Francione on Linking Oppressions

Francione briefly touches on several topics (admittedly beyond the scope of this book) that I wish were given additional attention. While the content implied within each of these quotes could merit a book in its own right, I feel it is important to briefly address these issues as they will be recurring themes in my writing.

In our capitalist culture, many societal problems are addressed through the implementation of only those solutions that are already institutionalized. For example, it has become popular to respond to the current environmental crisis by choosing to purchase ‘green,’ thus perpetuating the consumer culture that has nearly devoured the planet’s resources already, rather than revising the consumerist lifestyle. Likewise, the response of most Americans to disillusionment with a presidential administration is to put their faith in the next election rather than question a corrupted government system.

Francione highlights one example of how this status quo approach, in the context of public health, has serious repercussions for animals: “In many ways, the choice to use animal experiments to solve a problem is as much a political as a scientific decision. Animal experiments are considered an acceptable way of solving the AIDS problem; needle exchanges, condom distribution, and education about safe sex are much more controversial” (Francione, 37). It follows that the choice is to pour money into the development of pharmaceutical treatments rather than focus on prevention not only increases the suffering of the millions of individuals without access to adequate health care, but also perpetuates the vivisection industry. While many people recognize that the modern medical establishment is focused on treating the symptoms rather than tackling the roots of disease (and thereby ensuring that the medical and pharmaceutical industries continue to rake in profits), we often overlook the extent to which nonhuman animals feel the effects.

Animals are affected by all of the norms, laws, and institutions of our society. One of Francione’s examples of how restrictions on animal exploitation ties in to social class struck me as especially relevant: “The difference between hunting and fighting animals is not a difference in animal mistreatment. Rather, the difference is between amusements historically associated with the lower socioeconomic classes (bear baiting and animal fighting) and those associated with middle upper classes (hunting and hare coursing)” (Francione, 164). This explains why bear baiting and animal fighting were relatively easy to outlaw (although fighting is still legal in parts of the U.S.!), but hunting and hare coursing were not. The state and federal level anti-cruelty laws that Francione is so critical of have had many successes targeting individual citizens who wantonly abuse or neglect animals, but are mostly unable to touch the for-profit animal exploitation industrieswith their purchased political sway. If brought to court, big business (e.g. animal industries with lobbying power) are able to get away with more extensive and barbaric acts of animal cruelty than is the average dog abuser. Money becomes a near abuse-animals-for-free ticket, assuming that the monetary leverage is substantial enough.

Francione recognizes that animal problems cannot be addressed outside the context of human problems. He writes, “It is likely that we could accept that animals have moral value and abolish institutionalized exploitation only in a context in which we generally rejected the moral legitimacy of much of the violence that is routinely inflicted on humans by other humans. Similarly, it is likely that we could reject speciesism only in a context in which we generally rejected the moral legitimacy of the racist, sexist, and homophobic attitudes and behavior that still affect our culture and deny other humans full membership in the moral community” (Francione, 166). In other words, acknowledging that animals are not pieces of property is not enough. This point, which appears on the last page of his book, is what truly separates Francione from many animal rights theorists. It is why I find his arguments so compelling. He is popping the AR bubble to remind us that animal rights is not an issue in and of itself. To genuinely be opposed to animal exploitation is to be opposed to all forms of oppression.

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