Francione on Animal Rights

“How intelligent does a parrot have to be before we conclude that the parrot possesses general concepts or ideas? Does the parrot have to have the conceptual ability of an eight-year-old? A twenty-one-year-old? …We do not consider it sufficient that an animal possess a characteristic that we have for centuries denied them – they must possess some undetermined quantity of that quality, and this allows us to up the stakes every time we encounter proof that animals possess such a characteristic … In this game of special characteristics, animals can never win.” ~Gary Francione, from Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog

I should confess that I am no stranger to Gary Francione’s abolitionist argument. I have listened to enough Vegan Freak Radio and Animal Voices to be quite familiar with his ideas. Reading his Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog? was strangely like re-reading a book I had never read. Disregarding its familiarity, the book offers a refreshing perspective on animal rights. Lucid and accessible, his writing communicates each of his points as though he were simply articulating commonsense. Then again, from my stance, that is exactly what he is doing. For the contemporary animal activist who is frustrated by the movement’s sluggish progress, Francione proffers a logical launching pad.

The foundation of Francione’s theory is that animal exploitation is rooted in the fact that all nonhuman animals have property status. We use animals as a means to our own ends because, as property, animals have no interests. Whenever it is a choice between the interests of the property owning human and the animal, the human interest will always trump that of the nonhuman. His ultimate assertion is that it will not be possible to abolish animal exploitation until the property status of animals is addressed.

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