I don’t agree at all with Gary Francione , the Rutgers University law professor who seeks to abolish all human use of animals, no matter how humane and beneficial to us¯including seeing-eye dogs. But I do respect him because of his integrity in advocacy¯he doesn’t pretend to be an animal welfarist, for example¯and his unyielding opposition to violence in pursuit of the animal-liberationist cause. Still, Francione is a radical’s radical. To see clearly where animal liberationists are coming from, and how differently they view life than most people, take a gander at an essay Francione wrote in the online journal Abolitionist (a name obviously chosen to co-opt the moral righteousness of the abolitionist movement that sought the end of American slavery and to equate it with the misanthropic cause of animal rights). Francione castigates PETA and Peter Singer for being animal welfarists, an approach he claims leads to more animal oppression because it makes the public comfortable with “animal exploitation.” And, he complains, PETA’s incremental approach to liberating animals is actually supportive of animal abuse, since it concedes that it is OK to slaughter chickens, so long as it is done humanely. (I am not buying Singer as a welfarist. In his own book about animal-rights advocate Henry Spira, Ethics Into Action , Singer wrote that the good liberationist hides the true agenda behind welfare-type actions¯as PETA often does¯but actually disdains animal welfarism because the latter philosophy acknowledges the right of humans to use animals humanely for our own benefit and well-being.) Here is the nub of where I think Francione is way off base. He makes no distinction at all between that which is done to a human and what is done to an animal. In the Abolitionist essay, for example, Francione castigates Singer for having participated in the artificial insemination of turkeys, which the writer literally equates with the rape of women: “It is deeply disturbing that Singer and Mason [Singer’s co-author] regard it as morally acceptable to engage in violence against nonhumans for any purpose, particularly to satisfy their curiosity about what ‘this work really involved.’ I suggest that there is no non-speciesist way to justify what Singer and Mason claims [sic] to have done without also justifying the rape of a woman, or the molestation of a child, in order to see what those acts of violence ‘really involved.’” If you believe a turkey equals a child or a woman, Francione is right. If not, he is beyond wrong and is anti-human. And this is precisely the bottom-line dispute between a worldview that accepts that human beings have unique value and moral status¯human exceptionalism¯and the animal-liberation movement, which views human exceptionalism to be literally as odious as racism. Francione’s saving grace¯and it is no mean thing¯is that he always urges liberationists to pursue honorable means toward their goal of liberating all animals. For example, in his essay, he writes:
The most important form of incremental change is the decision by the individual to become vegan. Veganism, or the eschewing of all animal products, is more than a matter of diet or lifestyle; it is a political and moral statement in which the individual accepts the principle of abolition in her own life. Veganism is the one truly abolitionist goal that we can all achieve¯and we can achieve it immediately, starting with our next meal. If we are ever going to effect any significant change in our treatment of animals and to one day end that use, it is imperative that there be a social and political movement that actively seeks abolition and regards veganism as part of the moral baseline.
That is fine with me. If everyone chose to be vegan, being a believer in individual liberty, I would not complain. I mean, after all, no one should ever be forced to eat meat or wear wool. I just wish Francione would turn his considerable talents and intellect to solving more urgent problems involving human injustices and oppression. Of course, from his point of view, that is precisely what he is doing, since he doesn’t recognize any moral distinction between humans and fauna. But at least he promotes his agenda with intellectual honesty, skill, and a total eschewing of violence and threats. That’s more than you can say about many of his co-believers. The animal-liberation movement could use a lot more leaders like Gary Francione.

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In addition to which :

It should be a lively evening at the famous Strand Bookstore. As you undoubtedly know, the Strand, located at Broadway and 12th Street, claims to be the world’s largest used-book store, with its eight miles of books, or is it eighty? In any case, they have these events, and on Tuesday, September 12, it is Ronald Dworkin and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus discussing "artificial happiness." That’s the title of Dr. Dworkin’s new book, published by Carroll & Graf. Dworkin is a medical doctor and political philosopher, and in his book he provocatively takes on the politics of the medical profession, the brain/mind/body debates, the future of religion, and, most important, a culture in which people have been induced to believe that unhappiness is a disease. Dworkin and Neuhaus will address, inter alia, the widespread and growing use and abuse of psychotropic drugs to create a nation captive to "artificial happiness." Tuesday, September 12, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Admission free.


From the beginning, First Things has been a collaborative enterprise. It is not just a magazine but—as we rather pretentiously put it—a universe of discourse. Which is another way of saying that it is a moveable feast of personal and intellectual friendships. From time to time, we’ll be posting here pictures of some of the people who sustain the First Things conversation.



At an FT conference, Michael McConnell (left), now a federal judge, Gerry Bradley, dean of Notre Dame Law, and Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard sort through church-state complexities.

To access the running gallery, click here .

Articles by Wesley J. Smith

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