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Here's a recent vlog (video blog) I recorded about the relationship that existed in the 1980s and 1990s between Tom Regan, the author of The Case for Animal Rights (1983) and Gary Francione who runs a counter-movement to the animal movement called The Abolitionist Approach.
The Case (as the 1983 text is known) is not well known in the animal movement. Few animal advocates will have heard of it and fewer still will have read it.
The fact that Regan's book - which is the foundational statement of rights-based animal rights is virtually unknown in the movement that calls itself the "Animal Rights Movement" is beyond odd - but Regan has been marginalised and treated appallingly by the animal movement.
So --- what would the modern day animal advocacy movement look like if Tom Regan had received the respect he deserved? I explore this question through the lens of the relationship Regan had with Gary Francione, the events that they were associated with, and the fact that stopped working together at an important time in the history of the movement.
I’ve noticed a new generation of vegans who seem to have, in my view, little grasp of what veganism is, and none of what it meant to the founders of the vegan social movement – the founders of our movement, that which the new generation have recently joined. There are plenty of people who have accepted, apparently without question, Tobias Leenaert’s nonsensical assertion that the vegan movement is “about food,” while the cry of the new activists seems to be that veganism as a movement is far more than that – it’s “for the animals,” and only “for the animals.”
In terms of the history of the vegan social movement, both of these views of veganism are wrong. So, how have these misconceptions about veganism come about?
My thoughts are that (1), the current definition(s) of veganism are weak and lack the depth required to capture what the pioneers of the vegan movement meant by veganism, (2), the movement has been (understandably) involved with making veganism “mainstream” in the last 30 years but with negative consequences, and (3), we often don’t teach, and don’t seem to care about, our own movement’s history.
In relation to the last point in particular, we must be a rare social movement that seems to think that we “can make it up as we go along.” However, we’ve also done that same thing in relation to the meaning of animal rights, so we do have a track record of sloppiness and of business-interests-over-principles.
When people in the movement talk about veganism, they usually cite this 1979 Vegan Society definition (some say that this wording was pretty much in place by 1988), and others, fewer in number, are content to use the awful definitions of veganism one finds in standard dictionaries.
The (first and British) Vegan Society does not have a very good record when it comes to sorting out a good definition of veganism. Its 1979 definition is weak and it does not anywhere near grasp the “full meaning” of veganism.
On a personal note, people like myself who can be called long-time vegans have been at fault here. We let things slide – big time. 1979 was the year I became a vegan. However, I did not join The Vegan Society (TVS) or really see it has having much to do with my movement for animal liberation. I think in those days, I saw TVS as pretty irrelevant to the direct action parts of the movement which I was immediately involved in. Indeed, in the early 1980s, when the numbers of activists going to prison rose, we rather crossed swords with TVS.
Back in those days people had to be a member of the Society in order to get a diet in prison that vegans eat. One literally had to show senior officers your red TVS membership card. We asked TVS if they were prepared to send a membership card out to new prisoners immediately upon their need for one, and we’d sort out actual paid membership later. The last thing animal liberationists needed on their plate (no pun intended) was a fight with prison authorities to get a vegan’s diet.
TVS refused, so we resolved the problem by forging their membership cards. The result was that activists had no need to officially join the organisation. TVS updated their definition in 1979 – the one virtually everyone uses now – and I don’t think there was much of a discussion about it, at least not in my circles.
As I said, from the 1940s, when TVS was formed, getting the definition sorted out didn’t seem to be the most pressing issue – it’s quite likely that just remaining viable as a group of revolutionary mavericks (for that is what they were) was the priority in the early years. A lot of the initial burden of administration and writing fell on the shoulders of Donald Watson, who also was forced to make an early priority of vegan health issues because some of the first members of the Society got sick and virtually everyone told all of them that living, let alone thriving, without consuming animal products was impossible.
It seems that in the very late 1940s and early 1950s, Leslie Cross was among the first to point out the need to clarify just what being vegan meant. A couple of years ago, a video was circulated from some health vegan who claimed that Cross was some sort of “animal rights extremist” who corrupted TVS and forced it in a new radicalised direction. I do not think the evidence suggests that. Indeed, even Donald Watson, the most famous of TVS co-founders, described veganism as “the greatest cause on earth.” He talked about other movements as “lesser movements.”
That may sound rather arrogant but I think he meant that the vegan movement had a wider remit than most others – and the consequences of bringing about a vegan world would have huge benefits to other animals, of course, but also to human beings, and the environment (then called ecological concerns).
The early vegan movement pioneers were also very practical – they had to be. The movement began during “World War Two,” and food and other forms of rationing (clothes, fuel, etc.) did not end until the mid-1950s with some arguing that the effects of war rationing were felt until the 1970s and 80s. The early vegans were, not surprisingly, part of the grow-your-own veg movement and some of the early movement pioneers, such as Eva Batt, were concerned about soil quality.
The ethos and vision of the vegan movement was summed up in 1995 by Kath Clements in Why Vegan: the Ethics of Eating and the Need for Change
This is an echo of what Eva Batt wrote in 1964 in a booklet called Why Veganism?
There are only hints in the 1979 definition of veganism by TVS that give any indication of veganism’s impressive scope and objective expressed by Clements and Batt.
Neither is there much in the 88/79 definition that captures the radicalism of the vegan social movement in the late 40s and early 50s.
For example, in 1951, TVS were clarifying what it means by the term “exploitation,” saying that the Society seeks “to end the use of animals by [humans] for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by [humanity].”
This sort of rhetoric (not regulation of animal treatment but the abolition of animal use) was to resurface in the rights-based writing of Tom Regan who wrote The Case for Animal Rights in 1983. However, this radicalism rarely featured in The Vegan Society’s claims-making of the 1980s.
In 1951, Leslie Cross also talked about “the second broad aspect of the vegan aim” which included, reminding us of Watson’s “greatest cause” claim, the expected “effect upon human evolution.”
Remembering that these vegan movement pioneers had experienced a huge war that had ended only six years previously, it is not surprising that they believed that human violence – including that against other animals – would “return like a boomerang upon humanity's own head.” Thus, Cross argued that, “Until the present relationship between [humans and other animals] is replaced by one of companionship on a relatively equal footing, the pursuit of happiness by [humanity] is foredoomed to a painful and tragic frustration.”
In 1954, Cross again outlined that veganism means liberation for both humans and other animals. He said that a vegan future would have no butchers’ shops, no vivisection labs, no hunting, and people would be drinking vegan milk. Still part of 21st century vegan claims-making, Cross said that, “The countryside will not be heavy with the anguish of cows crying for their calves.”
As ever, though, benefits to humanity were also outlined: “But some of the changes are not so obvious. The benefits to [humanity] of living in a kindlier and more enlightened world can be envisaged only in broadest outline.”
Moreover, in direct agreement with Watson that veganism is the greatest cause on earth, Cross writes in a 1954 edition of The Vegan, that
The “distinctive feature” being spoken of is, of course, that the principles of justice in veganism vaults over the species barrier and declares other animals as rights holders along with human animals. And Cross did write in terms of rights
These are the values of vegans – the recognition that the fate of humanity and other animals are bound together on a fragile planet under attack from within. The vegan movement pioneers knew all too well about being attacked by an outside enemy – but their revolutionary thought looked at injustice at home and abroad. Have we lost the radicalism of our movement’s past?
As noted in this blog entry, via the work of pattrice jones, when we say “the mainstream” we are not saying “the majority of humans.” The word sounds like we are saying that, but we’re not. The majority of humanity is made up of marginalised persons of various types.
Leenaert openly characterises his approach as being about “mainstreamness,” and I think we can all see the attraction of veganism “being mainstream.” However, I’m not sure that this notion has been analysed much, certainly not critically. Veganism becoming “mainsteam,” may simply mean that the idea of veganism is better known, more widespread, and more accepted than it has been in the past.
I think that is true. In my time as a vegan, I’ve seen people finally being about to pronounce the word “vegan” and not think it’s something to do with Star Trek. The huge increase in vegan and vegan-friendly eateries, and vegan’s food and clothing being more easily obtainable in stores, makes veganism more “mainstream.” Some people prefer the term “normalisation,” but I think the meaning is generally the same.
I think the difficulty – the mistake – even the betrayal – of vegan values is when vegan organisations try to align with conventional values thought to reflect what’s called, of course, “mainstream values.”
When radical social movement go for “mainstreamness” in this sense, then they may face a very real danger of losing their core, foundational, values. This process, which is predicted in some social movement theorising, is the process I see happening in the vegan movement.
I hope that the first section has sufficiently demonstrated that the origins of the vegan social movement can be described as pro-intersectional in nature, even with the important caveats that the term had not then been coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, and the story of the origins of the vegan movement discussed here (revolving as it does around the British Vegan Society) is a very white story.
This initial pro-intersectional impulse was carried through into the 1970s and 1980s as I recall them. I often say that we would be busy sabotaging a hunt on a Saturday, maybe a “Club Row” demo, or something similar – and perhaps less legal – on a Sunday, and then we’d find ourselves engaged in Reclaim the Night and Rock Against Racism events in the week.
That was my sense of the recognition of what David Nibert calls the “entanglements of oppression and liberation” in what we “just did” in the 1980s. A lot of us were influenced by punk music too (not so much me, in all honesty, stuck in Bolan mainstreamness!), so this pro-intersectional orientation was fired up in the mid-1970s.
In campaigning terms, we were at the crest of a wave and we were fighting everything: apartheid, patriarchy, speciesism, racism, hierarchy, injustice, and so on. In terms of values, Steve Best is right (in his 2013 Total Liberation talk) that, whatever our politics as individuals, we are expressing left wing values.
Then there was a change, the start of the slide, and we didn’t take much notice, and barely any action against it. The national animal movement became dominated by a group of animal welfare corporations – and huge blame for the mess we are in can be laid at the doors of one organisation: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA). In my eyes, this transnational abomination has done terrible damage to the animal movement.
Why – and this is a question raised by the Francione countermovement – did we, from the 1990s onwards, just stand there and passively let PeTA get away with its blatant sexist bullshit? After that was seen to be largely accepted by a complacent movement and a cap-in-hand grassroots, then came the ableism, fat shaming, racism, and ground scraping to shallow celebrity culture. PeTA had moved from a radical innovation to a corporate monster dripping in aggressively marketed mainstream patriarchal capitalist values.
One of their greatest crimes was their role – that continues to this day – in the marginalisation of rights-based animal rights thinking in favour of animal welfarism that is nevertheless called “animal rights.” The corporate movement – and the submissive, docile, grassroots – destroyed Animal Rights as an idea, and as the proper articulation of the position of the “animal rights movement.” The way that this movement treated Tom Regan is nothing less than disgusting and shameful. It will take a lot of work to remove that stain from the animal advocacy movement.
The effect, then, of mainstreamness on a once radical movement, is the moderation of the organisations within it, and the marginalisation of any revolutionary values that, although were the initial drivers of the cause, are now seen as “not sellable,” “too extreme,” “too radical,” “purist” and, in a nutshell, “too consistent” for mainstream consumption.
In the meantime, again as Best argues, the movement becomes a laughing stock among progressive movements that should, at the very least, be locked in an alliance for justice with the vegan animal rights movement. By pandering to mainstream values, and doing everything to bend over backwards to meet the conventions of a mass media, we have alienated those who hold the values we hold – or which we once held.
Things are now so bad and so dangerous that, as Christopher Sebastian said in a recent Livegan podcast, there are prominent (and seemingly popular) white supremacists and Nazis currently in the “vegan” movement, not to mention the recent #TimesUpAR revelations about male entitlement, harassment, and violence in a movement made up mainly of females (see this ARZone podcast with Carol J. Adams for an account of that scandalous situation that should have never arisen).
HISTORY OF THE MOVEMENT
By their very nature, social movement move. They evolve and, indeed, move with the times – to not do so would be devastating for them. However, social movements are also grounded in a set of claims and principles, some of which should not bend and should not be diluted or else its original vision may be crushed and lost.
It is clear that I put a lot of emphasis on the values and vision of the founding pioneers of our movement – but I’ve also said that their words are not law, and cannot be thought of in such terms. However, any attempt to alter the principles and values of the vegan movement should – as a bare requirement and also an act of basic manners – acknowledge the principles and values that are under examination.
I don’t see a lot of that in the vegan movement. Indeed, some relative “newbies” have told me, “f*ck the founders,” when I point out what they stood for. That is both ridiculous and juvenile, as if people join a Marxist movement and the first thing they say is, “f*ck Marx!” Actually, some neo-Marxists got close to that after years of reflection, but they were always capable of describing what they thought should be changed and what it was that they were changing.
The new generation of vegans don’t do that – they simply declare what veganism is – it’s “about food,” it’s “only about the [other] animals,” with no acknowledgement that such declarations are totally out of step with the very founders of the vegan social movement in the 1940s – how can anyway be so conceited as to not care about the values of a movement they have just joined?
I argued, here, that the history of the vegan movement reveals that it has an interconnected focus and scope. There appears to be a number of people in the present vegan movement who seem petrified of pro-intersectionality. These people seem not to understand what intersectionality is, or exaggerate what it would do to the animal movement if widely adopted within it. However, by looking at the vegan movement in terms of its focus and scope, that should allay their fears that pro-intersectionality takes away from a concentration on “animal issues.” That is not what pro-intersectionality within the vegan movement would do.
Some may think it rather overblown to say that the vegan movement is in crisis – aren’t we seeing a massive growth in veganism just now? I think the answer to that is yes and no. We are seeing a growth in something that often gets called veganism – but a vegan movement “only about food,” or “only about [other] animals” is not the vegan movement.
There is also the problem that Tom Regan was keen to point out – that it seems to be the case that, yes a lot of people join the animal movement, but a lot leave as well. Some estimate that as many as 80% leave. We should be bothered by that.
I just wonder whether, if people join the vegan movement with a full understanding of its revolutionary reach and ramifications, they may stay – but who are most likely to stay in such a radical movement. People who are radicals – right!
Finally, to remind people what we are all about, again from Tom Regan, this time in a rights-based animal rights context from 1983, remember: “The animal rights movement is a part of, and not opposed to, the human rights movement.”
Social movement theorists may talk about “movement cycles,” “peaks and troughs,” and movement “ups and downs.”
We might sum up all of that with the phrase, “what goes around comes around.” The recent relatively intense mass media coverage of veganism of late made me think about this, especially in the light of historical events in the 1980s and 1990s.
As a long term vegan interested in social movement theory, I’m interested when I see patterns repeating themselves. It is quite possible that, currently, we are seeing the beginnings of a repeat cycle. If we are, then we need to learn how to improve our claims-making in the light of negative characterisations of vegan animal advocacy.
The 1980s saw a huge peak in animal advocacy and interest in the “animal issue.” British groups like Animal Aid, founded in 1977, were young and energetic and, in North America, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) emerged in 1980 as a brash, fresh, champion of other animals. This was a time when the whole notion of animal rights – meaning the moral rights of other sentient beings – was taken more seriously than it is today and often articulated as rights-based animal rights. PeTA was a radical grassroots group in the early years before it became the toxic racist, sexist, and ableist welfare corporation that it is now. Tom Regan’s The Case for Animal Rights was fresh off the presses and things were really buzzing. At one point in England, a journalist (who was ideologically opposed to animal advocacy) estimated that the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) were carrying out around six actions per night. The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection had been recently radicalised and that meant that lots of grassroots campaigners throughout Britain could get access to campaigning funds and materials.
Every new generation of social movement participants is tempted to try to reinvent the wheel and, as Jake Conroy notes in the recent video about activism in the 1990s, recent 21st century claims about the “first ever open rescue” in the USA, and the “largest animal rights march ever,” ignore the history of the animal movement. In the latter case of claims about a march in Israel, a 1990 “March for Animals” in Washington attracted a crowd estimated to be between 25,000 (lowest estimate) and 70,000 people. The organisers claimed 55,000, many more than the recent Israeli march.
I was a press officer at the time when mass media coverage of animal advocacy changed in the 1980s. It became darker! Just as we were getting used to being called things like “animal freedom fighters,” and “rescuers,” we probably weren’t quite prepared for the “terrorist turn” in mass media claims-making about animal activists. The increase in negative press wasn’t helped by the fact that the Animal Liberation Front literally ran out of safe homes for liberated other animals. This led to an increase in the incidence of what in those days was called “economic sabotage.” Other factors, such as a Mars Bar poisoning hoax, and the development of incendiary devices based on firelighters, which the press invariably called “fire bombs,” added to the burden of those doing media interviews.
Given this history, then, it seems to me to be a smart move by embattled 21st century animal farmers, and the animal user industries in general, to attempt to re-establish a link between animal advocacy and terrorism. I want modern-day advocates to be better prepared for a backlash than we were.
The animal user industries surely wish to ride on the wave of the current moral panic about terrorism. For example, some farmers have recently claimed to have received “death threats” from “militant vegans.” I notice reports on social media that farmers have been asked to verify these threats and have failed to do so. There will be dirty tricks, to be sure, if this is the beginning of something of a user industry backlash.
After all, as an example, Mr. Alan Newberry-Street, the Director of the “British Hunting Exhibition” – a mobile bloodsports display supported by the British Field Sports Society and the Masters of Fox Hounds Association, was jailed in the past for planting a nail bomb under his own vehicle in a bid to discredit the animal movement. At his trial he asked for other similar offences to be taken into consideration (TIC’d, a legal device to clear police books).
If this move to re-establish a link between vegans and violence is smart, then our reaction to it has to be equally smart, and preferably smarter. For example, we’ve recently witnessed on national radio the hyping up of the “angry vegan” stereotype. Playing up to that stereotype, as happened sadly, is naïve and counterproductive. Any explanation as to why vegans may be angry would be best done in a calm manner! Also, be warned - just as in the 1980s, when some British national animal groups joined in with calling activists “terrorists,” 21st century advocates need to seriously guard against this happening again. Indeed, there is some evidence that this has already begun. Grassroots campaigners need to know that the paid staff in the movement will, generally speaking, not defend them if it appears that negative labels have been successfully attached to their activities by the mass media in particular, however justified and merited such activities appear to be in the activists’ eyes.
For my own part, and returning to Tom Regan and, of course, rights-based animal rights, I appeal to the crop of new vegan spokespersons to 1). diversify – there are too many male voices and 2). read some rights-based philosophy in order to better tackle the characterisation of the vegan cause as welfare based, and better able to deal with appeals to “we have the best welfare standards in world,” which all representatives of users industries say, wherever in the world they happen to be located. Welfare standards are not relevant to the rights-based case for animal rights. Rights violations are not cleaned up by the regulation of atrocities.
A good place to start familiarising oneself with rights based animal rights would be this short video by Tom Regan.
On the 21st February 2017, Anna Charlton, Gary Francione, and Bob Linden spoke on Go Vegan Radio about the late Tom Regan who had died a few days earlier. It can be regarded as a critical tribute. Click the player above.
By and large, it was a fond and sympathetic remembrance of the time when Francione was working with PeTA, and it seemed for a while that rights-based animal rights may have become a force in the animal advocacy movement. Essentially, the corporate welfare movement strangled animal rights at birth to the extent that there is no animal rights movement now.
Of course, the phrase “animal rights” is heard often enough but used by virtually all animal advocates rhetorically as a label only. I don’t see any of the emergent You Tubers of the movement – and none in the national group structure – showing much evidence that they are at all familiar with rights-based theory on human relations with other sentient beings.
Charlton notes that Regan was frustrated by the lack of philosophical foundation to the animal movement. Newkirk and Pacheco, co-founders of PeTA, had read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation but Regan’s The Case for Animal Rights was neglected and ultimately rejected by PeTA and the rest of the animal movement which was sliding into (or back into) animal welfarism during the 1990s. To this day, the only philosophy book PeTA sell is Singer’s which they mistakenly describe as an animal rights text.
Francione notes that he and Regan wanted to figure out how to bring a rights-based foundation into the animal movement. So, in terms of timescale, we are talking about the mid to late 1980s to 1996.
The story that emerges in this tribute of sorts to Tom Regan is of the birth and then the death of the North American animal rights movement. Francione admits that Britain was ahead of the States on this but, again, there is no rights-based animal rights movement in Britain at present either. That Regan was becoming a force in Europe was demonstrated in the lead he took in the 1989 BBC Arena animal rights debate. Regan’s opening and summing up of this survives on YT.
Francione claims that his own break with Regan occurred between two “marches for the animals.” The first was in 1990 and the second 1996. Francione suggests that, between those years, animal welfarists organised to marginalise animal rightists.
In 1992, Animals’ Agenda published a “Point/Counterpoint” article in which Regan & Francione argued for abolitionism, stating that a movement’s means creates its ends, and vice versa, while Ingrid Newkirk of PeTA argued for new welfarism. “Going into bat for animal welfarists,” Newkirk trots out the language we now hear all the time: “steps in the right direction” – “purists” – “all or nothing.” Interesting that Newkirk even offers up a reduced view of veganism in 1992, saying that some “vegans” support animal experimentation. No wonder that the original radicalism of veganism is in danger of being destroyed.
Regan and Francione, it seems, recognised that the rights-based surge that emerged in 1990 in North America was to be deliberately put down by welfarist corporations, and that the 1996 event was designed to re-establish the dominance of animal welfarism in the “animal rights” movement.
Francione says he writes about all this in his 1996 book, Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement (RWT), in the postscript. Regan and Francione called for a boycott of the 1996 march, seeing what was going on in the politics of the movement as a whole, but Francione claims that Regan eventually caved in to welfarist pressure and “nastiness,” and decided to support the second march in 1996. Francione suggest that, at this point, Regan fully embraces new welfare methodology but I think that a different interpretation is possible.
1996 is also the year in which the first embers of the Francione countermovement began to glow – dimly at first. Francione split with PeTA and began to evolve what we now know as the Francione Abolitionist Approach. However, in the RWT postscript, Francione suggests that the difference between himself and Regan may be that he begins to see himself as utterly outside of the existing movement (hence seeing his “approach” now as a “countermovement” to the animal advocacy movement). On the other hand, Regan, naively perhaps, seems to have thought that he could work within the prevailing movement and bring it into line – or more into line - with rights-based animal rights.
Francione’s own account in RWT shows that Regan had not fully embraced new welfarism. Francione reports that Regan, after agreeing to talk at the 1996 march, nevertheless said critically that he thought it was a “welfarist event” while accepting that animal welfare “does some good.” Regan also criticised PeTA for its move into sexist campaigning, which is still a strong feature of PeTA’s current stance, along with racist and ableist campaigns.
Maybe if Regan and Francione had stayed within the animal movement as strong rights-based voices, things would be different now. Instead, Francione bailed out. Francione prefers the interpretation that Regan fell into welfarism, rather than he abandoned the movement, leaving Regan’s position much weaker.
As ever, Charlton provides a more nuanced analysis of events. For example, both Charlton and Francione believe that Regan struggled to deal with the bullying and hatred that quickly came from the welfare camp when Regan and Francione called for a boycott of the 1996 march, but Charlton keeps the stress on education and said that this was Regan’s strongest suit. In terms of Francione’s allegation that Regan collapsed into welfare, Charlton’s view suggests an alternative, that Regan thought he could operate as an educator within the movement rather than deliberately placing himself increasingly as an outsider, a status that Francione seems to welcome rather than seeing being an outsider as a block to him having any influence at all within the movement.
It is hard to imagine that, either way, the welfarists would not win out. I think Francione is right if he’s implying that education inside the movement would be very hard. Probably impossible before the internet age, given the gatekeeping powers that the national corporations had back then, and still do in terms of access to conferences. The internet improves things hugely in terms of maverick voices having the opportunity to be heard. The internet brings its own problems, however, not least the sheer amount of information available on virtually any topic.
So, even though there are rights-based voices that no longer can be silenced, they still can be marginalised it seems – and that’s even if animal advocates go to the trouble of investigating what animal rights means. We only have to look at what the “largest animal rights conference in the world” offers up as “animal rights” to see that welfarism is presented as animal rights but devoid of the theoretical foundation.
I would dearly love to see the new You Tubers adopting a rights-based position and reflecting it in their language which currently is stuck in the welfarist paradigm of talking about issues of animal cruelty.
Francione has criticised Regan’s theoretical position in recent years – he rightly is critical of the subject-of-a-life criteria, and has unfairly attacked Regan on the one million dogs lifeboat scenario - but says that there were other disagreements too. At one point in the broadcast, Francione suggests that Regan, like Singer, would eat dairy cheese if a restaurant got a request wrong. As ever with Francione, we are receiving a version, because it is also the case that, although claiming to have become vegan in 1982, Francione writes 14 years later in 1996 that he’s a vegetarian – so maybe he wouldn’t have objected to a bit of misplaced cheese then either for all we know. Francione says that, for a time, they had tried to cling on to the term “vegetarian” and wanted to “rehabilitate” it. He says that they were “basically” talking about veganism in those days.
So, would the present movement be different if Regan and Francione had stuck together? It is an intriguing prospect but it is clear that, later in life, Regan’s health wasn’t good. I think that’s why Regan didn’t respond to the recent attacks on his position, not least from Francione himself. I think it may also be possible that Regan recognised that he didn't have the time to start a new social movement from scratch, one that would always be in the shadow - and confused with - the existing animal movement. As said, we may ask pointedly whether rights-based animal rights would not be virtually forgotten in the “animal rights movement” as it is now had Francione not abandoned animal rights as the basis of his claims-making. He did this on the grounds that animal rights as a term has been appropriated by the welfarists. Of course it has – they’ll use anything that may make a buck. They are now calling themselves abolitionist when it suits them, which Francione has acknowledged and complained about. He should have stayed in the fight for animal rights.
We don’t get anywhere by running away. Ideas like animal rights and veganism have to be fought for or they will be devalued and redefined into something else.
This broadcast really does reveal that Francione’s critique of single-issues is totally stuck in the 1980s. He is completely out-of-date on this, and still refers to events in the 1980s in every criticism of single-issues as if they are still relevant. He alleges that Regan “went back” to single issue campaigns. I reject that, at least in the sense that Francione means; the way single-issue campaigns were back in the 1980s.
I think that Regan would recognise that the people doing single-issues in the 21st century correspond to how Francione thinks that single-issues can work. In other words, if single issues are part of an overarching vegan campaign, Francione believes that they are acceptable. He fails to recognise that this is what’s happened. To maintain his dated attack on single-issues, he cannot look at what’s actually happening in the movement, certainly in the grassroots, but drop back to what was happening in the last century.
Bob Linden, to his credit, reveals that, for many years and in terms of many campaigns, he simply “followed the leaders,” and thus got involved in lots of welfare and single-issue campaigning. He does say that, although people were all vegans in those days (something Francione disputes in relation to the prime movers of the movement), the campaigns were not focused on veganism. This is more evidence against the position of Matt Ball who, in an appalling recent video, claimed that vegan education had been going on “for decades” and has failed.
Below is the 2006 Go Vegan Radio show mentioned by Bob Linden
In 2013, a leading member of the Belgium vegetarian scene, Tobias Leenaert, began to attack ethical veganism at an animal rights conference in Luxembourg. In 2017, he is still doing it. In Poland in 2016, Leenaert gave a talk called "Making Compassion Easier: A Strategy for Achieving a Vegan Critical Mass."
As usual with his talks, this one is full of holes. As one example, take this short clip from the presentation
Under a slide reading, "The Vast Majority Of Vegetarians And Vegans Eventually Return To Meat," Leenaert says that the rate of those returning to flesh (he calls this falling off the wagon) in these groups amounts to 75% of them.
The usual response to this is to talk about the research that suggests that ethical vegans tend to remain vegan in greater numbers than health vegans, for example.
Since Leenaert has for several years attacked and mocked the philosophy of veganism, preferring to tell his audiences that veganism is simply "about food," he adds this: "And it's really not so, by the way, that it's only the people who are vegan for health reasons that drop off, it's also people who are vegan for animal rights reasons that drop off."
Leenaert concludes that "compassion costs too much."
Leenaert's statement is technically correct - but deceptively so. Of course a number of people who regard themselves as ethical vegans will return to consuming animal produce. However, research suggests that only a small percentage of ethical vegans fall off Leenaert's wagon compared to those who "go vegan" for non-ethical reasons.
Let's clear up one potential source of confusion right now. It is often claimed that it does not matter why a person begins to live vegan. A health vegan is going to run into the ethical arguments sooner or later, therefore the hope is that an ethical commitment to veganism may arise in anyone interested in veganism for any reason.
This would be unimportant to Leenaert since he mocks ethical vegans. However, it turns out to be vitally important because research does suggest that ethical vegans remain vegan in far greater numbers than other groups with other motivations. While I agree that the initial motivation may not be a major concern, it is worrying if people do not move towards - and quite quickly - an ethical stance on human relations with other sentient beings - or in other words, develop "animal rights" sentiments.
In 2012, Haverstock and Forgays  looked at those they describe as "current and former animal product limiters." These authors found that their research backs up previous studies from the 1990s and early 2000s, that for "current [animal product] limiters," ethical reasons are often stated as a motivating factor and to the extent that veganism, and even vegetarianism, becomes seen as a strong element in a person's self identity. Once these elements are in place, it seems that returning to eating other animals would require them to redefine their identities. Interestingly, the importance of shifts in self identity was found to be important to health vegans as well as ethical vegans.
I think Tom Regan  was getting at a similar idea when he talked about being "a Muddler." Muddlers are people who keep adding to their knowledge, they keep moving forward, "to keep growing against the grain of our cultural paradigm concerning animals."
Regan says that suddenly, surprisingly, a Muddler will look in the mirror and see an animal rights advocate looking back.
In 2015, Ginny Messina wrote a blog entry entitled, "Preventing Ex-Vegans: The Power of Ethics."  She writes,
As I’ve been delving into this issue of preventing recidivism, I’ve looked at quite a bit of data including:
Her conclusion upon assessing this material is impressively clear: "Vegan advocacy: put ethics first."
One of the studies she looked at, from 1997, again underlines the importance of moral values becoming internalised so that they become a part of the persons concerned. As a sociologist, I find this to be very important. A core concept in sociology is the process of socialisation, and part of that is the notion of internalisation - the "taking in" of ideas and values as a constituent part of the self. I briefly talked about that in this video.
One thing Messina found was that health vegans may stop being dietary vegans for the ironic reason that their diets may not as good as the diets of ethical vegans! How so? Ethical vegans may "enjoy a relaxed approach to food choices," making it easier for them to meet their nutritional needs. In addition, "health-motivated vegans may be less likely to take appropriate supplements."
It's not looking good for ethics-hating Leenaert, is it?
Messina points to another issue for health vegans. It is very likely that the addition of a little animal produce in their diets will not negatively effect their health. She says that a plant-based diet with a small amount of animal produce may be on par, health-wise, with a 100% plant-based diet.
So, we're back to ethics, and Messina writes
Yes, indeed, once one of Regan's Muddlers see that animal rights advocate in the mirror, then Messina states: "If you agree that animals are not here for us to use under any circumstances, veganism is really your only option."
Ginny Messina says that she has no choice but to promote vegan diets for ethical reasons, concluding, "it appears that ethics is a more powerful long-term motivator for vegan and vegetarian diets."
Let's hope that "The Vegan Strategist" will cease distorting issues about veganism for his own ends.
 Haverstock, Katie, and D.K. Forgays (2012) "To eat or not to eat. A comparison of current and former animal product limiters." Appetite, Vol 58: 1030-1036.
 Regan, Tom. (2004) Empty Cages: Meeting the Challenge of Animal Rights. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
 Messina, Ginny (2015) "Preventing Ex-Vegans: The Power of Ethics." The Vegan RD, 30 June.
 Hoffman SR, Stallings SF, Bessinger RC, Brooks GT. Differences between health and ethical vegetarians. Strength of conviction, nutrition knowledge, dietary restriction, and duration of adherence. Appetite 2013;65:139-44; Ogden J, Karim L, Choudry A, Brown K. Understanding successful behaviour change: the role of intentions, attitudes to the target and motivations and the example of diet. Health Educ Res 2007;22:397-405; Menzies K, Sheeshka J. The process of exiting vegetarianism: an exploratory study. Can J Diet Pract Res 2012;73:163-8; Dyett PA, Sabate J, Haddad E, Rajaram S, Shavlik D. Vegan lifestyle behaviors: an exploration of congruence with health-related beliefs and assessed health indices. Appetite 2013;67:119-24; Radnitz C, Beezhold B, DiMatteo J. Investigation of lifestyle choices of individuals following a vegan diet for health and ethical reasons. Appetite 2015;90:31-6;Rozin P MM, Stoess C. . Moralization and becoming a vegetarian: The transformation of preferences into values and the recruitment of disgust. Psychological Science 1997;8:67-73, and Barr SI, Chapman GE. Perceptions and practices of self-defined current vegetarian, former vegetarian, and nonvegetarian women. J Am Diet Assoc 2002;102:354-60.
I've been asked to clarify my claim that Gary L. Francione is not part of the existing animal advocacy movement. Am I simply making that up?
No, Gary Francione says that Gary Francione is not part of the existing movement. In this 30 second clip from Go Vegan Radio (September 6th, 2015), Francione explains it all to host Bob Linden.
In the clip above, Francione clearly states that he has nothing to do with the existing animal movement. Indeed, in his view, his separation from the prevailing movement means that he cannot be charged with being divisive within in. On the 23rd April, 2016, long-time Camp Francione insider, Elizabeth Collins (NZ Vegan), stated
In this, Collins accepts that the Francione "movement" (to the extent that it exists at all) is a countermovement to the animal advocacy movement. In fact, she uses a sociological definition of a countermovement: "a social movement opposed to another social movement."
Ever since the mid-1990s, Francione has embraced an increasingly isolated, outsider, position. He likes being seen as a maverick. The last thing he wants is to be part of the existing movement.
The longer audio clip (3:30 mins), below, and from the same show, is extraordinary. First, however, please be aware that it contains ableist language towards the end of the clip.
Second, it places Francione's statement (in the above audio clip) in the context of animal movement moves towards working for - or accepting - or partnering in - forms of other animal exploitation that are labelled "humane."
Third, Francione essentially argues against himself here. Listen to the clip and you will hear Francione saying that, not only are the traditional welfarist groups, such as the HSUS, partnering with animal exploitation industries, so are the "animal rights" groups. He names PeTA, Compassion Over Killing, Mercy for Animals, and Farm Sanctuary in this context.
This is bizarre. It could be possible that Francione was trying to simplify things for Bob Linden, who shows no evidence of understanding the difference between an organisation that stands for animal welfare and one that stands (or says it stands) for animal rights. Linden often calls the HSUS an animal rights group - whereas Francione, in the clip and elsewhere, correctly places them as conventional animal welfarists.
However, for the above reason, or some other - like convenience, Francione is arguing that these "animal rights" organisations are in alliance with the welfarist ones, and all are partnering with industry to attempt to bring about the "humane" exploitation of other animals. Francione is flatly contradicting himself with this claim. Ever since he wrote Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement (1996), Francione has claimed that organisations such as those he lists are not animal rights groups at all. They are welfarist groups, more specifically, they are all New Welfarist groups.
By his own theory since the mid-1990s - we are not talking about an alliance of rights and welfare groups - the former don't even exist according to Francione. Therefore, the claim in the clip below is bewildering. This cannot be a rights-welfare coalition at all; it can only be, at best, a welfare and new welfare cartel.
Francione has declared that "animal rights is dead," - not least because he ran away from the fight for animal rights as initiated in the late 1970s by Tom Regan - and so it seems that he has rather lost the plot on this.
What he means, of course, is that the phrase "animal rights" is overwhelmingly used rhetorically in the "animal rights movement." In other words, for most animal advocates, the term "animal rights" is just that - a term. It is a label with no philosophical substance.
The idea of animal rights - that is, rights-based animal rights that takes the philosophy of rights seriously - is worth fighting for: within the movement.
Francione has backed off from the fight - and he's an outsider in any case. The fight for animal rights needs a reboot in the 21st century. Let's hope that there are enough rights-based animal advocates to do it!
I recently wrote an article about Gary Francione's Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights and Tom Regan's Abolitionist Position of Animal Rights.
It has been published HERE by Animal Rights Zone, and HERE by VegFestUK.
This blog entry is to clarify why I wrote it. It is not part of a "personal vendetta" against Gary Francione, as someone suggested, but to put both of these abolitionist theorists into historical context. I do not regard this piece as attacking Francione at all. I am interested in social movement theory, and the history of social movements.
What really did it for me was "meeting" someone on FB who apparently knew nothing about Tom Regan, the author of The Case for Animal Rights in 1983 other than the controversial "lifeboat scenario" in which Regan says, in given circumstances, one million dogs should be thrown out of a crowded vessel to save a single human being.
The part of The Case where the lifeboat scenario is under discussion is when Regan is explaining how his "rights view" differs from both utilitarianism (Singer's) and a "perfectionist theory of justice." And he does indeed say that one million dogs may be thrown overboard. However, he makes it clear that this is based on assessments of pairs of individuals, one human and the dog, then a second human and the dog, and so on.
Regan does not spell it out clearly, but it's clear that the reverse but less likely circumstance may prevail with, as it were, a "normal" dog and human candidates who's situation means that they will be harmed less if they were killed rather than the dog.
Exactly why Regan remained somewhat unclear on this I don't know. However, in the article linked to above, when talking about Regan's subject-of-a-life criteria, I mentioned that Regan wrote in the early 1980s in a rather conservative way because the message of animal rights was so new and so very radical back then. To the extent that anyone reading this is faced by people suggesting that animal rights is "pie-in-the-sky," imagine what it was like to advance a rights-based animal rights position in the 1980s.
However, only two years later, 1985, Regan did clarify his position on the lifeboat in the New York Review of Books (April 1985). Regan writes
There are indeed some problems and issues with Regan's work - but fairness, respect, and knowledge of the history of the animal advocacy movement demands that Tom Regan is known for more than the lifeboat scenario, especially when critics seem to have forgotten that he would cast the humans overboard as much as the dogs in given circumstances.
Regan was a pioneer in establishing the rights-based animal rights position and we should never forget that and the debt we owe him. Here's some videos of Tom Regan, pioneer animal rights advocate.
There has often been some talk in the animal advocacy movement about rights - moral and legal - their origins, and whether or not they are "granted" to others.
I've tried to tackle the thorny issue of where rights come from in some of my research work, and I reproduce that part of the work below with minor updates and new references.
However, let's begin by reminding ourselves that Professor Tom Regan, the author of The Case for Animal Rights, grounds the notion of animal rights in the tradition of "natural rights"...
As we'll see, this natural rights view is criticised in the work cited below.
Rights and Animal Rights.
Tom Regan and Gary Francione are acknowledged as the major theoreticians of perspectives that seek to build on established rights formulations, and apply - or extent - to them to nonhuman animals. Regan is a Kantian deontologist who argues that many nonhumans are "subjects-of-a-life," a factor demanding that humans respect their inherent rights. Francione is a law professor particularly critical of the property status of other animals. His rights-based formulation is thought less complicated than Regan’s; he claims basic rights for all sentient beings.
Reganite and Francionian positions on nonhuman-human relations can be regarded as attempts to bring genuine rights views to bear on the issue of the human use of other animals. Such approaches are different in nature to traditional or classical welfarist stances; and different also from Peter Singer’s version of utilitarianism which...Francione claims as the philosophical grounding of modern day "new welfarism." Neither Regan nor Francione use rights concepts, or the language of rights, in a rhetorical manner as many other animal activists do, and both believe that protective rights formulations can be plausibly extended to prevent current large-scale institutionalised human exploitation of certain species of other animals. Regan’s and particularly Francione’s works are effectively marginalised even within the animal advocacy movement. This section, therefore, acknowledges and highlights a paradoxical situation in which the so-called "animal rights movement" virtually rejects genuine rights theories while embracing a non-rights animal liberation position as its main philosophical stance.
As implied above, however, it may be recognised that even the phrase "philosophical stance" can be quite misleading in relation to the majority of current animal advocacy in which "philosophising" per se is actively frowned upon, and/or seen as a very poor second to "doing things" (doing any thing) "for the animals." The modern animal protection movement, as well as its counter-movement mobilisations, frequently (and correctly) presents the book Animal Liberation as the origins of second wave nonhuman advocacy, along with an implicit and often explicit (and incorrect) claim that the book, and therefore the movement, is based on Peter Singer’s "animal rights perspective."
The frequent characterisation of his utilitarian perspective as an animal rights position, and presumably the number of times Animal Liberation has been described as "the animal rights bible," has seemingly led its author to regret ever having used rights language, even rhetorically and, according to Regan (2001: 83-4), Singer remains committed to his claim that attributing rights to nonhumans is not possible.
[...] some of the misrepresentation of Singer’s work as rights-based theorising, especially by pro-use countermovements, appears on the face of it to be deliberately ideological in intent. However, in relation to what Singer says about his own position, Francione fully accepts that Singer is entirely consistent to the extent that he rejects the notion of moral right holding in the case of human and nonhuman animals. Moreover, his consistent utilitarian principles have led Singer to accept that "there might be circumstances" in which human and animal exploitation…could be justified in light of consequences (Francione 1995: 259).
Francione suggests, however, that rights concepts are always likely to be important and invoked as resources in human affairs and therefore utilitarian "balancing" of human and nonhuman interests are extremely dangerous in terms of nonhuman interests. Dangerous precisely because protective rights considerations are not conceptually available "to limit the results of the balancing process" (ibid.) Francione attempts to clarify the point by putting it in a different way, while at the same time revealing how authentic animal rights theorists attempt to build on already established ways of thinking about the protection afforded by bearing rights:
the utilitarian notion of “consequences” cannot be interpreted in a way that does not prejudice the issue of animal protection. Even if we do accept that animals have interests, it is simply difficult to make determinations of those interests from a humanocentric perspective; it is because we systematically devalue and underestimate the interests of disempowered populations that rights concepts are necessary in the first place. Although rights theory rests ultimately upon a consideration of animal interests, rights theory does not permit the sacrifice of animal interests simply because human interests would be served. Rather, rights theory assumes that at least some animal interests are entitled to prima facie protection and that the sacrifice of those interests require a justification not dissimilar to that required when we seek to override human interests protected by rights (ibid.)
The questions, "where do rights come from?" and "how are 'rights' used in animal rights thinking?" are, of course, pertinent [...]. Perhaps the first thing to be said about matters concerning any formulation of rights, following Steve Kangas (www.huppi.com/ kangaroo/L-rights.htm) [this reference is now broken, however, THIS is essentially the same essay as originally cited], is that "the origin of rights is a messy and complex debate."
Kangas suggests that the understanding of the first question of where rights "come from" can be aided by separating out three types of thinking about rights: conservative, liberal and libertarian; and also by thinking about four initial bases put forward for the creation of rights: that rights are "natural" (following Locke), "inalienable," "God-given," and "self-evident." Kangas states that until a few hundred years ago, most philosophers believed that rights could be defined in these four ways. However, "today, most philosophers agree that rights are social constructs, open to change." He says that this view accords well with the "liberal" stance, since, "Liberals believe that rights are social constructions, defended by force and open to change and improvement."
Kangas is almost certainly correct to state that rights cannot be regarded as self-evident because, as he notes, "philosophers have been vigorously arguing about them for thousands of years" (ibid.) Kangas also finds support in his assertion that debates about rights can be messy and complex. For example, Carl Cohen, in his 1986 article, "Why Animals Have No Rights," [the original is again broken, so THIS replaces it] states that, "The differing targets, contents, and sources of rights, and their inevitable conflict, together weave a tangled web." Cohen’s title itself indicates philosophical controversy over recent rights claims. He has published a number of works addressing human rights concepts and the whole idea of nonhumans being right holders. Whereas theorists such as Cohen argue that nonhuman animals, as a matter of logic, cannot ever be said to bear rights, Regan and Francione disagree and have put forward differing ways by which they argue that rights formulations can and should protect sentient nonhuman interests. While Regan’s position has been described as a liberal rights perspective (Fiddes 1991: 196), Regan characterise Cohen, like Singer, as a utilitarian theorist, at least "when reasoning in support of continued widespread and possible expanded reliance on nonhuman animals in biomedical research" (Regan 2001: 70). The difference between Cohen and Singer is that Singer argues that no animal, human or nonhuman, can hold rights, while Cohen argues that all humans do and nonhumans do not.
Regan claims to adhere seriously to a commitment to develop an "informed, thoughtful moral outlook" (2001: 101). According to Benton & Redfearn, strength within Regan’s strategy accrues from the "benefit of latching on to the currently near-universal moral priority attached to human rights" (1996: 51, emphasis in original). Although it may be rather unkind of them to label Regan’s approach "a strategy," as if his commitment to human rights was only for the following reason, Benton & Redfearn acknowledge that, "Regan was the first theorist to get 'rights' across the species barrier" (ibid.: 50). Therefore, Regan can be credited with breaching that hitherto solid defensive ethical barrier based exclusively on species membership, of which the construction, maintenance, and usage of featured prominently in Part One of the current work.
Benton & Redfearn state that, as a matter of historical record, "the ethics of the 'rights' tradition has been markedly anthropocentric. To 'qualify' as an inherently valuable being one had to possess 'reason,' 'autonomy,' 'moral agency' or some other capacity generally restricted to humans" (ibid.) Regan, they go on, gets morality over the species barrier by concentrating on the criteria of right holding, a familiar notion in rights discourse addressing the question of the expansion of rights bearing. Clearly, many human beings do not have the characteristics listed by Benton & Redfearn above, neither do many have language use, another favoured way of deciding who holds rights. There is therefore a philosophical puzzle to be solved here. Either human beings without the above capacities are themselves not right holders or, if they remain so, on what basis are nonhumans, with similar capacities, to be denied at least basic or negative rights?
In general rights discourse, the notion that rights have been converted from shields to swords is seriously contested by various theorists: however, in this formulation, the idea of animal rights is clearly about rights as protective shields for individuals. Regan’s "subjects-of-a-life" are not necessarily moral agents; and logically nonhuman animals are placed into the category of right holding moral patients along with certain "marginal" humans (as they have became known in rights discourse) (DeGrazia 1996). Using a post-Darwinian understanding of the psychological complexity of many nonhumans, Benton & Redfearn claim that Regan shows that, "though animals are not moral agents in the full sense, they have enough sense of self as persisting through time, ability to express preferences and so on to be said to have 'interests,' which may be harmed or favoured by human agents" (1996: 50) Benton & Redfearn investigate the "lesser-than" aspect of "moral marginals," and conclude that not only are they not denied protective rights, "On the contrary, it might well be argued that it is just because of their lack of these attributes that they are in special need of the protection offered by the attribution of rights" (ibid.: 50-1).
For these commentators, Regan’s concentration on the rights of the individual strengthens the rights approach over what they describe as the more moderate "linkage of utilitarianism and animal welfare reform" (ibid.: 51). The one advantage of utilitarianism, they claim, is its reliance on "mere sentience" as the ethically relevant criteria. The strength of that, they say, is due to the fact that hardly anyone in the modern world would dispute that many nonhumans are sentient beings. A further "strategic limitation" of Regan’s position, Benton & Redfearn argue, stems from the huge social and personal changes implied by respect for the rights of many nonhuman animals. This would require, "both social transformation and lifestyle changes of very fundamental kinds." How many, they ask, will be prepared to adopt a vegan diet and avoid all animal products? Surely, only those who could adhere to veganism can remain consistent with the logic of animal rights? This question greatly interests animal advocates, many of whom suggest that a strict advocacy of the vegan diet can be "divisive" and "elitist," whereas others simply see it as a logical consequence of accepting the rights view about human-nonhuman relations (Francione 1996: 43-44, 239).
Francione’s position is free of the first "limitation" in Regan – but clearly not of the second. In other words, Francione’s basic right theory argues that a being’s sentiency alone is enough to demand that humans respect their rights. Francione also firmly declares that respect for nonhuman rights does indeed require the personal adoption of veganism as a lifestyle choice. Francione begins his outline of animal rights with a familiar warning common in accounts of rights discourse: "There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the concept of rights" (2000: xxvi). His focus is on one aspect of rights, the protection they may offer, and argues that this is common feature of virtually every theory about rights: in other words, "a right is a particular way of protecting interests":
To say that an interest is protected by a right is to say that the interest is protected against being ignored or violated simply because this will benefit someone else. We can think of a right of any sort as a fence or a wall that surrounds an interest and upon which hangs a “no trespass” sign that forbids entry, even if it would be beneficial to the person seeking that entry (ibid.)
A feature of rights formulation associated with other animals often clash with the views of environmental ethicists such as "deep ecologists" (see Regan 2001: 19-21 and David Orton’s discussion paper about Deep Ecology and Animal Rights). Dispute may arise due to the concentration in rights thinking of protecting individuals rather than emphasising, say, "species conservation." However, citing Rollin’s "The Legal and Moral Bases of Animal Rights," Francione (2000: xxvii) notes that rights were deliberately constructed as ethical ideas about respecting individuals. Rights protect individuals even in cases in which the general welfare of society would be improved by the right being ignored or not respected. Francione provides a detailed account of the concept of rights and rights theory in the context of animal law in Animals, Property, and the Law (Francione 1995) in which he distinguishes respect-based rights from policy-based rights. He argues for a basic right for sentient nonhuman animals: the right not to be treated as a "thing." For Francione, this basic right is not only a respect-based right but it is a special respect-based right, "in that it is necessary in order to have any rights or moral significance at all, irrespective of the political system and whatever other respect-based rights are protected. The basic right not to be treated as a thing recognises that the right holder is a person" (2000: 191, emphasis in original).
Moving toward his conception of animal rights, while accepting that no rights are absolute, "in the sense that their protection has no exception" (ibid.: xxvii), Francione builds on the notion that all humans "who are not brain dead or otherwise nonsentient" (and presumably who are not masochistic) have an interest in avoiding suffering and pain (ibid.) This interest is tied to the importance of being a legal person:
Although we do not protect humans from all suffering, and although we may not even agree about which human interests should be protected by rights, we generally agree that all humans should be protected from suffering that results from being used as the property or commodity of another human…in a world deeply divided on many moral issues, one of the few norms endorsed by the international community is the prohibition of human slavery. Nor is it a matter of whether the particular form of slavery is “humane” or not; we condemn all human slavery (ibid.)
Resisting a critical critique of this statement, if only by regarding it as an ideal type formulation, Francione’s point is fairly straightforward. In fact, he does himself acknowledge that human slavery still persists in the modern world, even though "the institution is universally regarded as morally odious and is legally prohibited" (ibid.) Returning to his theme about basic rights, Francione argues that all and any "further" rights are dependent on basic ones, in particular, "they must have the basic right not to be treated as a thing" (ibid.) By examining the principle of "equal consideration," which says that similar interests should be treated in a similar way, Francione makes the case for animal rights, at least the case for the basic right that concerns him the most:
If we apply the principle of equal consideration to animals, then we must extend to animals the one basic right that we extent to all human beings: the basic right not to be treated as things (ibid.: xxix).
As a matter of logic, then, Francione claims that, "if we mean what we say" about nonhumans being morally significant, as even traditional animal welfare does, "then we really have no choice": if social attitudes to human slavery desire its abolition rather than its regulation, "we are similarly committed to the abolition of animal exploitation, and not merely to its regulation" (ibid.) As for what "sort" of right is being claimed within his formulation of basic animal rights, Francione continues to rely on notions of basic or "innate" rights, distinctions about ideas of "natural rights," and the thoughts of, among others, Kant, Locke, and modern political theorist Henry Shue. Francione continues to attempt to build on the widely accepted "value" of basic human rights. He argues that, "there is certainly a great deal of disagreement about precisely what rights human beings have," however it is clear that all humans are seen as right holders which prevents them being, "treated exclusively as a means to the end of another" (ibid.: 93). In pointing out that this basic right is different from "all other rights," Francione claims it as a pre-legal right; and a necessary pre-requisite for other important rights. What is the use, Francione asks, of thinking about rights appropriate to human beings, such as the right to free speech, voting rights, etc., if their basic right not to be a thing is not respected? This sense of "basic right," he argues, is different from what many claim to be "natural rights" (although the discourse about "natural" - or any - rights is complex and often contradictory).
 Throughout Animal Liberation Professor Singer is careful to talk about the "Animal Liberation movement" and never speaks of a clash between human and nonhuman rights, rather human and animal interests. In the 2nd edition ofAnimal Liberation, Singer was motivated to say something about rights formulations: "The language of rights is a convenient political shorthand. It is even more valuable in the era of thirty-second TVA news clips" (Singer 1990, cited by Francione 1996: 49, 240).
 If Kangas is correct that talking about the origins of rights is messy, the same may be said of the claimed position adopted by this or that theorist. For example, while Regan suggests that Cohen takes a utilitarian line, Nathan Nobis (2002, in a review of Cohen and Regan) states that, "Cohen and Regan give high regard to moral rights… Both are decidedly anti-utilitarian."
 Benton & Redfearn (1996) also note that Regan’s rights approach will find opposition in some perspectives based on "ecological morality." For example, the rights view implies that only animals that resemble humans in relevant ways "qualify" as right bearers. Animal rights theory, they note, "offers nothing at all to animals not conforming to the 'subject of a life' criterion" (1996: 51).
Benton, T. & Redfearn, S. (1996) ‘The Politics of Animal Rights - Where is the Left?’ New Left Review, Jan/Feb: 43-58.
DeGrazia, D. (1996) Taking Animals Seriously: Mental life and moral status. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fiddes, N. (1991) Meat: A natural symbol. London: Routledge.
Francione, G.L. (1995) Animals, Property, and the Law. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Francione, G. L. (1996) ‘Ecofeminism and Animal Rights’ - a book review and commentary - review of “Beyond Animal Rights: A feminist caring ethic for the treatment of animals”, edited by C. Adams & J. Donovan’, Women’s Rights Law Reporter, Fall (email version supplied by Lee Hall in April 2002).
Francione, G.L. (2000) Introduction to Animal Rights: Your child or the dog? Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Nobis, N. (2002) ‘Review of Carl Cohen & Tom Regan’s The Animal Rights Debate (2001), Jornal of Value Inquiry, Vol 36(4): 579-83.
Regan, T. (2001) Defending Animal Rights. Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
This blog entry is designed to showcase the work of animal rights philosopher, Tom Regan, author in 1983 of The Case for Animal Rights.
For a brief period in the history of the animal advocacy movement, Regan's rights-based position was more popular than Peter Singer's version of animal welfarism. The reasons why the work of Tom Regan became marginalised in the movement know globally as the "animal rights movement" is disturbing, shameful and, as ever, a great deal to do with money and power.
Here is a series of videos to highlight Regan's rights-based approach to animal rights. The fact that one has to point out that there is actually a minority of people in the "animal rights movement" who take a rights-based approach is a scandal in itself.
In the first video, Regan discusses his 1988 speech at an anti-vivisection rally attended by animal activists. He talks about the context, about the film Unnecessary Fuss, and the regrets he has about using the rhetorical of war.
The second video is the speech itself, described as the "greatest animal rights speech of all time." (click HERE for the transcript).
The third video is Unnecessary Fuss, which Regan talks about in the first interview. It should be remembered that this video was filmed by vivisectors for their own use ONLY. It was never meant to be seen by members of the public or members of the animal advocacy movement.
The fourth and fifth videos are Regan's contributions to the 1989 Royal Institute of Great Britain. I have included the "long" version of the fourth video, the one that includes a strong critique of Singer's position. There is one version where this was snipped out - corruption everywhere, folks.
I would invite you to see the Regan videos as an introduction to a genuine rights-based position on human relations with other sentient beings.
Of course, with all theories, there are some problem's with Regan's "rights view," but this is a good place to start.
Dr. Roger Yates is a rights advocate and sociologist