This is not reading for enjoyment, but it is nevertheless important in my estimation.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Thursday, March 7, 2013
I used to haunt the World’s Biggest Bookstore in downtown Toronto. One day I was unaccountably drawn to Singer’s book and decided to read it. I took in his lucid reasoning (although now I take issue with a number of his ideas), and his detailing of factory farming and vivisection. I stumbled out of my bedroom and said to my mother something like, "The way they treat these animals in factory-farming is so horrible…" She interrupted me and finished my sentence: "So you want to be a vegetarian? Okay." From then on she cooked such meals. My sister Miriam was already a vegetarian for many years, although she never breathed a word about it to me. My mother and father went vegetarian years later, and she said she was being vegetarian vicariously through her children prior to that time. The death of the family dog brought on my mother’s conversion, and she eventually persuaded my father to follow suit.
Since I left the nest I have learned vegan cooking and offer a modest cookbook on my website with some of my family’s favorite recipes. The truth is I had not yet decided to be a vegetarian, but my mother finished my thought, and for the life of me I could not think of a more appropriate conclusion. Every animal product I learned about was mired in suffering and cruelty. My susequent conversion to veganism shaped my career as a philosophy student and scholar. The best reason to go vegan is for the animals, but the environmental and health reasons only make conditions better for all animals too, if only indirectly. There is an incredible array of reasons for going vegan, and only pathetic few excuses for omnivorism that give up the ghost on close examination. I hope that people will energize such life-giving transformation on an ever-broader scale.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Friday, January 4, 2013
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Introduction: The Unlikelihood of Another Francione-Sztybel Debate
Recently, law graduate Spencer Lo noted how Professor James McWilliams originally offered to debate Professor Gary Francione, but then Dr. McWilliams withdrew. Spencer started floating around the idea online that perhaps Francione should debate me. This was not my idea. I do not even know if Mr. Lo was aware that I was actually engaged in an internet debate that was formally arranged for the Toronto Animal Rights Society (TARS) and that Francione fled (more on this below, including the tough questions I asked before Gary ran away). Francione responded that he was not prepared to take Lo seriously if I was suggested as a debating partner. Now Spencer’s request for a debate was a model of diplomacy:
As for David Sztybel, I have indeed visited his website and on his “Academic” and “General” pages, there are published writings where he interacts with your work. I believe his “Animal Rights Law: Fundamentalism versus Pragmatism” was peer-reviewed, so Sztybel is obviously familiar with your views. My suggestion—and that’s all it is—for a possible, civil debate to take place between you two, particularly on the ‘welfare reform’ issue that divides you and McWilliams, is grounded in the belief that direct scholarly interaction is a good thing. If not Sztybel, then maybe someone else, but it seems to me that Sztybel, with a PhD in analytic philosophy, who has interacted with your work in publications, is a unique candidate for defending the so-called ‘new-welfarist’ [sic - I do not conform with a single one of Francione’s stated criteria for “new welfarists”, and I reject the term as a mere insult] side of the issue. He has done so in several places, including over at AR Zone. Since his arguments have gained in popularity, it may be worthwhile to explain why people shouldn’t buy into them. So my suggestion that you consider engaging him isn’t ‘merely’ because he disagrees with you—no, I’m not that shallow—but because: (1) he apparently understands your work, as evidenced by his publications, both scholarly and nonacademic, (2) his position has gained in popularity, (3) his arguments are clear and rigorous, IMO, and therefore merit attention, and (4) he is a serious philosopher of some repute.
Now perhaps you believe Sztybel’s arguments are very weak and so engagement would be a waste of time, but are they any less rigorous than the ones McWilliams advanced in his Slate article, which is the main publication of his criticizing your approach? Are they any less weak than the other ‘new-welfarists’ you’ve debated? I suspect most people looking forward to your McWilliams-debate were disappointed when he withdrew (as I was), mostly because they were hoping for clarity on a divisive issue, which the debate could have provided. But some debate (many debates) should happen because the issue is important. So I suggest that if not McWilliams, then Sztybel is a plausible choice (though not necessarily the only choice).
As for his plagiarism charge, I have little knowledge of about [sic] that, though I note you said he issued a retraction (presumably with an apology). So perhaps forgiveness is in order. Past misbehavior, if genuinely regretted, should enable people to let bygones be bygones—and more civil dialogue (which is what I’m proposing) would certainly help clear out hostilities, in addition to moving the intellectual issues forward.
I had earlier wondered in my blog, given a certain analysis, if Francione plagiarized Robert Garner’s argument that we can increasingly rule out unnecessary suffering for animals until we get to something approaching animal rights. Please note that I never accused Francione outright of plagiarism but just voiced the question and an argument, and wanted clarification, and rectification if need be. I have since fully retracted that blog entry. I will not have these facts distorted if I can help it. I could say more but I won’t.
Despite his initially offering simply to dismiss Spencer Lo as “not serious” because he suggested me as a debating partner, eventually Francione condescended to explain why he would not debate with me:
I absolutely forgive Sztybel for his accusation [sic - as I noted, I NEVER outright accused him of plagiarism but merely raised the question in a serious way together with an argument] that I plagiarized Robert Garner. David retracted his accusation [sic] and apologized to me and to Professor Garner for what he admitted was his rash, irresponsible, and serious behavior.
I also absolutely forgive Sztybel for his relentless ad hominem attacks on me over the years, including a blog essay in which he claimed that my always wearing black clothing (a fact that is itself false), is an indication that I am a “cult” leader.
Although I do forgive him, I do hope you can understand both that I have no desire to have any contact with him and I am afraid that I can’t regard as serious any suggestion that I do so.
I may disagree with Professor McWilliams but I regard him as a serious intellectual (his work on food history is superb and important) and I am quite sure that if we had the discussion that he had agreed to and from which he has now withdrawn, he would not have focused on the color of my shirts.
Clearly, Francione is suggesting that somehow I am not a “serious intellectual”. I’ve got to admit it is amusing to hear him offer that wholly pretentious assessment of my work. He is one of the most error-prone thinkers I have ever studied, and I am the one - by far - who has done the most to point out his factual errors and illogical leaps. Oh, but he tries to offer a “proof” that I am not to be taken seriously. His ad hominem and “black shirt” comments, which in a bit you will see will provide still more serious grounds for bemusement. You see, we need to examine his claims. A lot of quickly offered claims that Gary makes need to be examined – and rejected due to intellectual inadequacies.
I do believe that in genuine debates there are winners and there are losers. Gary’s fleeing debate with me for the second time does not prove he is a loser, although it is certainly not a winning strategy either. We will contemplate his not taking a possible debate with me seriously in this essay, to see what it really amounts to. It is a very nice opportunity to look back at how I have “interacted” with Gary’s work over the years, to use Spencer’s neat term. I have covered a lot of interesting and important ground since my peer-reviewed essay, Animal Rights Law.
Francione himself, after one of my appearances on AR Zone, tried to show why he thinks my view loses in what I term the incrementalism versus anti-incrementalism debate. His broadside consisted of two straw man arguments – attacking two views I never voiced and never would – and an absurd stance on economics. The two misrepresentations are:
- I supposedly claim that animal welfarist laws will achieve the abolition of animal exploitation, even though I have quite explicitly maintained the exact opposite (Sztybel, 2007, p. 10-11).
- He made the false claim that I reduce animal rights or abolition to “new welfarism”.
You can read the full explanation as to just how he was misrepresenting my views here. At the same time, he claims that I do not understand “economics”. Yet Gary is the one who claims that “legal welfarism” – that is, the phenomenon of animal welfarist laws – just means that animals will be exploited more efficiently. In that blog entry I show, on the contrary, that anti-cruelty laws such as banning factory farming would cost producers big money, since each measure of factory farming is designed to save these “farmers” tons of money. Effective anti-cruelty would cost billions of dollars and better billions of lives. (I elaborate further on this key point below.) So Francione has tried to score debating points against me before. And he lost, as anyone can plainly enough perceive. My own critiques of his work are another matter.
The First Excuse: Allegations of Relentless Ad Hominem Attacks
Now let’s explore his two apparent reasons why he will not debate me again: the claim that I have made ad hominem remarks against him, and that I commented on his “black shirts”. He is known for uttering false charges, such as when he libeled me that I am dishonest on his Abolitionist Approach Forum, saying I tell “outright lies”. Now that is ad hominem, as it was not only false and insulting, but used to urge people not to bother to examine my views.
First of all, what is an ad hominem attack? Wikipedia has a commonplace analysis. It is “an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or unrelated belief of the person supporting it.” I have never engaged in ad hominem attacks against Francione. I dare him to produce even a single example. If he is labouring under a misconception of the very meaning of “ad hominem attack” (a term with which I would expect an academic who does law and philosophy to be familiar), that is his difficulty. Now I have commented in the past about Gary as a person on very rare occasions. But the fallacy is not committed if one makes negative claims about persons based on evidence. That is not insulting. It is not an ad hominem attack if one points out that a politician acts contrary to how he speaks. For a more relevant example, I have said it is egotistical - a vice just like hypocrisy in the politician example - for him to describe his position as “The Abolitionist Approach”, because anyone can prove intellectually that there are many abolitionist approaches.
Now Gary would not like my saying that. But egotism is the only explanation for this self-elevation and diminishing of other positions – supposedly – to non-existence or non-significance. I do not regret telling it like it is. It is not an ad hominem attack because the egotism analysis is not used to dismiss any claims he makes. My proving that there are a variety of abolitionist approaches is my reason for negating his claim that he offers "the" abolitionist approach. The egotism part is merely the only conclusion unbiased observers could perhaps reach as to why Francione champions this false exclusivity. (Misleading people into thinking that his is the only option for “abolition” is another possible motive too though, just as he is seriously trying to mislead people about me and my work.) Egotism is a descriptive term, not an insult. I do not use any ad hominem attacks, never mind “relentless” ones. I only very rarely comment on Gary himself when I think that it is necessary to understand his discourse, as in the above-mentioned case.
Indeed, I wrote a blog paper called “Negativism in Francione, and Avoiding Negativism towards Francione” (Sztybel blog Jul. 23/08), in which I insist on avoiding being negative about Gary, and praise his:
- vegan activism
- being assertive about animal rights
- not wanting justice to be tainted by commercial interests
- trying rationally to justify animal rights using the principle of equal consideration
- using arguments to defeat speciesism
- making pioneering contributions to animal law theory, and on and on.
In spite of Gary’s shortcomings – and they are many and substantial – he should always enjoy a very positive reputation as doing society a favour by staking out an important, pioneering position in a key debate, thus helping democracy to function. By a very long shot, I chiefly focus on arguments, not persons, as will be clear in today’s review. And there is no way even to assess the argument that he offers “the” abolitionist approach other than by saying it is egotistical presumption on his part rather than objective description. I never resort to character assassination as I noted he did with his libel. It was part of his explaining to his Abolitionist Approach followers why they should not take my work seriously, so he was indeed basing a negative claim on a “negative characteristic…of the person” – except it is a falsehood that I tell lies as he suggests. So it is a bit funny that he should talk about ad hominem attacks. I make a virtually inevitable – supposing one dares to speak the truth - and objectively justified negative remark about his person in the sample above, but he is the one who engages in true ad hominem attacks. And for the biggest irony about ad hominem attacks of all, I ask you – gentle reader - to read on until later in this paper.
He also engages in ad hominem attacks quite generally. He insults animal rights people who think that anti-cruelty laws are a good idea as “new welfarists”. He evidently thinks it would be suitably insulting to deny that they are genuine animal rights people, although rights for animals is just what they tirelessly and dearly advocate (see below for a reference to where I show how I do not fulfill even one of his criteria for “new welfarists”). This label is obviously part of his advocating that animal rights people not support anti-cruelty laws, otherwise they supposedly would not be genuine “animal rights” people. He insults all meat-eaters by comparing them to his fictional “Simon the Sadist” – who enjoys blow-torching dogs for fun (Francione, 2000, pp. 4, 9) – and to the psychopathic and cannibalistic mass murderer, Jeffrey Dahmer (Francione blog Apr. 18/07). This attack is offered as part of would-be-persuasive rhetoric, to get people to abandon meat-eating, so they won’t be compared by Gary to vicious psychopaths. Big incentive there.
So much for his first reason for not taking me seriously or debating with me. It is utterly a false charge. His slur that I use ad hominem attacks is just a vicious attack on my reputation. Still, I have said some things about him as a person that I realize are stinging, unpleasant truths such as the egotism charge. And I think that it certainly comes across as a very respectable show of kindness that he is “forgiving” towards such comments, for whatever reasons he may have. People do not need to apologize for voicing unpleasant truths that are part of dealing with violations, such as egotistical aggressiveness in the world, but sometimes those responsible for violations are not mature enough to take negative criticism. And usually he is not as we will find extensively below. So there is something that I value about his “forgiveness” comment, but not in any sense that I have done anything that necessarily requires forgiveness. Perhaps forbearance would be a more accurate term.
The Second Excuse: The Black Shirts
Now to the supposed “proof” of his position that I am not to be taken seriously: the black shirt objection. It refers to an essay comparing Francionism with cults. I never suggested that Francionism is a cult. This is an exaggeration and falsification of my research record just as he did in saying I accused him of plagiarism – I only asked some pointed questions given my analysis. With reference to cults, I conceded that he is an established scholar with many respected, peer-reviewed works out there. I just was considering the observation which many have frequently heard that there is something cult-like about how the Francionists carry on. This has been voiced many times. The only difference is that I set out to consider salient evidence on the question, which still remains a question, because it is tricky to draw black-and-white conclusions on a matter such as this. I do not think the answer is obvious, and we could not be talking about a paradigm example of a cult here, such as the Moonies. We can filter out any cult-comparison analysis and find plenty of fully legitimate activities from the Francionists. That should really be borne in mind here and is another reason why I took the cult essay down in the first place. Regardless of any concerns about “cultiness”, Francionist arguments should be considered in terms of facts and arguments like any other arguments, unlike the Francionists’ treatment of my own arguments.
But what about aspects that can be compared to cults? I was interested to discover that a surprising lot of characteristics of cults may apply to the Francionists. These include:
- Controlling followers’ access to information in an authoritarian manner, such as his censoring people from the Abolitionist Approach forum and his Facebook page if they so much as question his views. It is inconsistent with non-violent discourse to stifle debate and cut people off in this way from a discussion forum.
- Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged and even punished, such as the excommunication of Roger Yates, one time, for “allowing” me to be featured on AR Zone. My dissent, of course, is punished by baseless smear remarks, libel, and many other forms of attack. All of these are inconsistent with non-violence.
- A grandiose sense of self, such as him presuming to call his philosophy "The" Abolitionist Approach. See below where I reference my proof that there are truly many such approaches. It is a violation of discourse and dignity to deny that many others are abolitionists too.
- The leader has a prideful, unteachable spirit, such as his not responding to my critiques even when clear textbook fallacies are pointed out, or his not correcting his misrepresentation of Peter Singer (see below) long after Singer himself confirmed Francione is misrepresenting him. That is obviously far from non-violent.
- Uses buzz words, such as his unique sense of “property status” that means so much more than ownership (resulting in untold conceptual confusion, but that is another matter). Here, I won’t go again into how he violates truth and accuracy with such a buzz-term.
- Using special labels to discount those who disagree, such as “new welfarist”. Again, not in keeping with non-violent discourse. If someone cannot see how this and other examples contravene non-violence, then they need some kind of help which – sorry - I cannot provide here.
- Followers copying the leader in the way he speaks and acts. I have seen people mirror the way he expresses things in many internet forums, for example. It is inconsistent with non-violence for people merely to copy someone else, and not to think for themselves. Mindless following can lead to violations, as indeed it does for the Francionists. This is not just Gary’s fault however. He is not to blame if others choose slavishly to imitate him. But he cultivates conformity by censoring and excommunicating those who do not quite copy him, so he has a hand in this too.
- Emotional abuse, such as comparing speciesists to Simon the Sadist, the psychopathic murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, and also his abuse of me, accusing me of committing “literally insane acts”, and approvingly allowing David Langlois to refer to me in the Abolitionist Approach Forum as acting “like a putz” (linked to in Sztybel blog Dec. 25/11); Gary was in charge of the Forum (now defunct), and allowed this insult to pass without challenge. And he claims to be an advocate of “non-violence”. Right. A report on his followers’ abuse of me on an internet forum is also available. (Sztybel blog Nov. 21/07) That abuse goes beyond just the emotions at times: a very prominent Francionist wrote to various officials at Brock University, apparently trying to get me debarred from teaching there.
- Excessively zealous devotion to a living leader, who is treated as though he possess some kind of “special knowledge”. People follow along with his dogmas even when he changes them up, such as when he ditched much of Rain without Thunder with its quasi-incrementalist strategy. Now instead, he advocates simply abolishing all animal use, and not focusing on animal treatment. (More on this moral obscenity below.) I have seen no shortage of zeal on the part of Francionists. Zeal is inconsistent with non-violence, and means being pushy and aggressive by contrast. (Note that being aggressive is different from being assertive - I deliberately am the latter.)
- Misquotations and statements take out of context from non-cult sources, such as my black shirt comment (please see below), his saying I accused him of plagiarism rather than pointedly raising the issue with an analysis, his two straw man critiques cited above, and his treatment of Singer, defending the misrepresentation even after Singer in effect disconfirmed Francione’s highly erroneous take on Singer’s stance (see below). That is not non-violent.
- Dogma, which is all that his key intuitions boil down to, as I have discussed elsewhere. Perhaps inconsistent with non-violent discourse that respects reasoning: evidence, and logic – or so I will argue on other occasions. I realize that this is a highly controversial point though.
- Ideology over experience, observation, and logic, such as declaring that welfarism only delivers reforms that are profitable to humans, in defiance of the economic theory behind factory farming, and Swedish reforms as a clear counter-example which Francionists perpetually ignore, because their ideology seems to matter to them more than the facts to which they do violence. More on this below.
- Uncompromising stances, such as NEVER engage in single-issue campaigns, even though I have shown in my history paper, “Incrementalist Animal Law”, that exactly such campaigns are what resulted in most of the legal rights for humans once literally or otherwise considered as property in Francione’s country of the United States: blacks, women, and children. This wrongful course of his will only disserve the cause of non-violence in the law.
- Inconsistencies or contradictory messages, such as “non-violence” but censoring and excommunicating questioners or dissenters, resorting to libel and insults against me as I have presented in earlier documentary proofs, and so on. See also my point below about twenty-three hypocritical inconsistencies that I once catalogued in a blog entry entitled, “Francione’s Mighty Boomerang”. (Sztybel blog Jul 15/08). Hypocrisy is inconsistent with non-violence in a way, but I will not try to explain that here.
- Intimidation, such as trying to foist the impression on people that my work is not to be taken “seriously”. That is hardly a “non-violent” move.
- Oversimplifying answers to difficult questions, such as his focus on “use not treatment”. Doing violence to thought and language, although he might well not intend to do so. More on this slogan below.
- Being closed intellectually, not open to new ideas except maybe the leader’s own. It seems to me that he sees himself giving intellectual direction, not taking it from anyone else. Inconsistent with non-violent dialogue and open-mindedly pursuing the truth.
- No objective accountability, such as his refusing to debate me or to respond to my critiques. Again, again, and again.
- The group presenting their own ideas as innovative, even if that is not the case. Consider, for example, his assertion that veganism is a baseline for animal rights. This has been, in effect, maintained by activists for decades. Inconsistent with non-violent discourse which gives due credit to others and does not try personally to “own” great ideas.
- Personal attacks on critics, such as his altogether wrongly calling me dishonest.
These are all intriguing similarities. To deny this critique he could dispute whether these are genuine features of cults, or deny that the practices of Francionism meet the same conditions. I personally think that everyone is helpless to satisfy either burden, or at least that is my honest opinion. Individuals are in every way entitled to their opinions. I acknowledge, however, that there is clearly much room for controversy here. Let me be clear here: I do not think that Francionism is a cult. I rather think that what we are really talking about here is a matter of overlapping style, which in some respects can be fruitfully compared. Similarly, some of the Beatles' songs were influenced by Rhythm and Blues music, as a sometimes-style. But it would be a mistake overall to classify this band as R & B.
Here is my main argument for Francionists not necessarily being cultists. The core of Francionism is that it is the most go-to movement for an important position in animal rights activism and academics. There should be peer-reviewed publications about it, and also debates involving professional thinkers. Don't get me wrong. It is not the best anti-incrementalist thinking has to offer by far, but still the most robust resource for people who agree with it and those who wish critically to reflect on these issues. It offers many resources for people both pro and con incrementalist animal law and activism. That is basically what Francionism is. I still dispatch university students to study Francionist material, which I would never do with, say, Scientology. As for the "culty" difficulty, these features appear concentrated when listed as they are above, but, in my opinion, they do not dominate what Francionism basically is, as I just described.
Here I am defending Francionism against those who would dismiss it as an actual or full-fledged cult. Because I stand up for whatever I see as right. But we could not consider the other side without listing the similarities. Now perhaps in an ideal world, the answers would be absolute or crystal-clear. But then, in an ideal world, Francionism would have none of the above characteristics. Now I had taken down the cult comparison essay many months ago, because – among other concerns - I knew it would cause some people displeasure. I am sorry if I injured your feelings, Gary. That was not at all my intention. (He said above he wants no contact with me so I am content to communicate with him indirectly.) But at the same time – in all frankness - I think that it is a sickness in our culture that there is a widespread wish not to face up to significant, unpleasant truths.
And I am quite balanced in my approach since, as I argued above, Gary should always enjoy a very positive reputation for his important, pioneering work, staking out a key position in animal law and ethics, as I indicated in the above-cited blog post from 2008. That is leagues better, by the way, than his treatment of me: giving me credit for absolutely nothing after he started his smear campaign, and trying to get people to disregard me as “nonserious”, thereby seeking to reduce my repute to zero by dismissing all of my substantial contributions – only some of which are reviewed below - in what can only fairly be interpreted as a dirty smear tactic. That is in keeping with what was documented from the Abolitionist Approach forum, as I have noted (Sztybel blog Dec. 25/11), his libelling me as dishonest, “disturbed,” claiming that: “he…says and does things that are, quite frankly, insane (and I am using that term literally)”; claiming I “misrepresent” his views without any evidence, and that my writing “rambles on in absolute incoherency”. He offers: “You can make up your own mind up about the quality of Sztybel’s analysis and whether Sztybel’s descriptions of my position bears any relationship to reality.” (in spite of my impeccable analysis and references, as in this blog essay). He is out to destroy my reputation with these baselessly negative depictions, whereas I always treat his material fairly, give him credit where it is due (see above), and emphasize that in some respects, anyway, he should always enjoy a positive reputation in the academic and activist communities. In a nutshell, he wishes to depict me as an unscrupulous, literally insane person who can only speak so incoherently that it is doubtful that my commentary “bears any relationship to reality”, whose work “cannot possibly be interpreted as serious remarks”. (Sztybel blog Dec. 25/11)
In any event, I think we should be very seriously concerned if a large and influential group in the animal rights movement manifests modalities comparable to what cults are known to do. Certainly my own approach manifests none of these “culty” characteristics. I also think it is rather worth noticing this publicly, and I am not in all respects sure I did the right thing in taking the essay in question down. Some things need to be said even if people find them unpleasant, especially if they are serious questions of non-violence. Actually, I think the observations that these traits are inconsistent with non-violence – even though these people are putatively basing their approach in non-violence – is far more interesting than any comparisons with cultism. I think it is far more rewarding to focus on individual actions to see if they accord with non-violence rather than trying to determine if Francionism overall has some sort of “cult” status, which as I said I do not think it has. Incidentally, in the original essay, I reference each characteristic of cults with at least one website for each, but I think they are common-sense enough that I do not need to do so. They are common in the literature and so do not need to be cited, especially for a blog essay. Indeed I don’t recall any of these points being cited from anywhere else on the websites I consulted, no doubt just because they are so commonplace and common-sense. If anyone wants a citation for any of the points, however, I can provide them.
So the “black uniform” business was part of this discussion on similarities to cults. Here is the actual quotation Francione is so overwhelmingly misrepresenting:
Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation, cloning the leader; many of his followers sound more or less alike on internet forums, and where they do not, it is because of lack of learning, not lack of intent to emulate the leader; it is interesting that Francione himself always wears black when I have seen him, a kind of uniform or “branding” of his image.
Recall that Francione refers to my essay by supposedly citing:
…his relentless ad hominem attacks on me over the years, including a blog essay in which he claimed that my always wearing black clothing (a fact that is itself false), is an indication that I am a “cult” leader.
The ad hominem business I have already dealt with. As for his “black shirts” move, he is completely inaccurate here. Let’s go through the inaccuracies sproinging out of this tiny statement of his, shall we? It’s amazing really that he can pack so much falsehood into a tiny statement of purported truth:
- First, get your facts straight about facts, Mr. Francione. Facts can’t be false, only allegations of facts.
- Second, and far more importantly as to facts, he falsely reports I claim that he is “always wearing black clothing”, whereas you will recall that I only said that Francione himself “always wears black when I have seen him,…” I never said he always wears black period. So what I said is perfectly accurate, and what he said I said is perfectly inaccurate. I never made the gross overgeneralization that Francione falsely imputes to me, in a distortive smear effort to make me look bad, or to appear as a crank who cannot be taken seriously.
- Third, this is not an ad hominem attack. Recall the meaning of this term. I never said that people should reject any of Francione’s opinions based on a negative personal characteristic that he has, which is exactly the sort of thing that an ad hominem attack would do. I have always treated all of his arguments as worth taking seriously on their own terms. I never urged discarding his thoughts because of this controversial cult business. That road does not go both ways though. He just discards my arguments and would have others dismiss them too, based on putative negative characteristics that I am somehow not a serious thinker among other things. There is a world of difference there. So again, it is ironic that he accuses me of ad hominem attacks.
- The fourth inaccuracy is that there are “relentless” such attacks when in fact there have been none. I can’t cite evidence for this – besides my entire literary output - because you cannot supply evidence for non-existent things. People will need to see for themselves if they wish to be satisfied on this point.
- The fifth inaccuracy is that I never said he runs a cult. The essay left it up to the reader to decide this, and I only said there are similarities, which again seems to me true, based on the examples or evidence that I provide. In today's post I rather deny that Francionism is a cult.
- The sixth inaccuracy or misrepresentation is that he is making it seem as though I was arguing that the black clothing I have witnessed alone indicates he is a cult leader. I see lots of people who wear black clothing, and I don’t think they’re cult leaders. Maybe they are just Johnny Cash fans. No, the similarities to cults listed above are much more serious, and my mentioning my seeing Gary wear black is actually an afterthought to the general point about people copying their leader, as you can see from the relevant quotation provided above. It makes sense in such a context to describe that I have always observed him to wear a black “uniform”, as it were. Francione asserts his own fiction as fact, and I must bear the brunt of his attack.
- The seventh inaccuracy is that he says McWilliams would not have referred to Gary’s shirts in a debate over anti-cruelty laws, with the false implication that I would have. Only if he raised it again.
Here we have a whole complex of elaborate falsehoods that Francione has projected from the dark recesses of his own mind. What I wrote was typically precise and also relevant in considering similarities to cults. Anyone with the same experience would have similarly noticed this “uniform”.
Now let me tell you why I thought the black uniform comment was worth making at the time, and is still remarkable in spite of Gary’s protestations - although we must accept he does not always wear black! I am a Canadian and Gary is an American, but I am sure that I have seen him speak publicly a great deal more than most Americans, and each time he wore his black “uniform”:
- 1992 at an activist/academic animal rights conference at the University of Guelph
- 1993 at a conference at Francione’s home university, Rutgers, in New Jersey, which he co-organized along with his wife, Anna Charlton, and Tom and Nancy Regan
- 1994 I saw him speak at an animal semiotics conference at Victoria College, University of Toronto (my home university where I studied)
- A debate with Alan Herscovici on the Discovery Channel, filmed at York University, also in Toronto in the 1990s
- When he came to Summerfest in the 1990s at a university campus in Providence, Rhode Island
- A U.S. conference in the 1990s. I recall there was a breakout session in a classroom. I cannot exactly recall which conference it was, as I have been to so many. It might have been one of the Washington meetings, that is, before Gary was banned from speaking at them
At all of these events, Gary wore not just a black shirt, but also a black belt, and black pants – and I don’t doubt he chose matching socks for each occasion! Now it would have been odd for someone who observed Gary at least six times, maybe more, who 100% of the time saw him wear the all-black uniform, not to hypothesize that he might be branding a kind of uniform. It would have been really weird to hypothesize otherwise. I gladly accept Francione’s great contribution to discourse here that he wears other colours. But he trivializes the serious issues in this debate by him choosing to focus on the colour of his shirts, as he puts it. And he shows here not only serious misrepresentations but a flair for the irrelevant as well. It is certainly not my significant focus as it is plain to see below. I need to discuss his clothing now only because Gary lit the issue up like a huge sign with flashing lights.
So Gary wants to tell us that he does not always wear black? Fine. Who really cares all that much? If he does not want comments about projecting a uniform image, he should not engage in the practice. If he never wants Francionism to be compared to cult activity, he should stop carrying on in the way that I have exemplified with twenty-one points of comparison from my gatherings concerning both phenomena. Not counting the black uniform observation, since Gary is a man of many colours. Who could be more multi-faced than someone who excels at self-contradiction, as we will see proven below? (But there are other ways in which one can be a person of many colours.) Those twenty-one types of practices I am pretty sure do not cause him any concern, since he is responsible for a lot of it, but some of the rest of us do care about such similarities to cults. Particularly because of the non-violence dimensions at stake here.
Getting Serious about Not Being Serious
In my perception, in most debates there is a winner and a loser. He did not lose the overall debate by fleeing debate with me once again. It was not a very winning strategy though. It’s funny, too, how he used to praise my work as “first-rate” before he started his smear campaign, and took me seriously enough to debate the first time, which he undertook – and then fled. Indeed, he fled it, I suppose, because I became too serious a threat to his sense of domination as an ideologue. He implies I am not a serious intellectual, but in fact he could not deal at all with the two seriously intellectual questions posed to him. I will duly substantiate this below when I reproduce the text that I think really caused him to flee, in spite of his lame excuses.
Now debating him for a second time was not my idea, unlike my first and only debate with Gary, which I arranged personally - with the latter’s erstwhile cooperation - for the TARS list-serve. Rather, it was Spencer’s idea to suggest another debate. I would need to study more of Francione’s works in recent years before I would be ready for such an event. But if Francione were willing, I would prepare accordingly. But no, I think he is not willing to admit that he is intimidated by my arguments – which again I will show below would have been impossible for him to answer convincingly – and also his feelings are hurt because I actually noticed aloud the similarities between Francionism and cultism. I guess that is understandable, which is why I indicated I am sorry I hurt his feelings. And that is part of why I took down the cult essay. I would not have blogged about it again normally. But since he dredged it up to try unfairly to use it against me . . . well, I simply had to respond. Still, although I do not think that warning Gary about these similarities is going to do any good, it remains that the warning may be somewhat useful for members of the animal rights movement and of the general public.
It’s so ironic – and even unintentionally comical - that whenever he or his followers pick out points that are supposed to be damning against me, these arguments actually turn out to be perfectly fine upon inspection. Such as my mention of the black uniform I duly observed. Such as on the Abolitionist Approach Forum when he and his followers took it as proof of my “insane acts” when I wrote “The Red Carpet”, (Sztybel blog Dec. 25/11); a favorite blog essay according to a former Francionist lawyer who was converted by my arguments. Something I demonstrate to contain a logically rigorous and challenging argument in the blog entry just linked to. And of course there are Francione’s three feeble, ignorant “critiques” of my views that amounted to nothing in the end.
Francione says I am not to be taken seriously on many occasions, as I document for example concerning his Abolitionist Approach Forum (see last cite). However, this is not really about me per se. I am a thinking person and a scholar. The issue here is my arguments, not me. Let’s review, in broad outline, my engagement with Francionism over the years, and look at just what Francione is refusing to take seriously.
What Does Francione's Not Taking Me Seriously Really Mean?
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione does not take quite seriously:
1. Non-Violence Theory in Relation to Anti-Cruelty Laws
He claims that animal welfarism is inconsistent with animal rights theory. (We will see how ironic this claim is when we examine below the two tough questions he fled from during the abortive – solely due to his actions - debate with me in the fall of 2006.) He complains that the theory of animal rights is not reflected in the “social phenomenon called the animal rights movement.” (Francione, 1996, p. 2) Yet I – like he – base animal rights in non-violence. I advocate absolute non-violence when that is possible. When violence is inevitable, as it is in the case of ongoing animal exploitation in all its forms, I invoke what I have dubbed the principle of non-violent approximation, which indicates that we should choose the lesser of violence, or the least victimization. (Sztybel blog Aug 20/12) It is consistent with the basis of animal rights – in non-violence theory, at least the one I defend – to claim that pigs on Swedish farms (as I will discuss below) suffer far less violence than the hogs on factory farms. That is just one example. Francione himself grants there may be situations such as burning buildings in which one can only carry to safety one or two persons. In such cases, the rights of all cannot be adhered to in practice and we must choose the least harm. He has never reconciled such necessity with his rejection of animal welfarism though. If I am right, his own stance is therefore inconsistent with a sound theory that includes animal rights. The right to non-violence means every single animal is entitled to non-violent dignity as much as possible. Yet there are billions of animals in factory farms and other settings that Francione’s “abandonitionists” (wish I could recall who coined that fine phrase) would neglect. One day hence, though, completely non-violent treatment should be legally - and not just morally - a matter of right.
In my peer-reviewed article for the Journal for Critical Animal Studies, instead of the principle of non-violent approximation, I invoked dilemma theory. When we cannot see to everyone’s rights, it presents a moral dilemma. I also then advocated choosing what is best for animals. (Sztybel, 2007, pp. 4-6) But the principle of non-violent approximation is more sharply defining of what is required in the dilemma case, and illuminates a bright concern with non-violence throughout all moral situations. Francione agrees there are such dilemmas as he must. But his eyes are afflicted with moral blindness to fail to see how such reasoning applies to legislation concerning animals. It is obvious that we have subideal options in the legislative near-term. It is obvious that we should choose what is best for the animals if they are really what this is all about. I have clearly explained the inevitability of my reasoning in terms of non-violence theory. He has merely dogmatically pronounced what non-violence supposedly requires, attending to “use not treatment”. In failing to take these central concerns of non-violence theory seriously, he is downright negligent.
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione smugly dismisses the distinction between…
2. The Best for Animals: in the Abstract and Actually
In the abstract, what is best for animals is animal rights. Full animal rights. That is what both Francione and I aim for in the legislative long-term. In the laws for the near-term, we cannot realize what is best in the abstract and so must choose the best that is really possible. (Sztybel, 2007, pp. 4-5) It is better for animals to suffer less cruelty and for fewer animals to be killed (see below for this last point in particular). In ignoring this distinction in my work, Francione is being just that in this case: ignorant.
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione treats as though it were of no gravity the problem of:
We need to clarify that seeking ultimately to act for things, such as concepts (e.g., animal rights, abolition, anti-speciesism, and so on), makes no sense. One cannot affect such things for better or worse. One can only affect sentient beings for better or worse. Now one can make a sentient being do better or worse by having an impact on things, so things can be very important. Francione’s stance would make sense if he were ultimately acting for abolition, or animal rights, or anti-speciesism. In that case, we should reject all laws that are inconsistent with these abstractions, quite simply. However, if we act ultimately for sentient beings – as we must if we are not deluded – it is simply not true that insisting on animal rights or nothing is best for animals in the legislative short-term. So he is in a theoretical dilemma: either make sense of his actions through an excessive focus on things, or abandon making such sense of his proposals because they are nonsentientist (focusing ultimately or excessively on things rather than sentient beings). And yet we cannot make sense of his ideas in terms of what is really best for sentient beings. So neither option works and ends in senselessness on his part. We must act ultimately for sentient beings and honestly declare that less cruelty is better for sentient beings. (Sztybel, 2007, pp. 4-5) Not taking acting ultimately for sentient beings seriously is not taking animals seriously, because sentient beings are what animals are – at least the ones we are concerned about for the purposes of law. He is evidently getting lost in abstractions. For he is calling for consistency with the abstract idea of animal rights – recall his quote above lamenting that the social phenomenon of the animal rights movement does not reflect animal rights theory (Francione, 1996, p. 2). However, in trying to bring everything up to the standard of this sort of abstraction, he is plainly not thinking about what is best for the collectivity of individual animals.
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione vainly seeks to pass over…
4. Sweden as Disproof of His Claim That Animal Welfarism Is Ineffective
I have successfully used the example of Sweden abolishing factory farming to disprove much of what Francione states about animal welfare laws. Pigs, for example, get plenty of room, freedom to go outdoors, straw, clean quarters, decent food, toys, and the chance to socialize. That is in contrast to being packed into tiny quarters where they can’t even turn around or socialize; they are always “indoors” (rather a euphemism for the hell of this kind of confinement), with no straw, plenty of filth all around – including in the air – and as well hogs are needlessly subject to diseases in this utterly barren environment, and literally crappy food. They feed the pigs their own shit. This utterly disproves Francione’s statement that “because animals are property, the prohibition of unnecessary suffering is wholly without meaning.” (Francione, 1996, p. 151) Also undone is his pessimistic exaggeration: “The status of animals as property renders meaningless our claim that we reject the status of animals as things.” (Francione, 2000, p. 79) You see, animals are still 100% property in Sweden.
Now Francione defines legal welfarism as that “which comprehends animal welfare as that level of animal care that will efficiently facilitate the exploitation of nonhuman property.” (Francione, 1996, p. 10) For example, animals will be kept alive and “well” enough for slaughter. Francione’s concept of legal welfarism is a clear misnomer, however. And it is important to remember that Gary just made up this concept from out of his own head and into thin air. It is not somehow built into any actual legal system. It is not even a necessary truth in the United States, some democratic elements of which have abolished certain factory farming measures, such as the state of California outlawing foie gras. It was done because of the cruelty of force-feeding ducks and geese through a metal tube in order to produce a fatty liver. The ban was not done to save "producers" money. Such force-feeding was still the cheapest method and the most straightforward and efficient treatment of animals as objects and resources.
This legislation should have been impossible if Gary's "legal welfarism" limited any lawful welfare measures that could emerge. Yet he writes that "...animal interests, because of animals' property status, are necessarily sacrificed in all cases except where the sacrifice is seen to serve only a gratuitous waste of animal resources." (Francione, 1996, p. 139) That is not what this case was about at all though. Rather, there was a defeat of industry, and their logic that Francione falsely decrees is somehow "necessarily" in operation in the United States of America. His comments on the actual bill do not challenge any of my assertions here. (Animal Voices, 2004) Rather his statements predicted the law would not come into effect (in keeping with his "legal welfarism" - the ban started this year, 2012, though), and complained on predictable grounds that advocates of the bill imply that they "approve" of animal exploitation (more on this falsity below), and so forth.
Imagine Governor Schwartzenneger having the sheer nerve to do what Gary said "necessarily"" cannot be done! The "governator" might not take kindly to some law professor from New Jersey saying what the former Mr. Universe necessarily must do or not do. "Ah-noldt" may follow directors and scripts at times, but he need not follow Francione's dark script for legal animal welfare as - necessarily - unrelentingly cruel and exploitive. Much as Gary's theory would "direct" otherwise - that is, misdirect. If only factory farming were just a movie about a possible distopian future. Regardless, Francione seems to regard these disproofs of his assertions as strangely...unimportant. You would not be alone in regarding that as weird. He acts as if, so long as he does not concede that he has been refuted, then he can just go on making discredited claims as ever before. Like a vegan ice-cream salesperson expecting money for passing out imaginary desserts. As though he lives in a fantasy world. As though self-righteousness has the power to confer rightness. And as though pointing to his many shirt-colours magically makes all of the critiques vanish as though they were never there. But now:
Swedish legislators succeeded in passing robust laws, thereby nonsensicalizing his concept of “legal welfarism”. More specifically, the example of Sweden alone disproves his statements that:
- Property cannot have legal relations with owners, and therefore only the owners’ interests will be considered (Francione, 2000, p. 51)
- ”So long as animals are viewed as property, if they have no market value, then they have no value at all,” (Francione, 1996, p. 68) he argues, giving the poignant example that if a veterinarian negligently kills a cherished family “pet”, only the fair market value of the animal can be recovered. (Ibid., p. 129)
- As he says endlessly in talks, a pen cannot have rights against its owner and animals are also property, so animals likewise “cannot” have their interests balanced against owners’ interests.
- There is a presumption that “animal property” owners “look after” animals or they would not be able to rear them for use. (Francione, 2000, p. 66)
- Animal welfare laws are not adjudicated in the animals’ favour, penalties are minor, judgments in favour of animals are typically not enforced, anti-cruelty laws require proving cruel intent (it is almost impossible to prove a mental state) (Francione, 2000, p. 63) and many species of animals are legally exempt from lawful protection. (Ibid., p. 56)
He brushes aside how Sweden has strong animal welfare that debunks all of these generalizations, for animals legally relate to owners, in a way that could not be more serious, with obligations imposed; are valued as sentient beings, respected a lot more than pens; have rights against owners; without the presumption that factory farmers “look after” animals; and this entirety against all of the conceivable failings of animal welfare law that Francione cares to raise.
This is far more than whatever facilitates profits for factory farmers, since these more expensive welfarist measures strip away all the cost-saving factory farming torments:
It is usually thought that there is more money to be made in confining animals by cramming them into minimal indoor spaces (less rent or land costs), in feeding them awful food (which is cheaper), keeping them in filth (rather than paying for cleaning), letting them suffer stifling, toxic air and extremes of hot or cold (rather than pay for adequate regulation of the atmosphere in factory farms, transport vehicles, or slaughter facilities), failing to attend to their medical needs (to offset veterinary costs), and transporting and killing them forcefully and hurriedly (because workers are paid by the hour and meat is sold by the pound). (Sztybel, 2006, p. 28; quoted with minor modifications)This disproves his primary dogma about economics in animal exploitation, since factory farming is the single greatest menace to animals. In ignoring the Sweden refutation, Francione would rather recite his falsehoods than faithfully reflect the facts.
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione would not condescend to dignify:
5. Conduciveness towards Animal Rights Law
He will not deal with my argument that animal welfarism promotes kinder culture, and lack of anti-cruelty legislation promotes cruel culture, and that the former but not the latter is conducive to animal rights laws some day. (Sztybel, 2007, p. 8) Animal rights seems ridiculous and contemptible in a cruel culture, (Ibid.) and this is important because people are very suggestible, and the vast majority – by far - do not base their ethics on impartial moral theory. Lawrence Kohlberg, the moral psychologist, clearly established that only quite a minority of society manifest such “post-conventional” moral thinking. (Kohlberg, 1973) Most people by far are “conventional” or followers. In a kind culture, animal rights will be taken seriously. And people will follow the conventions of their culture – the law above all else. If there are cruel laws, people will follow that.
Francione’s “abandonitionist approach” would leave cruel laws intact, with conventional followers generally mirroring that lead. My approach would have people following kinder laws and associated conventions, thus being apt to take animal rights more seriously. (Sztybel, 2007, pp. 10-11) Francione not taking these points of mine seriously suggests that he is not seriously concerned about a most serious factor in conducing towards animal rights law as soon as possible. Note too that I have said that anti-cruelty laws are conducive towards animal rights laws, not that animal welfarist laws cause animal rights laws. Yet Francione writes: “most [anti-cruelty law advocates] see reformist measures as causally related to abolishing animal exploitation.” (Francione, 1996, pp. 36-37) He has never so much as mentioned my conduciveness thesis – let alone refuted it. And he still attributes the faulty causation thesis to animal welfarists on a routine basis. He even ignorantly goes so far as to criticize me for it, which is merely a straw man argument (arguing against a view one’s opponent does not even hold). Instead of a discourse of knowledge he therefore pursues a discourse of systematic ignoring – or ignorance.
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione complacently ignores:
6. Francionist Complacency about “Complacency”
Although Francione often claims that animal welfare laws would make people too “complacent” about animal use, he always passes over my counter-arguments:
- He seems to be implying that animal “illfare” rather than welfare would keep people “uncomplacent” in effect. But that would mean wishing animals to be treated miserably so as to undermine complacency, or treating animals as a mere means, to use Kant’s phrase. (Sztybel, 2007, p. 20)
- It is worse to be complacent with factory farming - which he is leaving intact legislatively - than to be content to some degree, while discontented in other ways - that Swedish animals enjoy some substantive welfare. (Ibid.) No, killing someone is not a matter of things going “well” for them. But the essential point iterated above remains intact for all that.
- I have shown unequivocally through detailed historical analysis that even all rights progress for humans in the U.S. - for those once more or less considered property (blacks, women, and children) - is quite generally incrementalist. So animals would have to be treated better than these humans for us to skip all incrementalism and get to Francione’s anti-incrementalist affirmation of animal rights for both humans and nonhumans. So we can't skip incrementalism, and we should not talk of doing so in order to avoid "complacency".
- He posts about not treating animals as a means, and yet he protects factory farming from legislative reform, thus "complacently" reinforcing some of the worst means ever devised.
- Animals are also treated as a mere means to abolition by implicitly asking the question: "What use is my helping you –the factory-farmed animal – in achieving abolition? Helping you might result in an attitude that might impede abolition." (The animals are also – as noted above - treated as a mere means to anti-complacency.) (Sztybel blog Oct 8/12)
Related to the complacency worry is the contention that people will consume more animal products if animals are freed from factory farming, thus resulting in more suffering and death. First of all, I show that this worry is superficial, and that in fact we can reasonably project less suffering and death if we advocate macro-incrementalist animal welfare laws. If we cannot avoid incrementalism, best to get it done sooner so that we can move on to animal rights laws sooner – for as I indicate above, kinder culture is more conducive towards animal rights than cruel culture. The term “macro-incrementalist”, which describes my approach, was first introduced in my paper, “Incrementalist Animal Law”, p. 3. It is in sharp contrast to micro-incrementalism, such as not really changing much and giving the impression that animals are treated “better”. Second, less cruel meat is more expensive and that will help to reduce consumption.
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione is prepared to bracket as beside the point:
7. Failing To Use Animals’ Property Status for Their Benefit
We need a much more positive model of legal property status for animals. It will be a long time until speciesism is abolished. As Francione says, animals as property is key to their existing legal status. Now as the example of Sweden unequivocally reveals, that status can have better treatment built-in, as laws define the content of that status through precedent, legal definitions, norms of principle and policy, and so on. The centrality of animal property status does not prove that animals’ interests will never be considered as Francione states. Rather, its centrality shows it needs to be made much more animal-positive - as the Swedes have accomplished contrary to Francionist dogma - long before abolition is a live possibility, including legislatively. (Sztybel blog Feb 11/12)
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione would reduce to ridicule:
8. The Incoherence of His “Use Not Treatment” Dogma
I show that his “abolitionist approach in a nutshell” ideas are all stuff-and-nonsense, merely reaffirming – falsely – that anti-cruelty laws accomplish nothing, continuing the nihilism of his “don’t confuse me with the facts” approach, and also that we should not use animals, even though he himself uses them as subjects for photos on his website, and as items of discussion. He does not seem to realize that non-violent use is not an issue, and rather it is exploitation that is the problem. Additionally, it is utter callousness to carry on the message that only animal use is the issue legislatively, not also treatment. It is speciesist because human treatment - not use per se - is at the heart of laws about unemployment insurance, social welfare, minimum wage, disability pensions, labour laws, retirement pensions, job security, and state-sponsored medical treatment. His approach is supposedly based on non-violence, but it is frankly incoherent not to be concerned with violent treatments. If use is finally abolished but we do not need to legislate that remaining animals be treated well on sanctuaries, we could have Holocaustian treatment of these residents instead. Indeed, use is an aspect of the treatment of others. (Sztybel blog Oct 1/12) Use = instrumental treatment. Francione himself, in Rain without Thunder (1996) wrote on p. 194 that animals have a "claim against instrumental treatment." (my emphasis) But that would be "treatment", would it not? Someone can be treated as a means - or not.
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione feels that after all there is no good reason to consider:
9. The “Unnecessary Suffering” Equivocation
Perhaps his main argument for animal rights on his website is that speciesists say they are opposed to “unnecessary suffering”, and he says they are all hypocrites. Yet humanists say this key phrase to rule out suffering that is not needed in order for them to enjoy their right of freedom as meat-eaters – whilst nonhumans supposedly have no rights, according to humanism. They do not mean “unnecessary suffering” as eliminating all suffering not needed for human survival. So it is rather Francione who is two-faced in his use of the fallacy of equivocation here, leaning on the human survival sense of “necessary” when that is not what humanists even mean. It is not humanists who are necessarily self-contradictory as he suggests. (Sztybel blog Jul 28/07)
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione finds it impossible to entertain as more than entertainment:
10. Disproof of Law-Makers’ Loss of Radicalism
He falsely claims that animal rightists will lose their radicalism if they work with governments. (Francione, 1996, p. 171) Yet PETA still calls for an end to speciesism, veganism, and all the rest of it. (Sztybel, 2007, p. 11)
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione feels contemptuous towards:
11. A More Lucid and Productive Veganism as a Moral Baseline for Animal Rights
Francione affirms veganism as a baseline for animal rights. He is not distinctive in this claim. PETA, myself, and countless others do the same. Unfortunately for him, he states that we should not waste time with organizations that say some forms of animal abuse are worse than others. (Francione blog Apr 9/08) But that means that factory farming is no farther from respect for animals than Sweden’s kinder approaches to animal agriculture. And that is wrong: there is less affirmation of animal interests, and that is indeed the function of rights. To affirm rightful interests. We should be negative about what is negative, but positive about what is positive. Most people become vegan gradually. Encouraging people makes respect for animal interests grow. Condemning them all as being like psychopathic “Simon the Sadist” or Jeffrey Dahmer drives people away. (Sztybel blog Jun 13/08) And it has been proven that the incrementalist approach to veganism is saving hundreds of millions of lives per year – lives which the Francionist approach would unwittingly, in effect, destroy. (Sztybel blog Sep 14/12)
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione deigns to disregard:
12. The False Dilemma of Veganizing versus Legalizing
He states that there is a constant question as to whether we should (a) be doing vegan outreach or (b) seeking legislative reforms. I have proved that this is a false dilemma, and that only utilitarian thinking would allow affirming only the dignity of animals who can be saved via veganism, but not also those whom vegan campaigns structurally cannot reach: the animals still trapped in so-called “agriculture”. (Sztybel blog Oct 3/12)
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione treats as a joke:
13. Attempted Sabotage of the Great Ape Project
Francione used to support the Great Ape Project, but now rejects it because it relies on the “similar minds” approach – rights for animals with similar minds to humans. However, the principle of non-violent approximation applied to this situation yields a different result. First of all, the Great Ape Project never says it is necessary to have a mind like a human to have legal rights, but only that having such a mind is certainly sufficient to have such rights, which is true. Second, not emphasizing great ape rights in any way will result in the genocide – extinction – of these animals, and more violence rather than less in the world. A familiar type of Francionist result from the legislative realm. Third, it is not unethical to ask people to be self-consistent in their beliefs (e.g., "Rational beings deserve rights."), but rather morally uplifts such individuals by delivering them from hypocrisy and lessening their violent impacts. Fourth, great ape rights would establish animal rights in the law – an unbelievably exciting prospect - and get people wondering what animal rights might be next, rather than being negative about animal rights as Francione assumes. No, as I cite in the link below, the Great Ape Project Declaration praises it as a “rational ethic” to have equal respect for all animals’ interests. (Sztybel blog Jun 10/08)
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione trumpets as trivial:
14. Attempted Sabotage of Animal Rights/Animal Welfarist Alliances
Francione’s approach not only harms animals by seeing that they remain in Holocaustian bondage, but dims hopes for these animals by creating infighting, undermining alliances with traditional animal welfarists, and spreading a bad image about animal rightists as negative and condemnatory beyond all need. (Sztybel blog Jun 15/08)
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione would seek to dwindle into insignificance:
15. Playing into the Hands of Animal Exploiters
His approach literally plays into the hands of animal exploiters since they do not want to pay the money to get rid of factory farming, especially cruel conditions in laboratories, and all the rest of it. If they were paying Francione to sabotage incremental progress, then he would handsomely earn every penny and then some. He “should” get voluminous bonuses. "Animal industrialists" would relish all of the infighting he causes, removing from reformism those who are most passionate about animal interests – animal rightists. And Francione in effect allows industry to define his concept of legal welfarism, as those welfarist measures that most benefit industry (Sztybel blog Jun 25/08)
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione treats with levity:
16. The False Iteration of “The” Abolitionist Approach
I prove – with ten easy examples of mostly even families of abolitionist approaches - that there is more than one abolitionist approach – his – contrary to his arrogantly dubbing his own view “the” Abolitionist Approach. (Sztybel blog Oct 8/12)
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione demotes to less than a mote:
17. The False Accusation That I Am a “New Welfarist”
I do not conform to a single one of his own stated criteria of “new welfarism”, (Sztybel, 2007, pp. 22-23) although he wrongly dismisses me as one in his Abolitionist Approach Forum.
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione finds the following matter does not matter:
18. The Distinction between Animal Welfare and Animal Illfare
My point that what we call “animal welfare” in the law and elsewhere is actually animal illfare, using my Levels of Harmful Discrimination analysis. (Sztybel, 2007, p. 1; Sztybel, 2006, pp. 5-6). See also the sheet summarizing this analysis. Anyone who does not take this seriously has no respect for insight or the pointing out of hypocrisy, and is missing a key increment for proving the existence of speciesism.
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione lifts his nose towards:
19. The Backfiring of his Analogy with Child Abuse
I debunk his analogy with ending child abuse because calling for “normal” treatment of children is hostile to all human abuse in law circles, but calling for the normal treatment of animals just invites violence. (Sztybel, 2007, p. 6) His not taking this disanalogy seriously merely shows that he is supercilious and does not learn from his mistakes. Also, he used to have a quasi-incrementalist approach to animal law in Rain without Thunder, so he could not think that abolishing child abuse by degrees is immoral without considering himself to be immoral. This hypocrisy is further underlined when he ignores the twenty-three inconsistencies I expose in his own thoughts (Sztybel blog Jul 15/08). Not taking these points about self-contradiction seriously is not taking his own integrity – not to mention logic - quite seriously.
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione disdains to comment on:
20. “Incrementalist” Does Not Mean “Gradualist”
I point out how my approach is not gradualism, but achieving animal rights law as soon as possible. (Sztybel, 2007, p. 6)
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione must think I am jesting when I speak of:
21. The Right to Animal Welfare
He ignores how an animal right to animal welfare could be a very positive thing, instead speaking of a right to “bodily integrity” which he proposes instead (presumably because he is allergic to “animal welfarist” laws). His right does not even go so far as bodily flourishing. Nor even mental integrity – and flourishing - which are no less important. Not to take animal welfare in this sense seriously is to uncaringly just give them “bodily integrity” instead, a mean and stunted standard of care. (Sztybel, 2007, p. 7) This would also be speciesist because human welfare justifies literally the (human) welfare social safety net, (or what is thus so-called), unemployment insurance, disability supports, minimum wage legislation, old age pensions, standards for treatment of prisoners, labour arbitration, job security, and state-sponsored medical care. (Ibid.) Not taking this critique seriously is simply speciesist.
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione merely smiles at:
22. The Hypocrisy of Addressing Animal Cruelty on the Micro But Not Macro Level
Francione seriously proposed addressing animal cruelty at a micro versus macro level. He says it would not be wrong to give cows water in slaughterhouses individually as a “micro” move (although no one will be allowed on the grounds to do that virtually futile idea; it would be trespassing). Yet he rejects “macro” relief of this cruelty through the law. Yet if everyone gave water to thirsty cows, it would be a “macro” phenomenon. (Sztybel, 2007, p. 21-22) He resists macro anti-cruelty for all his reasons against animal welfarist laws, but he specifically says it would show “approval” of animal slavery and the like. Which brings us to:
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione finds it is a finding without foundation that:
23. Francionists Falsely Accuse Incrementalists of Approving of Speciesism
If PETA won a law giving water to thirsty cows at slaughterhouses, Francionists argue that this shows they “approve” of speciesism (if we accepted that, we would have to apply the same reasoning to his proposed law to ban dehorning of cattle without anesthetics, which he used to support – see below). But PETA does not approve of speciesism and denounces it. “It would show appallingly bad judgment or even insincerity to read this as a ‘sign’ that PETA ‘truly’ supports animal slavery” (Sztybel, 2007, p. 22) if they advocate such a law. It would be ignorant to claim this. Approving a law overall does not mean one approves of all aspects of it. Just enough aspects to warrant adoption. In this case because it dramatically lessens violence. Anyone who has ever been grievously thirsty - or has the slightest imagination towards those who are - would know what I am talking about here.
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione rationalizes as miniscule:
24. The Disproof of Hundred of Years as a “Test Period”
I disprove his statement that a test period has shown animal welfarism to fail after hundreds of years. For we have not coupled welfarist laws with animal rights advocacy until very recently in world-historical terms, (Sztybel blog Jun 26/08) and also, recent data shows that incrementalist activism is starting to reduce animals being killed for food in the hundreds of millions per annum. (Sztybel blog Sep 14/12)
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione only chuckles at:
25. The “Happy Meat” Smear
I show that animal welfarism does not mean using phrases such as “happy meat” which he ascribes to all of us. (Sztybel blog Sept. 13/12)
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione finds no merit in critiques that others find bang-on:
26. The Logical Flaws of the One Supposed Animal Right: Not To Be Property
Showing how his animal rights theory – based in animals having one right, not to be property – is logically faulty. (Sztybel blog Aug 26/09) I will not go into detail here – not on this particular occasion.
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione would give us the intelligence that there is no intelligence in my proving that:
27. His Earlier Quasi-Incrementalism IS Animal Welfarist By His Own Definition
His previous quasi-incrementalist approach in Rain without Thunder is more animal welfarist than the welfarists because it approves of practices that regulate animal exploitation, but have a higher standard of doing so – which is more welfarist than traditional, weaker forms of welfarism (Sztybel blog Jun 1/08) He writes: “To oversimplify the matter a bit, the welfarists seek the regulation of animal exploitation; the rightists seek its abolition.” (Francione, 1996, p. 1) Well, banning dehorning – as he proposed in Rain, precisely regulates industry without abolishing it. Such a measure does not even fully secure any one animal right such as life, liberty of movement, or "bodily integrity", to use rights named by Francione in Rain without Thunder. Nor does it ban any area of animal exploitation. There is no real way to reconcile such a move with animal rights, or not treating the animal as mere property. There is even no way of this being consistent with proto-rights, or treating animals as if they have rights. Candidly, we have more blatant and quite severe hypocrisy on our hands here. He excoriates people for confusing animal welfare with animal rights, and that is precisely what he is doing with this dehorning example. By contrast, my analysis would never say that this practice is even "imperfectly" consistent with animal rights. He has such intellectual self-confidence, evidently, that he can contradict himself without batting an eye, and without alienating fanatical followers who soak up his overconfidence into their own insecure being.
In failing to take me/my work seriously, Francione feels it is beneath him to correct:
28. The Endlessly Repeated Singer Misrepresentation
I show that Francione totally misinterprets and misrepresents Peter Singer as holding that farmed animals lack all self-awareness and have no rights to life. (Sztybel blog Jan 27/10) Singer thanked me for the public correction. (Sztybel blog Feb 5/10), confirming that Francione distorted Singer’s views on a great number of occasions. Yet although Francione has shown awareness of my work, he goes on with the misrepresentation still. See his appearance on Philosophy Bites for an example, where he was again confronted with my work by Mr. Lo, who also did his own work to counter Francione’s irresponsible distortions here.
Now all of these points are a little more substantive - I happen to think - than the colour of Gary’s shirts. His reducing my work to intrigue about his shirt colours does indeed show – as he says – that he does not take me seriously. But that is due to a problematic attitude on his part, not due to problematic aptitude on my part. I do not measure my achievements by his pretensions at reckoning, you can be sure. I would be happy to take him on concerning any of these twenty-eight debating points - and more.
Moreover, I earlier alluded to a huge irony in his saying I use relentless ad hominem attacks against him over the years – whereas in fact I use none. You see, he is stating that I as a person am not to be taken seriously, and on the basis of this – which he cannot substantively justify of course – he is saying that all of my claims over the years are to be discarded, disregarded. That is an enormous, relentless ad hominem attack, covering all the years of my labours on the incrementalism debate in animal law, only some of which is reviewed above. Such grand hypocrisy on his part – yet again.
How is it taking animals seriously - which of course includes thinking about animals - to refuse to think about dilemmas in non-violence theory? To IGNORE: the whole country of Sweden? What is undeniably conducive towards animal rights? Explicit counter-points about “complacency”? The incoherencies and cruelties of “Use Not Treatment?” His fallacy of equivocation about “unnecessary suffering”? The fact that PETA – for example - never lost their radicalism, and always maintained veganism as a moral baseline for animal rights? The false dilemma of veganizing versus legalizing? The attempt wrongly to deep-six the Great Ape Project and alliances with traditional welfarists, altogether playing into the hands of the exploiters? Claiming falsely that there is only “the” abolitionist approach? Dismissing animals’ right to welfare? And misrepresenting Peter Singer? (This does not even summarize all that I discuss above.) All of this - he implies - is of no consequence. If he does not take my points – only some of the twenty-eight of which are briefly touched on here – seriously, then he does not take both sides of the debate here fully seriously. And I think that conclusion is quite right. He also does not take the animals fully seriously, since every part of what I argue is for their much greater benefit in being spared cruelty and even murder – as we saw with the dramatic reduction of numbers of deaths by the incrementalists’ hard efforts.
And if all of this seems to Gary like ramblings of utter incoherency - as he was saying in general about my work - well then, he is having intellectual problems all his own there. The fact is, I need neither Francione’s permission nor cooperation to take down his misbegotten theories. I do not even expect his understanding that they are leveled. His opinions are so loud in his own mind that it seems he does not hear the quiet voice of reason. There are errors of commission in what he says and errors of omission in failing to address telling critiques, and also could-not-be-more-extreme animal illfare. Francione carries on with the overt pretension that he is the master of argumentation in this whole debate. The intellectual leader of the winning side. A more lucid account of his arguments and critiques though prove that he is only the master of disaster.
He has no credible reason to flee debate – again – based on not taking me seriously. If my arguments are to be taken seriously, then so am I, because that is my role here – as an arguer. We are left with totally discredited rationalizations on his part. His “reasons” fail, and my actual material as “nonserious” is nonsensical as an evaluation. Obviously his reasons for not taking me seriously are not intellectual, but petty and personal. This state of affairs indicates that Francione has highly significant personal issues and is lacking in professional judgment. But I am not inclined to pity him, any more than I am disposed to pity schoolyard bullies who also resort to ridicule in the demeaning way that Francione does. I am glad his refusal, though, gave me this ideal opportunity to sum up many – though not all – of the important issues involved here. But this is not the first time Francione fled a debate with me. The first time he was right in the midst of one. In the next section, we will understand a major part of the reason why.
Why Francione Really Fled a Debate with Me the First Time
Just before he fled my debate with him on the Toronto Animal Rights Society (TARS) list-serve in the autumn of 2006, he offered the unbelievable excuses that he did not realize the debate would be so much about my paper, and that he did not want to bore people by correcting my misinterpretations of his work. This in spite of the fact that I told him the debate would concern my paper as well as his own work. And that part of the purpose was to check my interpretations for accuracy. He agreed to all of this. Two of his closest “lieutenants” - each with an M.A. in philosophy - confirmed my interpretations were accurate with one exception. Amendation was needed with respect to Francione’s unclear and idiosyncratic sense of “property status”, a clear analysis of which is absent from Gary’s own work. I corrected the paper accordingly before it was published. Francione’s reasons for fleeing just don’t stack up.
A better understanding of why he fled emerges from the last post I wrote before he left, entitled “TOUGH QUESTIONS” – Part 1. (I previously provided instructions on how any interested readers can access this online debate.) (Sztybel blog Feb. 11/12). Here is what I posted, which is publicly accessible to anyone:
Dear TARS participants,
So far, so good. We have begun to get our feet wet and have shown exemplary diplomacy on both sides. Pleased to see it. Now I am going to pose some tough questions, since I think my comment on dilemma theory was all but ignored, whereas I think it needs to be addressed. Be it known that these questions are asked in the best spirit of inquiry, concern for animals, respect, admiration for Gary, and so forth [this is before Gary started running his smear campaign against me, after all – DS], but they are by nature tough questions from a logical standpoint. Let's see what we can make of them:
TOUGH QUESTION #1: Can you show that I am ethically inconsistent in my reformism?
Gary argues that people who promote so-called "animal welfarist" reforms are immoral because inconsistent with animal rights and therefore self-inconsistent because animal rightists profess (of course) animal rights.
The burden of argument is now on the Francionist to demonstrate any inconsistency whatsoever in my "dilemma reasoning" approach to reformism. If you cannot show any inconsistency, then you need to discard your claim that animal rightists are inconsistent and morally suspect to advocate reformism that some call "welfarist." Some points to consider:
(a) To re-iterate, I say that someone with an animal rights *position* can and should perform both rights reasoning and rights-overriding reasoning. I am arguing that we should use rights reasoning whenever possible and so we should all be vegan as individuals. However in the legislative short-term we cannot apply rights reasoning because such rights will not be taken up by society. So we face a dilemma on the *legislative* front:
(i) do nothing legislatively or
(ii) do cosmetic or inadequate changes re animal treatment or
(iii) make changes, such as abolishing factory farming, which will relieve woeful suffering on the part of animals today and in the near future.
It is best to choose (iii) in my argument.
(b) It is therefore not appropriate always to require consistency with rights reasoning if rights-overriding reasoning or dilemma reasoning is called for. Gary himself agrees with this. In a burning building he grants we must choose to save someone as Gary writes. That is inconsistent with rights reasoning (although not with advocating a rights position) because everyone has a right to life, and we would not ordinarily let die anyone we could easily save who is right beside us, but in the burning building we *may* let die someone we could save who is right beside us (IF we choose to save that person over the other person).
If you cannot show any inconsistency in my position then you must retract the statement that animal welfare laws are immoral to support.
. . .
TOUGH QUESTION #2: Can the incremental criteria and examples you give be justified by respecting the inherent value of animals, or by chipping away at their property status and truly treating them as if they have rights (the meaning of your "proto-rights")?
Gary writes: “the basic right not to be treated as property is a right that does not and cannot admit of degrees.” (Rain 178) Yet you say your criteria of acceptable legislative reform, at least incrementally, does not remove the property status of animals. You support eliminating dehorning and castration (Rain 214). Great. But those animals are still property. You say the criteria recognize "proto-rights," which treat animals *as if* they are not property, however, in all of your examples above animals are still commodities, slaves, and are bought and sold and owned.
I think a genuine proto-right which treat [sic] animals as if they have animal rights in the sense that we mean would involve liberating them but not using the language of rights, e.g., using the language of duty instead. Your conditions of legal reform would have to involve conditions that free animals from being commodities, slaves, and property to treat animals *as if* they are not property. I realize you said the incremental criteria are not "perfect," but I do not think they are even consistent with the idea of animal rights. That is too imperfect for any philosophical position to be self-contradictory.
I argue that none of your examples are truly consistent with full animal rights [or even a single animal right, as I note earlier in this blog posting - DS] and so we need a *different* framework for justifying incremental reforms. Maybe such as my dilemma framework.
In my paper I also argue that the examples you provide of acceptable legal incremental changes are inconsistent with your five criteria, but let that be a separate question. Two tough questions are enough for now.
Thank you for being open to this debate. [Ha! - DS] I think it is vital to the movement and I would not wish my paper to take on only a "straw person" version of your arguments. I apologize in advance if I have misinterpreted you in any way; I did not find your comments on hen enclosures in _Rain_ to be clearly something you would not accept a legal reformer to take up, but maybe that is bad reading rather than anything else.
Best wishes to everyone,
It is perhaps not too surprising that Francione turned tail and ran. He was challenged to show any inconsistency in my ethical framework using dilemma theory. And you know what? He was doomed to fail, because there is no inconsistency. If he denied the framework of rights + dilemma theory, he would have been inconsistent with himself, because he uses the same conceptual apparatus. (Francione, 2000) The legislative near-term meets all of the conditions of dilemma theory: a choice between very unideal options, and choosing the best one for animals, or the least violence, as I iterate more recently. He was totally helpless to answer this. ANYONE would be. And the implications are huge: if he could not answer it, he would have to “discard”, as I put it, his claim that animal welfare laws are inconsistent with theory for someone who accepts animal rights, the measure of ethics for our purposes here. Yet that is half of his big claim: that anti-cruelty laws are to be rejected because they are both immoral and ineffective.
He absolutely could not answer the second question any better. It was calculated to stump, to defeat my opponent in debate. And I knew exactly what I was doing, utilizing my professional training in logical argument. I basically asked if the incrementalist reforms he proposed at the time were consistent with animal rights. Because that is one of his chief objections to anti-cruelty laws. Yet examples of what he approved of in Rain without Thunder include banning pain experiments without anesthesia, although this would leave pain experiments with anesthesia. He also approved on a ban of dehorning bulls – a standard factory farming practice – but this leaves animal agriculture essentially intact. He punishes the welfarists for being inconsistent with animal rights, recalling the quote above that the theory of animal rights is not reflected in the “social phenomenon called the animal rights movement.” (Francione, 1996, p. 2) He also noted it is a defining feature of “new welfarists” that they believe there is no moral or logical inconsistency perceived in “reinforcing an instrumentalist view of animals.” (Francione, 1996, 36-37) He objects to allowing laws to give water to thirsty cows in slaughterhouses because that would condone animal slavery and exploitation (Francione, 1996, p. 176) and no doubt also speciesism. Yet his examples do all of this as well - if other supporters of animal welfarism are guilty of these things too, as he says they are. (I noted above PETA does not really approve of slavery, etc., but fair’s fair. What goes for the “welfarist” goes for the Francionist too.)
In my posting I noted that in the case of all of his examples, “animals are still commodities, slaves, and are bought and sold and owned.” Of course his approved examples are inconsistent with animal rights! And I pointed out he also wrote that: “the basic right not to be treated as property is a right that does not and cannot admit of degrees.” (Francione, 1996, p. 178) So he could not argue - consistently at least – that his examples achieve part of animal rights. In other words, I was successfully making the point that his animal rights theory cannot support his examples but that my dilemma theory can. My intellectual framework has a fundamental power that his altogether lacks, in terms of capability for justification and “making sense” of things. And I was illuminating the darkness of self-contradiction in more than one facet of his research model. Inconsistency is the most damning flaw that is also incontrovertible upon demonstration. That is why I chose the debating line that I did as my first decisive salvo. And he could never show any different. There was not just a fleeing from the debate, but an opening round, and however he might have tried to respond he would have lost.
He must have felt helpless facing both of these damning questions. Anyone would have. I had shown he was inconsistent and that he could not fault my own consistency. So rather than try to answer, where every other move besides concession would have been a blunder, he decided to offer a few lame excuses and to cut and run. He did not wish to end up looking quite so much like he did not know what he is talking about. That his work shows inferior intellectual adequacy. First in that TARS forum and then spreading around the animal rights internet, if not like wildfire, then like something else. So he took off. “Bye-bye Gary.” He suspects at some level that any debate with me will similarly make him look bad and he won’t be able to answer points such as the two devastating questions from the TARS debate. It is actually perfectly normal for those who argue illogically to flee debates with those who have the power to expose muck-rakers and muddy reasoners for what they are. For this is no game. You can’t bluff your way through unlike poker.
But I wouldn’t have fled. Constitutionally and morally I could not have. In his place, I would have conceded and learned something, and shown myself to be honourable. I also would also have tried to honour the earlier agreement to clarify my work to another scholar – another doctor of philosophy – so this other person will get it right for everyone’s sakes in his peer-reviewed, academic publication in a major animal rights ethics journal. Not claim it is too “boring” to do what I already promised to do, as he did. But so it is done.
Conclusion: Taking Francione's Non-Seriousness Seriously
Francione can refuse to debate me in person, but not refuse to debate at the level of impersonal ideas, which has been going on already for some time. Why is it that the other side has never been able to find a single chink in my incrementalist armour? But I have been able to land critique after critique after critique that they are helpless to answer, and that reveal fundamental factual and logical flaws? They would thrill and crow and dance for some length of time if they could even make one major critique of the magnitude that I make. They only offer misinterpretations as I have proved (not just indicated without evidence as the Francionists generally do), and pathetically poor reasoning about economics at which even a Grade 6 teacher would totally balk. And he seems to be forming a pattern here of fleeing debate while offering a couple of completely inane excuses each time. Different excuses. But nevertheless, this is not what I had in mind when I used to hope that Gary would turn over a new leaf.
I take his side infinitely more seriously than he does mine because I answer all of their known key objections, take down most every aspect of their theories in the major works that I cite. I never ignore points or evade - unlike them. Rather, I am the opposite: thorough-going. I never resort to insults or bullying kinds of ridicule as they do, mixed with degradation that I am “insane”, or “not serious”, or whatever insults they care to dream up. (Amusement at how their demonstrably faulty assertions are implied to be decisively triumphant is well-earned mirth, rather than demeaning or insulting ridicule.) I take deep justification in ethics seriously, as Francione’s superficial approach to moral philosophy never has. I do not run and hide from debates. I do not “discard” people who question or disagree with me.
Other people are wise enough to take me seriously. The burgeoning and super-active group, the Northwest Animal Rights Alliance adopted my “Animal Rights Law” as a position paper for their group. (Sztybel blog Apr 19/11) A Fellow with the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, Dr. Carlos Naconecy, publicly defended the findings of that paper at a conference in Brazil in 2009. A number of former Francionists have told me they switched sides because of my papers. Anyone who does not take my academic credentials and achievements seriously is silly – or worse, as is the case with Gary.
Francione whines that his position in the animal rights movement is “marginal”. Perfectly true. But that will only deepen as perceptions spread that he cannot respond to the most serious of critiques. He has fled again, but it has cost him. Cost him something priceless. Something you can’t buy, or even bring about – if you are on the wrong side – with endless hours of toil and sweat. That is: credibility. He is acting as though no one is paying any attention to his gaffes. We must resist the temptation to say he could not be more mistaken though. He will likely find a way. He comes out with new and unfortunate, horribly deformed babies of argument on a frequent basis.
I take seriously enough – but not too seriously – Francione’s not taking me seriously. One cannot take a claim that is fully lacking credibility in every way too seriously, you see. His lack of professional judgment is just about evident to everyone but him and his cronies, who side with his dismissals of my work that use child-like rather than professional-adult reasoning. I am assuming here that if someone refuses to take serious claims seriously, it is merely a manifestation of bullying. I have essentially proved that not taking my ideas seriously amounts to not taking the animals seriously, which is precisely part of the problem with the anti-incrementalists. They delay addressing the cruelty now. They have better things to do. They would rather conform to crude abstractions than consider living animals. They are utterly unaccountable to the silently pleading, much-pained eyes of animals in society, now being ruled by tyrants of consummate cruelty.
He is merely exhibiting a primate dominance display in saying I am not “serious”, in defiance of all facts and logic. Well, he may be able to dominate certain groups of people who are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, but you cannot dominate a serious, academic and activist debate based on falsehood and fallacies. The multiple errors in the little pictures amount to a mountain of wrong in the big picture. So he is an illusionist of sorts, and one must presume that he has taken himself in too. And I am not intimidated by his claim that he does not take me seriously. And I am not writing for Gary, or his cronies. I am writing for them. The animals. I have great credibility with all of the people who matter to me in that respect. Including – in a special sense as we will soon see - the animal persons. I know the animals would love all that my approach has to offer, and hate the atrocious lack of relief they get from Francionists. Those people, who can’t work up the intellectual know-how to justify less horrible suffering. And less needless death.
Post-Script: Animal Jurors Give the Antis the Thumbs-Down
Francione is a serious threat to animals. These creatures say in innumerable ways that they do not wish to be tortured and killed. They want less suffering and death. The Francionists are virtually Holocaust enablers because they would and do make the torture and mass murders worse by far. It has been proven that incrementalist approaches to “animal consumption” – more of a euphemism – save hundreds of millions of animal lives per year. And even if anti-cruelty laws resulted in temporary spikes in animal consumption, my modeling of the future linked to above charts this as a constant, unless people will care far more about animals than the U.S. did about black people and give animal rights all at once, without incrementalist anti-cruelty measures.
So the animals – if we enlarge democracy to include their preferences, as we sometimes laudably do with mentally disabled humans - vote down the Francionists. This democracy can take the form of an imaginary jury, or of the will of the animal people taken more broadly. In terms of the inevitable results, the exact form of our thought experiment here hardly matters. Because the animals do want less suffering and death, and they don’t care to affirm Francione’s theories nor his logical tangles, not if his ideas are hindrances to the hearts’ desires of these sensitive beings. The silent majority of animal rights people are, by far, on my side. But a silent consensus of animals rejects their own greater suffering and death. The silent majority of animal rights people is only treading quietly because they do not wish to become objects of Francionist smear campaigns, and do not wish to be swarmed by fanatics on the internet who do not listen to reason. The silent majority already know that the animals want relief from cruelty as much as possible. And they don’t want to waste time with nay-sayers, although I think that my own time in expertly countering this unwittingly pro-violent menace is very well spent indeed.
Gary can run, but he cannot hide his views. He can try to hide their flaws by seeking to ridicule and conceal my work for example. But it’s not working. My approach is starting to get through to people, even as my sort of stance has always captured the majority with their – bless them – common sense. Yet all of this is more about the animals than my fine, fellow comrades. If not for the cause of non-violence, I would have nothing to do with this consummately unpleasant person who libels me, ridicules me, and insults me. He can run and seek comfort. But he looks weak and ineffective by refusing to debate me - again. And he will look weak and ineffective – again – if he actually does debate me.
Animal Voices radio show. 2004. CIUT 89.5 FM on University of Toronto Radio. Transcript of interview with Gary Francione on foie gras. http://animalvoicesradio.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/20041102_gary_francione.pdf
Francione, Gary L. 1996. Rain without Thunder: the Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Francione, Gary L. 2000. Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog? Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Kohlberg, Lawrence. 1973. Collected Papers on Moral Development and Moral Education. Cambridge: Harvard University Laboratory for Human Development.
Sztybel, David. 2007. “Animal Rights Law: Fundamentalism versus Pragmatism”. Journal for Critical Animal Studies 5 (1) (2007) 1-35.
Sztybel, David. 2006. “The Rights of Animal Persons”. Animal Liberation Philosophy and Policy Journal 4 (1) (2006): 1-37.
Sztybel, David. 2007 - present. On the Road to Liberation. Blog.
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