is why we must not love the enemies of animals.

I firmly believe in trying to educate and deprogram the direct killers of animals - the vivisectionists, the hunters, the slaughterhouse workers, the CEOs of every company in the meat, dairy and egg industries - and the indirect killers of animals (the meat-eaters). However, when education and civil disobedience and protests do not work, actions have to be stepped up.

The callousness of the human species cannot be solely washed away with a leaflet and an op-ed piece. Humans need to be kicked off their pyramid of domination. As activists, we should realise that we work for the animals and the animals alone. We should NEVER seek human approval nor human adoration. We shouldn’t care less about sanctimonious verbiage vomited out from judges, prosecutors, police officers, media outlets and politicians. We should take action, and MAKE justice reign. We should not wait for change. We should not ask for change. And we should not beg for freedom. It must be demanded!

Abolitionist: Will total animal liberation occur without bloodshed and should the movement not turn away from this indisputable fact but instead accept it, if one is serious about engaging in the fight for animal liberation?

Gary Y: Since the majority of people are close-minded, rude, incoherent, incognizant and just plain mean, and since logic and compassion can not solely deprogram and educate the masses, it is time to resort to powerful tactics that make them understand. I've said it before and I’ll say it again: Love does not solely conquer hate, reason does not solely conquer ignorance or flat-out stupidity, and compassion cannot always eradicate institutionalized violence. Any thoughts disputing the latter are only textbook fantasies. The majority of Gandhi’s followers rioted in the streets, killed British soldiers of oppression and routinely set fires. The Black Panthers and Malcolm X’s BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY brand of activism were integral to the civil rights struggle. Vitriol was rampant. Even MLK’s pacifist followers hose to riot and set fires in the streets after his assassination. So much for pacifism in the times of heated moments, huh?

I am only bringing up these examples because so many people in the AR movement are naïve when it comes to substantive change. Power concedes nothing without demand. And unethical people don’t always change their unethical ways with a smile and a dose of logic.

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Posted: Nov 22, 2006 2:12am
Mar 22, 2006
Name: gary l. francione
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Gary Francione: Questions and Answers on Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog? (an interview done in 2000)

There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the public debate on the matter of animal rights. This confusion is attributable in large part to the fact that there has been to date no theory of animal rights that is easily accessible and does not require that the reader have a background in philosophical theory or law. In an attempt to provide a theory of animal rights that explains the rights position in a simple and straightforward way, I have written a book entitled, Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog?, published by Temple University in July 2000. The following questions and answers cover some of the topics that I address in the book.

Is there a difference between the animal rights position and the animal welfare position?

Yes. The animal rights position holds that that we ought to abolish the institutionalized exploitation of nonhumans. The animal welfare position holds that it is acceptable for us to use animals for at least some purposes, but that we must regulate animal use so that we treat animals ‘humanely’ and do not impose ‘unnecessary’suffering on them. Animal welfare advocates maintain that we must ‘balance’ human and animal interests to determine whether animal use is appropriate in particular circumstances. The animal welfare position is reflected in laws, such as state anticruelty laws, or federal regulatory laws, such as the Animal Welfare Act, which concerns the use of animals in experiments, or the Humane Slaughter Act.

Does the animal welfare position succeed in providing any significant protection to animals?

No. There can be no meaningful balance of human and animal interests because animals are our property. They are commodities that we own and that have no value other than that which we as property owners choose to give them. It is simply nonsense to talk about balancing the interests of property against the interest of property owners. If someone suggested that you balance your interests against those of your automobile or your wristwatch, you would quite correctly regard the suggestion as absurd. Your automobile and your watch are your property.

They have no morally significant interests; they are merely things that have no value except that which you, the owner, accord to them. Because animals are merely property, we are generally permitted to ignore animal interests and to inflict the most horrendous pain and suffering or death on animals when it is economically beneficial. The failure of animal welfare cannot be doubted: there have been animal welfare laws of various types in existence for almost 200 years and we are using more animals today, and in more horrific ways, than we were in 1850.

If animals have rights, does that mean that they have all the same rights as do humans?

No, of course not. It would make no sense to say that animals have a right to vote or drive, or a right to an education, or a right to be free from discrimination in the workplace. The animal rights position maintains that animals have one right: the right not to be treated as the resources or property of humans. Treating animals are property is inconsistent with according animals any moral significance at all; as long as animals are property, then they will necessarily be excluded from the moral community.

Our various uses of animals for food, clothing, entertainment, and science all assume that animals are our resources, and none of these forms of institutionalized exploitation would be permissible were we to recognize that animals have this one right not to be property.

What is a ‘right’?

There is a great deal of confusion that surrounds the concept of rights. For our purposes, we need to focus on only one aspect of the concept of a right that is common to virtually all theories about rights: a right is a particular way of protecting interests. To say that an interest is protected by a right is to say that the interest is protected against being ignored or violated simply because it will benefit someone else to do so. We can think of a right of any sort as a fence or a wall that surrounds an interest and upon which hangs a no trespass sign that forbids entry even if it would be beneficial to the person seeking that entry. For example, my right of free speech protects my interest in self-expression even if other people do not value that expression and would stifle my speech merely because it would benefit them or because they disagree with me.

My right to liberty protects my interest in my freedom regardless of the value that others attach to that interest. If other people think I should be imprisoned for no other reason than that my imprisonment will benefit them, my right to liberty will prevent such treatment. To say that an animal has a right not to be treated as our property means that the animal’s interest in not being treated as an economic commodity should be protected and should not be violated simply because it will benefit humans to do so.

What is the basis of an animal’s right not to be treated as our property?

The basis is the principle of equal consideration, which holds that as a fundamental moral matter, we ought to treat like cases alike. Human and nonhuman animals are alike in at least one respect and unlike everything else in the universe - they are sentient, or capable of experiencing pain. Nonhuman animals have an interest in not suffering just as humans have an interest in not suffering.

We recognize that among humans there is a wide range of interests in that almost no two humans prefer or want or desire the same things. Some humans prefer La Boheme; others prefer Pink Floyd. Some humans have interests in obtaining a university education; others prefer to learn a trade; still others may be retarded and have absolutely no interest in either higher education or trade training. But all humans who are not brain dead or otherwise nonsentient have an interest in avoiding pain and suffering. Although we do not protect humans from all suffering, and although we may not even agree about which human interests should be protected by rights, we generally agree that all humans should be protected from suffering that results from their use as the property or commodity of another human. We do not regard it legitimate to treat any humans, irrespective of their particular characteristics, as the property of other humans. Indeed, in a world deeply divided on many moral issues, one of the few norms endorsed by the international community is the prohibition of human slavery. And it is not a matter of whether the particular form of slavery is ‘humane’ or not; we condemn all human slavery. It would, of course, be incorrect to say that human slavery has been eliminated entirely from the planet, but the institution is universally regarded as morally odious and is legally prohibited.

We protect the interest of a human in not being the property of others with a right, which is to say that we do not allow this interest to be ignored or abrogated simply because it will benefit someone else to do so. And the right not to be treated as the property of others is basic in that it is different from any other rights that we might have because it is the grounding for those other rights; it is a precondition for the possession of morally significant interests. If we do not recognize that a human has the right not to be treated exclusively as a means to the end of another, then any other right that we may grant her, such as a right of free speech, or of liberty, or to vote or own property, is completely meaningless.

To put the matter more simply, if I can enslave you and kill you at will, then any other right you may have will not be of much use to you. We may not agree about what other rights humans have, but in order for humans to have any rights at all, they must have the basic right not to be treated as a thing.

The principle of equal consideration requires that we treat similar interests in a similar way unless there is a morally sound reason for not doing so. Is there a morally sound reason that justifies our giving all humans a basic right not to be the property of others while denying this same right to all animals and treating them merely as our resources?

The usual response is to claim that some factual difference between humans and animals justifies this dissimilar treatment. For example, we maintain that animals cannot think rationally or abstractly, so it is acceptable for us to treat them as our property. In the first place, it is as difficult to deny that many animals are capable of rational or abstract thought as it is to deny that dogs have tails. But even if it is true that animals are not rational or cannot think in abstract ways, what possible difference could that make as a moral matter? Many humans, such as young children or severely retarded humans, cannot think rationally or in abstract terms, and we would never think of using such humans as subjects in painful biomedical experiments, or as sources of food or clothing. Despite what we say, we treat similar animal interests in a dissimilar way, and thus deprive animal interests of moral significance.

There is no characteristic that serves to distinguish humans from all other animals. Whatever attribute that we may think makes all humans ‘special’ and thereby different from other animals, is shared by some group of nonhumans. Whatever ‘defect’ we may think makes animals inferior to us is shared by some group of us. In the end, the only difference between them and us is species, and species alone is not a morally relevant criterion for excluding animals from the moral community any more than is race a justification for human slavery or sex a justification for making women the property of their husbands. The use of species to justify the property status of animals is speciesism just as the use of race or sex to justify the property status of humans is respectively racism or sexism. If we want animal interests to have moral significance, then we have to treat like cases alike, and we cannot treat animals in ways in which we would not be willing to treat any human.

If we apply the principle of equal consideration to animals, then we must extend to animals the one basic right that we extend to all human beings: the right not to be treated as a thing. But just as our recognition that no humans should be the property of others required that we abolish slavery, and not merely regulate it to be more ‘humane,’ our recognition that animals have this one basic right would mean that we could no longer justify our institutional exploitation of animals for food, clothing, amusement, or experiments. If we mean what we say and we regard animals as having morally significant interests, then we really have no choice: we are similarly committed to the abolition of animal exploitation, and not merely to its regulation.

Is anything more than sentience required for an animal to have a basic right not to be treated as our property?

No. There are some who argue that chimpanzees or other great apes should have rights because of the genetic and mental similarities between great apes and human beings. But this position merely reasserts the arbitrary moral hierarchy of human characteristics: the great apes have moral status because they are like us and it is our characteristics that define moral significance. Dogs are not similar to humans in the same ways that the great apes are, but dogs are still beings who are conscious of pain. If we predicate moral status on the possession of human characteristics, we exclude from the moral community more than 99.5% of the animals that we exploit.

Will animals ever have a legal right not to be treated as things before there is a change in our general social attitudes about animals?

No. There will be no significant change in the status of animals as property as the result of court cases or legislation until there is a significant social change in our attitude about animals. That is, it is not the law that will alter our moral thinking about animals; it must be the other way around. It was not the law that abolished slavery; indeed, the law protected slave ownership and the institution of slavery was not abolished by the law but through the Civil War. Women did not get the right to vote until the United States Constitution was amended. Animal exploitation is not going to be ended by a pronouncement of the Supreme Court or an act of Congress—at least not until a majority of us accept the moral position that the institution of animal property is morally unacceptable. The present-day world economy is far more dependent economically on animal exploitation than were the Southern United States on human slavery. Legal protection for animal interests in not being property will only come after we as a society become repulsed by our domination of animals as we were repulsed by human slavery.

Often people say domestic animals, such as cows and pigs, and laboratory rats, would not exist were it not for our bringing them into existence in the first place for our purposes. So is it not the case that we are free to treat them as our resources?

No. The fact that we are in some sense responsible for the existence of a being does not give us the right to treat that being as our resource. Were that so, then we could treat our children as resources. After all, they would not exist were it not for our actions—from decisions to conceive to decisions not to abort. And although we are granted a certain amount of discretion as to how we treat our children, there are limits: we cannot treat them as we do animals. We cannot enslave them, sell them into prostitution, or sell their organs. We cannot kill them.

Indeed, it is a cultural norm that bringing a child into existence creates moral obligations on the part of the parents to care for the child and not to exploit the child. It should be noted that one of the purported justifications for human slavery in the United States was that many of those who were enslaved would not have existed in the first place were it not for the institution of slavery. The original slaves who were brought to the United States were forced to breed and their children were considered as property. Although such an argument appears ludicrous to us now, it demonstrates that we cannot assume the legitimacy of the institution of property—of humans or animals—and then ask about whether it is acceptable to treat property as property. The answer will be predetermined. Rather, we must first ask whether the institution of animal (or human) property can be morally justified. We cannot justify the institution of animal (or human) property simply because we are responsible for bringing certain beings into existence because to do so would beg the central moral question from the outset. Indeed, it is the property status of animals that creates the conflicts between humans and animals that we seek to resolve through our moral analysis of the human/animal relationship.

Isn’t human use of animals a ‘tradition’ or ‘natural’ and, therefore, morally justified?

Every form of discrimination in the history of humankind has been defended on the grounds that it represents a ‘tradition.’ For example, sexism is routinely justified on the ground that it is traditional for women to be subservient to men: ‘A woman’s place is in the home.’ Human slavery has been a tradition in most cultures at some times. The fact that some behavior can be described as traditional has nothing to do with whether the behavior is or is not morally acceptable.

In addition to relying on tradition, some characterize our use of animals as ‘natural’ and then declare it to be morally acceptable. Again, to describe something as natural does not in itself say anything about the morality of the practice. In the first place, just about every form of discrimination has also been described as natural as well as traditional. The two notions are often used interchangeably. We have justified human slavery as representing a natural hierarchy of slave owners over slaves. We have justified sexism as representing the natural superiority of men over women. Moreover, it is a bit strange to describe our modern commodification of animals as natural in any sense of the word. We have created completely unnatural environments and agricultural procedures in order to maximize profits. We do bizarre experiments in which we transplant genes and organs from animals into humans and vice versa. We are now cloning animals. None of this can be described as natural. Labels such as ‘natural’ and ‘traditional’ are just that: labels. They are not reasons. If people defend the imposition of pain and suffering on an animal based on what is natural or traditional, it usually means that they cannot otherwise justify their conduct.

A variant of this question focuses on the traditions of particular groups. For example, in May 1999, the Makah tribe from Washington State killed its first gray whale in over 70 years. The killing, which was done with steel harpoons, anti-tank guns, armor-piercing ammunition, motorized chase boats, and a $310,000 grant from the federal government, was defended on the ground that whaling was a Makah tradition although no living member of the tribe had ever participated in a whale hunt. But the same argument could be (and is) made to defend clitoral mutilations in Africa and bride-burning in India. These are cultural traditions that are required for cultural identity. The issue is not whether conduct is part of a culture; all conduct is part of some culture. The issue is whether the conduct can be morally justified.

Finally, some argue that since nonhuman animals eat other nonhumans in the wild, our use of animals is ‘natural.’ There are four responses to this position. First, although some animals eat each other in the wild, many do not. Many animals are vegetarians. Moreover, there is far more cooperation in nature than our imagined ‘cruelty of nature’ would have us believe. Second, whether animals eat other animals is beside the point. How is it relevant whether animals eat other animals? Some animals are carnivorous and cannot exist without eating meat. We do not fall into that category; we can get along fine without eating meat, and more and more people are taking the position that our health and environment would both benefit from a shift away from a diet of animal products. Third, animals do all sorts of things that humans do not regard as morally appropriate. For example, dogs copulate in the street and eliminate wastes in a rather public fashion. Does that mean that we should do so?

Fourth, it is interesting that when it is convenient for us to do so, we attempt to justify our exploitation of animals by resting on our supposed ‘superiority.’ And when our supposed ‘superiority’ gets in the way of what we want to do, we suddenly portray ourselves as nothing more than another species of wild animal, as entitled as foxes to eat chickens.

©2000 Gary L. Francione. Please do not reprint without permission. The author may be contacted at These questions and answers were first published in the New Zealand animal rights
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Posted: Mar 22, 2006 9:08am


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“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”   Spencer Johnson   Many years ago, when I was in high school chemistry lab, I was assigned to do a litmus test to determin...
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New Petition! Speak out against Time-Warner Merger with Comcast! Let your opinion be know before your bill goes up and your programming choices dwindle. Urge DOJ and FCC to Not Allow Merger of Time-Warner and Comcast http://www.thepetitionsit
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New Petition! Speak out against Time-Warner Merger with Comcast! Let your opinion be know before your bill goes up and your programming choices dwindle. Urge DOJ and FCC to Not Allow Merger of Time-Warner and Comcast http://www.thepetitionsit
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I have recently posted some BlogSpot radio interviews and YouTube videos, publicizing my two new books, 1) Deepening Your Personal Relationships: Developing Emotional Intimacy and Good Communication. 2) Psychological Healing Through Creative Self-U...
by Ys A.
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Coretta Scott King: “We have done what we can to reveal the truth, and we now urge you as members of the media, and we call upon elected officials, and other persons of influence to do what they can to share the revelation of this case to the w...
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We declare that no man nor nation nor race have a greater right than others to enjoy the fruits of their work, as the ecological sphere is our common condition of life http://www.beat Nous déclarons qu'aucun...
by Ys A.
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author: Ralph Nader An epidemic of sky-rocketing medical costs has afflicted our country and grown to obscene proportions. Medical bills are bloated with waste, redundancy, profiteering, fraud and outrageous over-billing. Much is wrong with the pr...
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Dear Friends: My two current books have been published and are available for sale through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the publisher’s website, Hammer. Reading these books can be very helpful for anyone seeking ...
by Fred H.
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A stainless steel tank the size of a basketball court lies buried in the sandy soil of southeastern Washington state, an aging remnant of U.S. efforts to win World War II. The tank holds enough radioactive waste to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool...
by Fred H.
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The Olympic Peninsula is home to important state-owne d forests and many of our state’s most iconic creatures. To keep these forest ecosystems healthy, WEC and our partners at Conservation Northwe st and Olympic Forest Coalit...