Go Vegan or Go Home

Where others see gray, animal advocate Gary Francione sees black and white

| July-August 2011

Gary Francione is the most controversial figure in the modern animal rights movement. 

In the 1980s he was an indefatigable and high-powered young attorney who worked on prominent animal rights court cases with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In the early 1990s he broke from PETA and from the organized movement, and in 1996 he wrote the controversial book Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement, an incisive critique and reenvisioning of the movement.  

Francione’s theory is described as the abolitionist approach. He maintains that we cannot morally justify using animals as human resources, and that we should abolish animal use. He opposes efforts to reform or regulate animal use, arguing that they will necessarily provide limited protection to animal interests, because of the status of animals as property.  

Francione is a professor of law at Rutgers University and the author of six books, most recently The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation? from Columbia University Press. 

Most animal advocates encourage people to become vegetarians, yet you feel that promoting vegetarianism is a step in the wrong direction for reducing animal exploitation. Why? 

There is absolutely no morally defensible distinction between flesh and other animal products, such as milk or cheese. Animals used in the dairy industry usually live longer than and are treated as badly as, if not worse than, their meat counterparts, and they all end up in the same slaughterhouse anyway. The meat and dairy industries are inextricably intertwined. As far as I am concerned, there is more suffering in a glass of milk than in a pound of steak, though I would not consume either. Vegetarianism as a moral position is no more coherent than saying that you think it morally wrong to eat meat from a spotted cow but not morally wrong to eat meat from a non-spotted cow. We do not need any animal products for health purposes, and animal agriculture is an ecological disaster. The best justification that we have for killing billions of animals every year is that they taste good. That simply cannot suffice as a moral justification.

8/9/2011 6:45:09 PM

let me spell it out real simply. Diabetes is not caused by a reliance on meat products. It is caused because of excessive carbohydrate exposure exhausting the pancreas and increasing insulin resistance. Yes, carbohydrates trigger type II diabetes.

One person even experimented with comparing the blood sugar response of a can of Pepsi to whole grains and found there was virtually no difference. Both made the blood sugar climb. http://diabetesupdate.blogspot.com/2011/07/healthy-whole-grains-just-as-healthy-as.html

my personal experience and that of other diabetics show that vegetarian or near vegetarian diets are reasonably good predictors of developing type II diabetes. comparing my low carbohydrate approach versus a diabetic I know who is vegan, my blood sugars run in the 100 to 120 mg per deciliter range in his run in the 250 to 400 mg per deciliter range. At this point, the question becomes should I die a slow and painful death from neuropathy, gangrene and other illnesses, raising the overall cost of health care for others by sticking to a "moral" diet or should I eat a low carbohydrate meat based diet which gives me a healthy life, a chance to age gracefully and pass my wisdom onto my grandchildren?

The answer simple for me, I want to live, I want to enjoy my life for myself, my wife, and our children. I honor the deaths of the animals that feed me but people I love think I am more important than the animals. who am I to argue?

john d
8/8/2011 11:36:56 AM

How refreshing to read the intelligent comments...far more intelligent than the spleen-venting article. Humans have as much moral right to eat animals as has the shark which eats surfers. Lao tzu opined that we invent morals and ethics when we lose the great way.

8/8/2011 10:07:19 AM

How refreshing to read such a well-thought-out and well-presented group of comments! Yes, Francione's entire argument rests on his assertion that it has a moral foundation. I wonder, does he find the Native American culture of the Great Plains immoral? Those people were integrated into their ecosystem, and - at least as the stories are told - fully respected and utilized the animals whose lives they ended to support their own. Was it immoral that they did this, simply because they also happened to be humans? Because that is the final resting point of Francione's argument. (Surely he does not try to apply his "morality" to the other predator species of the earth?) The fact of eating/using other beings to sustain oneself is how this earth evolved; the morality of this is not in question - at least not by the earth itself. There are massive problems with the conventional ways animals are used in our society; I guess many of us who raise our own animals for meat, eggs and milk are motivated by a desire to get as far as possible from that system. But I believe Francione's sweeping, flawed logic rests on a common "environmental" theme: that humans are separate from nature, and that - in the hiearchy that stems from that separateness - nature is superior to humans. Therefore, the animals that humans raise and use are inferior lifeforms relative to "nature's" animals, and do not deserve to exist at all. That is the logical outcome of Francione's "morality."