Brief review of “Eat Like You Care” by Gary Francione.
I’ve had the sincere privilege of reading a great number of works by a host of intelligent, passionate authors who have, in many cases, dedicated their lives to being a voice for the voiceless and creating a more peaceful, compassionate world. I wish to begin by stating that while many of these books have shaped my thinking about the larger picture of veganism and how to become a more effective advocate for animals, I’ve come to realize that “Eat Like You Care”, Gary Francione’s and Anna Charlton’s newest work, is certainly in the running for being the most effective, rational, and powerful argument for veganism that I have ever come across. The book itself is not terribly long, only a little over one hundred pages. It begins with a few disclaimers: the authors do not attempt to present a case for the defense of animals rights, and they do not seek to persuade the reader that animals and humans have equal moral value. These statements help to put the non-vegan audience at ease, for many books have proposed the aforementioned ideas and fought for them, but this book does not seek to recover those ideas. Francione and Charlton seek to help the reader understand that we must commit ourselves to a compassionate vegan lifestyle due to a belief in two ideas that the vast majority of us already accept. The ideas are as follows:
1. “We have a moral obligation not to impose unnecessary suffering on animals”.
For the purposes of this concept, Francione proposes that we can agree on the idea that we have no true need to cause pain and suffering on animals for our entertainment or our enjoyment.
2. “Although animals matter morally, humans matter more”.
The authors do not take a great deal of time to unpack this statement, owing to the fact that this idea has already been explored in many previous works, and since most people already agree with it, it’s acceptable to continue from this point. If we were to find ourselves in a terrible life-and-death sort of situation in which we could either save a human or an animal, most of us would opt to save the human, and Francione has no qualms about this. But during the 99.99% of our lives, we never encounter these types of situations, and therefore we cannot justify an unnecessary allowance of suffering and cruelty towards a sentient being.
If we accept the notion that truth is not relative, that is has to have some sort of foundation to it, then we are left with a very black and white understanding to the aforementioned statements: either is it morally acceptable to be cruel and to cause suffering to sentient beings, or it is morally unacceptable, and therefore we must become ethical vegans. It is logically fallacious to believe that both positions can be morally acceptable. This notion that we love and care for certain animals yet condemn others to horrific lives of unimaginable cruelty is so terribly archaic that it must quickly be dismissed to the dustbin of outdated views, along with sexism and racism. If we consider ourselves to be rational being, capable of kindness, mercy, and compassion, and filled with the wonder of the natural world spread before us, we must go vegan. If we wish to leave behind a more peaceable, healthy planet to our children and grandchildren, we must go vegan. If we wish to find an end to the nightmarish levels of violence perpetrated against all living beings, human and non-human, we must go vegan.
I would highly encourage both non-vegans and vegans alike to pick up a few copies of the book to read and to share with friends and family. Veganism is only radical so far as the notions of comprehensive compassion, mercy and kindness are “extreme”. We exist within a world that tells us that abuse, exploitation, and cruelty are acceptable norms. Deep down, we know this unacceptable and horrific, much as many activists before our time knew that slavery was wrong, that sexism was wrong, and a host of other “norms” we one held as perfectly tolerable. As activists, we must remember to always teach creative, non-violent vegan education to as many as we can. In doing so, we free ourselves from the bonds of a culture that glorifies oppression, and arrive at a deep inner peace that can only be found when compassion is practiced as a daily expression of love and kindness.