Sunday, January 24, 2010

Francione Feebly Replies to Ingrid Newkirk

I digress from the Animal Ethics series once again to address breaking news of how Francione responds to Newkirk's animal rights pragmatism concerning legislative changes.

This past Friday, Ingrid Newkirk published an impassioned opinion piece in The Guardian, a world-famous U.K. newspaper. Her article can be read by clicking here. Gary Francione had the nerve to post an unfailingly dull reply which I will now thoroughly debunk. Many who have read my essay
"Animal Rights Law" or the shortened version of it (elsewhere on my site) and my earlier blog entries have seen that Francione's attempts at arguing are troubled to say the least. At least he is consistent in this respect.

His letter focuses on chicken slaughter. In the old slaughter method, the birds would be stunned only some of the time but it was well documented that many of them remain conscious and struggling when their bodies are dipped in a scalding tank to remove their feathers. And then their throats are cut while conscious too, which is not an instant or painless death solution either. They have nerves in their throats for one thing. Controlled atmosphere killing stuns them all and prevents this gross suffering.

I will now entirely refute each of his replies to Ms. Newkirk:

  1. Francione writes:

    "Ingrid Newkirk mistakenly assumes incremental welfare reforms will lead to the abolition of animal use. That assumption is without foundation."

    To this I reply:

    No one including of course Ms. Newkirk argues that such reforms cause animals to have rights and thus not to be considered property. That is a straw man argument that Francione relentlessly (to use a polite term) uses. However, welfare reforms unmistakably lead towards a kinder culture. Leaving the chickens to be scalded alive leads towards a more cruel culture. It is unintelligible to say that a more cruel culture will be more receptive to animal rights than a kinder one, since kind people are more receptive to recognizing and respecting the interests of animals. Furthermore, it is worth helping these chickens and so many others in innumerable ways even if it does not lead to the liberation of other animals in the future in some measurable way. The animals suffering now matter, though evidently not to Francione. He does not even refer to the suffering that is spared, let alone care about it. I have made these points before in a studious attention to reality and how it works, but Francione has studiously ignored them and hence also the realities in question.

  2. Francione writes:

    "...the animal welfare reforms that are accepted are, for the most part, those that increase production efficiency. It is interesting to note (as Victor Schonfeld did) that PETA's own campaign for the controlled-atmosphere killing of poultry emphasizes that this method of slaughter is economically beneficial for producers. Such reforms do not move animals away from the property paradigm; they enmesh animals more deeply in that paradigm."

    To this I reply:

    Francione and his followers show no concern here for the preventable suffering of chickens outlined above. It is monstrously callous not to be concerned to spare these animals this suffering of scalding and literal cut-throat treatment when such reforms can be done and have been done, no thanks to the Francione fanatics. Indeed, Francione associates property status with the disregard of animals' interests, including unnecessary suffering. Ending chicken-slaughter-cruelty for example therefore undermines animals' property status as Francione describes it by attending to animals' interests to some degree (actually he is not receptive to attending to animal interests in degrees, dealing instead in unrealistic whole-interest protection--see my essay).

  3. Francione writes:

    "...welfare reform makes the public more comfortable about animal exploitation. The emerging "happy" meat/animal products movement is compelling evidence of this phenomenon."

    To this I reply:

    I agree that animals slaughtered does not constitute "happy meat." However the chicken reform mentioned above can be progressive regardless of such linguistic distortions. Furthermore, the public should be more comfortable with animal treatment if our fellow creatures are not being tortured as much. If animals are more "comfortable" (more accurately: spared a form of torture which I described above) we who are more compassionate should feel more comfortable. Francione should not keep the chickens conscious and scalded/throat-cut just to avoid public complacency! That is using animals as a means to an end in his perverse form of campaigning. To be clear, these reforms do not make the public complacent that animal rights is wrong or not fitting to adopt because such reforms are not about animal rights, and the general public knows that. No one is so stupid as to think that sparing chickens agony discredits animal rights or makes it any less applicable, and if anyone is so intellectually limited, they are of no concern to anyone in my camp at least.

  4. Francione writes:

    "...we have had animal welfare reform for more than 200 years now and it has not led to the abolition of any form of institutionalized exploitation. Indeed, we are using more animals in more horrific ways than at any time in humane [sic] history."

    To this I reply:

    We have not had welfare reform coupled with animal rights for long at all. Suffering-reduction has occurred. The lack of victory for animal rights law can be turned around at Francione’s own approach. He does not seem to notice when his critiques of others apply to his own position. In any case, the animal liberation movement is also steadily growing, in contrariety to what Francione implies. I write in detail about this in my blog entry (28) June 26/08.

  5. Francione writes:

    "PETA is an organization that gives awards to the sellers of animal flesh and other products (Whole Foods Markets) and to slaughterhouse designers (Temple Grandin). Newsweek reports that PETA has killed 85% of the animals it has "rescued." (That fact alone should lead anyone who regards animals as having moral value to disavow PETA.) And PETA relentlessly uses sexism and misogyny in its campaigns."

    To this I reply:

    PETA recognizes progress where it has been made. Progress should be celebrated. PETA does not hate women and has naked men as well in “I’d rather go naked than wear fur,” as well as people of different body sizes. I do not agree with PETA's killing animals as that contravenes the right to life. But that has nothing to do with the appropriateness of chicken slaughter techniques, so let us not confuse the issues, please.

  6. Francione writes:

    "Newkirk is wrong to say that the only alternative to welfare reform, which is ineffective at best and is counterproductive, is violent revolution. On the contrary, it is only a rejection of violence that is ever going to change anything."

    To this I reply:

    Francione does not show welfare reform is ineffective. He is just unconcerned about the suffering-reduction in the example he himself uses. He does not consider it "effective" or "productive” to relieve suffering. That is not an effect he is concerned to "produce." Also, not being violent to animals is not enough at all. It is an oversimplistic approach as usual for Francione (see other of my blog entries for example). Animals need to be well cared for with benefits on sanctuaries.

  7. Francione concludes:

    Thank you for your consideration of my comments. (He tediously writes this at the end of all his postings in reply to others on this thread.)

    And I say: Sure, any time!

I have addressed all of his points of reply to Ms. Newkirk. The fundamentalists can always be refuted, because their position is apparently always rooted in falsehood, logical fallacy, short-sightedness, ignoring refutations, and callousness.


A Selection of Related Articles

Sztybel, David. "Animal Rights Law: Fundamentalism versus Pragmatism". Journal for Critical Animal Studies 5 (1) (2007): 1-37.

go there

Short version of "Animal Rights Law".

go there

Sztybel, David. "Incrementalist Animal Law: Welcome to the Real World".

go there

Sztybel, David. "Sztybelian Pragmatism versus Francionist Pseudo-Pragmatism".

go there

A Selection of Related Blog Entries

Anti-Cruelty Laws and Non-Violent Approximation

Use Not Treatment: Francione’s Cracked Nutshell

Francione Flees Debate with Me Again, Runs into the “Animal Jury”

The False Dilemma: Veganizing versus Legalizing

Veganism as a Baseline for Animal Rights: Two Different Senses

Francione's Three Feeble Critiques of My Views

Startling Decline in Meat Consumption Proves Francionists Are Wrong Once Again!

The Greatness of the Great Ape Project under Attack!

Francione Totally Misinterprets Singer

Francione's Animal Rights Theory

Francione on Unnecessary Suffering

My Appearance on AR Zone

D-Day for Francionists

Sztybel versus Francione on Animals' Property Status

The Red Carpet

Playing into the Hands of Animal Exploiters

The Abolitionist ApproachES

Francione's Mighty Boomerang

Dr. David Sztybel Home Page


  1. Hello David,

    Thank you for posting this. I'm having my way of thinking swung back and forth at the moment, so it's good to know that there is a force to swing me back this way. I am intrigued to read your other comments on Francione and his comments on welfare reforms.

  2. Thanks very much Sam. I try to build up this side of the argument, and if I just help people think that is at least something, although I hope people change to what I regard as a fully abolitionist and anti-speciesist approach, maximizing the protection of the interests identified by rights.