Gary L. Francione

 

On his book Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation

Cover Interview of February 01, 2010

Lastly

In addition to demonstrating that the animal welfare approach to animal ethics is unsatisfactory both as a moral and practical matter, another significant aspect of Animals as Persons is to make the case for veganism.  We should not eat, wear, or consume any animal products.

Most of the current literature on animal ethics—academic as well as commercial—defends the “conscientious omnivore” who is careful to eat only animal products that are produced in a supposedly “humane” way, or, at most, defends vegetarianism, a vague term used to describe a diet that does not include meat, poultry, and, perhaps aquatic animals.  But if we take animal interests seriously and regard animals as members of the moral community, we really have no choice other than eliminating the consumption and use of all animal products.  What we consume is not a simple matter of choice; there are moral issues involved.

It is my hope that the book makes clear to readers that to talk about animal rights at all when animals are chattel property is similar to talking about the rights of slaves.  To be property is the opposite of being a person.  A person is an entity with inherent or intrinsic value; property has only external or conditional value.  At the present time, we regard only humans as eligible to be natural persons.  But we should remember that, at various times, we have excluded from the class of persons certain humans based on irrelevant characteristics, such as race and sex.

Animals as Persons is a call to include all sentient beings in the class of persons and to recognize that the interest of animals in not being used as resources should, like the similar human interest in not being a chattel slave, be protected with a right.

The abolitionist position presented in Animals as Persons does not mean that we release domesticated animals to run wild in the street.  If we took animals seriously and recognized our obligation not to treat them as things, we would stop producing and facilitating the production of domestic animals altogether.  We would care for the ones whom we have here now, but we would stop breeding more for human consumption.

With respect to non-domesticated nonhumans, we would simply leave them alone.


© 2010 Gary Francione