Animal Rights and the Law – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Animal Rights and the Law

Are people who are not vegans morally equivalent to Michael Vick? Gary Francione has argued that those who barbecue are no better than Vick, the NFL quarterback who pled guilty to dogfighting charges in 2007. Francione, the distinguished professor of law and Nicholas deB Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, will present “Animals: Our Moral Schizophrenia” on Thursday, March 31, as the  2011 Foster P. Boswell Distinguished Lecturer in Philosophy.

“Gary Francione’s work in law and philosophy is provocative, and in the spirit of our conception of philosophy, it challenges us all to rethink beliefs and assumptions that we take for granted, such as the meaning of ‘personhood’ and our moral obligations involving other species,” explains Scott Brophy, professor and chair of the philosophy department at HWS.

In the first of his “Six Principles of the Animal Rights Position,” Francione notes, “All sentient beings, humans or nonhuman, have one right: the basic right not to be treated as the property of others.”  

The Winter 2008 issue of Rutgers Magazine described him as a protectionist, noting “he believes killing healthy animals is morally wrong. People should not wear, hunt, eat, breed, or own animals.” In the magazine article, Francione describes it as “morally schizophrenic” that we treat dogs and cats as members of the family while we have “no problem sticking a fork into something that is really no different from my border collie.”

Francione received his B.A. in philosophy from the University of Rochester, where he was awarded the Phi Beta Kappa O’Hearn Scholarship that allowed him to pursue graduate study in philosophy in Great Britain. He received his M.A. in philosophy and his J.D. from the University of Virginia. He was articles editor of the Virginia Law Review. After graduation, Francione clerked for Judge Albert Tate Jr., U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was an associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York City before joining the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1984, where he was tenured in 1987. He joined the Rutgers faculty in 1989.

The first academic to teach animal rights theory in an American law school, Francione has been teaching animal rights and the law for more than 20 years. He and his colleague Adjunct Professor Anna Charlton started and operated the Rutgers Animal Rights Law Clinic from 1990-2000, making Rutgers the first university in the U.S. to have animal rights law as part of the regular academic curriculum, and to award students academic credit not only for classroom work, but also for work on actual cases involving animal issues. Francione and Charlton represented without charge individual animal advocates, animal rights organizations and national and international animal welfare organizations. The two currently teach a course on human rights and animal rights, and a seminar on animal rights theory and the law.

Francione has lectured on animal rights theory throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, including serving as a member of the guest faculty of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows. He is well known throughout the animal protection movement for his criticism of animal welfare law and the property status of nonhuman animals, and for his abolitionist theory of animal rights.

He is the author of numerous books and articles on animal rights theory and animals and the law, including “Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation” (Columbia University Press, 2008); “Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog?” (2000) (foreword by Alan Watson); “Animals, Property, and the Law” (1995) (foreword by William M. Kunstler); “Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement” (1996); and “Vivisection and Dissection in the Classroom: A Guide to Conscientious Objection” (with Anna E. Charlton) (1992). In his most recent book, “The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?” (2010), he debates the abolitionist approach to animal rights with Professor Robert Garner, a leading defender of animal welfare reform. Francione has also written in the areas of copyright, patent law, and law and science. His law review articles on intellectual property have been selected for inclusion in the Intellectual Property Review.

The Foster P. Boswell Distinguished Lecturer in Philosophy is a series that brings important philosophers and public intellectuals to campus to share their ideas with a general audience. Boswell lecture topics are sometimes issues of public policy, and sometimes just philosophically interesting problems. In addition to the public discussion, the Boswell speaker also meets informally with HWS students and faculty.

“I am honored to have been chosen to give the Boswell Lecture,” says Francione. “And I am excited about discussing my ideas and arguments in favor of animal rights with the students and faculty of such a superb liberal arts institution as Hobart and William Smith Colleges.”

Francione’s lecture will take place at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, March 31, in Albright Auditorium.