Customer Reviews: Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation
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on March 27, 2009
I am the author of this book.

A reviewer, "Lataavi" claims that I maintain that vivisection is acceptable if it is necessary.

This claim is false.

In Chapter 2 of the book, I make quite clear that even if animal use were necessary to find cures for human illness (a position that I criticize), such use could not be justified as a moral matter.

"Lataavi" has for whatever reason blatantly and explicitly misrepresented the content of the book.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University
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on June 27, 2008
(Originally published at

Working Animals as Persons: Essays on on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation into my ridiculous schedule was relatively easy, in part because the book is comprised of individual, self-contained essays that allowed me to conveniently break my reading up into manageable sessions as time permitted. You might find this helpful as well. While the essays range in length, none of them are terribly long (particularly after the first two), and together they all provide an excellent and highly readable introduction to Professor Francione's abolitionist theory of animal rights. If you are one of those people who have put off reading his earlier books due to time constraints or for any other reason, this might be an ideal place to start.

I recommend not skipping over the introduction, particularly if you've never read Francione before. In it, he gets right to the pivotal assertion that the animal advocacy movement is, in effect, two very different movements: one that seeks to abolish animal exploitation by eradicating the property status of animals, and the other a movement that seeks the regulation of animal-using industries while failing to effectively challenge the property status of animals.

He expands on the core concepts of abolitionism in the first chapter, "Animals as Persons." That essay is itself a relatively brief but thorough presentation of Francione's theory as developed more fully in Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog? (ITAR) While it is not a substitute for reading that book, "Animals as Persons" is a very clear essay that will quickly have you up to speed on the basic concepts.

The next chapter is an essay called "Reflections on Animals Property & The Law (Ethics And Action) and Rain Without Thunder Pb." In it, Francione responds to various critics who have argued that the property status of animals does not necessarily prevent advocates from improving animal welfare, and that animal welfare regulation is an effective way of moving incrementally toward recognition that animals have more than the value that we assign to them.

You don't necessarily need to have read the two books to appreciate "Reflections," though I'm sure I got more out of it because I had. I found the essay particularly interesting because Francione deconstructs real-world legislation such as Florida's gestation crate ban and California's foie gras ban. While he frequently deconstructs current events on his blog, as he did with the announcement that KFC Canada would adopt a controlled-atmosphere killing policy, these case studies offer new readers relevant and useful applications of his abolitionist theory.

In his third essay, "Taking Sentience Seriously," Francione focuses on flaws in the "similar-minds" theory, a critical analysis all the more relevant in light of news that Spain's parliament plans to extend legal rights to life and freedom for great apes. Based as it is on cognitive abilities rather than sentience, this pending legislation is a case in point for Francione, so you'll definitely want to read chapter 3 if you don't know why this seemingly good news is a bad precedent for animal rights.

Returning to his critics, chapter four's essay, "Equal Consideration," focuses specifically on Cass Sunstein's review of ITAR, in which he claims that Francione fails to justify why animal advocates should not focus on regulating human treatment of animals rather than abolishing animal use. This gives Francione an excellent opportunity to point out some fatal flaws in Sunstein's thinking, along with that of Jeremy Bentham and Peter Singer, who seem to believe that some sentient beings have no interest in continuing to live, despite the logical implication that their very sentience gives these animals an interest in continued existence.

Francione's fifth essay examines the justifications for vivisection, which he also covers in IATR (along with descriptions of numerous specific experiments). Here, too, he observes that even if there is some plausible empirical claim for necessity, this form of animal use cannot be morally justified. "The Use of Nonhuman Animals" is one of the clearest, most concise critiques of vivisection I have read, from both the empirical and moral points of view. While the empirical section should be sufficient in and of itself to clear up any confusion as to whether vivisection is as valuable as is usually claimed, Francione footnotes our way to additional resources, and of course he follows this up with a moral critique that is impossible to refute without engaging in hypocrisy.

His next essay, "Ecofeminism and Animal Rights," is actually a 1996 review of Beyond Animal Rights: A Feminist Caring Ethic for the Treatment of Animals, in which he examines arguments made against animal rights and for an "ethic of care." Like Cass Sunstein's review of IATR, essays in Beyond Animal Rights suggest that we do not need to end the institutionalized exploitation of nonhuman animals in order to include them within the moral community, and even go as far as to actually legitimize that exploitation, ironically perpetuating speciesist hierarchy at the same time that they condemn the rights view as hierarchical. Francione swiftly and effectively counters these views.

Finally, Francione turns his attention to perhaps the world's best-known animal rights author and philosopher, Tom Regan, who in his seminal The Case for Animal Rights made a sustained, comprehensive, and complex philosophical argument for animal rights. In it, he presents the "lifeboat case," a hypothetical scenario he resolves in part by claiming that death is a greater harm to humans than it is to nonhumans such as dogs. Francione critiques this view with "Comparable Harm and Equal Inherent Value," a 1995 essay updated with a 2008 postscript to respond to the new preface Regan wrote in 2004 for the second edition of The Case for Animal Rights, in which he responded to critics of his lifeboat example.

One of the few drawbacks of gathering together all these different essays is that, even though the case studies and responses to specific criticisms may prompt you to understand Francione's abolitionist theory more clearly, you frequently end up reading the same thing you've read elsewhere in his work, including other essays in this book, and sometimes nearly even verbatim. However, it is that very deja vu experience that reminds you how so many supposedly different debates always come back to the fundamentals, which we would do well to learn... and that may just be the reason Francione keeps repeating them.

In recapping his abolitionist animal rights theory and defending it with such precision, clarity, and authority, Gary Francione successfully reasserts the view that nonhuman animals will not be meaningfully protected from unnecessary harm so long as they are considered human property, and that welfare reforms or variations on the theme are incapable of leading to their emancipation. Animals as Persons is a must-read for anyone claiming to support or to even simply be interested in animal rights.
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on October 9, 2008
In Animals as Persons -- which is composed of seven separate essays, given thematic unity by an introductory section -- Francione explains, clarifies, and elaborates on the major themes of the abolitionist approach to animal rights, which are as follows:

-- The abolitionist approach to animal rights is based on veganism as the rejection of the commodity status of nonhumans and a recognition of their inherent value;

-- as long as animals are property, they can never be members of the moral community;

-- sentience is all that is rationally required for membership in the moral community;

-- animal welfare fails to provide significant protection for animal interests and because it allows the use of animals in circumstances in which we use no humans, it necessarily deprives animals of equal consideration.

The latter point is demonstrated by a number of so-called ''major victories'' of animal advocacy in the past dozen years (and before) which Francione criticizes, among other things PETA's (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) agreement with McDonald's on higher slaughter standards for its meat suppliers and on providing increased space for hens in egg batteries.

Francione also tackles the ecofeminist approach to animal ethics, responds to some objections to his theory of the property status of animals, analyses the use of animals in biomedical research, and refutes the argument made in Tom Regan's book The Case for Animal Rights (1983) that throwing a dog out of a lifeboat in order to save a human would be required by rights theory.

Francione shows the objections with which the abolitionist approach continually has to contend to be invalid; indeed, the clarity, soundness, and consistency of abolitionism make its being dismissed, especially by self-identifying animal rights advocates, difficult to explain. Excellently written and easy to read, this book is a significant part of a work which, as I hope, will reach an increasingly wide audience and obtain due recognition worldwide as by far the most important contribution to animal rights theory to date.
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on November 30, 2010
Gary L Francione will be viewed in the future as a very important historical figure. His work is extremely important
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on July 22, 2014
Animals as Persons is a crucial book for those that wish to become vegan. I've already contacted Gary twice [if you have any questions to ask him as well, he has a blog called abolitionist approach], and he's politely answered two questions I had, being very precise and answering them in full.

But, onto the book itself.

Gary Francione is a lawyer and it shows well in this essay. Not only does he strike down many welfare arguments with precision, giving historical examples in human context, but references many thinkers of the modern animals welfare movement. Make no mistake, this book probably isn't for you if you're not already vegan, vegetarian, or at the least, on the fence of this issue. Each essay answers numerous objections welfarists may have to the abolition movement, as well as quandaries vegans may personally have about the abolitionist approach. In essence, this book is more less objections to the modern animal rights activists. Those that follow the similar minds theory, or other animal rights activist that share similar views to Gary, but not quite. This is also not to say he by any means ever attacks anyone personally. He always goes for a calm, rational approach and explains the problems with the approaches.

Each essay talks about a slightly different issue, from sentience, to the new welfarism, to responses to criticisms from his other books, and so on.

What's more, the essays are highly quotable not only in response for new welfarists, but omnivores as well. It's a great book that can give you educated retorts to common objections to those that claim we have the right to eat animals. Here's one in particular I am fond of, as the cognitive minds argument comes up every so often for omnivores:
"Any attempt to justify treating animals as resources based on their lack of cognitive characteristics claimed to be uniquely human begs the question from the outset by assuming that certain human characteristics are "special" and justify different treatment. Although there are thing that only humans can do (although not all humans may be able to do them), there are things that only nonhumans can do. Humans alone may be able to write symphonies, do calculus, or recognize themselves in mirrors, but only nonhumans can fly or breathe underwater without assistance. What makes our characteristics special is, of course, we say so."
-Gary L. Francione, Animals as Persons.

Though that quote doesn't cover the entirety of the argument and out of context it's slightly butchered in it's beauty, but it's one of the many juicy paragraphs Gary provides in his essays.

That said, there are one or two shortcomings: first, Gary tends to refer to the same quotes or even directly copy pastes himself a few times. This isn't a bad thing inherently, since the essays WERE written years apart [to my understanding] however, if you go through this book in a week like I did, you'll get a bit of deja vu. This is a shortcoming that probably could have been avoided with some editing, however, when a quote is good, you wanna use it. This isn't a total negative, but I got weary after reading 'can they suffer' quote for the fourth or fifth time. Not Gary fault directly, but it detracted from my personal experience.
Secondly, Gary doesn't [to my understanding] directly say HOW to take the abolitionist approach. Best to my understanding, he'd rely on public and consumer influence. Get a few friends to go vegan abolitionist and they rest is history. However this was said rather indirectly and only once; compared to the exhaustive lengths he went to disprove the welfarist, this felt unsatisfying and I felt he could've answered this question better.

Despite that initial complaint that makes the book lose a star, it's an extremely concise and well written book. It regards questions vegans may have that are a bit uncomfortable if you're a nonspeiciesist [such as the burning house example].

Gary is a man the animal rights activists should follow [funnily enough today [7/22/2014] he posted a blog saying he didn't want followers] by example.

Animal exploitation is unnecessary. If you wanna be nonviolent, go vegan. If you want to be a true environmentalist, go vegan. If you think killing an animal unnecessarily is wrong, go vegan. Gary will not waver from this spot. After reading his book, neither will I.
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on September 25, 2015
One of two most intelligent approaches to eliminating cruelty and killing of animals for food. The other is The World Peace Diet by will Tuttle, PhD. Also, Francione's small book Eat Like You Care is a must read.
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on September 28, 2008
No where will you find more compelling and succinct arguments in favor of the rights of animals. Gary will leave you wishing you had his undeniable gift for communicating what is in his mind to the spoken (or written) word. In plain talk, he's fierce!
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on February 10, 2015
An outstanding work. Professor Francione completely transformed my views and attitudes about nonhuman animals, veganism, and the animal rights movement. I had been a vegan for well over a year but still didn't realize how blinded I was by my own ignorance and the mixed messages sent by all of the popular and well known animal welfare organizations. If you are serious about not causing harm to animals, you must read this book.
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on July 18, 2015
Excellent as always, I highly recommend this book, and books written by Professor Francione. He has inspired me to educate others on going vegan, and armed me with a wealth of knowledge to explain to others the reasons behind going vegan.
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on May 4, 2012
A great book by a genuine vegan animal advocate , living example for a compassionate life and ethical diet. The very fact that the writer took a vegan commitment for life , gives high credit to a profound analytic book where the major principles regarding animal rights are explained in a revealing way that many of all us didnt think was possible to realize. Animals are equo then humans, the differences are peculiar characteristics we shall embrace, observe with interests and learning enthusiasm, finally
Under these highly moral and refined principles, the harsh reality about animal exploitation and cruelty, starts to show the horror that we have the duty to fight and change, by all mean.
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