Gary Francione on Animal Abolition & Ethical Consumption

Abby Martin talks to self-proclaimed animal abolitionist and Rutgers University Professor, Gary Francione, about the need rethink treatment of animals, discussing everything from factory farming to the ethics of eating meat.
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  • Tishamingo

    If this sort of thing leads to our respecting each others human rights in the bargain, then I am all for it. But to argue for animal’s rights while ignoring that a good percentage of the people of the world are victimized each and every day is too much like having your head in the sand, or a worse place, for me. And it shows an optimism that can only be called naiveté.

  • BSF

    And what of plants? Is it ethical to factory farm apple trees, leaving them exposed to harsh weather, only to survive and have their young torn away from their mother to be crowded into tiny boxes, sold on display like chattel, and finally to be squeezed into the chalice of some macabre juice-drinker? It would be inethical to feast upon the meaty bits of a human in vegetative state; why is nobody talking about this genocide? Gary?

    • Yūgen

      Um…you realize fruit is designed by plants to be eaten…right?

      But thats not to say that we couldn’t do a much better job of sustainably growing food, of course.

      • lunasea

        I do question the use of the wording “designed by”, but generally I agree…then again, wouldn’t that be a typically human-centric explanation for the fruits? It’s not so different from the reasoning that “God put animals here for us to eat”, after all.

        BSF still might have had a stronger point if he’d brought up carrots or other root vegetables…

        • Yūgen

          Saying fruit is meant to be eaten is not a human-centric explanation. I don’t think you realize what fruit really is. It literally evolved in symbiotic relationships with animals that eat it. That is the reason why there is nutritious, good looking, and good tasting biochemistry wrapped all around the seed: to attract things to eat it, so that they disseminate the seeds and ensure the plants survival down through the generations. The more colorful, large, healthy, and tastey, the better chance it has of dispersing its seeds. And the more things that eat the fruit, the better for the plant. Fruit is the plants reproductive organs, and it lures in animals to stick them in their mouths for its reproductive purposes.

          You don’t see an animals attracting predators to eat them so to ensure their own species survival….because getting eaten would do just the opposite of ensure survival of their species.

          “Design” has bad connotations attached to it because of the whole intelligent design/religious ideaology, but nevertheless it is an apt word to describe the ecological, genetic and biochemical processes involved in creating those reproductive organs we call fruit… but i’d rather not get into a debate over semantics since its pretty much irrelevant.

          • echar

            You don’t see an animals attracting predators to eat them so to ensure their own species survival….because getting eaten would do just the opposite of ensure survival of their species.

            Maybe not on their own volition. It’s no mystery what sort of actions or circumstances attract predators. Such as being slow, revealing a weakness, etc. However, some animals in a herd may willfully sacrafice themselves for the greater good of the herd.

          • Yūgen

            Thats nice of them, but is it not still entirely different from a plant developing an organ(fruit) whose purpose is to get eaten so that it can ensure seed dispersion and the survival of the species?

          • echar

            Is it different from a predator leaving the less desirable parts to the vultures? The vultures leaving the bones and scraps to Beetles. The beetles leaving the rest to bacteria. The bacteria facilitating decomposition which may enrich the soil. The soil to nourish the seeds and on and on…

          • Yūgen

            Right. I agree that in the bigger picture, there are endless processes within processes that involve animals having a certain niche in the food chain. I was responding to lunasca who thinks that its human-centric to suppose that fruit is made specifically to be eaten.

            You could argue that when you zoom out to a macro level, all of these animals are ultimately born to be eaten, in a sense, to preserve the inevitable homeostatic cycles of nature…But on a biological and micro level, things get more complicated. For fruits, evolution selects for the best ones, since they better attract things to eat them and thus get their seeds spread. For animals, evolution selects for the ones that best avoid things that eat them, so they can survive.

          • echar

            Every night and every morn, some to misery are born. Every morn and every night, some are born to sweet delight. Some are born to sweet delight; some are born to endless night.

            William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

          • lunasea

            You agree with my general point when others make it for me, but you quibble over my illustrative example?

            Who’s being picky about words, here?

            I stand by what I said, but I will re-state for clarity: To look at it from any view other than the “bigger picture” is indeed, “human-centric”.

          • Monkey See Monkey Do

            And then one of the seeds grows the tree of knowledge which produces the fruit of free will.

          • Calypso_1

            I have personally experienced deer give themselves to the hunter. As part of certain traditions the approach to hunting is not predation but a prayer of sustenance, including the larger circle of the hunted. Sitting in the woods after fasting, during times when the herd is facing starvation, animals will approach. They know exactly what they are doing.

          • Yūgen

            That’s very interesting, thanks for sharing that. It goes back to the ancients who claimed humans used to have a much greater mental connection to the animals. I agree that in the larger view of things, the language we’re using sort of falls apart when describing what is intended by nature to do what. I’m talking more on the micro level, about a symbiotic plant organ designed by evolution for the singular purpose of being eaten so to ensure that plants own survival. You could argue that in the larger picture a deer is meant to feed those animals around it, so to ensure the balance and survival of the ecosystem as a whole, but that is a broader scope purpose and not something that evolved by the deers lineage itself in order to ensure its own survival.

          • echar

            In herds, a herd animal that grows aware of a predator may make a sound to warn the rest. This also singles it out as a potential meal. Much like the luscious red raspberry.

          • Calypso_1

            Altruistic suicide is observable from the level of cells to herds. It is very much tied into the evolution of lineage via group selection.

          • echar

            My thoughts do wander to the old ways of the Native Americans to hunt what they need, and to use it all. I have never hunted, nor am I wise in the old ways.

            I have book learning on these topics, yet a mind that can navigate the themes.

            I am a friend of animals, yet a meat eater. I get what I need from the grocery store. I uderstand what goes into harvesting the meat. I worked at a stockyard. It was a dirty, smelly, and disgusting place to work. I took the job because it was an oportunity.

            Much like the reason I eat meat from the grocery store. It’s an oportunity.

          • lunasea

            I don’t think you realize what philosophical hypothesizing is, or imagination, for that matter…don’t be so condescending; I am perfectly aware of the basics of botany.

            Your response is canned.

          • Yūgen

            Our eyeballs were and are “designed” by genetic, biochemical, and ultimately evolutionary processes. I never meant to imply that intention or volition was behind it when i said the word designed. Clam down.

            On the other hand, maybe the plants do have intelligence and are self-aware? We don’t really know for sure…Aya seems to insist to me that its very possible. But still, that’s more or less irrelevant when talking about how fruit evolved to be eaten…any botanist would agree with that statement, regardless about whether or not they think the plants even have consciousness.

          • echar

            There’s been some studies on the awareness of plants. There was a scientist who hooked up plants to an aparatus that measured magnetic fields (I believe). He would then do something to one of the plants in the room, and measure the fields of another plant.

            I also believe there is another study of the “root system” ( or whatever it’s called, I am not a mycologist) connecting mushrooms.

            The first is in the realm of rogue science, and likely has been beaten down by Dawkinsian skeptics. If memory is correct the second is more recent.

          • Yūgen

            Yeah something like 3/4 trees have a symbiotic relationship with fungi

          • lunasea

            “…you realize fruit is designed by plants to be eaten…right?”

            No. Fruit is not “designed by plants” (that is, unless you really did design your eye-balls and I designed my circulatory system, etc…)

      • BSF

        I don’t doubt that there are benefits to producing tasty offspring (including the obvious seed dispersal) but I don’t see how that constitutes a moral argument that it’s okay to just go up and eat it without the tree’s consent. Evolutionary fitness is not the same as morality and by Gary’s approach the two concepts would even seem to be diametrically opposed.

        Admittedly, though, the apple was a poor example. Something like potatoes would indeed be more convincing. The ripping and tearing of flesh as a cold steel machine rips the helpless potato from the only home it has ever known. I’m curious about how Gary’s line of thinking applies in such cases. It seems that his argument is not about pain or death or consciousness but rather about inflicting harm on any lifeform.

        Anyone want to help me write my new Negan cookbook?

        • Yūgen

          “It seems that his argument is not about pain or death or consciousness but rather about inflicting harm on any lifeform.”

          How does “inflicting harm on lifeforms” not involve pain or death? He specifically mentioned all of these things. What he was pointing out is our backwards attitude that if the animals die a “humane” death then its morally ok to kill them. People wig out when they hear micheal vick held dog fights or that lady in africa shot a lion, when meanwhile their plate is filled with meat from animals who had far worse lives, and often worse deaths. People are so conditioned that they are disconnected and numb to the reality of the situation.

          I don’t agree with all that he says, and he certainly does seem to ignore the fact that eating some plants can kill them, but I personally think we should focus on limiting suffering as much as possible and engage in techniques and practices that better the environment, instead of hurt it.

          I don’t discount plant intelligence whatsoever, and think we have a lot of improvements to make in how we go about utilizing them..But so far as we know, plants don’t experience pain in anything even remotely close to the way animals do, if at all.

          His points on the environmental impact of industrial farming are spot on and as a culture we consume way more animals than we should, regardless of what we think is an optimal human diet. The ecological impact of it is disastrous.

          Btw i’m not a wingbat vegan and am very critical of that whole movement, since its filled with hypocrisy and unhealthy approaches- just like pretty much any other dietary fad. I just live the healthiest way I can, while avoiding these umbrella terms that categorize people in arbitrary ways.

        • JoeSchmoe50

          Negan, please.

        • Luther Blissett

          It is possible and indeed required in some parts of the world to seek ‘consent’… this is nothing new or controversial… it had been they way for most of human history… it demonstrates an understanding and awareness of the ‘connectedness’ (there may be some other more scientific phrase that describes this but I don’t know what it is) of life, in all it’s forms. That this ‘consent’ has lost it’s place in the process of food acquisition is obvious. Animals are ‘products’ in the modern industrialised farming processes, as are plants…. knowing this and then deciding how you want to respond to it is the key…. nothing more and nothing less. Your poetic rendering of a potatoes demise doesn’t validate your point to any greater degree, it just colours better.