Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation

Posted: 13.11.2008
Updated on: 02.07.2015

Gary L. Francione
Columbia University Press, 2008

 

A prominent and respected philosopher of animal rights law and ethical theory, Gary L. Francione is known for his criticism of animal welfare laws and regulations, his abolitionist theory of animal rights, and his promotion of veganism and nonviolence as the baseline principles of the abolitionist movement. In this collection, Francione advances the most radical theory of animal rights argued to date. Unlike Peter Singer, Francione maintains that we cannot morally justify using animals under any circumstances, and unlike Tom Regan, Francione’s theory applies to all sentient beings, and not only to those who have more sophisticated cognitive abilities.

Francione introduces the volume with an essay that explains our historical and contemporary attitudes about animals by distinguishing the issue of animal use from that of animal treatment. He then presents a theory of animal rights, which focuses on the need to accord all sentient nonhumans the right not to be treated as our property. Our recognition of such a right would require that we stop bringing domesticated animals into existence for human use. He takes a hard look at our “moral schizophrenia” toward animals and our ability to regard some creatures as beloved companions and others as food and clothing. Subsequent essays explore recent changes in animal welfare and the sad fact that these advances have not only failed to bring us closer to the abolition of animal exploitation, but have made the public feel more comfortable about supposedly more “humane” animal treatment. In two essays, Francione explores the importance of sentience as the necessary and sufficient condition for the moral significance of animals and explains how the status of animals as economic commodities prevents the equal consideration of their interests. He also discusses the issue of using animals in experiments, arguing that the empirical necessity of animal use is at best suspect and that animal use cannot, in any event, be morally justified. After a chapter addressing ecofeminism and its ethic of care, Francione concludes by challenging the rationale of Tom Regan’s position that death imposes a greater harm on humans than nonhumans.

This collection of essays demonstrates why Francione’s abolitionist theory is widely regarded as the most exciting innovation in modern animal ethics.

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