Gary Francione: “I don’t believe in vaccinations”

We previously discussed the anti-vaccination stance of a member of the animal rights group “Progress for Science”.  The fact that this individual prefers oregano oil, ginger, garlic, and other herbs over vaccines did not come as a surprise.  We have already noted the strong similarities between the arguments espoused by the anti-vaccination and animal rights groups.  But you may be asking yourself — just how prevalent is the view among animal rights activists? It turns out the position can be traced all the way up to prominent academics, such a Professor Gary Francione:

Yes, you heard right (play it again if in doubt) — Rutgers Law Professor Gary Francione does not believe in vaccinations. He is not alone.  The exuberant applause he receives comes from animal rights supporters in the audience, and you can easily judge there are no shortage of them.

How could this be? You would think that any reasonable person who looks at the data ought to conclude that childhood vaccinations do in fact work and that, without any shred of doubt whatsoever, they save thousands and thousands of human (and animal) lives each year.

Take a look at the incidence of measles and diphtheria over the last decades, for example, and notice how the numbers drop precipitously as vaccines for these illnesses were introduced. You can find similar graphs for many other common diseases.


If Professor Francione had any children he would not vaccinate them.  What about those who have children?  Does he truly understand what would happen if the public were to follow his recommendation?  The data say that millions would die each year.

It is shocking that a respected scholar offers a view that is nothing short of a pubic health hazard. It is mind-boggling that anyone who calls himself compassionate would put the lives of so many children at risk.  What kind of meaningful ethical discussion can one possibly have with those who blatantly reject scientific facts and deny past contributions of the work to human health?

One must also recognize there is something ludicrous about the entire situation.  On one hand, many animal rights activists deny the benefits of animal research.  On the other, they work extremely hard to argue they should be entitled to the benefits of the very same work they oppose.

Thus, we see hear Professor Francione say he does not believe in vaccinations (and other pharmaceuticals?) and but elsewhere he writes —

[…] Those who object to animal use for [animal research], however, have no control as individuals over government regulations or corporate policies concerning animals. To say that they cannot consistently criticize the actions of government or industry while they derive benefits from these actions, over which they have no control, is absurd as a matter of logic. (Francione 1995, 181).

No, it is not absurd. While it is true he may not have control over government actions or policies he does have control over his healthcare and that of his family.  In fact, he exemplified for us how he would exercise that control by not vaccinating his children.

Consider the following analogy. Suppose you are a social activist who forcefully opposes child and forced labor practices.  You discover that a particular US company manufactures its products overseas under deplorable labor conditions. Would you still buy form such a company or boycott its products? Is there any way in which you can say that you morally oppose forced labor but argue you are nevertheless entitled to benefit from the cheap prices the company has to offer? If you were to buy from such a company can you be surprised if someone called you a called a hypocrite?  After all, would be supporting, financing and perpetuating a practice you consider immoral and advocate against.  It makes sense to argue the same applies to animal research.

Many animal rights activists may respond the analogy is not adequate because, in the case of refusing healthcare derived from animal research, the outcome may include death, instead of the more mundane consequence of not purchasing the latest smart phone.  This would be a curious argument coming from those who fail to acknowledge the benefits of the research in the first place. Nevertheless, in objecting in such a way they would be making our case — animal research saves lives.  Herein lies the moral dilemma opponents of research who refuse to confront even when it is their own lives that are saved by the work of biomedical researchers.

To learn more about the role of animal research in advancing human and veterinary medicine, and the threat posed to this progress by the animal rights lobby, follow us on Facebook at:

28 responses to “Gary Francione: “I don’t believe in vaccinations”

  1. If you’ve accepted a claim of which you have no data to verify then the rational thing to do would be to admit and own up to it, not childishly call the person who pointed it out names. Good grief indeed.

  2. Knee jerk, much? So you cannot point me to the data? Also you throw out out an ad hominem. How rational of you. If you reject out of hand my link to the actual data then you are being non scientific, sir. Good day to you. Enjoy your ideology and your hero worship!

  3. What are the sources of your graphs? Like the CDC website, you do not cite one. Should we really just accept these graphs so uncritically?

  4. Vaccines can be made from human cell lines, and indeed are in many cases. So why don’t we make them all of human cell lines? Because its cheaper and well established to use chick embryo cells. We would have to do research to actually make them all from human cells and this costs money. But it could be easily done if we chose to invest the necessary resources. Animal researchers often claim they hold the welfare of animals in high regard and uphold the 3 Rs, but here is a good example of where they do not.

    Are vegans therefore responsible for the deaths of those animals if they use vaccines. I would say it is the pharmaceutical companies and the government who are responsible. Take for comparison buying a laptop that contains rare metals derived from conflict zones or mined by people paid a pittance to risk their lives, as is indeed the case. I do not think I am responsible for the unethical way it was produced, obtaining rare earth metals from conflict zones are not a necessary and intrinsic part of the lap production. We do have an obligation to support change however so I campaign to legislate for ethical manufacturing practices, and if there was an ethical laptop I would buy it in the hope that it would convince other manufacturers to follow suit.

    Similarly, with vaccinations the killing of animals is not a necessary and intrinsic part of the production, it merely happens to be how it is done by the pharmaceutical companies.

  5. This article appears to discredit those in favor of animal rights as “anti-science.” It the article doesn’t achieve this, the comments certainly do. I am a vegan and I subscribe to many of Professor Francione’s theories. However, I certainly don’t agree that people should not vaccinate their children. Many of my colleagues–also vegans, and two of whom are scientists–are of the same mindset. So please, enough generalizing.

    • There is no generalization. The article does not say that all animal activists reject vaccinations and other medications, but that many do… I do believe that any reasonable discussion about the ethics of animal research ought to start by acknowledging past benefits of the work. He clearly cannot bring himself to do that.

    • Vaccines are often made in captive animals or cells derived from sacrificed animals and tested for safety in animals. If you accept vaccination (for you or your children) and oppose the (highly regulated and humane) use of animals in research then you are a hypocrite.

  6. It seems to me that a widespread misconception about the contribution of animal testing to medicine is that it is only about drug safety testing. If you have the idea that it would be possible to skip this step, as you see with cosmetics (“cruelty free” products), then the quoted argument by francione would make sense. An appropriate analogy would be if all food would be transported by companies that use child labor. You wouldn’t have an alternative source, so you would keep using that food, but at the same time advocate for change in practice.
    The reason why this analogy would be flawed is that animal testing is not something that happens along the way when drugs are developed, but it is critical to the development of many drugs and treatments. Without animal testing, we wouldn’t even know how diseases work and what to target when developing a drug.
    You guys know that, but when discussing the ethics of using drugs that were tested on animals,
    I think it is important to emphasize that point.

  7. One of the major issues with the ‘animal rights’ movement, and attempting to have a discussion, is that, for them, it’s an emotional rather than rational issue; they equate animals with humans- or, as is more often the case, value animals more highly than they do humans. You can never overcome emotions like this with logic. It’s an unfortunate truth.
    In response to the vaccination issue, we must not allow children to attend school without vaccination- indeed, I argue that ‘opting out’ in any case is not an option- it’s a public health issue that outweighs the emotional needs of ‘the one’.

  8. Reblogged this on unlikelyactivist and commented:

    It’s a great thing that many anti-science kooks like Gary Francione don’t have children…. If they did, it’s their children who would be paying the price. Of course, their opposition to humane and responsible biomedical research means they want your children to pay the price instead.

  9. I’ve noted that a high prevalence of anti-vaccination attitudes and high levels of support for alternative therapies (the great majority of which are complete bunk) is very common in animal rights circles, and it doesn’t surprise me much.

    On the one hand convincing yourself that vaccines – and other products of scientific and evidenced based medicine – are not beneficial is probably for many a good way to avoid the ethical dilemma you mention above, until of course they are faced with serious acute health problem for which there are no alternatives to scientific medicine (at which point another form of denial takes over).

    On the other hand if your starting point is a disbelief in scientific medicine than you are hardly going to support animal research to develop that medicine.