Although I have many urgent things to attend to, I feel the need to reply right away to Francione's erroneous replies to Ms. Newkirk. Francione was not satisfied with the letter he wrote to The Guardian’s online comments on Ms. Newkirk’s opinion piece (see my last blog entry). He reproduces a quote Ms. Newkirk cites from Singer, essentially saying that the animals would prefer to live not constantly crammed in, in chronic pain from hormone-driven growth that makes fat birds with horribly weak skeletons, and that birds would prefer not to be conscious when being scalded alive for feather removal. Singer ends his passage stating: “The answers should be clear.” Ironically, Francione adopts the latter phrase for the title of his latest blog entry for January 23, 2010 with his further reply to Ms. Newkirk.
I will faithfully report what Francione says, and then show that he still has not argued his way out of his troubles:
Would you prefer to get an ice cream cone before you were molested? Would you prefer not to be tortured before you were murdered? Would you prefer to be tortured for 15 minutes rather than 20 minutes before you were murdered? Would you prefer not to be beaten before you were raped? Would you prefer to be water boarded on a padded board rather than an unpadded board?
The answers should be clear.
The argument seems to be the following:
- It is preferable not to be beaten before being raped.
- However, we should call for an end to rape regardless of whether or not there is beating because we can simply ban the practice and because that is morally right.
- Analogously, it is preferable for chickens not to be scalded alive before being slaughtered.
- However, we should call for an end to chicken slaughter regardless of whether or not there is scalding of conscious chickens because we can simply ban the practice and because that is morally right.
Let us now critically assess this argument. As for 1., everyone agrees it is wrong to rape and all animal rights people agree it is wrong for chickens to be routinely slaughtered for food. Furthermore, everyone agrees with 2. that we should call for a ban on rape simply, not for a law to make it more “humane.” It is indeed possible to get such a ban: what is actual is always possible.
However, things start to go wrong with Francione in 3., because he assumes that calling for laws affecting humans and nonhumans are analogous. Let it be clear that Ms. Newkirk, myself, and our allies call for laws to end chicken slaughter as soon as possible. It is impossible to do better than that. Should it be argued that although we call for an end to chicken slaughter A.S.A.P., banning the conscious of scalding of chickens will delay the passing of animal rights laws? I addressed this last blog entry: briefly, we morally cannot keep having the chickens scalded for our own propaganda purposes, and it would be counterproductive anyway since a cruel culture is less conducive to animal rights than a kinder culture. So the animal rights pragmatists not only call for an end to “rape” (and what it is compared to), but we are more likely to win the ban sooner. Unless of course cruelty conduces towards animal rights.
Furthermore, 3. assumes that we should call simply for a ban of rape and chicken slaughter because we can ban the practice. Animal rights pragmatists agree that is true for the long-term. That is why we call for the ban no less strongly than these other abolitionists. However, in the foreseeable short-term, we absolutely cannot ban the practice. Calling for an end to speciesist practices does not result in a ban anytime soon in the way that calling for laws against rape because of nonviolence among other factors would win—in fact we know that battle is already won. So straightforwardly, Francione poses a false analogy. If we cannot change the fact of chicken slaughter for the time being, unlike rape, we should make the best of the situation for the animals and this Francione fails to do. As Singer says, this should be clear.
- It is preferable not to be beaten before being raped.
- Francione writes:
Of course it is better to do less harm than more harm. But that begs the fundamental question as to whether we can justify imposing the harm in the first place. If rape is wrong, we should not have campaigns for “humane” rape. The same analysis applies to pedophilia, torture, murder, etc.
Again, all animal rights parties agree rape and chicken slaughter is morally wrong and that we should campaign thusly. Just the fact that it is morally wrong does not logically entail that we should not advocate slaughter that is better for chickens if we use the best criterion of morality: what is best for animals at any given point in time? It is best they not be slaughtered at all, hence the long-term demand. For now, what is really best, or the best reality permits, includes not allowing scalding horrifyingly wakeful birds.
- Francione writes:
The thing that Newkirk does not bother to mention about Singer is that he does not think that eating animals or animal products is inherently problematic. Indeed, Singer has said repeatedly that because most animals do not have an interest in their lives, the problem is not that we use but how we use them. Singer thinks that being an omnivore is morally acceptable if you take care to eat animal flesh and products from animals who have been “humanely” raised and slaughtered. I have discussed this issue at length in my books (particularly Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation and my forthcoming book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, to be published by Columbia University Press in April 2010) but you can read some essays on this subject here (See 1, 2, 3, 4).
Newkirk, whose organization, according to Newsweek Magazine, kills approximately 85% of the animals it rescues, appears to agree that death is not per se a harm for animals. So for Singer and Newkirk, the issue is treatment, not use. But that is a fundamentally different way of analyzing the problem than what we would do were humans involved. And I would maintain that what accounts for the difference is nothing more than speciesism.
Francione routinely and in dozens of places misinterprets Singer. He gets Singer utterly wrong on this point, and there is no evidence that PETA agrees with these statements that are falsely ascribed to Singer. I have known this for a long time but I will prove what Singer actually says in my next blog entry since I think this urgently needs to be aired on this occasion for debate. Singer could have done this himself, but for whatever reason(s) has not.
Most of us claim to believe that it is morally wrong to inflict “unnecessary” suffering and death on animals. Whatever else “necessity” means, it must mean that we cannot justify inflicting suffering and death on animals for reasons of pleasure, amusement, or convenience. That we believe this was demonstrated in a compelling way in the outcry over Michael Vick’s dogfighting situation.
I agree an animal rights understanding of “unnecessary suffering” forbids using animals as we do. However, Francione, reflecting his seeming inability to admit that he is wrong, does not acknowledge that speciesists have a different sense of “unnecessary suffering” that does not logically imply anything other than speciesism. See my blog entry (3) for July 28, 2007 where I totally nail down this logical point.
So why don’t we re-conceptualize the question and ask: is it better to torture sentient beings a tiny bit less or to eat foods that do not involve any suffering or death and that are better for our bodies and the planet?
Torture them a tiny bit less? He will seemingly never cease to rely on distortion. Would it be a “tiny” matter even in his life if someone aggressively and violently hooked him upside down by the feet and then ran him fully conscious through a tank of boiling-hot water to “de-hair” him? Would it be a “tiny” indignity for him to be force to live crammed shoulder-to-shoulder all his life, never to move freely or even relieve himself with dignity? Would it be puny and insignificant for him to be fed growth hormones to grow obese with only a tiny junior skeleton to support all that weight, resulting in constant agony? Unpleasant things of tiny significance happen to us each day. Is Francione saying he undergoes equivalent sorts of experiences as those listed above ordinarily? These treatments amount to hugely more significant torture for the animals and would also be terrifically significant for Francione or any other human who went through analogous suffering. As for these animals’ sufferings to Francione, they are explicitly of “tiny” significance. Frankly, that is disgusting because atrocious. Perhaps it is even a speciesist estimation since we would never so call comparable treatments of humans.
In any case, it is a further indication of just how out-of-touch with reality Francione is with regard to the significance of "welfarist" reforms that he thinks of it solely in terms of eliminating tortures in whatever degrees. In Sweden, pigs by law have plenty of room (including greater stall space), straw bedding, time outdoors, and toys for mental stimulation. These enhancements (which are also hugely significant to animals, by the way, even as is basic quality of life for humans) promote positive well-being, not anything to do with "torture." The absence of these measures is not especially torturous, but it is that much worse for animals.
Does Newkirk really think that the slaughter of 56 billion animals per year (not counting fish) is an occasion for evoking a “smile”?
It is likewise obscene to portray Ms. Newkirk as smiling at animal suffering and death when she had thousands of times more effect than Francione in mitigating these factors. As for her celebrating her hard-won progress for animals? Let her. She deserves that. But to say she smiles at all of speciesism? Revolting.
The answer should be clear.
Yes, and it should not be distorted by false analogies, misinterpretations of prominent scholars, equivocation on the meaning of “unnecessary suffering,” and obscene distortions that the insults of factory farming, etc. are “tiny” and that Ms. Newkirk smiles at animal slaughter and encourages the same in others.
Other false points Francione makes are repetitive, e.g., that welfare laws only make animal exploitation more profitable (but see my last blog entry). Whenever he argues something, even before reading it, by now I always ask myself, "So what's he done wrong this time?" And I always find it. That is mainly because for some reason, he seems to have trouble learning to correct his mistakes. As a result, these errors endlessly repeat like broken records in his thoughts and writings.
FURTHER READING ON ANIMAL RIGHTS INCREMENTALISM
A Selection of Related Articles
Sztybel, David. "Animal Rights Law: Fundamentalism versus Pragmatism". Journal for Critical Animal Studies 5 (1) (2007): 1-37.
Short version of "Animal Rights Law".
Sztybel, David. "Incrementalist Animal Law: Welcome to the Real World".
Sztybel, David. "Sztybelian Pragmatism versus Francionist Pseudo-Pragmatism".
A Selection of Related Blog Entries