On ANIMALS AS PERSONS
Gary Francione’s Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation is a collection of previously-published individual essays (some with postscripts) and a new chapter, the "Introduction: The Abolition of Animal Use Versus the Regulation of Animal Treatment."
Animals as Persons is, in my opinion, more readable than Francione’s Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog? and Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement. This latest book also covers much of the same ground, in addition to much of what Francione writes about on his blog. In that sense, it’s the one resource for all things abolitionist (as he defines it). As this is a scholarly book, I would have a hard time recommending it to the average person. However, for animal rights activists, who are constantly bombarded with questions and scenarios from people often intending to try to stump them more than to try to understand them (unfortunately), this book puts all of the classic Francione stories and responses in one place. And though I was initially startled by the absence of an Index, the Reference Guide to Selected Topics, which is in narrative form with page references, is very useful.
Ex: "Ethical theory concerning nonhuman animals seeks to clarify how we should resolve conflicts between humans and nonhumans. These conflicts are, for the most part, ones we create because we regard animals as property and bring them into existence so that we can treat them as our resources. See pp. 13-14, 63-66, 152, 164 (232)."
The themes that appear in the essays are (and note that the quotation provided is just one instance of each theme):
- Our "moral schizophrenia" ("our actual treatment of animals
stands in stark contrast to our proclamations about our regard for
their moral status ").
- "The property status of animals renders meaningless any balancing
that is supposedly required under the humane treatment principle or
animal welfare laws, because what we really balance are the interests
of property owners against the interests of their animal property (38)."
- "If we extend the right not to be property to animals, then animals
will become moral persons. To say that a being is a person is merely to
say that the being has morally significant interests, that the
principle of equal consideration applies to that being, that the being
is not a thing. In a sense, we already accept that animals are persons;
we claim to reject the view that animals are things and to recognize
that, at the very least, animals have a morally significant interest in
not suffering. Their status as property, however, has prevented their
personhood from being realized (61)."
- "[T]here have been no significant improvements in animal welfare or
animal-welfare laws in the United States, and almost all changes have
been linked explicitly to making animal use more efficient (72-3)."
- "Making exploitation more efficient and increasing demand for meat
have nothing to do with recognizing the inherent value of animals or
doing anything other than treating animals strictly as economic
- "Rather than embrace veganism as a clear moral baseline, the animal-advocacy movement has instead adopted the notion that we can ‘consume with conscience.’ For example, Peter Singer maintains that we can be ‘conscientious omnivores’ and exploit animals ethically if, for example, we choose to eat only animals who have been well-cared-for and then killed without pain or distress (108)."
- "The most important form of incremental change on a societal level is education about veganism and the need to abolish, not merely to regulate, the institutionalized exploitation of animals. The animal-advocacy movement in the United States has seriously failed to educate the public about the need for abolition of animal exploitation. Although there are many reasons for this failure, a primary one is that animal-advocacy groups find it easier to promote welfarist campaigns aimed at reducing ‘unnecessary’ suffering that have little practical effect and are often endorsed by the industry involved. Such campaigns are easy for advocates to package and sell and they do not offend anyone (109-10)."
- "[E]ducation and social change are so important and must precede legal change. There is simply no political base to support any radical legal change at this time (112)."
- "[A]nimal advocates have lost ground in a number of areas. Discourse about animal welfare as connected to economic efficiency is no less prevalent than it was a decade ago and, indeed, is arguably more prevalent. The animal movement has drifted in a more traditional welfarist direction in that most of the animal organizations have openly embraced a program of efficient exploitation (126)."
- "[T]here is no empirical evidence to indicate that animal welfare regulation will lead to the abolition of animal exploitation (136)."
"Although the similar-minds approach claims that, as an empirical matter, we may have been wrong in the past and at least some nonhumans may have some of the [characteristics we associate with human minds], it does not address the underlying–and fundamental–moral question: why is anything more than sentience necessary for nonhumans to have the right not to be treated exclusively as means to human ends (141)?"
I didn’t find any surprises or shifts in Animals as Persons, although there were details about the California foie gras law (and other such laws) and the CHIMP Act that I was unaware of. Nevertheless, if you want one book that describes abolition (the way Francione defines it–don’t write me telling me other people disagree) and the crucial importance of property rights (and personhood), this is certainly the one.