Friends of Animals vs. The New York Theosophical Society

Friends of Animals sent out a press release on January 3 complaining about an a couple of events to be held at the New York Theosophical Society in January.

According to the press release, the first event on Jan. 5 would feature the New York Companion Bird Club and a raffle of prizes from Grey Feather Toy Creations, which apparently makes toys and accessories for birds. The worst part, however, is that,

The raffling of a “bird gym” will fund the transportation of a bigger cage for a nursing home-based cockatoo. . . .

Overall, the planned Bird Day event is a promotion of cages, not freedom. . . .

On January 14, the Society is featuring speaker Larry D.D. Clifford exhibiting a macaw. Friends of Animals is upset since in addition to holding captive birds, Clifford trains animals for Sea World and for other animal-related shows, including television work.

Friends of Animals’ legal director Lee Hall tries to appeal to the Theosophical Society’s history, saying in the press release,

The Theosophical Society’s mission is to cultivate the spiritual growth of humanity. A pioneer in its history was the acclaimed vegetarian doctor Anna Kingsford, who spoke of the inherent value of animals other than ourselves. To offer a venue for patently exploitive promotions is to flout the Society’s best traditions.

Now Hall could have cited Theosophical Society founder Madam Blavatsky, but Blavatsky was a meat eater, so best ignore her. But what about Kingsford?

Kingsford was a 19th century vegetarian and a prominent anti-vivisectionist as well. And she would certainly have been right at home in today’s animal rights movement. She claimed to have mystical visions in which she was visited by angels, traveled through time, and was given prophetic revelations such as this.

As for Kingsford’s vegetarianism, she had an interesting — but solidly Victorian England — defense of vegetarianism. To Kingsford, the problem with eating meat was that it debased human beings to the level of mere animals,

The modern advocates of flesh-eating and vivisection, on the contrary, would reverse the sentiment of the lines just quoted, and would have us

“Move down, returning to the beast,
And letting heart and conscience die”,

making thereby the practice of the lowest in the scale of Nature the rule of the highest, and abasing the moral standard of mankind to the level of the habits of the most dangerous or noxious orders of brutes.

. . .

But the disciple of Buddha and of Pythagoras, the preacher of the Pure Life and of the Perfect Way, cries to humanity, “Be men, not in mere physical form only – for form is worth nothing – but in spirit, by virtue of those qualities which exalt you above tigers, swine or jackals!. . .”


May Birds Know A World Without Cages. Press Release, Friends of Animals, January 3, 2006.

Worst. Dunayer. Review. Ever.

So this web site may have seemed like it should have been called JoanDunayer.Net lately, but I’m still a long way from finished writing about Dunayer. On the other hand, Friends of Animals’ Lee Hall probably should have refrained from writing about Dunayer’s book Speciesism at all if he had nothing more to say than his horrible review, “Raising the Bar.”

Hall has a completely different — and stupid — take on Dunayer’s view of animals as person. Hall for some reason think that Dunayer’s book is somehow relevant to legal precedents which treat corporations as persons under certain circumstances.

Hall writes,

Consider this: Corporations according to our modern law, are legal persons. They are born, die, and have emergencies as well — often. When a conflict arises between the survival of a corporation and the survival of a sentient individual, should a corporation, which is essentially a collection of humans who get together in search of profits, automatically have the right to bolsters its own viability at the expense of a feeling, breathing individual’s life?

Without a continual stream of profit, a corporation might fail in its duty to shareholders, and be unable to sustain itself over time. A business may well claim its survival is at stake in a given transaction, for property owners’ interests are deemed, and will continue to be deemed, immense stakes. After all, wars are fought over them. If a company’s a person, money is personal survival and that trumps the very life of any animal who isn’t a legal person. An oil company’s profit will frequently prevail over entire communities of wolves, seals, birds, and others. With corporations now considered legal persons, every nonhuman animal is endangered.

Advocates for animal right will, at some point in the very near future, need to grapple directly with the new realities of corporate personhood as well as conflicts related to our rising population. Regarding the latter, as land is taken up for a burgeoning human community, nonhumans tend to be moved, killed, or otherwise controlled.

Joan Dunayer’s proposal would fashion a legal obstacle to this patterns, as freed nonhuman would be seen as owners of their eggs, milk, honey, pearls, nests, and hives. And they would have a claim to the natural habitats in which they live, so that emancipation from property status could be effectively enjoyed.

Okay, let me start by making a confession — in large measure I have no idea what the hell Hall is talking about. His review at times reads like Philip K. Dick’s Valis trilogy. But lets see what we can tease out.

If I’m not mistaken, In the last two paragraphs above, Hall is asserting that if Dunayer is correct than animals might have property interests not only in their natural products, such as eggs, but in their natural habitats. This would seem to follow from Dunayer’s views. I have a tree in my backyard that birds use to nest. If the birds are really persons, they would seem to have a much better property interest claim in the tree than I do.

A couple years ago, bees began nesting in an area near my home. We killed the bees because and destroyed their nest because we have children in the neighborhood who allergic. Was that self-defense or mass murder?

Hall’s claims about the limited personhood of corporations made no sense. First, treating corporations as persons is very old, going back to the 19th century in the case of the United States. Second, it is eminently sensible and obvious since a corporations is simply a device for human beings to carry out collective action and should have the same general sort of rights and obligations as a person.

For example, the New York Times is a corporation that happens to publish a newspaper? Should the New York Times have the same rights to free speech as individual persons do? Should the government be able to limit what the New York Times publishes because it is, after all, just a corporation rather than a real, flesh and blood person?

To us another example, Friends of Animals is incorporated. Should it have the same rights as a living person would have to organize protests and disseminate its animal rights views?

Of course it should. To not treat corporations and other collective instruments of human activity as persons would pretty much prevent any sort of collective or cooperative action by human beings.

Hall doesn’t seem to make any substantive claims about corporate personhood — lame ranting about “money is personal survival” is simply that.


Raising the Bar. Lee Hall, January 12, 2005.

Lee Hall Blasts PETA Over Iraqi Fur Stunt

Friends of Animals’ legal director Lee Hall was back to his favorite sport this month — bashing People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals.

In an essay titled “People for the Exploitative Treatment of Arabs?” Hall rips into PETA and Ingrid Newkirk over a recent stunt in which PETA was to give a donated mink coat to an Iraqi. In January PETA issued a press releasing saying,

Every year, PETA gives away hundreds of donated fur coats to the needy and homeless across North America. KennedyÂ’s coats will be part of a special shipment that PETA is sending to war-torn Iraq, where many residents of hard-hit towns are facing a cold winter without electricity.

Hall first writes about his displeasure with previous PETA stunts wherein the group gives donated furs to homeless people. He mentions a 2002 campaign in which PETA gave fur coats to homeless people in Great Britain,

PETA pushed the
stunt despite strenuous public objection from British anti-fur campaigners
as well.  Activists who had spent many weeks in delicate negotiations to
establish a fur-free policy in a Liverpool hospice charity watched their
work unravel in the midst of the PETA campaign.

Another group stated:

It gives the
impression that homeless people are a class that can be used as pawns in an
American groupÂ’s cause, and that they have no right to have a moral choice
on the fur issue. The marking of the coats with paint to identify them as
give-aways has the more sinister effect of identifying the wearers as

PETA also
supervises the distribution of furs to homeless people in urban areas of the
U.S., through a scheme bizarrely named the Fur Soup
Kitchen. When the idea first hatched, numerous concerned activists,
including long-time anti-fur campaigner Priscilla Feral of Connecticut-based
Friends of Animals, asked PETA to drop the tactic.  But PETA president
Ingrid Newkirk waved the critics off, telling them to “go to work, real
work!” Newkirk further wrote:

When the homeless
are wearing fur, you know fur has hit rock bottom. It is no longer
fashionable, chic or desirable. People with money and style can choose, and
they donÂ’t choose fur because nothing beats synthetics for warmth as borne
out by Polar and Everest expeditions. Perhaps the only people left who can
justify wearing  fur are those so down-and-out that they cannot choose.

So now we see that
“the down-and-out” would have been better off with synthetics, but Newkirk
did not try to obtain such garments.  Instead, Newkirk used these people
to make a point:  to associate fur with the “rock bottom.” Rather than
offer respectful assistance to the poor, Newkirk subverted their dignity to
PETAÂ’s single-minded end.

Hall then turns to the furs-for-Iraq stunt writing,

And now Newkirk
would have us take up a collection of mink coats for the Iraqis.

With Iraqis reduced to wearing PETAÂ’s fur, in
the world according to Newkirk, it is clear that these people have hit rock
bottom. Never mind that through years of sanctions and finally by invading
their land, we were the ones who put them there. Never mind that PETA
apparently supported that invasion by regularly trotting out a staffer
identified as a U.S. Marine throughout the siege of Iraq. Never mind that
Norfolk-based PETA gave the troops calendars with pictures of
scantily-clad women along with packets of “Treats for the Troops.” Never
mind that PETA distributed posters of PlayboyÂ’s Kimberly Hefner in an
unbuttoned Uncle Sam outfit through “Stars and Stripes,” the U.S. military
newspaper given to the people ordered to invade Iraq.

. . .

>The news report on
the furs-to-Iraqis scheme said little about motives, other than to describe
the Iraqis as “needy.” But it is all equally revolting, whether itÂ’s about
PETA using the occupation to display goodly-hearted sentiments about the
Iraqi people — after sending some of the enemies of those same people over
with boxes of sweets — or whether itÂ’s just about using Iraqis as their
latest image of the “rock bottom.” One of PETAÂ’s slogans is “IÂ’d rather be
caught dead than wear fur.” However we look at it, that doesnÂ’t say much for
PETAÂ’s view of the people of Iraq.

Too bad for the animal rights movement (and good for the rest of us) that Hall’s views about PETA’s stunts seem to be in the minority.


People for the Exploitative Treatment of Arabs? Lee Hall, Dissident Voice, May 6, 2004.

Revulsion at AnimalsÂ’ Being Killed for Their Skins Spurs Gift to Be Used in Compassion Campaign. Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, January 9, 2004.

Gary Francione and Lee Hall Write Scathing Attack on the Animal Rights Movement

Rutgers law professor Gary Francione and Fund for Animals legal director Lee Hall wrote a scathing critique of the animal rights movement for the San Francisco Chronicle. The op-ed defended Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders who recently criticized a California proposal for a “humane education” curriculum in schools.

Francione and Hall raise some points which this author fully agrees with, but in general they disapprove of the mainstream of the animal rights movement because they do not think it is radicalized enough. In Francione and Hall’s view, a group like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is composed of a bunch of sellouts who are little better than cattle ranchers.

Francione and Hall agree with and expand on Saunders’ criticism that the animal rights movement tends to be inconsistent. They note, for example, how quickly people rushed to defend Peter Singer’s qualified defense of sex between humans and non-human animals. Francione and Hall write,

Remarkably, a large number of prominent animal advocates rushed to defend singer. Those advocates who did criticize Singer found themselves reprimanded for “divisive” conduct. Such a response befits a cult, not a social movement.

Francione and Hall also agree with Saunders that Singer does openly advocate infanticide — as is obvious to anyone who reads his writings on the topic — and express contempt at those in the animal rights movement who label as “animal enemies” (their term) those who criticize Singer for this and other absurd positions.

But it is their wholesale attack on the humane education proposals that show Francione and Hall’s true perspective — they consider any attempt at improving animal welfare to be collaborating with the enemy that ultimately undermines the entire movement. Francione and Hall write,

Saunders correctly perceives the meaninglessness of such [humane education] legislation. Who disagrees with the position that we ought to be “kind” to animals? The problem is that as long as animals are our property, as long as we can buy them, sell them, kill them and eat them, it does not matter whether we call ourselves “guardians” or how much we ramble about “humane” treatment. In reality, we are still their masters and they are our slaves.

. . .

It is our view that animals should not be brought under the control of human owners in the first place and, therefore, that humans should stop producing domestic animals for human use.

With Francione and Hall, the problem then is not that procedures for slaughtering cattle is inhumane, but rather that animal rights activists seem to accept things like human beings having pets or abominable practices such as the provision of guide dogs for the blind.

Rather than advocate for humane treatment of non-human animals, Francione and Hall argue for essentially a complete separation and end all contact between humans and animals (except, perhaps, where humans are simply unnoticed observers).


A deeply confused animal rights movement. Gary L. Francione and Lee Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, August 21, 2002.

Friends of Animals Goes Ballistic

Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, went ballistic over the past couple weeks releasing two open letters on a popular animal rights news list that ended up getting her banned temporarily from the list. Both letters featured Feral charging that other animal rights groups were not abolitionist enough for her taste.

On June 26, 2001, Feral and Great Ape Standing & Personhood co-founder Lee Hall unleashed an letter ripping into In Defense of Animals over a National Institutes of Health contract for taking care of chimpanzees. The IDA put out a press release saying they were disappointed that the NIH had awarded the contract to a company that breeds animals for medical research purposes.

Feral and Hall in turn attack IDA for its implicit concession that it is okay to keep some chimpanzees in captivity. For example, consider this paragraph from Feral and Hall,

Your Release quotes Representative James Greenwood’s statement that the NIH “already has more chimpanzees than necessary.” IDA’s use of this reason to oppose the contract ignores the reality that Chimpanzees should not be owned by exploiters — “necessary or not. The very fact that the law considers research on Chimpanzees “necessary” both justifies and codifies the human right to torture non-human great apes.

In a follow-up press release dated July 3, 2001, Friends of Animals slammed People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals without naming the group specifically. According to FOA’s press release,

During the last several months, one group professing to advocate
animal rights activism — has been promoting McDonald’s. Now this organization is giving the nod to Burger King’s new endorsement of “humane standards” for animal slaughter [a clear reference to PETA]. Not surprisingly, another animal welfare association has jumped on board to laud the fast food establishment’s reform measures. Meanwhile, a coalition of groups is busy advocating a “reform” initiative in Florida to make the farming of pigs more “humane” before they are slaughtered.

Instead of using pressure tactics to force changes in the way animals are slaughtered, FOA is clear that abolition of meat eating is the only acceptable goal,

It is time for all of us who care about animals to accept one clear and simple fact. There is no such thing as humane animal agriculture. The life of a “farmed” animal is hell from the moment of birth to the moment of slaughter. The improvements that are being pushed by such welfare-oriented animal groups will do nothing to prevent animal suffering, or advance the goal of animal rights.

It is a very good day when PETA is attacked for being too soft on animal rights.


Open letter to In Defense of Animals. Priscilla Feral and Lee Hall, June 26, 2001.

Abolition, Not Reform. Priscilla Feral, Press Release, July 3, 2001.