Gary L. Francione, Why Veganism Matters, the Moral Value of Animals


Gary L. Francione, Why Veganism Matters, the Moral Value of Animals
Most people care about animals, but only a tiny fraction are vegan. The rest often think of veganism as an extreme position. They certainly do not believe that they have a moral obligation to become vegan.

Gary L. Francione—the leading and most provocative scholar of animal rights theory and law—demonstrates that veganism is a moral imperative and a matter of justice. He shows that there is a contradiction in thinking that animals matter morally if one is also not vegan, and he explains why this belief should logically lead all who hold it to veganism. Francione dismantles the conventional wisdom that it is acceptable to use and kill animals as long as we do so “humanely.” He argues that if animals matter morally, they must have the right not to be used as property. That means that we cannot eat them, wear them, use them, or otherwise treat them as resources or commodities.

Why Veganism Matters presents the case for the personhood of nonhuman animals and for veganism in a clear and accessible way that does not require any philosophical or legal background. This book offers a persuasive and powerful argument for all readers who care about animals but are not sure whether they have a moral obligation to be vegan.

Gary L. Francione is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University Law School and visiting professor of philosophy at the University of Lincoln (UK). He is the author of many books, including Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation. More at and


Caryn Hartglass: Hello, I’m Caryn Hartglass and welcome to It’s All About Food. We get to talk about my favorite subject, food for an hour and for those who are frequent listeners you know some of the things we talk about how our food choices affect our personal health, health of the environment, and also the well-being of the other animal species we share our home planet earth with. It’s going to be a very interesting hour. I’ve got someone I’m a big fan of that we’re going to be speaking with today and I’m hoping we get your thoughts, moving and juicing up, and make you squirm a little bit, I want to push some buttons, and get everybody thinking to make a positive difference in our lives and the lives of the other lifeforms on this planet. We have with us Gary Francione who is a Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University. He has been teaching animal rights and the law for 25 years and has lectured on the topic throughout the United States and Canada and Europe, including serving as a member of the Guest Facility of the University Complutense de Madrid and has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows. He was the Co-Director with Anna Charleton of the Rutgers Animal Rights Law Center in which students earned academic credits working on actual legal cases involving animals. Professor Francione is well-known among animal advocates for his criticism of the welfare position and the property status of non-human animals and for his abolitionist theory of animal rights. He’s written numerous books including, Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation, Animal Rights: Your Child or Your Dog, Animals Property and the Law, and his newest book which he coauthored with Robert Garner, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation? Gary, welcome.

Gary Francione: Hey Caryn, thank you very much for having me.

Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. I don’t know that you know this, but you’re one of the people in this what I want to call this animal, vegetable kind of discussion whose really made things clear for me, and made an impression on me. Gosh, I think it was at a Vegetarian Summer Fest when it was at Johnstown?

Gary Francione: Oh my that goes back away, you’re dating us Caryn, you’re dating us.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, but you know I’ve heard a lot of people speak that talk for me, I was already a vegan so I don’t want to say it was a turning point, but it was unforgettable for me, and I really appreciate your passion, your commitment, your clarity and listening to it always at the very least very interesting.

Gary Francione: Well, you know I have to tell you that { } had an impact like that on you and other people it also made a lot of people very angry. But I am sorry about that, but you know I have spoke it as I saw it, and I am continuing to do that.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, I know that this book that you wrote is the [inaudible] debate. We’re not going to have a debate this hour, maybe that will make it less interesting, but I totally agree with you on everything. So, I want to bring up a lot of the issues that are important to you.

Gary Francione: All right.

Caryn Hartglass: Ok, so I’m just curious how did the writing this book, The Animal Rights Debate, come about and how is it that Robert Garner agree to co-author this book with you?

Gary Francione: Well…

Caryn Hartglass: That was very courageous.

Gary Francione: I’m sorry?

Caryn Hartglass: It was courageous.

Gary Francione: Well, it was interesting and I think we both enjoyed the experience. What happened was in 1996, I wrote Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement, in which I argued that the animal rights movement was collapsing into an animal welfare movement and that was ceasing to be an animal rights movement. And in that book I criticized Robert Garner’s position quite a bit because I thought that he was one of the people who was misusing the concept of animal rights and promoting animal welfare reform under the guise of promoting animal rights. Not that he was trying to do anything intentionally wrong it’s that he was confusing to me. The reason why animal rights is a concept developed is to distinguish it from animal welfare, to say that animal welfare is consistent with animal rights sort of missed the whole point of trying to have two separate concepts that we could discuss, debate, and decide which was the better paradigm. And so I criticized Robert in that book, and the result was Robert wrote, he had wrote things that were critical of me, and so the two of us sort of went back and forth well over a decade criticizing each other in various things that we were writing, and a few years ago, a couple of years ago, I wrote him an email and I said Robert we’ve been criticizing each other for a long time. In our respective writing, why don’t we engage each other between the covers of the same book rather than in different books and articles and why don’t we have a debate. And he thought it was a good idea. And Robert is an academic, he’s a Professor, he’s a Chair of the Political, the Department of Politics at the University of Lessister in the United Kingdom and he does not run an animal organization. It’s the people who run the animal organizations who get very, very angry and don’t want to engage the idea. Robert has an ideological horse in the race, I am sorry to use the species as expression I apologize, he has an ideological horse in the race, but he doesn’t have a financial one. It is not part of his business as it were. So, I think he was able to look at it in a more dispassionate way and I think the book works pretty well, it we engage the idea. What we argue in the book is I take the position is that what we ought to do is abolish animal exploitation and not regulate it, and that I believe the way to do that I believe the way to do that is through creative non-violent vegan education. Robert takes the position that, actually Robert’s position is a bit complicated, and I am sorry he’s not here to discuss it today, but I will try my very hardest to describe it accurately. Robert claims to believe in animal rights, but he believes that animal use itself is not a particularly problematic notion. He believes that animal life all things being equal, animal life matters less than human life. And he has focused on a right not to suffer. He doesn’t really argue a right now to be used, which is what I argue for. My view is I don’t really care how humanely you treat animals, it’s wrong to use them and you should not, we have no moral justification for using them. Robert takes the position that they have a right not to suffer, and that we shouldn’t use them to the extent that we make them suffer, but if we could use them without making them suffer then that wouldn’t be a particular problematic position or set of actions to take to which I respond, it is impossible to use animals without making them suffer, or causing them to stress in some way. It’s absolutely impossible, I mean you can talk about, I mean for example, one of the things we talk about in the book is the use of animals in experiments and he’s saying well, if you’re using animals in experiments to find important cures for human illnesses, and you’re not doing anything to harm them, then you’re not subjecting them to any painful procedures, then what’s wrong? And the answer is well, you’re keeping them in cages, you’re causing them to be distressed, you’re causing them suffer in various ways, there are other ways to suffer, other than just the experience of pain.

Caryn Hartglass: They’re not with their partners or their families.

Gary Francione: Exactly. I mean there’s all sorts of ways in which animals in laboratories are being deprived, even if you’ve never touched them. And so the same with the use of animals as food, the idea that you know we’re going to have animals that we regard, you know that we love, at least some of us love, our most dearly beloved non-human companions in our houses that we’re going to treat cows and chickens and sheep that way and then one day you know we’re going to say, ok we’ve had this wonderful life together now we’re going to slaughter and eat you. I mean that is just in my judgment so unrealistic and so crazy. You know in terms of the possibility of that happening. So, what he’s arguing in essence is that animals don’t have a right not to be used they have a right not to suffer. I’m arguing that they have a right not to be used at all. However, well we treat them, we have an obligation not to use them, but I hope we can get into that in a few minutes because I think it’s a very…

Caryn Hartglass: It is very important.

Gary Francione: It’s key.

Caryn Hartglass: And you’re talking and there’s like a hundred things I’d like to say in response. The first is yes I agree, I wish I had got Robert Garner on as well, I didn’t realize until after I finished the book which was this morning how good it would have been to have him on. But, it is not necessarily in support of what he had to say, I found that his responses were not, did not have the clarity that yours did. And I really tried to be objective, maybe I’m not, but I just found the responses confusing because I think they are.

Gary Francione: Well, I don’t want to comment on it. I mean I wish Robert were here.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, maybe we’ll bring him back and we can have a real debate sometime next year.

Gary Francione: Part of the problem is he’s in England so there’s a five or six hour time difference, and so there’s a time issue. But I’m sure if that can be arranged, he would be happy to do it because he likes talking about this. And he is really a very nice fellow and I think we both believe sincerely what we write about. Robert is very supportive of these welfare reforms, and these groups that are doing these things like promoting cage-free eggs and you know abolition of the gestation crate or the veal crate things like that. I mean he’s into like that welfare regulation and I mean he really in many ways actually his position is different from Singers in a lot of ways. Because he…

Caryn Hartglass: I think you have to tell everyone who Peter Singer is.

Gary Francione: Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Peter Singer is a philosopher who wrote the book, Animal Liberation, in 1976 and basically takes the position as Robert does, that animals don’t have an interest in not being used, that it’s a question in how we treat them, but Singer is what we call a utilitarian, he believes that what is right or wrong is a matter of consequences and he does not believe in rights. The concept of a right not to get too legalistic or boring, the concept of a right basically is protects an interest. A right is way of protecting an interest, and it says that we are going to protect this interest even if the consequences of doing so are going to be fairly steep and fairly significant. So, we can say well you know I have a right to my bodily integrity which means my interests in my bodily integrity will be protected even if by killing and taking my organs out you can save 20 people. The consequences of killing me would be good in one sense that you would save 20 people, but my interest in my bodily integrity is protected by a right, which means we’re not permitted to violate or ignore that interest that I have in my bodily integrity simply in the good consequences. So, Singer is a utilitarian who maintains that what we ought to do in any particular circumstance is determined by the consequences of the various actions that we can pursue. And he thinks that we ought to do that which will maximize the best outcome for the largest number of beings involved, human or non-human. And Robert doesn’t take that sort of position, but his position in many ways is very much like Singers in that he’s arguing that there’s a really important value to be attached to welfare regulation. Things like the welfare reform that are proposed by organizations like the Humane Society of the United States, like PETA, like Mercy for Animals, all of these welfare groups that basically he believes that these welfare reforms have a very, very high value. And in many ways Caryn, Robert’s argument is much better and much more, I think much more developed than Peter Singer’s is in that respect. I don’t really think Peter really moved the matter forward since he wrote Animal Liberation really in a lot of ways.

Caryn Hartglass: When he wrote it in the 70s it was groundbreaking and it got the conversation going to a certain extent. And people like yourself have been clarifying and building on it since that time.

Gary Francione: Well, you know it’s interesting I am presently right now I am in my home office and I am looking at a book called Animal, Men, and Morals that was edited Stanley and Rosalind Godlovitch and John Harris and it came out let me look at the, because we all think of Singer as the guy who got the ball rolling and in many ways…

Caryn Hartglass: If not before…

Gary Francione: This came out in 1971 and when Singer was a graduate student at Oxford at the time and there were a group of people, graduate students and some young professors who were meeting and talking about animal ethics and Peter was a part of that group. I’m not sure if he’s actually even in this book, let me see, no he’s not, and it’s interesting because this book has got just some terrific essays that were at the time really paradigm shifting and so Singer was exposed to this and then he went off and wrote Animal Liberation which in many ways is much more conservative than a lot of the essays in this book in terms of both intellectually and substantively in terms of the direction of where he was headed. So in certain ways he’s credited with starting the debate, but in many ways he was just picking up some interesting things that were going on in England in the late 60s and the early 70s.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, I guess we can say that of many, many movements that there’s always something that came before it.

Gary Francione: Oh sure, sure.

Caryn Hartglass: The thing that boggles my mind is that how people can say that animals don’t think about the future, that animals don’t care about their death, or all of these things that we put on them, or imagine that they can’t possibly think, or that their thoughts are not as valid as ours because we don’t know what’s going on in their minds.

Gary Francione: We don’t and part of my response.

Caryn Hartglass: I just have this image of this movie that I haven’t seen that Richard Gere movie about that dog that he found and

Gary Francione: Yes, I actually saw that movie.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s a sappy, happy film and the guy dies and the dog waits for him at the train station everyday. That dog was thinking in the future.

Gary Francione: Sure, sure, sure. I mean I look Caryn, I’m with you a 100% on this, I am sitting here surrounding by five rescued canines, it’s amazing we haven’t had any barking outbursts, but we may have one by the end of the time, but look I don’t have any doubt that animals think differently from the way that humans think. Because we are the only beings on earth that use symbolic communication, language. And so I would imagine, that our concepts the way I think, the way you think, really sort of bound up with these linguistic things called words and various concepts and things. And so I suspect that their concept, the way they think is relatively different because they don’t use language, but it also absolutely clear to me that they have some sort of equivalent. That idea that they don’t think about the future, I don’t think that dogs don’t sit around and any other animal sit around saying, well, gee you know I’m 12 and the average age of a dog my age of a dog my weight is you know 15 years so I got another 3 years left to go so maybe I’d like to go live in Europe for that time. I’m pretty sure that they don’t think that way, although you know…

Caryn Hartglass: Although you never know.

Gary Francione: I have a Border Collie and they’re scary so you never know what’s going on with them. But and so I am sure they don’t think that way, but who cares, I mean why… What I don’t understand is and this is a real big issue between me and Singer and it’s interesting because a number of people have tried to set up debates between me and Singer to discuss precisely this sort of thing and Singer won’t do it, he simply refuses to engage this issue. But it’s fairly clear to me, that this idea that the only way that animals that animals don’t have an interest in continuing to live this is a position that Peter takes and it comes from actually Jeremy Bentham which is the philosopher, the 18th century philosopher, the 19th century philosopher actually, who Peter Singer bases most of his work on. And Bentham took the position that animals matter because they could suffer, but he said it was all right to use them to because they didn’t care that we use them they only cared how we treated them. And Singer picks this up and actually this is the position that most of these animal ethics philosophers take including Tom Reagan, who takes a rights position. Reagan’s has that, I mean Reagan’s position is different from Singer’s certainly in a lot of respects. But Reagan takes this position that if a dog and a human are on a lifeboat and you have to throw one of them out you should throw out the dog because the dog has fewer opportunities for satisfaction than the human does. And I mean as a factual matter I mean I just think that that is just false. It certainly sort of, but it’s a very appealing idea to theoreticians about this issue that it’s this idea that animals don’t think the same way we do so their lives are of lesser moral value. And that’s where I have a serious problem because as far as I am concerned.

Caryn Hartglass: Because we can’t prove it so any argument based on it doesn’t hold.

Gary Francione : But what if we found out? I perfectly happy in saying animals don’t think like we do, but my next point is who cares, why is that relevant? I don’t really care how they think?

Caryn Hartglass: Because we want to say that we are better because we think a certain way.

Gary Francione: Oh, I understand why we do it, I certainly understand why we do it, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok, or that it has any validity. I think many non-human animals have very sophisticated cognition. That is they have very sophisticated mental abilities. But my view is I don’t really care, I don’t really think, for example I don’t think that grade eggs matter more than dogs, or fish or that elephants matter more than dogs, or fish or rats, my view is that if a being is ascension that’s the being ascension, that is the perceptual awareness as long as a being is perceptually aware that the ability, then I can say two things about that being a.) that being has an interest in her continued existence, because the fact that she’s sentient. Sentience is the means to the ends of continued existence, and so as long as she’s sentient then I have no doubt that she has an interest in continuing to live. To say that she’s sentient, but that she does not have an interest, that is she does not prefer, desire, or want to continue to live is crazy in my view. And secondly, I can make a very good argument which I do in this book and in some others that I have written, at least I try to make a good argument, that we can’t morally justify treating beings who are sentient as our resources. This is a key issue that I have with Robert Garner in our book is Garner defends Singer’s position. And says that all of the things being equal humans have a greater moral value than non-humans. And so if you got as far as the third section when we were doing the actual debating part I kept on pushing him on it well, does that mean that a human being who is more intellectually, if you have two human beings and one is very intellectually sophisticated and the other is not very not sophisticated, does that mean that the life of that person is more intellectually sophisticated is worth more than the person who less sophisticated? And I really couldn’t get him to answer that question. And he kept on saying well, there’s still going to be huge differences even between the human with a lot of deficiencies and a lot of inadequacies or somebody that’s severely disabled, or whatever, and an animal. First of all, that’s not true. But secondly, it misses the theoretical point if you don’t want to be a species about it and if you want to take the position that sophistication of cognition is what gives meaning to life and moral value to life, that you’ve got to do that within the human species as well as between the human species and other species.

Caryn Hartglass: Peter Singer did that.

Gary Francione: I understand that. Singer and…

Caryn Hartglass: I’m not saying it’s right, but if you’re going to do that you should do it all the way.

Gary Francione: Well, yes and no. I mean Singer on one level he does say that you can talk about the value of humans relative to other humans, but he has default position. He basically says that we don’t treat humans as a general matter as a replaceable resources and that it’s all right for us to treat non-humans as replaceable resources. Well, once you set up those two different starting positions then even if you have a theory that says well you can make distinctions amongst or between human beings for purposes of moral value. You’re not really going to do that because you’re going to have a default principle that you’re working with that says if something is human then we don’t treat that thing as a replaceable resource because of it’s species characteristics. Which again begs the question. So, yes, I agree with you. To some degree Singer will take the step that Garner is reluctant to take and say yes, I will make distinctions amongst or between human beings for purposes of moral value. But on the other hand, he sets up a principle that says he’s not going to do that. So, you know I think that the thing is that is really important is one can get lost in the theory, and I don’t want people to do that. This is a really simple thing, and I try to bring this out in the book. We all agree it’s wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering and death on animals. Everybody who listening to this, everybody you and I and everybody else we meet today, tonight, tomorrow, next week, whatever, agrees with that. Now, we can have an interesting philosophical discussion which we don’t need to have about what necessity means, but if it means anything it means we can’t justify inflicting pain, suffering, and death on non-human animal for reasons of pleasure, amusement, or convenience. So if we start of with it’s wrong to inflict unnecessary pain, suffering, and death on sentient beings and that if necessity means anything it means we can’t do that pleasure, amusement, or convenience. Well, if we look at our use of animals for food or clothing or whatever we’re killing 56 billion animals a year, every year, and that doesn’t include fish. Now, what is the best justification for that, it certainly not necessary for health reasons. I mean nobody maintains anymore, I mean that it’s necessary for humans to eat any animal products to lead an optimally healthy life. I’ve been a vegan for almost 30, for 28 or 29 years now, and I’m still going pretty strong. You don’t need to eat any animal products to lead an optimally healthy lifestyle. Indeed, I would say that the evidence is mounting that it’s detrimental to human health. But even if you don’t want to take that step, you certainly can’t make a good argument that it’s necessary that you’ll be healthier if you eat animal products, number one. Number two, animal products are an environmental ecological disaster. [Caryn: Disaster.] Yeah. So what you’re left with is our best justification for inflicting pain, suffering, and death on 56 billion animals a year, every year for food not counting fish, is that they taste good. And to me, once you sort of explain to people that way, and you say look everybody was all upset with Michael Vick why, because he was sitting around watching dogs fight. Well, I think that that’s terrible what Michael Vick did, but how in the hell is Michael Vick any different from anybody who is consuming any animal products whatsoever, meat, dairy, ice cream, cheese, it doesn’t really matter, because the reason we object to what Michael Vick did was because it wasn’t necessary. He was sitting around enjoying, watch, he was sitting around the pit watching dogs fight. The rest of us sit around the barbecue pit and roast corpses of animals that have been treated every bit of as badly if not worse than the animals that Michael Vick fought.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m so glad that people might know that internally, but they justify it by saying I need to eat, and they don’t acknowledge that they don’t need to eat animals.

Gary Francione: Well, I agree, but I think in a lot of ways what I find when I talk about this issue publicly, is you know depending on who I am talking to, a university philosophy class, then I will talk about certain things, but you know, I think that this is very simple, and we don’t need to get lost in theory here. There are some very simple ideas and if you take animal interest seriously, if you care, then if you care about animals and you take morality seriously, then I hate to say this but you don’t really have a heck of a lot of choice. I mean to say I care about animals and I take morality seriously, but I am going to go out and eat a hamburger, those are not simply not consistent statements.

Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely, and I care about the environment but I don’t make the connection between the [inaudible] and global warming.


Gary Francione: We would all think it would be crazy if somebody would say I really care about children and you know I really care about the welfare of children and I am now going to go out and purchase child pornography. Most people would say that is who is suffering from serious delusions. Well, I think it is similar with animals you know to say I really care about animals and I take morality seriously but I am go out and consume ice cream or cheese pizza or steak.

Caryn Hartglass: And denial is not just a river in Egypt.

Gary Francione: Yeah, exactly.

Caryn Hartglass: Hey Gary we need to take a two-minute break so go and chat with your canine friends and we’ll be back in a couple of minutes. Okay.

Gary Francione: Very good, thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, I’m Caryn Hartglass, and you’re listening to “It’s All About Food,” and I am here with Gary Francione and we’re talking about the animal rights debate, abolition or regulation? Ok, roll them. Where were we?
Gary Francione: Well, gee, that was like ages ago.


Gary Francione: Two minutes can be a lifetime.

Caryn Hartglass: I know. So, you know I just want to talk a little bit about the animal welfare organizations, there’s the Humane Society, there’s PETA, there’s Mercy for Animals you mentioned, and I don’t, how do I do this, i don’t want to put them down, they are a number of things that they do that I am not comfortable with in supporting and a lot of it has to do with the things they promote, the campaigns that they have to improve the welfare of animals. Things like putting an animal in a slightly larger cage, and there’s a lot of people that support them, a lot of people feel good about it, they give them money and there’s a lot of energy and time that gets spent on these really tiny, incremental little things that really aren’t improvement. And you slightly mentioned in the book, I don’t want to mention any names, something that also surprised me is that some of my staunch, vegan peers who now work there at the Humane Society have softened their stand and they are more accepting of their welfare position and it really surprises me and I wonder what’s behind that. Do they really believe that that’s the best, or are they wrapped up in the power of this big organizations.

Gary Francione: Well, you know it’s complicated, I mean I think…

Caryn Hartglass: It’s complicated.

Gary Francione: I don’t think you can say that they are not sincere people, because it may be true of some of them, I don’t know that. I mean I don’t think that’s true of all of them, I think that people talk themselves into all sorts of situations, that you know that they really shouldn’t talk themselves into. I mean look at it this way these are large organizations they bring in huge amounts of money. They want to continue to have, they have an economic incentive to have a very, very large donor base. And so the way that you have a really, really large donor base is by creating these single issue campaigns; whether it’s gestation crates you know if getting rid of gestation crates, or Proposition 2 or Veal Crate issues, or you know hatred egg issues or anti-fur issues and things like that. You package and sell these single issue campaigns, and it’s easy to do fundraising with those devices. The problem with them and this is something that I’ve been working on and writing about for longer than I care to think about for, since the early 90s I’ve been talking about the fact that animals are chattel property. Animals have no intrinsic value, whatsoever, or inherent value or moral value, they only have value that we give them as commodities. I mean I love our five dogs, I mean I regard them as members of my family. I mean when our dogs die, I grieve and I love them, and I value them really very highly, but the reality is the laws regards them as property, if I wanted to keep them outside all the time, if I wanted to, as long as I gave them minimal shelter and fed them and gave them water, I can do that. If I wanted to beat them because they weren’t good guard dogs I can do that, the law protects that, so I mean I think we have to understand that animals are property, and cows and pigs and chickens they’re all property, and so when you’re going to protect their interests, it’s going to cost money to protect their interests. And the only time that we’re going to do that is when we get an economic benefit from protecting the interests or else you have all sorts of economic problems with the marketing of meat and dairy products. And if you look at the history of animal welfare reforms they’re basically things which actually make the production of meat and animal products more efficient. I mean look for example of the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958 where the United States required that large animals be stunned before they’re shackled and hoisted. Why was that particular welfare reform passed? It was passed because when you have a cow hanging upside down that weighs 2,000 pounds and she’s moving around a lot because she’s scared, she’s very frightened, and she’s suffering she hits workers, and she causes worker injuries, and she incurs carcass damage which decreases the value of her as meat. So, industry would go along with having stunning, having a rule requiring stunning, yeah they will go along with that because that’s going to cut down on worker injury and carcass damage, and so that’s actually going to increase production efficiency. Interestingly, PETA and the Humane Society are now trying to they’re arguing now that chicken suppliers ought to be gassing chickens rather than electrically stunning them. And if you look at the literature that PETA and HSUS is producing they’re basically arguing that if you use controlled atmosphere killing or the gassing of these birds it’s actually it’s economically beneficial to do so. And in fact, if you were starting, if you Caryn Hartglass decided well, you really having a change of heart and tomorrow you wanted to start a chicken slaughter house you would be crazy not to use controlled atmosphere killing, it’s much more economically efficient. So, in the first place a lot of these welfare reforms that organizations like PETA and HSUS promote are simply what industry will eventually do anyway because they’re economic efficient. And also there’s a value to industry fighting with PETA and HSUS about these things because it’s like a kabuki dance there’s sort of off in this little dramatic sort of exchange and sort of arguing with each other and it looks like there’s a real conflict there when eventually Perdue and all these other producers are going to eventually they are going to go control the atmosphere.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s cost effective.

Gary Francione: It’s cost effective. It’s the same with the gestation crates. I get a kick out of these organizations that are promoting the gestation crate, the abolition of the gestation crate. The gestation crate is disappearing because it’s economically a very bad idea. There are alternatives like electronic sow feeding which are much more economically efficient. So they have all these campaigns and they put a lot of money and time and energy into these things, but they give people, you know, we live in a culture where people want an instant gratification. So, well know gee there’s so much animal suffering I’ve got to do something now to help animals, and so I’m going to support these welfare reforms. And the answer is they are not going to do anything to help animals, now if anything what you’re going to do is you’re going to help contribute what I regard is the most pernicious phenomenon in terms of the animal welfare movement, which is making people feel better about consuming animals. I mean you look at all these organizations now promoting the whole foods animals compassionate standard, we have the humane choice label that the HSUS is promoting and they’re also promoting certified humane, whatever, there is a dozen of these labels out there right now.

Caryn Hartglass: I know a lot of people that I’m associated with are buying more free range eggs and they feel better about it and yet the free range label is practically meaningless.

Gary Francione: It’s absolutely meaningless, number one. And number two, those are people who if you educated them properly would stop eating those eggs altogether, and see this is where I think people are really missing the education boat instead of focusing on vegan education. They are saying, oh no we have to encourage people to eat cage free eggs, or happy pork or happy beef or whatever they are trying to promote. All that is, that’s counterproductive, that’s making things worse it’s not making things better. Think about it, if you explain the various moral arguments to people, the health issues, the environmental issues, someone is not going to go vegan, they are going to take some other step, that’s fine if that’s what they’re going to do. But why encourage them to. Well, when I give a talk someone will say to me well, I am going to give up meat but I can’t give up dairy. And I always say look, you know, dairy, there’s as much suffering in a glass of milk if not more suffering than in a pound of steak, if I had to consume one or the other and I were making my decision solely based on suffering I’d probably end up eating the steak because animals using dairy are kept alive longer, they’re treated every bit as badly as meat animals.

Caryn Hartglass: I think it’s more of a health issue than meat.

Gary Francione: Well, I think it’s certainly more of a health issue, but it’s certainly in my judgement dairy products are as responsible for as much suffering and death as meat products. So, if someone says to me well, I’ll give up meat, but I’m not going to give up dairy. I always say you can’t draw a line between flesh and other animal products. You know they’re all the same, they’re all products of exploitation. All products of suffering, all products of death. And then I’ll say if that’s what you want to do, do it, but keep in mind you’re drawing a morally incoherent line, rather than saying to them, oh that’s great, go and become a vegetarian and then you’re satisfying your moral obligations to animals. I think that’s the wrong way to go, as a matter of fact I wrote an essay on this for the Vegan Society in Britain, I guess last year, it’s on my website, and it’s called, “Vegetarianism First,” and I take issue with. And I discuss this in the book with Garner as well, I take issue with this idea that we ought to be promoting vegetarianism. I think that that’s a crazy thing to do, I don’t think, to me promoting vegetarianism and not promoting veganism is as crazy as saying well we should not eat the from spotted cows, but we ought to eat the meat from brown cows or something. It’s a crazy place to draw a line.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, I know after 30 plus years of eating plants, I definitely agree with you. But at the time when I was putting it altogether I was a teenager I was motivated by not wanting to kill animals and not knowing anymore than that. And went through this journey of learning. And making decisions.

Gary Francione: Well, that was 30 years ago that’s true.

Caryn Hartglass: That was 30 years ago, now there’s a lot more information. We have the internet and I definitely think people can make the leap and make the connections. And I really believe it’s up to each of us as individuals to make a change. There was a comment by Robert Garner in your book, I’m not quite sure what it was but something about the importance of regulating and making laws in order to make change happen, but at some point he also said that the laws won’t change unless people thoughts change. And it all comes back to each of us as individuals and that is where the education comes in which is so important. But the education needs to be all around us. And how do we make that happen? It has to be on television, it has to be in the papers, it has to be in the schools, because a lot of us unfortunately, are like sheep. And again I don’t want to use this species very excessive, but I think we all understand what I mean, a lot of us tend to go with the flow. My mom got three vegan kids and she frequently says if it was easier, if all my friends were doing it I could do it. So the question how do we get more of that information out there? It’s happening slowly, but will it happen completely and soon enough?

Gary Francione: Well, soon enough that’s an interesting question. I mean look the exploitation of animals is the most pervasive form of discrimination on the planet, with sexism coming second, all forms of discrimination are related racism, sexism, heterosexism species are all related. Speciesim is a very serious, pervasive problem. We don’t even write and part of the problem is that we don’t even recognize it as a problem.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s right.

Gary Francione: And you know I think one of the great tragedies I think is the amount of money and time and effort that goes into promoting welfare reform. If you took, I remember Caryn in the 1980s going back to the 1980s and I remember being in meetings with leaders of the animal movement when things were being discussed about whether or not the movement because it was much smaller back then and you could get all the leaders of the movement in a large room and discussions about whether or not people should support the 1985 Amendment to the Animal Welfare Act. And I remember saying then why don’t we just stop all this nonsense and why don’t we put all our time and energy into creative, nonviolent, vegan education. And I believe if we had done that then, we would have many, many more vegans, and we would have a political movement that was based on the idea that animals are just, they are not things, they are not things for us to exploit. We would have a political movement that rejected this form of violence.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, factory farming would not have gotten this stronghold that it has now.

Gary Francione: Well, I mean certainly by the 1980s factory farming really developed in the 1940s and by the 1960s it was really an entrenched part of American it was American agriculture. It was an entrenched part of American agriculture, but certainly it wouldn’t have gotten, what’s happened in the past 20, 25 years we really have little to show for the all of the time and the money that’s been spent. And you know there’s really very little to show. I don’t really think we’ve made progress, as a matter of fact, I think we’re going backward, I mean this whole happy meat movement is a very serious step backward. I think the continued in the relentless sexism and the failure to see that these are related issues of violence. That are violence to non-human animals is really based on our violent culture as a general matter. And we need to take a step back and sort of look at out, look at violence as a general matter. And…

Caryn Hartglass: And the question is what does humane really mean? When people use the word humane, now think about what humans do to humans, is that humane? It’s violent sometimes.

Gary Francione: Yes, it’s certainly is and I agree with you and I think that one of the unfortunate things that has happened this past decade is you know we are otherizing more and more groups of people. Once you otherize somebody, whether it’s women or Muslims, or non-human animals, or whatever, whoever it is you othorize, then you can justify doing whatever it is you want to do to that group of people. And so, yeah I think there are lots, there are fundamental moral issues here, that we are sort of missing as a species and part of it is we will stand in line to get the next version of the iPhone or whatever, or whatever gadget we want or the next iteration of one these games that people play on their televisions. So people will stand in line a day, overnight, or two days to get those things, but we’re not morality and moral issues are sort of falling off the radar screen.

Caryn Hartglass: Yep.

Gary Francione: And that’s a very serious, I think that’s a very serious, and in many ways, the young people are coming of age in a society that is really very different than the one that you and I came of age in, and even though it wasn’t that long a time ago, it may seem like it, but it really wasn’t that long a time ago. But I think when we younger people, and we were in college, and you know we were in high school, and in college and stuff, there was much more idealism and much more of a focus on morality that’s being commodified out and sort of just ignored. And I think that’s just a very serious thing. And to the extent that’s that happening it’s not just the impact that it has on animals, it’s the impact it has as a general matter, and it’s really quite serious. I mean this is one of these things that I find deeply disturbing when I am having conversations with animal advocates, and they don’t understand that the sexism of some of these animal organizations I mean I’d rather go naked than with fur. And all this sort of nonsense. This is very, very serious. I mean as long as we’re commodifying women we’re going to certainly continuing commodify animals. The one thing that you can say for sure is when you’re commodifying members of your own species, it’s going to be really hard for you to see the commodifying of other species is really problematic. And so the idea so we’re going to make progress that we’re going to somehow make progress on the animal issue by continuing to commodify women is just plain nuts. And again in the 1980s when these things were continuing to start, and I remember saying, having the conversation with Ingrid Newkirk, in which I said you know Ingrid you know I’d rather go naked than with fur campaign is not going to have a bit of influence, the [inaudible] in the vegan pudding Caryn, it’s now how many years later and the fur on the street is as strong as it’s ever been.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s right.

Gary Francione: And worldwide, worldwide the fur industry is as strong as it’s ever been. I mean the anti-fur campaign is a perfect example of how single issue campaigns don’t work.

Caryn Hartglass: Don’t work. You know whenever I see people campaigning against fur it’s just crazy, because it’s [inaudible] and my friend said don’t go to stores that sale fur, but they’ll still go to stores that sale wool and that sale leather. People are missing the point.

Gary Francione: Look there are a lot of animal people who will walk up to a woman on the street wearing on a fur coat, and say some real insulting and upsetting things to those people, while they’re wearing a wool coat they’ll be doing that. I have seen that happen more than I wish I did. And I mean I have these bizarre discussions with animal advocates who seem to think that well, leather is just a byproduct, but fur isn’t. And the answer is leather is not a byproduct number one. Number two, you can’t, it doesn’t really make much sense to focus on fur, and suggest that somehow that’s a worse, that’s that’s a more odious violation, than wool, or silk or leather. It’s not.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, it’s all down to those single issues, and it’s because these nonprofit organizations are always looking for the next sexy campaign to bring money in to support the organization, and that would be all well and good if they were really making a different. It makes me think of The Davies Foundation like those who are trying to fight cancer or whatever, they do the same thing and we’re no better off in curing cancer and yet they’ll have these big fundraisers and serve all this unhealthy food, when we know that the majority of cancers could be prevented with a healthy plant based diet. And so it happens everywhere because these organizations want to keep going and I think the goal of most nonprofits would be to put themselves out of business because they would be solving the issue that they are trying to work for.

Gary Francione: That’s how they all start. You know what, they all the larger they get, the more they start to resemble each other. Now there are groups of animal organizations in this country that are largely indistinguishable, I mean they are just basically all the same. They all take the same positions, they all promote the same campaigns, the primary difference is they all sell different t-shirts. And that’s the primary difference. One of the things that I find very disturbing is their inability and their reluctance to try to engage these issues. And anything remotely resembling a coherent, collegial or professional way, it’s impossible to get them to discuss these issues. They will not debate these issues, they won’t debate the ineffective. If I’m wrong about what I say about welfare reform, that is, I take the position that it’s ineffective, and it’s counterproductive, if I’m wrong than it would be great to hear why I’m wrong. They won’t do it. They simply will not engage the issues, if I am wrong about the philosophical issues that animals have to have minds like ours in order to have an interest in continuing to live, if that’s wrong, if my theories and everything that I’ve written about that is wrong, I’d like to hear why it’s wrong. And they won’t engage, now I’m hoping my friend from Gene Barrett, from Farm Sanctuary. I got an email a couple of weeks ago indicating that he wanted to have a discussion with me about these issues, and I am delighted to do that, and I wrote back to Gene the very next day a matter of fact, I got it late at night by the time I wrote to him it was the next day but it probably was only two hours later, and I wrote back to him and I said Absolutely. So, I have invited Gene to come to Rutgers to have a debate that will be moderated about these issues, or I have offered him the option of having the podcast and doing that and again having moderation and I have suggested some people including Robert Garner as someone who could moderate the debate or somebody else that Gene would like. And so I am hoping that Gene made that offer, I assume he made that offer in good faith, and I am waiting to hear back from him. Although, it’s been a couple of weeks since he initially proposed it and I accepted and we don’t have an agreement yet as to how we are going to do this. But that would really be a good thing because [Caryn: Absolutely.] it would be an opportunity for someone who heads one of these really large corporations, these really large animal protection corporations deal with these criticisms to the extent I am wrong or he thinks that I am wrong or my perspectives are wrong, I want to be educated as much as anyone else does, and I would sort of like I would think it would be very useful for the public and for animal advocates to hear these sorts of discussions and I wish there were more of them to the extent you can have them on your radio show I am ready anytime that you are.

Caryn Hartglass: Ok, well I want to have you back. We have about a minute left. I want to say what do you think the big issue is economics? Most of the decisions that have occurred in this country have been economically related even the wars people actually think that we have some altruistic motive, but it’s always been based on economics. And unfortunately, I don’t think any significant change unless we can show that it’s going to be economically efficient or cost effective.

Gary Francione: Well, or is gets to the point where economic efficiency has pushed so many people to the edge and it has destroyed their sense of well-being and their sense of a good life, that there is a real pushback against that. And that may very well happen. I mean look at what’s happening in this country right now how many people are losing their homes, how many people don’t have jobs, that could result in some significant change. And I think we need to be hopeful about that. I would encourage people who are interested in this issue on the rights versus welfare issue and the general issue of human rights and animal rights, and the problems of violence as a general matter take a look at the website that I have it’s called And I’ve got blog essays there, I’ve got videos, I’ve got all sorts of things that people can take a look at and better educate themselves on these issues and I hope that they will.

Caryn Hartglass: Thank you Gary. Gary Francione.

Gary Francione: Thank you Caryn. It’s been great talking to you, and I hope that you are well, I look forward to doing a future show with you.

Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. Gary Francione, the co-author of The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation. His website again is Thanks for listening, have a delicious week.

Transcribed by A. Ellis, 1/7/2022


  1 comment for “Gary L. Francione, Why Veganism Matters, the Moral Value of Animals

  1. Just, for some reason, watched EARTHLINGS again.

    So tough to watch!!!

    I’m not always sure how we “keep it altogether” knowing such massive degradation!!!

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