BOOKS: Animals As Persons: Essays on the abolition of animal exploitation
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2010:
Animals As Persons: Essays on the abolition
of animal exploitation by Gary L. Francione
Columbia University Press, (61 West 62nd St., New York, NY 10023), 2008.
235 pages, paperback.
Animals As Persons anthologizes seven of legal scholar Gary
Francione’s best known examinations of the intersection of law and
animal rights philosophy.
Francione rarely directly addresses the legal and
philosophical rationales for animal exploitation. He does, however,
speak toward them through extensive critiques of the arguments of
Peter Singer and Tom Regan, whose Animal Liberation (1976) and The
Case for Animal Rights (1983) introduced animal rights theory to
mainstream academic discourse; Josephine Donovan, who as co-editor
of Beyond Animal Rights (1996) made the most ambitious of many
attempts to meld animal rights philosophy with feminism; and Cass
Sunstein, who co-edited the 2004 textbook anthology Animal Rights:
Current Debates & New Directions, before becoming director of the
Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs for U.S. President Barack
Opposing almost all human use of animals, Francione condemns
as “welfarist” practically any reform or argument which recognizes
the necessity of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, at least in
the present legal and political context, as a precondition for
improving here-and-now conditions for animals. Francione recognizes
the need pointed out by the late animal rights tactician Henry Spira
for reforms to build in a “stepwise, incremental manner,” so that
each gain does not obstruct the opportunity to achieve more later.
Yet Francione is dismissive of many of the specific reforms that
Spira worked longest to achieve.
“That the animal movement actively promotes doing less harm
as a morally acceptable solution to the problem of animal
exploitation is troubling,” Francione writes of programs that seek
to improve conditions for farmed animals through issuing seals of
approval for farms that meet requirements for animal welfare.
“If X is going to rape Y,” Francione continues, “it is
‘better’ that X not beat Y as well. It would, however, be morally
repugnant to maintain that we can be ‘conscientious rapists’ by
ensuring that we not beat rape victims. Similarly, it is disturbing
that animal advocates are promoting the notion that we can be morally
‘concientious omnivores’ if we eat supposedly ‘humanely’ produced
[animal] products.” From an abolitionist perspective, Francione is
right. Spira would not have argued against his philosophical view.
Reality, though, is that if one lives in a society where rape is an
entrenched major industry, promoted by one of the largest branches
of government, practiced daily by most people who have the right to
vote, with beating the victims a routine practice, one may have to
work simultaneously on two different fronts to stop both the beatings
and the rapes, and recognize that not every offender is going to
give up both at once, especially when doing both remain the social
norm. Somehow one must get each offender to make some change, in a
manner that leads to making another, instead of backsliding under
peer pressure. In such a dismal situation, giving up beating rape
victims may have to be sold to the offenders as making moral
progress, even if it is only a small first step toward relieving the
suffering of the victims and is still far from winning recognition of
the victims’ rights.