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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 [26]").
  • "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
    commodities (86)."
  • "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)."

And finally,

"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.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Fredrik Fälth #

    I was under the impression that this book was only a collection of essays. I've never read "Introduction to Animal right" either but from what I've heard, that book has a chapter devoted to answering the many "objections" from omni's we vegans hear so often. Such a chapter seems very useful to me. Is something similar included in "Animals as Persons"? Thanks!

    June 22, 2008
  2. Roger #

    Gary Francione is currently discussing themes from Animals As Persons on Vegan Freaks Radio )part 2 is due in a couple of days:

    June 22, 2008
  3. Dan #

    I'll admit that I haven't read this book yet, but given Gary Francione's (very) accessible writing style and his emphasis on keeping his theory and writing simple (it’s about as clear and straightforward as such things get), and given that Mary’s opinion is that it is *more readable* than Francione’s other two very readable books, the fact that it is a “scholarly book” should not scare anyone who can read at any high school grade level. I wouldn’t recommend Heidegger’s Being and Time to the average person, but I’d highly recommend Animals as Persons to the average person.

    June 22, 2008
  4. Fredrik,
    There's not really a chapter addressing objections specific to omnis, but there is much addressing of objections of all kinds, from various directions (including other scholars), throughout the essays.

    Thanks Roger!

    I mention the book being more readable because I had a tough time getting through the first two books and didn't experience them as simple and straightforward. I was a vegan at the time and didn't believe animals were ours to use, but I was not an abolitionist as Francione would define it. Most of this book is much easier to get through, though, in my opinion.

    Furthermore, the average person in my world won't care to read a book about welfare versus abolition (they likely don't even know what that is), and I don't use property rights as my first line of defense (I go with what's most important to the person in front of me). In my vegan education of Joe and Josie Q. Public, this wouldn't be my first choice as there are simply too many compromises. It's far beyond a high school reading level, in both vocabulary and sophistication of writing style.

    I might refer someone who belongs to PeTA to sections of the book, and I'd certainly recommend vegans read it.

    June 23, 2008
  5. Dan #

    It’s true that the average person in my world wouldn’t even care to read a pamphlet about animal welfare, much less a book about AR, but if I was to recommend one, it would probably be Intro to AR by Francione or Animals as Persons. Both books were, by far, the clearest, most straightforward books on AR I had ever read, which is why I promote Francione’s work so much.

    About the reading level, perhaps I’m used to reading dense and difficult material, including complicated legal contracts and dry philosophical works, but I’m amazed that anyone would find Francione’s work difficult to get through. Personally, I found Tom Regan’s The Case for AR to be dense and tedious and Francione’s books like a short stroll in the park.

    Oh well, such is opinion on such things – extremely subjective.

    June 24, 2008
  6. Dan,

    And let's not forget the obvious–you're smarter than I am! Regan was no day at the beach for me.

    June 24, 2008
  7. Dan #

    Oh c’mon, Mary, I appreciate the compliment, even if undeserved, but one of the reasons I think Francione’s work is so accessible is because it’s easier to understand than most other scholarly books in moral philosophy and philosophy in general. I think that is one of Francione’s strongest points: he is able to put what might normally be difficult to articulate in much more straightforward and economical language than can most scholars (in both writing and speech). But I’m more than happy to agree to disagree on the difficulty or ease of his books. I say to those who haven’t read Francione’s books: read them and decide for yourself!

    I’m with you on Regan. It wasn’t so much Regan’s wording, etc, that made The Case for AR a little difficult to get through, but his attention to detail, his thoroughness (including a survey of Western ethical thought), and the resulting length of the book. That said, it makes a good “intro to Western ethics” as well as a good case for AR, if you can endure. 🙂 Empty Cages is a good Regan book for the "average person."

    June 24, 2008
  8. I think that Gary's interviews are more accessible than his writing, and I usually refer people to these two excellent interviews:

    Even people who don't have a particular interest in AR stuff have told me that they found the interviews to be interesting and thought-provoking. Gary lays out the groundwork for abolition using concrete examples from welfarist "reforms". Really good stuff, and not at all dry.

    June 26, 2008
  9. Ruth Eisenbud #

    Animals are designated as property in the west, because the Judeo.Christian Tradition set a foundation which allows for their harm and exploitation. Their lives do not have inherent worth, but rather are valued in how they may benefit humans. This hierarchical scheme of allowable abuse goes by the name of Dominion/Stewardship

    In India where the religions teach that non-violence for ALL beings: Ahimsa, the laws reflect this premise and animals are considered living beings. In fact there is a 'Duty of Compassion for Animals' written into the Indian Constitution.

    It will not be possible to change the laws in the west until we address the underlying flawed message of compassion delivered by our mainstream religions.

    October 9, 2009

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