Gary Francione is something of an elder statesman for the modern animal rights movement. A legal scholar and one of the first abolitionists, he has taught animal rights theory since 1985 and written several books on the subject.
His abolitionist views place him at odds with the more incremental (and more successful) protectionist wing of the animal rights movement, but they also afford him the rare privilege of honesty when it comes to expressing his beliefs. You see, Francione doesn’t view animal rights as a series of goalposts where activists continuously pull on emotionally-charged, low-hanging fruit in order to gradually lull the public into adopting their code of behavior — a foie gras ban here, a ban of circus animals or guardian language there — and as such, there is no need for manipulation and obfuscation on his part. He’s not trying to trick anybody; he’ll let you know exactly where he is coming from, and what his goals are:
If, as a hypothetical matter, we changed the legal status of dogs and cats so that they were no longer property and they had a legal status closer to that of human children, would our continued production of dogs and cats (or other nonhumans) and our keeping of ‘pets’ be morally justified?”
My answer to this purely hypothetical question is “no.” We cannot justify the perpetuation of domestication for the purpose of keeping “pets.”
There it is in a nutshell. Of course, many animal rightists who are against the concept of pet ownership will assuage concerns by supporting the rescue of homeless animals, allowing adherents and uninformed supporters to fund and fuel the agenda while still keeping pets in all but name… but they almost inevitably leave out the part about what happens when all domestic animals are spayed and neutered, when all those homeless, needy pets finally find homes. Fortunately, Gary’s here to fill us in on the end game:
But if there were two dogs left in the universe and it were up to us as to whether they were allowed to breed so that we could continue to live with dogs, and even if we could guarantee that all dogs would have homes as loving as the one that we provide, we would not hesitate for a second to bring the whole institution of “pet” ownership to an end.
Well, it’s definitely quoteworthy — and at least he’s honest! But it’s also not the most effective form of advertising, and case in point as to why the abolitionists have gained so little traction while the incrementalists have succeeded far beyond their earliest goals. After all, it is unusual to find somebody who doesn’t at least love the idea of sharing their home with a pet, even if the responsibilities are another story. To most people, a petless world would simply be inhuman.