Two Garys – Big League Players in Vegan Animal Rights

The names Gary Yourofsky and Gary Francione may not ring any bells with you, but they need no introduction for vegans. Both these fascinating men are HUGE in Animal Rights. And one of them is my vegan “father”. I was pointed in the direction of Gary Francione’s writings by my daughter. Amongst other things I read this:

There is no meaningful distinction between eating flesh and eating dairy or other animal products. Animals exploited in the dairy industry live longer than those used for meat, but they are treated worse during their lives, and they end up in the same slaughterhouse after which we consume their flesh anyway. There is probably more suffering in a glass of milk or an ice cream cone than there is in a steak.

And this:

“We can no more justify using nonhumans as human resources than we can justify human slavery. Animal use and slavery have at least one important point in common: both institutions treat sentient beings exclusively as resources of others. That cannot be justified with respect to humans; it cannot be justified with respect to nonhumans—however “humanely” we treat them.” 

After 30 years as a vegetarian not giving the matter a great deal of thought (too busy, I said to myself) the scales instantly fell from my veggie eyes! Ten years on I can vouch for the truth in something else Gary F has said:

“Being vegan provides us with the peace of knowing that we are no longer participants in the hideous violence that is animal exploitation.”

Gary Yourofsky too has won many to the cause of veganism and animal rights. These two men are responsible for opening the eyes of not hundreds, but thousands of people. Gary Y’s famous “The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear” on Youtube has had over 10 million hits, and has been translated into more than 30 languages.

 The two Garys have much in common

They are equally passionate about the horrors that are perpetrated on animals daily by our own species

They are equally uncompromising about veganism being the moral baseline, the only rational ethical choice

Both are emphatic that they are fighting with everything they’ve got for Animal Rights not because they love animals – in fact, Yourofsky admits to not even liking certain animals. For them (and for me) this campaign is about Justice

They both condemn welfarism. As Gary F says “For those who support these supposed [welfare] reforms, the issue is how we use animals; for me, the issue is that we use animals.” More on that later

Both have undertaken hundreds of lectures in the belief that educating people is the best way forward. (In fact, up to Jan 1st 2015, Gary Y had given 2,660!)

Both have worked with and for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) at some stage in their AR careers, and subsequently dissociated themselves from that organisation


But they are very different people

Gary Yourofsky sees himself in the mould of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., pursuing the path of civil disobedience.

Gary Francione is a lawyer and Professor of Law. His vision is to see animals accorded the right which they should never have been denied, the right to belong to themselves, the right not to be property.

There is also one crucial and unbridgeable ideological chasm between them that polarises everyone in the AR world. But I will get into that later because it’s a big subject.


First of all a quick sketch of our two protagonists


Carla Lopez [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Gary Yourofsky, born in Detroit, USA in 1970, was in his own words,  “always a rebel” and “a troublemaker”. He was though, your regular young guy – burger-eating, guitar-strumming, ice hockey-playing – until his early 20s. Then one day, Gary’s stepfather, a professional circus clown, thought his stepson might enjoy going behind-the-scenes to see the circus animals. He did not enjoy it -the very opposite. The experience turned his life upsidedown. “He took me backstage to see the elephants,” Gary recalled, emphasizing every word. “I saw them shackled in chains. I looked in their eyes and saw nothing but fear and hopelessness. I knew this wasn’t right.” He never forgot the look in those elephant’s eyes.

Gary Y plunged himself into research into the condition of animals and animal rights. He even spent 6 weeks wandering in and out of a slaughterhouse – the workers there took little notice. At 25 he became a vegetarian and a year later vegan. One year after that he was in a group of Animal Liberation Front members raiding a mink fur farm in Canada. His particular task was to open the cages, for which he had to crawl on hands and knees through mink faeces, to release 1,500 animals. Most of the mink were recovered by the business owners, and Gary was caught, charged with, and convicted of, breaking and entering. He spent 77 days in jail and was fined $35,000, which to this day remains unpaid.

In total Gary Y has been arrested 13 times, including occasions when he chained his neck to a rack of fur coats, and to the axle of his car at anti-fur and anti-circus protests. He is banned from 5 countries because of his high-profile and contentious activism, including the UK. This is part of a letter sent to him from our own Home Secretary:

“The Home Secretary notes that you are a well known figure in the animal rights world and known as a somewhat radical figure. You are a self proclaimed supporter of the extremist group Animal Liberation Front. You have been arrested over a dozen times and were sentenced in 1999 to six months in a Canadian maximum security prison for a raid on a fur farm. In 2000 the IRS revoked ADAPTT  [Animals Deserve Protection Today & Tomorrow, Gary’s own organisation] of its 501 c3 status because of your activities.

In expressing such views it is considered that you are fomenting serious criminal activity and seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.”

Gary, a Jew himself, has had a huge impact in Israel, which in the last few years, maybe more than any other country in the world, has seen a huge growth in veganism, and interest in animal rights.

Latterly he has given up direct forms of activism and confines himself to lecturing. He is nothing if not controversial and pulls no punches in his lectures and interviews.

Whatever you think of him, there can be absolutely no doubt of his charisma and power as a public speaker.

Judge for yourself: you want to know what all the fuss is about? You will not regret spending a little time watching that famous video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_K36Zu0pA4U


318px-PP1010410 Urcomunicacion Wikimedia Commons

Gary Francione (or to give him his full title, Distinguished Professor of Law & Nicholas eB Katzenbach Scholar of Law & Philosophy at RutgersSchoolofLaw, Newark) was born in May 1954. There is little personal biographical information to be found about the man on the web. He simply allows his lectures and writings to speak for him. But we do know he was educated in Virginia, and after graduation won a scholarship to study his field, philosophy, in England. After practising as a lawyer, he joined the Law School at the University of Pennsylvania, and was the first person to teach #animalrightstheory as part of a jurisprudence course.

If this all sounds a little staid and dull in comparison with the other Gary’s colourful life, let’s spice it up a bit. A 2012 article in Believer magazine described Gary F as,

“without doubt, the most controversial figure in the modern animal rights movement.”

His 1996 book, ‘Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement’ infuriated and alienated the animal rights community on all sides – quite an achievement! What Gary F calls, “The Abolitionist Approach” was the cause of the furore. The Believer mag again:

“He maintains [in the book] that we cannot morally justify using animals as human resources, and that we should abolish animal use. He opposes efforts to reform or regulate animal use, arguing that they will necessarily provide limited protection to animal interests, because of the status of animals as property. He has come out strongly against promoting humane farming, vegetarianism, Proposition 2 in California, the Humane Society of the United States, the boycott of the NFL for allowing Michael Vick* on the field, and even PETA’s sexy ads about fur, meat, and other animal uses. In short, Francione rejects nearly all of the campaigns promoted by the large animal protection organisations” – 

because he is opposed to all such single-issue campaigns. In his approach there is only one real basic issue, the issue of the status of animals.

He also makes the case (very convincingly in my opinion) that animal rights and human rights, civil rights, feminism, anti-racism, gay rights and gender equality are all related, all in the mix together and all on a par.

He has written half a dozen books on AR, as well as many papers, which have been translated into several languages. He is still teaching courses in animal rights theory, as well as in animals and the law, human rights, animal rights, criminal law, criminal procedure, and legal philosophy.

*(Vick was indicted & jailed for bankrolling a dogfighting ring and drowning, hanging and electrocuting underperforming dogs. Francione was vilified for pointing out that there is some self-righteousness and inconsistency in the public reaction to Vick. The very same people who condemned the man would be standing round barbecues with their friends grilling steaks, or going out hunting.)


In Part 2 about our AR champions, I want to explore the unbridgeable chasm between them – and whose side I am on – and why!

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