A huge round of thanks go out to Bea Elliott for transcribing this interview from its original, audio format. If anybody out there is interested in volunteering to transcribe additional interviews, please contact me.
“Welfarism, Abolitionism, and Veganism”: Interview with Gary L. Francione, Professor of Law, Rutgers University. Posted November 3rd, 2006 by the Vegan Freaks.
Note: This transcript has not been checked for accuracy by either Professor Francione or by Bob & Jenna Torres. Transcription by Bea Elliott.
Bob Torres: Well we're here with Gary L. Francione. And Gary Francione is Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Distinguished Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University School of Law in Newark, New Jersey. Professor Francione has been teaching animal rights in the law for more than 20 years, and he was the first academic to teach animal rights theory in an American law school. He has lectured on these topics throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, including serving as a member of the guest faculty at the University of Complutense in Madrid, and has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows.
He is well known throughout the animal protection movement for his criticism of animal welfare law and the property status law and his abolitionist theory of animal rights. Professor Francione is the author of numerous books and articles on animal rights theory and animals in the law, including, Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog, Animals, Property and the Law, Rain Without Thunder, and Vivisection and Dissection in the Classroom A Guide to Classroom Conscious Objection. His forthcoming book, Animal Rights, Animal Welfare and the Law will be published by Columbia University Press in 2007. And it is our immense pleasure to have Professor Francione on the show. Welcome to this show.
Gary: Thank you very much I'm very happy to be here.
Bob: We're very excited to talk to you and we've had a lot of requests to interview you, for quite a while now, so – I'm pretty interested to get into the interview. So I think this is a good place for us to start with. Maybe to get you to talk about what animal rights would entail in your view and how your approach to rights is abolitionist?
Gary: Well abolitionism is extremely important to my theory indeed. That 's really how I think about animal rights. I think that part of the reason that the discourse about animal rights is so confused it's because the notion of rights means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So you when you start talking about animal rights people then start thinking well what rights do animals have (?) and we're so used to thinking about the human interests that are protected with rights, that it becomes very, very difficult to think about what "rights" means when we apply that concept to animals. And then you also have confusion given that a lot of people who are welfarist use the expression animal rights quite frequently, So there's a lot of confusion about what animal rights means. And in order, I think in order to focus and clarify the issue a little bit, I view the debate as the debate between abolition and regulations that's how I see it I see the right's position is the abolishing position and the welfare position as the position which advocates regulation of the animal exploitation in order to make it more humane or whatever... and so that's how I see the debate I see the debate as the debate between abolition and regulation.
When I talk about rights in that context, I talk about only one right. The right not to be treated as property. That for me is the only right that's really relevant. And indeed you can defend even with talking about the right not to be treated as property if you focus on the moral obligation that the humans have not to treat animals as property, that's really what I'm talking about Is: not treating the animals as property. And once we recognize that obligation, once we recognize that we have a moral obligation not to treat animals as property, or put in another way, that they have a right not to be treated as property, then we are committed to abolishing, not regulating... but abolishing the exploitations of... the institutionalized exploitation, that assumes that it's alright for us treat animals as property. And the reason why we do what we do is because they are property. They are things we own – we can do those things to them because they are things. They are not persons. They are things.
And once we recognize that we have an obligation not to treat them as things, once we recognize that they have a right not to be treated as things, the institutionalized exploitation that assume the various forms of institutionalized exploitation that assume that they are nothing but things, must be abolished. So that's how I see this debate. I see the debate between abolition and regulation and therefore when I talk about rights I'm talking about one right. The right not to be treated as property or to put the matter into other terms, recognizing that we have a fundamental moral obligation to stop treating sentient creatures as things.
Bob: Excellent – I'm wondering how you in Rain Without Thunder you kind of tie this in to the political economic structure of the animal rights movement and the mainstream organizations throughout the movement and I'm wondering how you see all the stuff kind of fitting together; the emphasis on welfarism and things like that?
Gary: Well, the organized movement in this country, and I'd say this to some degree true of the movement in other countries, although less so – I think, take the position that, or at least many segments, organization take the position that, they're in favor of abolition, but not yet. That is, we have to continue supporting welfare and they give two reasons for this. First of all, they say that abolition... The Abolition Theory is utopian and idealistic and doesn't provide the guidance for us right now to help animals. To help animals right now. So if you want to help the animals right now we have no choice but to pursue welfare regulation. So that's one welfarist position. The other primary tenet of the new welfarist position is that regulation will lead to abolition. That if we better regulate animal exploitation that will down the road lead to abolition. What I wrote in Rain Without Thunder and what I still believe now... Indeed I believe it probably more fervently than I did then in 1996 is that both aspects of that are just wrong. That the Abolitionist Theory does provide us with guidance for what we can do now to alleviate the suffering of the animals now. Given that nothing that any of us does will alleviate all of the suffering immediately. We all have to accept some theory of incremental change and the abolitionists position I believe does give us things that we can do in the short term to reduce animal suffering.
But I also believe that it is folly to suggest that regulation will lead to abolition. If it's one thing that history taught us: welfare, leads to more welfare, leads to more welfare, leads to more welfare. It doesn't lead to abolition. We've had animal welfare for 200 years now and we've not really succeeded in abolishing any of the forms of institutionalized exploitation. What animal welfare tends to do, is to make people more comfortable with animal exploitation. And I think there is historical evidence of that. There's plenty of it. That animal welfare, regulating exploitation, makes people feel more comfortable with exploitation. And that's common sense – that shouldn't surprise anybody. I think that part of the problem is that in many organizations, many animal organizations, they're all competing for the same dollars. And so the intense competition with these various groups and they have to have a steady stream of campaigns so that they can win what appear to be victories so they can go to you and say, "what a great job were doing give us more money so we can continue to fight the good fight and win these victories.". But in reality if you look at the things that they are claiming as victories – it's pretty sad. I wouldn't characterize most of these things as victories – indeed. I would characterize most of them as serious defeats, but you know... And if you look at the literature that you get and the promotional literature...
For example, several years ago California enacted a supposed prohibition on Foie gras – and what is very interesting is that if you look at the fund raising information that went out after that supposed prohibition was enacted none of the promotional material I saw, none of the literature I saw, bothered to mention that the prohibition doesn't take effect for another 6 or 7 or 8 years I don't remember exactly. But it doesn't take effect until you know... sometime well into the future. And the legislation was explicitly rested on the notion that if in the meantime the producers of this product could figure out a more humane way to produce the product, the law would never come into effect. And that this period of time is beginning is given by the legislature in order to allow for the development of more humane methods of producing goose liver products. So this is the sort of thing where I don't view that law as a victory for the movement. I view this as victory for the Foie gras industry. I view it as a victory for animal exploiters. I do not view this as a victory for the animals or for the animal movement. Yet it was portrayed as a victory a lot of fund raising went on based on it. And the literature I saw about it, none of the groups that I saw, bothered to mention that this was something that had a 6 or 7 or 8 again, I don't recall exactly how long it was, delay. Didn't bother to mention that the legislation was expressly based on the notion that this period, this delay, was for the development of a (quote) "more humane" method of producing the product. And that's the sort of thing I'm talking about these groups need victories. So that they can come to you and say "Bob, Jenna, give us money". And they use a steady stream of these things and when you got as many groups as there are in this country, you know you're talking about very intense competition. So their looking around for campaigns they can win...
Bob: Actually, I've talked to the HSUS about their battery egg campaign. Talked to one person about the battery egg campaign. And one of his, I don't want to mis-characterize what he said. So I'll just say forget about the HSUS... other people I've talked to about this have said "well by enacting all these kinds of welfarist reforms by putting things into law, by adding all of these humane methods it makes the cost of producing animal products more expensive". And so the idea is that as it gets more & more expensive, as these restrictions get more and more onus on the industry. The industry will eventually at some mythical point in the future see an eventual decline in the consumption of animal products. I'm wondering how you would respond to that kind of critique of your thoughts on this?
Gary: Well that's certainly a position that a lot of people take and there are also people who believe that every December 25th a large weight challenged man comes down your chimney to fill your stockings... That's fantasy.
First of all lets look at the some of these campaigns, you mentioned the HSUS... which campaign were you talking about?
Bob: The battery... they had a campaign were they were trying to get battery cage free eggs into school cafeterias.
Gary: Yeah... uhh... I just finished writing an article in which I talk about two of the HSUS campaigns. One is the gassing of the chickens and the other is the gestation crate campaign with respect to pigs. If you look at the HSUS literature, both of those campaigns are based on the notion that if animal exploiters adopt these supposedly more humane methods, it will actually be economically beneficial for them. We're not talking about adding a great deal of cost, and in some cases particularly with gestation crates, if I recall the HSUS literature, that they made the point of saying that producers would probably actually do better because the European studies indicated that alternative to the gestation crate produced healthier animals and that the alternatives were more profitable for exploiters. As I recall the literature on the gassing of the chickens – they mention that the equipment required a one time capital outlay that was fairly expensive. But that afterward, the cost of injured birds would go down. The economical losses suffered as a result of injured birds would go down and it would be safer for the workers, so they'd have fewer worker injuries and less carcass damage. And this would benefit the producers.
And so I think, first of all I think that most of these measures don't do anything but require animal exploiters to behave as rational property owners. I mean really, what the animal people are saying to the exploiters is "look you're not being as efficient as you could be – you could protect the animals interest more and make more money at the same time". But, that's not changing the property status of animals, So all that you're doing is saying to the exploiter: "you're not being rational property owners you think about it you could actually do better if you adopt this method or that improvement you can actually make more profits.". So that's not really changing the property status of animals.
As far as making demand go down, none the things which are being proposed are going to result in dramatically higher prices for animal products. And you know, we're talking relatively small amounts of money. And in the end it's not going to really make much difference. I mean, then there's an additional thing that I don't see discussed and that is the problem of free trade. And I'm not an expert in free trade, but these free trade agreements basically prohibit discriminating against imports on moral grounds. So to the extent that the demand remains for the cheaper product, I think it is, again, I'm not an expert in international trade people who are experts in international trade tell me that it's certainly a serious question as to whether or not the products which are made not in accordance with the "supposedly more humane practices", have to be allowed in and so therefore to the extent that the demand is there, those products will still be available. I know that... I've read that that's the experience in Europe that although some welfarist standards are different that some countries have higher welfare standards, that basically products that are manufactured have to be admitted into the market because you're not permitted under these free trade agreements to discriminate on moral grounds.
Bob: Actually I think that's true – I'm pretty sure if that was to happen, that discrimination the offended party could take a case to the WTO about the whole problem.
Gary: I believe that's true... I believe that basically under cuts that whole argument because to the extent that what you're saying is these welfare measures will increase the cost of animal products and therefore decrease demand. If the demand is still there, the products will come into the market if there is no barrier to their coming in and indeed as I understand it, these free trade agreements prohibit the imposition of these barriers. So if that is in fact the case and I believe it is, and you believe it is, so we have unanimity of agreement on this show for this moment. Then that whole argument doesn't work. But I don't even think you have to give in to that... because I think if you look at what these organizations are proposing there not proposing things which are going to dramatically effect demand because prices are going to be increased dramatically... not going to happen. It's not going to happen.
Jenna Torres: One of the things that comes out on all this discussion on welfare I think is going back to what you said in the beginning of the interview is that welfarism still sees animals as something for us to use and own and because of that, you can't past the exploitation of the animals.
Gary: You know, look... animals are property. Let's think about what that means for a second because animal as property. They are things. They are economic commodities that have only extrinsic or conditional value. They are only things that have value to us. They have the value that we give them. They don't have inherent value. They only have... they don't have intrinsic value. They only have extrinsic or conditional value. Okay. Now animal property is different from other sorts of property because animal property... animals have interests. Unlike your television or your computer or your telephone or whatever the other things are that you own. Animals have minds, they feel pain, they have emotions, they have awareness they are property that has interests... And since we don't have human slavery anymore, or at least it's not legal, non-humans are the only form of property that we have, that have that characteristic of having interests. Now, because animals are property, and because they have interests, respecting their interests costs money, every time you respect an animal interest, it costs money. And that is why animal welfare, is generally limited to protecting the interests that we have to protect in order to exploit the animal. That's the theory that I proposed on in "Animals Property and the Law" in 1995 and I just made it about 353 pages shorter for you... But, that's truly the thesis of that book is that animals have interest, but protecting those interests costs money – and as a result because they're property, and because they don't have any inherent or intrinsic value because they only have extrinsic or conditional value, the only interests that we're going to protect... there's lots of interests... Which are the ones we're going to protect? We're going to protect the ones we need to protect, in order to exploit those animals in an economically efficient way.
So for example, if you look at the Humane Slaughter Act, that's a good example. Look at the Humane Slaughter Act where it's not prohibiting the imposition of all suffering at the slaughterhouse. No, by no means and if you don't believe me go to visit your local slaughter house, they're horrible places. The Humane Slaughter Act is not prohibiting all pain and suffering – in the slaughtering process, but only the pain and suffering that we can stop – where we get a benefit from stopping that pain and suffering. So we require animals to be stunned before their stunned shackled and hoisted because if their not stunned before they're shackled and hoisted, there's more carcass damages and there's more damage and workers get injured more because your talking about large animals. If the animals are jumping around on the chain that their hoisted up on, if they're conscious there going to be moving, if they're moving that 2,000 lbs animal hits somebody they're going to injure that person, they're going to have worker injuries. So if you look at the Humane Slaughter Act – the interests of the animals, that are protected are those that we need to protect in order to prevent carcass damage and worker injuries. And it's very difficult if not impossible to find examples of animal welfare where interests of animals are protected beyond what is required in order to efficiently exploit the animal. And what is distressing and sad to me, is it's 2006 and we're not getting any further at all with this. Because if you look at the campaigns that are being proposed by PETA by HSUS by these other groups it's basically the same paradigm.
Look for example at the (humane)... there was a victory... "Victory was declared by Peter Singer and PETA" with respect to McDonalds adoption of slaughtering methods that were proposed by Temple Grandin. And these were eventally I think also picked up by Wendy's and Burger King, so these fast food places are now supposedly only purchasing from suppliers who employ Temple Grandin's "happy slaughter methods", or whatever she calls them. And if you look at what Temple Grandin says, if you go read what Temple Grandin's guidelines, they are all based on the notion that if you do certain sorts of things to calm the animals down, their going down the ramp, if you do things to calm them down, there will be fewer injuries of the animals, the carcass will be of higher quality, you'll be able to get more money for it. And they'll be fewer worker injuries, it's based on the same sort of considerations that motiviated the passage of the Humane Slaughter Act in 1958. So this is where we are at 2006. And this is a natural consequence of the property status of animals because they are an economic commodity, it doesn't make a lot of sense to spend more money than to protect more interest than you have to. In order to exploit the animals because the more interests you protect, the higher the price of the product is, and laws of supply and demand are such that suppliers, exploiters, aren't going to do that. And the public you know the public, may have vauge sympathies for animals. But the bottom line is most people are simply not willing to pay a lot more for their animal products. They might pay a couple of cents more, some people might pay more. But most people aren't willing to do that.
Bob: Unless they're shopping at Whole Foods right?
Gary: Right, unless they're shopping at Whole Foods... And there purchasing the corpses of animals that were so happy to die... they went and they fell on their swords... to serve the interests of John Mackey. But, hum – that is really an appalling situation and anyway...
Bob: Yeah, I actually, I mean I bring up whole foods purposely because Peter Singer is been speaking out very loud lately in favor of Whole Foods in that he's called a pioneering initiatives whole foods and there was this big letter that was signed (unknown) magaizine September signed by a variety of animal rights organizations and things like that I'm just I mean you kind of spoken pretty broadly about these things I look at that I feel like it's the movement kind of being coifted or taken over by the interests of animal exploiters, we're getting on the side of animal exploiters I find...
Gary: I'm not sure who the animal exploiters are – I see Peter Singer as an animal exploiter – I don't see Peter Singer as animal advocate. I see Peter Singer as an animal exploiter. Peter Singer, to me is shocking, to the positions that this man takes, is shocking. Now I think he intends them to be shocking and I think the part of who he is but yeah I see him as an animal exploiter. Troubling to me is Peter Singer is promoting the idea that we can be morally conscientious omnivores. Now that is a very troubling position to be taking in a movement. Let me give you an explaination for that. I understand the idea that if you're going to do explicit harm it's always better to inflict less harm than more harm. So if Joe decides he is going to rape Mary, I understand the idea that it would be better if Joe didn't beat her as well as rape her. I understand that. But I would find it disconcerting if a human rights movement or a human rights organization took the position that we could be conscientious, morally conscientious rapists if we didn't beat rape victims in addition to rape them.
Now, similarly, you can play out the example in many different contexts... yes, if you're going to molest a child it's better to molest a child 5 times rather than 10 times. But for somebody to take a position that you can be a morally conscientious child molestor if you limit yourself to 4 instances or 5 instances of child molestation. I would find that morally repugnent. So I understand if somebody says you know, "if your going to eat meat, you shouldn't eat meat. You shouldn't eat it. You shouldn't eat any meat any dairy you should be a vegan"... "If you're going to eat something... it's always better to eat something which involves less harm rather than more harm"... I understand that. That's a common sense understandable notion. But to then take the position that you can be a morally conscientious person in doing that then take the step that is equally problematic now you have Peter Singer the so called father of the animal rights movement taking the position that we can be morally conscientious omnivores. Well let me tell you, you don't need, an IQ above 10 to figure out that if you tell people who are concerned about these issues that they can be morally conscientious people and not be vegans. You know what, they ain't gonna be vegans.
Bob: Good Point... yeah, Singer, Mason argue that point extensively in their latest book "The Way We Eat" – They argue that point extensively... They even talk about how the kind of moral... the over whelming morality of veganism is damaging and I read that and it felt really problematic.
Gary: I think Peter Singer is part of the problem he's not part of the solution. I mean he promotes animal exploitation. I mean that's an imperically true statement. He promotes animal exploitation. That is an imperically true statement. He promotes animal exploitation. And he tells people that they can engage in exploitation and be morally sound people. Well, I'm sorry I disagree with that. I think that's problematic and I think a movement that is unclear about where he fits in it – that he's not on side???? He's on their side...I think is a confused movement. There's a lot in that book I agree, it's a deeply disturibing book on multiple levels. And yeah, there's the portion where he and Mason go to a turkey farm, and work inseminating turkeys for a day and they tell us horrible it is and how brutal it is to the birds. But here they are busy removing the semen from the maile turkeys and injecting it into the female turkeys and they're telling us about this. Now I find it ... that conduct is violent, I think it clearly expliots the animals and there's Singer and Mason engaging in that conduct – And from what I've seen the movement hasn't been particularly perturbed by it...
Bob: So, I guess the next question I would have is: Where the movement has been going and it's been going this way for seems like for decades, now... Where should we be going? I mean I know where we're not going – but where should we be going?
Well look, I think it's important to recognize there really isn't... I mean... We call it a movement. I call it a movement, you call it a movement – we all use that expression... But it's not really a movement. There are people out there who claim to be concerned by animals and but there's no political movement, we're not doing anything about it. The legislative initiatives, the legal thing, you know the various campaigns that are going on... are not doing anything other than furthering, embedding animals in the property paradigm. I think you know, again... if the revolution is Singer's promoting Whole Foods and John Mackey that's a pretty sad revolution. I think it's important for people who are concerned about this to forget about those people. Basically, frequently get a lot of emails from people who are critical of things that PETA does and they want to know, "What can we do? How can we stop PETA from doing these things"? And I always say: Forget about PETA. Forget about PETA... Forget PETA forget about HSUS, forget about Peter Singer, forget about all of them... And we need to start working outside of the movement or whatever you want to call it... the phenomenon. Just working outside is then ignoring it because we really have nothing in common. Those of us who want to do abolition who are interested in abolitionism really have nothing in common with those people. Absolutely nothing in common with them; and they're doing something very different. You know, and so it really is a guess a if you see yourself as opposed to rape, you wouldn't see yourself as part of a movement that says "Let's make sure all rape is humane". You know lets make sure that when men rape women they don't beat them too severely. If your opposed to rape that's not the position that would appeal to you. And you wouldn't see yourself as part of that movement. Indeed you would see yourself in many ways as outside of it. And I think that's what we need to do here. We need to take a step back and say: "Just as the ideas of humane rape or humane pedophilia, or whatever... other thing you want – put it in there"... We need to see that we don't see those things as characterizing our concerns about violence to women or violence to children, or whatever... We have to recognize that the whole campaign or the whole way of looking at things that has us being conscientious omnivores really is nothing to do with abolition or that abolitionists are concerned about. And 10 years ago, stepping outside and saying let's just ignore them, was difficult to do. But it's much less difficult now, because of the internet. Which reduces the opportunity costs of communication tremendously. It allows people to communicate with each other in ways that they couldn't in the past. And allows for organizations to develop outside of the formal organizations that exist. And I think we just need to take advantage of that – as a matter of fact I'm busy working on a new web site now... which is focusing on abolitionism and veganism. Which I see as being basically as veganism being the application of the principle that abolition to the life of the individual we can talk about that a couple of minutes... But which I'm focusing on abolition and veganism. And that will get out there and will stimulate debate...
And look I will end up, always end up getting nasty emails from the welfare PETA what I call the PETA files... The PETA people who will be critical – I don't care, I really don't care. And you know, several weeks ago, when I first read "The Way We Eat" and I read the section about Singer and Mason going to the turkey farm. I was shocked. I was really shocked. And I wrote something that I put out that I gave to somebody who put it on AR news or one of these groups, and I got a lot of positive feedback but I got the predictable group of people who told me that it was absolutely wrong to criticize Peter Singer and we should never do those sorts of things that it doesn't matter what he does that we should never criticize publicly, and things like that. And I just ignore it – That's what God gave us delete buttons for. And I recognize that there are a lot of people who look at this and their very culty sort of way and there's no intellectual discussion or debate – permitted . You know you just have to do what your told – it's very cultish. And I recognize that I'm going to get negative feedback from those people, but I ignore them I go on with things. And I think that's what we need to do. I think we need to develop a movement outside of the movement. And I mean a real movement – a political – a movement that 's coherent.
A movement that is progressive politically, that is part of a progressive political movement and where the people who are involved share some common moral and political values. And come from a progressive political background and I don't think there out there; I know there out there! And what's wonderful is we can now communicate with each other which we couldn't have done, not without a very very high cost. But now we can find each other, there are places in cyberspace that we can go to meet each other, to talk, to discuss things... and things have evolved to a point in which if I wanted I could spend all day communicating with people on the internet about these sorts of things from different countries. I could do this all day – every day.
And now that I have tenure I'm inclined to do that... But I mean it's there are possibilities – we have to take advantage of those possibilities, we have to be creative about those things. We have to take advantage of those possibilities. You know... The abolitionist message is getting out in various places where it couldn't have gotten out in years gone by. And because of the internet people are interested in communicating with each other and it's just amazing. I had and essay, a fairly radical essay in La Monde de la Critique I guess it was in August and I've gotten probably 250 responses from people all over the world that La Monde de la Critique is a fairly prestigious progressive publication . A lot of European people who are on the left, and well read people on the left, people read La Monde de la Critique. And I've gotten an enormously positive response from that essay... which talks about the abolition of animal slavery. That's roughly what the title is. I didn't write it in French but I feel so, so intellectual now – every one thinks I write in French. But it was translated by somebody – and I'm going to be doing another essay for La Monde de la Critique. And I was in Spain in May giving lectures at the University of Valencia the University of Mercia and University in Madrid and again, the reaction – and I wasn't talking about regulation I wasn't talking about making larger battery cages or McDonalds new happy slaughter methods or whatever... I wasn't talking about that, I was talking about why are we eating the animals at all? Why aren't we vegans? Isn't that the morally rational thing for us to be doing if we say we're civilized?
And it was remarkable the reaction I was getting and as a result of that experience I had in Spain, the number of students and various Spanish Universities that are corresponding with me regularly are thinking of doing their dissertation on abolitionist theory and things like that. So, that's what we really need to be doing. And it's important... to some degree that problem is our fault because what we've done is allowed people like Singer and Newkirk and these other people to sort of take it over. And then we sit around and worry about what they're saying and react to what they're saying. At some point of time we have to walk away from it and say "it's wrong" – "here's why it's wrong" – I'll never stop saying that. I'll never stop criticizing it. But I think you also have to go on to be constructive in terms of "alright – what are we going to do?" "What are we going to do that's an alternative?" And what we need to do is build an abolitionist movement. And we're not going to get any help from them I can tell you. We're not going to get any help from them.
Bob: I actually agree. And that one of the things you said really strikes a cord with me is this: How we need common moral and political values to drive the movement. A progressive movement and one of the things I always talk about is how I think the movement itself has to focus on oppression on the whole. Oppression of people, all of that together, and I always get frustrated because some people want to fetishize animal oppression and I understand that animal oppression is in fact horrible. And I've devoted a significant portion of my life in the last couple of years to talking about that . And I think we need to look at all oppression overall to really deal with this.
Gary: Look, Bob the reason why that's not only desirable but essential. Think about it for a second. You're not going to get people to extend their moral sympathy if they don't have moral sympathies that go to members of their own species they're not going to have moral sympathies that go to members of other species. Indeed, if you have people who have moral sympathies, not for member for members of their own species but for members of other species... We call them misanthropes. And I think that – for example – I remember, I don't really speak in animal rights conferences anymore because life is too short. But – one of the things I used to hear in animal rights conferences all the time is, "Well, you know I love animals but I hate people"... And I used hear as a matter of fact, if I had a nickel for every time I heard somebody say that – Or the other thing you hear all the time was, "Why don't we use prisoners in experiments? I mean, isn't it better for us to use prisoners?" We shouldn't use animals. Why aren't we using prisoners? And I see that all the time. And whenever I used to hear that – as tiresome as it was, I used to always address the person who said it and say: "Look we need to focus on that for a second. Because that doesn't make any sense."
What you are promoting is saying that "well, I'm opposed to violence – against animals – but I'm in favor of violence to humans. And I hear "I don't care about humans", or "I'm not worried about exploitation of humans", I mean I remember, When I first got involved with this movement I used to in addition to being a law professor I'm also a lawyer and I work with over the years I worked with almost all of the large organizations and indeed was involved closely with a number of them, in the 80's and early 90's – by the mid 90's I stopped doing that. But I know a lot of these folks personally, and I've had a lot of discussions with them about, for example: I was an early objector to the "I'd rather go naked than wear fur campaign". Because, it seemed to me, quite clear, that as long as we were treating women as pieces of meat we would most likely treat meat as pieces of meat. And eroticizing the fur issue was not a good idea. And yet, what I found when I tried to raise that in the movement was: "We don't really care even if it perpetuates sexism, what difference does it make? It's for the animals"... You know, the sanctimonious "we do it for the animals". And the bottom line is we first thought hasn't worked – the whole fur campaign has been an enormous failure. Fur is a bigger, more powerful and more lucrative than it's ever been in the history of it's existence. But, we also wound up doing in that campaign was alienating a lot of women who found it really offensive. Quite properly. And I think a lot of these campaigns are really reactionary, they're horribly reactionary. And I think that we have got to recognize at some point that if we're going to get people to accept – We're not going to get people who don't care about the exploitation of humans, you're not going to get those people, to be particularly concerned about animals. Think about it. If you've got somebody who doesn't care about human slavery, are they likely to care about non-human slavery? And I would be deeply concerned and would not want to be anywhere near somebody who says "I don't care about human slavery but I do care about animal slavery". I would find such a person to be a person I would not want to be alone in a room with. So and I think there are a lot of those folks out there – in the animal world – who don't care, or have any particular warm feelings, or moral feeling for members of their own species, and I think that's problematic. And I think if the movement is going to succeed... If the movement is going to make any progress it's only going to do so, once it locates itself in a progressive, political context and recognizes where it's coming from. And what it's part of.
Bob: Absolutely Jenna: Just to sort of round out our interview here – We have a lot of listeners on their way to vegan and aren't quite there yet, and we've heard you in the past, give your explanation, very logical explanation, of why we should be vegan and it basically all comes down to taste. And we were wonder if you could just maybe, explain that for our listeners?
Gary: I'm sorry I don't' understand what comes – I don't understand...
Bob: I think in one of your books you give and example of how you talk your student through veganism and the first couple of days, you kind of, convince them right on the spot they should be vegan if they care about suffering.
Gary: Oh okay? Will yeah, I mean... what I do basically is... for example – I'll begin giving a lecture... I gave a lecture in Spain and it went remarkably well... I'll ask people: "How many people have dogs or cats in their house?" And you know, almost everybody raises their hand. And I say: "Do you recognize that your dog or your cat is a sentient being?" "Oh yes". "Do you recognize that your dog and your cat have emotions, they have feelings, they feel pain, they experience pleasure. They really have very complex cognitive characteristics." "Oh yes – absolutely." Now imagine, you were to be walking down the street and you were to encounter someone whose about to blow torch a dog. And you stop the person and "say why are you doing this"? And the person says "Well because I enjoy it". " Would you have a problem with that"? And "how many people in the audience would not have a problem". – and nobody raises their hand – and everybody agrees: Yes, that would be horrible. Monstrous, and say those are the people we should put in jail. And then I ask... I try to get everybody to recognize that their dogs and their cats are creatures that have complex cognitive characteristics and that blow torching one of them for reasons of pleasure or amusement would be monstrous thing to do. Then I ask " how many people here eat meat?" or dairy?" And then, I say" "okay, now tell me how what you're doing is any different from the kid whose about to blow torch the dog? I mean first of all, the animal that you're eating are no different cognitively from the animals that you have in your house that are members of your family, that you love, that you recognize are truly non-human persons. They have personalities, they have minds, they have experience pain, they experience pleasure, they have awareness they're self conscience, etc. And you recognize that tell me how what you're doing is any different? And then we go through it and we recognize that well, there is no justification for eating animal products other than pleasure, amusement or convenience in the sense, we are no different from the kid whose blow torching the dog. The only difference is we, most of us, pay somebody to go and torture the animal. But we have no better justification for eating animal products than does the kid whose blow torching the dog... whose only justification is "I do it because I enjoy blow torching the dog". I enjoy inflicting pain and suffering. I get something out of this I get some pleasure, some amusement out of this." We're no different from that kid. Absolutely none. As a moral matter there is absolutely no difference. And then, I get them to focus on the fact... You know... I always get the question: "But what's wrong with dairy? They don't kill the animals for dairy?" And the answer is, they sure do.
You know dairy animals are kept alive longer than their meat counter-parts, they're treated worse, and they all end up in the same slaughterhouse and we wind up eating them anyway. They just live longer, worse lives, they suffer more and they all end up in the same slaughterhouse and frankly if you're concerned about animal suffering and someone tells you you've either got to eat the steak or drink the glass of milk and you're going to make the decision based only suffering your probably ought to eat the steak because there's probably more suffering in the glass of milk than there is in the pound of steak. But you shouldn't be eating any of it. I think that one of the most serious problems with the organized animal business... I guess that's a much better description of the movement. The organized animal business, doesn't embrace veganism as a moral base line – Indeed the moral baseline is... is being a conscientious omnivore. So, we should all be eating free range... that's the default position. The position ought to be none of us should be eating any of it. There is no reasons for what so ever. It is immoral to do, it is no different than the kid whose blow torching the dog, there's no need for it whatsoever, nobody... It's 2006 nobody maintains you need to eat meat for health reasons. Indeed most people, including mainstream people, and the more your read, the more you recognize that even mainstream health care people are recognizing that animal products are deadly, and animal products and animal agriculture is an environmental disaster. So there no reason for what so ever. And I think it's imperative that we recognize that if you take your moral interests seriously, you don't have a choice in this matter... you've got to be vegan. If you are an abolitionist, it makes no more sense to continue eating animal products than saying, "I'm an abolitionist in respect to slavery: but I still own a few." It's the same thing. And I frequently have people say to me, "I'm totally with you – I agree with your Abolitionist Theory". And I say "Are you vegan?" And they say "no" and I say let's talk about that because you've got a problem here. And that you need to get some consistency in your life, because if you in fact are an abolitionist then you need understand that veganism is nothing more than applying the principle of abolition to your own life. And you know what, yeah, that's absolutely right. We're not going to end animal exploitation by tomorrow – It's not going to happen... but the one thing that every single one of us can do right now... Right at the very moment is: to stop consuming them. To stop eating them... to stop eating meat, to stop eating dairy, to stop wearing, to stop using products that have been tested on them. Those are things that we can do right now. Right now. We can do something immediately... you want to do things to stop animal suffering now? Stop eating them.
And for every person who stops eating them, demand goes down, 35 – 40 animals a year, whatever... Everybody who embraces the vegan lifestyle is saving at least 35 – 40 even probably more if you count fish and stuff... You're talking probably an excess of 40 animals a year – so if you want to do something for animals now – go vegan. And that's an argument I've been making that I make to the organized animal business. Going back as far as 1985 when we were sitting around strategizing about what to do, my position always was put all of our money and our resources all of our labor, all of our money into a vegan campaign. And people said: "Yeah, but you know, but wouldn't it be better if we got bigger cages for the birds? Wouldn't it be better in terms of alleviating suffering"? And the answer is NO...We're not going to end all suffering immediately anyway, all we can do is to take incremental steps in the short term and if we would have a sustained vegan campaign now, in another 20 years we will have decreased suffering dramatically through decreasing demand and building a base for a meaningful political and social movement that would support more dramatic changes as time went on. Right now, we have a movement of people who say "I'm in favor of humane animal treatment", Well you know what? I'm 52 years old – I've never met anybody in my life – who disagrees with that – including people who exploit the animals.
Bob: Absolutely – So, I like that a lot actually. Because I always feel like what we're doing in the movement or the business, or what ever you want to call it... we end up going after the wrong ends I think... I don't see enough promotion of veganism. And I guess one of the things, you advised... around the mainstream movement, how would you advise that the average person can start doing this stuff? Because a lot of people feel really over- whelmed, helpless about it, but – do you have any advice apart from just going vegan?
Gary: But you can't dismiss that as a significant thing because I meet a lot of people, who express their frustration, they say "what do I do?... what's the first thing I do"? And I say: "Are you vegan?" And they say, "well, no" – and then I end up having a discussion because they gradually say something that quotes Peter Singer or something the PETA people put out – and they say "well really, do I have to be vegan?" And I say, "yeah, you do and you have to get passed that"... But I really think that it's imperative that we not in any way, dismiss the importance of that initial fact, to go vegan. And the, the thing to do I think for most people, who have limited time and they don't have necessarily have all the time in the world to do various things... But by going vegan, and then trying to educate everybody around you about veganism... can have tremendous impact.
I got an email two days ago from somebody in Spain, actually who came to my lecture in Valencia – She's become a vegan now and it's all she'll talk about with anybody basically... She's really, really, vegan bug bit her hard! And she's now talking about veganism with everybody and all the people in her work place, and she went on a business trip and she was talking to everyone who wanted to know why she wasn't eating the foods that everybody else was eating and she was explaining about veganism... and I would suspect that a majority of the people in her life are not accepting it immediately, but what she's finding is that some people are very interested and are engaging her on it. And their starting to change their habits. And she's starting to get feedback from the people she's talking to about veganism. And she's not a public person, she's not on radio shows, she's not on television shows, she's not speaking at conferences, She's a business person, she's a mid-level manager in a company. And she's been exposed to these ideas now the ideas have turned her around – they make sense to her. She's now promoting them with everyone she comes in contact with and those people are then educating the people they come in contact with. If she continues doing what she's doing she will be directly responsible for a number of other people adopting the vegan lifestyle. And then those people will get turned on to the idea and they'll turn more people on and that's what's really important it's clear... the nicest thing about veganism is it gets you involved in the discussions about how free range does it have to be before we can be morally conscientious about it... It's a nice clear, clean line... nothing. You know we don't eat nothing. And it makes sense – I mean really once you explain it in the theoretical context it makes absolute sense.
One of the things I tried to do in "The Introduction to Animal Rights" is to present a theory that animal rights isn't something that you need to have 50 years of philosophical training to understand. If an idea is a good idea – it's an idea that should be explainable to anybody... and I think we can get wrapped up in a lot of academical, elitism... thinking that you need some sort of very complex theory to make this all make sense . You don't . If you take animal suffering seriously, you shouldn't be eating any of them. You don't need to know anything about rights theory. You don't need to know what a right is. You don't need to know how rights function. I'm mean... it's nice. But you don't need to know any of that stuff, to understand that if you take seriously the idea that animals are members of the moral community – you can't eat members of the moral community. It's that simple. You just can't. You don't need 63 years of philosophical training to understand that if X is a member of the moral community, you shouldn't eat X. You shouldn't exploit X and keep X constantly pregnant so you can get milk from her, that she's suppose to be giving to her babies to make them become 2,000 pound animals.
And I think one of the things that happens a lot is once people understand this they say "yeah, but you know, isn't your theory really a theory that says "we shouldn't have domestic animals at all?" The bottom line is "yes". That's exactly right... you've got it. Anybody who asks me that question, I get a feeling of warmth in my heart because I realize they understood what I'm talking about. If we really took these ideas seriously, we would stop bringing billions of animals into existence every year for the soul purpose of treating them as things. Once they become moral persons we stop bringing them into existence. And that's the basic problem, the issue is not if the cows should have legal standing to sue the farmer for acts of cruelty. The question is why do we have the cow here in the first place? Why are we bringing domestic animals into existence in the first place? And I think we need to focus on that. And I get asked that question a lot. I get a lot of animal people get very hostile to me when they say "well are you saying we shouldn't have dogs and cats". And the answer is, "I've got 5... I had 7... two passed away last year; I've got 5 rescued dogs... I love dogs... I enjoy them... You'll probably won't find anyone of the planet who loves them more than I do"... but, if it were up to me – if there were two dogs left on the planet, and if it were up to me as to whether or not they were to continue to breed so that we could have dogs... Wonderful, but perpetually vulnerable animals, that are depended on us for when they eat, when they drink, when they go to the bathroom, etc., etc. the answer is "no". "Absolutely not". We have no business – we should not have dogs and cats. That we shouldn't continue breeding – we should take care of the ones that we have here now... But we should not be continuing to breed them. Now I probably alienated by making that comment a lot of people in your audience – but I'm sorry.
Jenna: No, I think a lot of people actually agree with you out there. Because I think people forget exactly agriculture works. We forget, the point you just made – that we bring them into existence their not just out there copulating in the fields; we make turkeys have sex Singer and Mason know that very well apparently...
Gary: Do you have that book?
Jenna & Bob: – Oh yeah...
Gary: When I got to page 28 you know... at this point in my life, it takes a lot to shock me – and I read pages 28, 29 of that book and I was absolutely shocked... that they did it. And I don't know what shocked me more that they did it or that they said in such a nonchalant way that they did it. I don't know what shocked me more that they did it or that they said in such a nonchalant way – they did it. But in any event – Yeah, I mean... the animals that we exploit are not naturally occurring beings. They are not beings – if we took all the cows that were and put them out in the fields okay – and we're going to leave you alone. These animals would be dead. If these are animals that are depended on us completely. These are domestic animals, they are animals that we have either through various ways selectively bred these animals to have certain characteristics – these are not natural beings. These are very unnatural beings. The pigs that we have now, came ultimately from wild pigs and there are still wild ones in various parts of the world, but the domestic animals that we have are animals that are here because we caused them to come into existence. And if we took their interests seriously, the solution is not to become morally conscientious omnivores. We should stop eating them altogether and we should address the problem by hitting the demand. Because that's really in the end the only way it's going to work the only way we're going to have any progress, is to hit the demand. Because when we... early in the interview Bob, you mentioned the strategy that we're going to decrease the demand by increasing the price. Well, you know first of all, in order for that to be meaningful, the increase in prices have to be dramatic. And that's not something the market is going to tolerate any time soon like – in the next several zillion years. That's not going to happen... that sort of level of price increase isn't going to happen, number one.
Number two: Even if it did... I firmly believe that in the present international legal context what you end up to have happening is you have other producers who were not producing the more expensive food coming in to satisfy the demand. So the problem is the demand. And the only way we're ultimately deal with this situation is to deal with the demand. And so and if we deal with the demand – every person who becomes a vegan the demand decreases. If we could get a sizable portion of the population – to embrace veganism that would effect demand.
And again, the whole vegan thing is... it really does, the vegan approach really does have the advantage of being something that... it's an unusual idea, and it's something that people can identify with because even though it's unusual, it's far more clear – than telling people "you ought to treat the animals humanely" everybody understands that. Everybody agrees with and it doesn't have any practical effect in terms of what people are doing. Where as veganism is an idea – once you turn somebody on to it – and they grab it – it' excites them. It becomes a real defining principle in their lives and it's something they can share with other people.
Bob: Absolutely – I couldn't think of a better place to close out the interview. Is there anything else you'd like to talk about? I didn't ask about?
Gary: I'm a vegan I have unbounded amounts of energy, I mean... if you want me to go on for the next several hours... Anything else that you didn't touch on that you didn't touch on?
Bob: No, I was very happy to hear you talk about veganism, because I agree with you 100%. Because I believe it needs to be the base line of what we do and a lot of what I do is trying to pro-veganism because I think that's one of the most effective ways to get this out...
Gary: Let me end with a little story here... I got an invitation to be part of a project. They wanted me to participate with a group of other people and the name of the project was "Heroes of the Vegan Movement" – so they wanted me to participate and I ultimately declined and one of the reasons I declined was: because I said "I have a problem with the word "hero"... I have a problem with the idea of portraying someone who is doing what we all should be doing, as doing something that's extraordinary". And I think that part of the problem is the animal business, goes out of it's way to portray veganism as the extreme position – and to portray the default or normal position, as the eating... being a morally conscientious omnivore. And that's what the organized animal groups are telling people is "well, you don't have to be a vegan that's an extreme thing"... Those of us who are vegans we're heroes we're special people ... You the unwashed masses... it's okay... you go to your Whole Foods and buy your free range eggs and your happy corpses or whatever, and that's okay. You can be a conscientious omnivores and that's alright... And being a vegan is an extreme thing – we recognize it's an extreme thing and it's difficult thing to do. And I object to that. I really object to the idea of portraying veganism as something that is extraordinarily hard to do, or is something only the heroic sprit can embrace. That's nonsense, it's nonsense, it's elitist, it's foolish.
You know 20 some odd years ago, when I became a vegan – it was a lot more difficult – in the sense that there wasn't a lot of vegan food around and not stuff you could get easily. There were always fruits and vegetables. But if you were wanting to have cooked foods or prepared foods there really wasn't a lot of choice around. And when I first became a vegan... the soy, there were as I recall... some attempts at soy ice cream and there were things that you wouldn't feed to your worst enemy... they were horrible... But now, it is not difficult to be a vegan... in any way... It's not difficult at all. As a matter of fact, it's easy – to be a vegan now. And so I think that it's very, very important... and I think one of the saddest and most damaging aspects of the modern organized animal movement, is portraying veganism as an extreme or radical thing. It isn't. It's easy, it's something we should all be doing. And it's not something that only the heroic spirit, or the really self-sacrificing person can embrace. It's easy... and you feel a lot better. I don't do it for health reasons, but I have to say that I... hope I don't drop dead tomorrow... but at 52 I have more energy than most of my students who are young enough to be my children.
Bob: so the original interview ended there but we stopped the interview, put our head phones down. Thought we were done with the show but we got a phone call back and it was from Gary... One thing he wanted to add... and it was this:
Gary: I just wanted to make one final comment to your listeners, just as I'm concerned about welfarist regulation and I think that's inconsistent with the abolitionist approach. I also think that violence is inconsistent with the abolitionist approach and I think we ought to avoid that. When I talk about the abolitionist approach being part of a progressive social movement; what I mean in part, is that we ought to see our selves as the next step of the peace movement. And that's an example I've used for some years now and I really think it fits. I really think that we are the next step in the peace movement. And I think that violence of any sort is inconsistent with the abolitionist idea. And just as I would urge your listeners to reject welfare regulation I would also urge them to reject violence.
Bob: And by violence what do you mean? Do you mean interpersonal violence – destruction of property?...
Gary: I'm opposed to all violence. I'm opposed to all violence. But let me just say this, the idea that people think that things can be done to property without jeopardizing life that's simply false. Whenever you engage in a destructive act there is a possibility of injuring someone, a human or a non-human. But in any event, I think it's important to reject all violence and the one thing... it's imperative that the abolitionist idea not be a associated in any way with violence and I think to this extent, that it's associated with non-violence. Because it's a movement in my judgement, The Abolitionist Vegan Movement is a movement of non-violence. To extent that it gets associated with any sort of violence that damages the movement we ought to stay away from that. It's not a good thing. It not a good thing, for moral theoretical reasons, it's not a good for practical reasons. It just simply doesn't make any sense . Again, I really would re-enforce the idea that the Abolitionist Vegan Movement ought to see itself as part of the Peace Movement and to see that what we are objecting to violence and we aren't going to solve the problem of violence by more acts of violence. It's not going to work.'
Bob & Jenna: Thank you, Gary.