Gary Francione’s reply:
As I have said many times, I am not saying that there is anything inherently immoral about consuming any of these foods. What I have said is that “mock” animal foods perpetuate the idea that animal flesh and animal products *are* food. We need to move away from that thinking. I have stated that all foods that seek to imitate the taste and texture of “animal foods” are problematic in this regard, particularly when they are marketed with animal-food names.
Let me say again—because many “animal people” appear either to not understand what I say or to misrepresent it intentionally—I am *not* saying that there is anything inherently immoral about consuming any of these foods. I am raising a question about perpetuating a speciesist paradigm.
There is a tendency amongst some animal advocates to associate nonhuman personhood with animals, such as chimpanzees, dolphins, and elephants, who have more sophisticated–that is, humanlike–cognitive abilities. I would suggest that, for purposes of determining whom it is appropriate to treat as a replaceable resource, that is wholly arbitrary. Cognitive abilities may be relevant for some purposes but not for this purpose.
Consider a human example: Mary is a brilliant historian; Joe is severely mentally disabled. Is the difference in cognitive ability relevant? Yes, for the purpose of determining whom to appoint as a history professor; no for the purpose of determining whom to use as a forced organ donor or as a nonconsenting subject of a biomedical experiment. We should not use either Mary or Joe for those purposes.
What is morally relevant is sentience, or having subjective awareness. And most of the animals we routinely exploit every day–the cows, pigs, chickens, and fish–are sentient. If these animals have any moral value, we cannot justify treating them as resources, and we can never do so in the absence of compulsion or necessity. And we already recognize this on some level.
Most of us consume animals and animal products, which involve imposing horrible suffering and violent death even under the most “humane” circumstances. What justification do we have for imposing this suffering and death? We do not need to eat animal foods to be healthy. And animal agriculture is an ecological disaster. Our best justification: palate pleasure.
In an essay I wrote in 2005 for The New Scientist, I argued that the idea that those animals who deserve to be considered as nonhuman persons are those “special” animals who are more “like us”–chimpanzees, dolphins, elephants, etc.–is, not surprisingly, embraced by those who want to claim that only some animals, the “higher” ones, matter morally and that it’s still okay to keep eating “lower” animals. This way of thinking about animal ethics is similar to saying that people of color with lighter skin matter more than those with darker skin. They are more “like us” where “us” refers to the racist norm that being white is what’s right.
To say that the animals who matter more morally are those who are “like us” is nothing more than the reinforcement of speciesism and not a refutation of it. As far as morality is concerned, a chicken weighs as much an elephant.
It is time to rethink animal ethics in a more fundamental way.
If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.
Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University
Many animal people, including some who identify themselves as “abolitionists,” think that the issue is “hurting” animals. That is problematic because it feeds into the idea that the issue is treatment is not use. Any use of animals, including uses that do not “hurt” them, involve *harming* them.
We need to be clear: it does not matter how “humanely” animals are treated, animal use harms animals and is unjust. Sure, more suffering is worse than less, but any use of animals, including uses that involve killing that is relatively painless, is wrong."
Why worry about global warming, genocides, people starving in Africa and animal rights? It’s so much easier to simply not care.That’s why many hate vegans, those stupid people who care too much. When you believe that you don’t care, it’s easy to ride a meh-horse and ridicule the people who actually face the truth and allow themselves to feel it.
Look at the state of the world. Maybe the reason so much horror exists is because of the billions of us who stand on the sidelines, unable to cope with a terrible truth. And those who speak the truth get marginalized and pushed out of society’s consciousness. Any representations or personifications of the repressed emotions are mocked, even hated. Just remember that when you encounter these people, the truth hurts them so much that they can’t take it, so have compassion."