In the last post, I referred to ways in which animal rights fundamentalism harms the animal rights movement. It is worth, however, trying to list some of the different ways that animal rights is threatened:
- Failure to promote kind culture that leads to animal rights, thus delaying animal rights incalculably
- Failed unrealistic proto-rights campaigns, or even more likely, abstaining from legislative reform at this stage in history, leaving in the wake of such misguided practices the cruel culture of unmitigated animal misery; thus each interest of animals which should be protected by a right is either unprotected or hovering at a miserably low degree of being respected (i.e., it is substantially disrespected)
- Failure to effectively promote animal rights laws such as the Great Ape Project
- Leads to prevention or dissolution of potentially powerful alliances between animal rights and animal "welfarist" forces
- Leads to fighting between animal rights fundamentalists and the alliance of pragmatists and welfarists
- Causes infighting, hostility, lack of communication and cooperation among animal rightists
- Spreads a bad image of animal rightists as harsh, judgmental, unrealistic, lost in theory, illogical, etc.
- Spreads a crude, oversimplified and ultimately unworkable theory of animal rights (I will elaborate on this point in future posts)
It may be objected that I am also involved in "infighting." True, I am fighting animal rights fundamentalism. However, there is a world of difference between a fight to unite people who already exist and end infighting, and a fight to divide a movement in which it is inevitable that there will always be animal rights pragmatists. The fundamentalists, paradoxically enough, seek unity through infighting. The only unity envisioned by fundamentalists is what might emerge on the impossible scenario in which only they prevail. It will be a unity of animal rights, considered a fringe group, with any alliance with the welfarists lying in smoking ruins. Fundamentalist unity would also lie in a far-flung future, whereas my kind of unity is at work right now, and though dominant is threatened to some extent by fundamentalism.
I would not wish to exaggerate how much a pragmatist approach is threatened. It would be interesting to get some sociological data on how widespread is fundamentalism. My experience is that only a few out of sizeable animal rights groups will have that bug, and that must be indicative of the larger movement since I have seen this pattern in group after group. Often the fundamentalists are rejected by the larger group and they splinter off to form their own concern. Francione's blog touts his new book, Animals as Persons with the remark that he is widely regarded as the most interesting thinker in animal ethics, or something like that. Others insist he is "fringe." I think that's closer to the truth, judging from my observations of movement politics.
Now back to the concept of unity. By contrast to the fundamentalists, while I effectively argue for people to switch from animal "welfare" (really illfare) practices, I can tolerate and work with such people without being entirely negative and attacking towards them. Also, I am taking on the theories of animal rights fundamentalism by way of defense. It is in the nature of animal rights fundamentalism to attack other animal rightists as unethical and ineffective, and I am only undertaking part of the equally inevitable response.
If animal rights pragmatism is argued effectively, then it will not shut down dogmatic ideologues, but will play the vital role of (as my friend Michael Schwab puts it) reaching out to the huge number of people who are thoughtful but undecided, or who keep an open mind. We can build stronger animal "welfare" laws and thus grow animal rights, converting as many individuals as possible to the rights model. That is a very positive vision. By comparison, Francione has already attacked PETA, the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, and the Great Ape Project, and would not mind seeing them go down. He fantasizes if he thinks he can have that kind of influence, although I am concerned he can do these damage by misleading people. I say "misleading," but we can assume this is done in a relatively well-intended way, reflecting how he himself is misled by illogical reasoning.
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