Woke Animal Rights Means No Animal Rights, Part 2: Wokeabulary

Gary L. Francione
4 min readMay 18, 2021
(Credit: The Babylon Bee)

Part 1 of this essay is here.

Our social discourse is peppered with a great many words that reflect various aspects of woke culture. Let’s consider three that appear frequently in discussions about animal ethics and consider examples from that context.

“Mansplaining”: There is no doubt we live in a patriarchal world that is replete with sexism and misogyny. One (of many) manifestations of this is when men simply ignore the perspectives of women or attempt to tell them what their experiences or thoughts are or should be. Another manifestation of this is that a man and woman can say the exact same thing; what the man says is listened to and is often praised. What the woman says may be completely ignored.

For example, if a woman says that she feels that talking about emotion in addition to reason is an important part of animal ethics, and that we miss out on an important aspect of our relationship with nonhumans by thinking of that relationship only as a matter of rules or principles that ignore the kinship we need to feel to make those rules have meaning, and a man dismisses this and says that emotion is irrelevant and only logic is important, that is properly described as “mansplaining.”

But if a man says that feminists who are not vegan fail to appreciate how we commodify the reproductive processes of female animals and the relationships female animals have with their offspring, this is not “mansplaining.” It is pointing out an inconsistency in the approach to moral issues of the feminist. If a non-vegan feminist disagrees, that person needs to be able to present a non-speciesist/non-anthropocentric distinction between female humans and female nonhumans that would justify the violation of the fundamental interests of nonhumans. To call this “mansplaining” is nothing more than an attempt to shut down discussion by focusing on the speaker and not on the idea being expressed in an effort to avoid addressing the vegan argument.

“Privilege”: We live in a racist and classist society. That is clear to anyone who is paying attention. White people as a general matter, and white people with economic means, enjoy benefits that others do not have. One of a zillion examples: think about the number of white, well-off people who get…

Gary L. Francione

Gary L. Francione is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Law at Rutgers University and Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Lincoln.