| Thinking hard|
or hardly thinking?
|Major trains of thought|
|The good, the bad|
and the brain fart
|Come to think of it|
Gary L. Francione (1954–) is an American philosopher, professor of law at Rutgers University, and a controversial figure in animal rights. He has authored numerous books, one of the most famous of which is Rain Without Thunder (1996),[note 1] and maintains a website where he details his theory of animal rights in all its facets.
The cornerstone of Francione's theory is that all sentient beings have the right not to be used as property, food, clothing, cosmetics etc. As a corollary of this, he declares that veganism is, or should be, the "moral baseline" of the animal rights movement. Not surprisingly, most people don't enjoy hearing that they are living below the moral baseline, and this position has thus put him at odds not just with the general population but also with most other animal activists who criticise his refusal to let anything less than veganism (e.g. vegetarianism) count for anything.
One of the pitfalls of this particular stance is that the damage we do to other animals is by no means limited to our consumption and use of them: just about every aspect of modern life causes harm to other animals and the environment. This includes even the cultivation and consumption of plant-based foods, which, while (probably) less damaging overall than cultivating animal-based foods, still involves the killing of small animals by harvesters, or the displacement of wildlife. This fact does not invalidate veganism's effectiveness in reducing the harm we do,[note 2] but it does rather undermine efforts to make veganism into an absolute dividing line between the decent and the depraved: might the bar not just as logically be set at, for instance, superlocavore-veganism or even human extinction?
Francione often ends his articles and videos by telling his audience to go vegan, emphasising that it is incredibly easy. This is a bold move, given that he cannot know for sure whether his audience contains any members for whom it is not easy for whatever reason — and it may well serve to make veganism seem even harder by communicating a lack of empathy for people's individual situations. Hell, even staying vegan can be a challenge according to a report from the Humane Research Council.
All this aside, it is fairly audacious to assume that the average person is going to be receptive to being told "you are obliged to go vegan" rather than, for instance, more gentle encouragement to reduce animal consumption or to make baby steps — which may well reach far greater numbers of people and have a larger overall impact according to a not-insignificant body of research.
Abolition or nothing
Francione writes extensively on the distinction between the abolitionist approach (seeking to end animal use altogether) and the welfarist approach (which is only concerned with improving conditions for the animals we eat and use), criticising the latter as not just meaningless but actively causing us to be complacent about eating and using animals - which he sees as too high a price to pay for the easing of their suffering. He also opposes "single issue campaigns" against live export, jumps racing etc., arguing that to focus on a certain type of animal use as not OK is to implicitly endorse (not just refuse to condemn) all other types of animal use. In fact, evidence shows that welfare reforms do have the effect of reducing animal consumption, and that calls to reduce animal product consumption are as effective as calls for elimination.
However, Francione doesn’t just champion abolitionism, but effectively redefines and acts as a gatekeeper for the term in such a way as to exclude anyone but him and his followers. He has coined a snarl word, "new welfarist", to describe those who support abolitionism but are capable of celebrating any improvement in animal welfare or anyone reducing their meat consumption — Peter Singer and PETA are examples, despite the former having popularised the word "speciesism" in the first place, and the latter's unequivocal statement that "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on or use for entertainment". Even the Vegan Society, founded by the man who coined the term "vegan", gets a hammering for being too permissive.
In short, Francione sees pretty much everyone else in the animal rights movement — a movement he does not consider himself part of — as sell-outs whose activities are less than worthless, detracting from the work of telling everyone to go completely vegan. His harshest criticism is, ironically, reserved for animal rights activists and organisations, not animal industries, which has led some to question his motivations, with one critic citing an eerie similarity between some of his talking points and those of animal industries. Some of his invectives sit somewhat oddly with his stance on nonviolence — for example, he called peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh a "spiritual huckster who simply does not understand nonviolence" for the crime of advocating for people to cut their meat consumption in half. Francione really seems to believe that we would be so much closer to worldwide veganism if all other animal activists and organisations, except for him and his followers, would just go away.
Unfortunately, some of his supporters who try to promote his work - particularly the online "franciobots" as they are sometimes derogatorily called - do so with less civility than he does, assuming a mandate to compare non-vegans to rapists or the Holocaust, or to tell other vegans that they are not really vegan simply for not having the right theory or attitude toward veganism and animal rights, or for sympathising too much with non-vegans. Those who disagree with anything Francione says usually meet with a variation of the Courtier's reply, asserting that they "don't understand abolitionist theory" and need to read several of Francione's books before being qualified to comment on any statement he makes.
To Francione's credit, he makes a point of opposing all forms of human discrimination, and calls out animal activists and organisations for exhibiting overt sexism, racism and misanthropy. On the other hand, based on his argument that "the rights of humans and nonhumans are inextricably intertwined", he still resorts to comparing the treatment of non-human animals to the oppression of women or people of color — which, of course, is not at all insensitive or dehumanising to the latter demographics unless you're a speciesist, right?
Francione's definition of intersectionality is also a bit off, which partly explains his dismissal of the intersectional efforts of groups such as Black Vegans Rock. In addition, his exacting standards jar with certain incidents in which he himself has unashamedly used non-inclusive language: one of his favorite buzzwords, "moral schizophrenia", borders on being ableist and insulting to those living with mental illness, and in response to the 2016 political primaries he made quite an insensitive comment about suicide.
On the subject of vaccinating children, Francione has said "I don't have any human children; if I did, the last thing I would do, I would fight, I would not vaccinate them. I don't believe in vaccination." Even more alarmingly, this statement was met with applause.
- Not to be confused with the Indie film of the same name.
- The Vegan Society’s definition of veganism sensibly takes care of this: "a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose." [our italics]
- Main page. Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach.
- Francione, Gary. "Clarifying the Meaning of “Right”". Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, January 31, 2007.
- Francione, Gary. "Veganism as a Moral Imperative". Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, May 12, 2016.
- Francione, Gary. "Some Comments on Vegetarianism as a “Gateway” to Veganism". Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, August 13, 2009.
- The Conversation. "Ordering the vegetarian meal? There’s more animal blood on your hands". The Conversation, December 16, 2011.
- Leenaert, Tobias. "Veganer than thou". The Vegan Strategist, May 14, 2015.
- Southan, Rhys. "Human Extinction: It Follows From What Most People Already Believe". Let Them Eat Meat, October 12, 2014.
- Francione, Gary. "Some Thoughts on the Meaning of “Vegan”". Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, October 18, 2009.
- Asher, Kathryn et al. "Study of Current and Former Vegetarians and Vegans". Humane Research Council, December 2014.
- Leenaert, Tobias. "Yes, we CAN ask for less than “go vegan”". Vegan Strategist, October 15, 2015.
- "The "V" Word: A Note on Terminology and Strategy". Mercy for Animals.
- Bailey, Carolyn. "Campaigns for “Welfarist” Reforms Cause People to Buy Significantly Less Meat". Animal Rights Zone, January 20, 2015.
- Macdonald, B.N.J., Caldwell, K.D., & Boese, G.D. (November 2016). The Effects Of “Reduce” And “Eliminate” Appeals On Individual Meat Consumption. Animal Welfare Action Lab. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
- Francione, Gary. "Peter Singer and the Welfarist Position on the Lesser Value of Nonhuman Life". Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, March 16, 2009.
- Francione, Gary. "The Four Problems of Animal Welfare in a Nutshell". Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, May 2, 2007.
- PETA. "All About PETA".
- Francione, Gary. "The Vegan Society: You Decide". Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, August 7, 2014.
- Yates, Roger. "The Vegan Information Project and the Francione Countermovement". On Human Relations with Other Sentient Beings, December 4, 2016.
- Vincent, Roland. "Gary Francione, Darling Of The Slaughter Industries". Armory of the Revolution, September 23, 2015.
- Supremacy Myth. "Gary Francione is a Fraud. He Eats Like He Cares But When It Comes to Helping Animals, He Might Be the Meat Industry’s Best Friend". Supremacy Myth, March 19, 2015.
- Yates, Roger. "Resistance to the Francione Countermovement". VegFestExpress, April 23, 2016.
- KG. "Fifth Column Veganism? Nathan Winograd, Gary Francione, and the Philosophy of Distract, Divide, and Demoralize." Towards Freedom.
- Leenaert, Tobias. "Gary Francione and non-violence". Vegan Strategist, November 10, 2015.
- Leenaert, Tobias. "Why I’m openly criticizing Francione (final post)". Vegan Strategist, March 6, 2015.
- Francione, Gary. "Sexism and Misogyny in the Movement". Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, September 15, 2009.
- Francione, Gary. "The Unfortunate Racism of Some “Animal Lovers”". Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, November 3, 2014.
- Francione, Gary. "Moral Schizophrenia–Again, and Again, and Again". Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, October 25, 2014
- Francione, Gary. "Abolitionist Intersectionality". Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, December 28, 2015.
- Francione, Gary. "Animal Rights and Slavery/Rape Analogies". Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, July 26, 2016.
- Francione, Gary. "Essentialism, Intersectionality, and Veganism as a Moral Baseline: Black Vegans Rock and the Humane Society of the United States". Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, January 10, 2016.
- Francione, Gary. "I would shoot myself but that would give too much satisfaction to those “animal advocates” who promote welfare reform and single-issue campaigns, and who reject veganism as a moral baseline.". Facebook, May 4, 2016.
- "Gary Francione: “I don’t believe in vaccinations”". Speaking of Research. https://speakingofresearch.com/2014/03/10/gary-francione-i-dont-believe-in-vaccinations/.