Monday, August 30, 2010

Rob Johnson’s Would-Be Refutation of “Animal Rights Law”: Francionist Falsehoods and Fallacies

To access Johnson's essay critiquing my essay, go to his site by clicking HERE

Or you can get his essay in a PDF by clicking HERE


Johnson begins his ill-fated attack on my essay by saying it is the best article against abolitionism that he has read. Funny, since my paper is pro-abolitionist. However, he also thinks his analysis merely shows that there is no good argument against Francionist abolition (not that he uses the term "Francionist"). Well, I would not presume to speak for all who might agree with me, or claim to anticipate all twists and turns of discourse. So defeating me would not necessarily mean deflating all that I stand for.

Note that Francione in the past has objected to the term “Francionism” but I am tired of pandering to this particular preference. For it does not seem justifiable. It could only be objectionable if perhaps it is insulting, but “Marxism” is not that, for example. Or Francione said “Francionism” overly makes it appear as though the debate is about him in particular. However, that is not accurate. The term merely identifies a set of views associated with him, and therefore is as legitimate as “Marxism.” His form of abolitionism in fact really needs to be distinguished from other forms such as that of Joan Dunayer. Failing to do so would in effect unduly associate all abolitionism with Francione, which is not the case but which he actively promotes by vainly calling his strategy “the abolitionist approach,” as though there is only one. Ironically, calling his work “the abolitionist approach” without distinguishing, by name, his brand of it would even more seek to make the relevant ideas about Francione, as opposed to other theorists. I suspect that the coy fluttering aside of "Francionism" is merely false modesty, then, given that he would spherically bloat his ego to the point where he encompasses all "abolitionism" in the entire globe. Or so his use of "the" here logically implies.“Marxism” is not about Marx hardly at all and Francionism is certainly not about Francione. It’s actually odd that Francione thinks that using the term would indicate that the debate is about him. (In a way, Francionism improperly is, though, since so much Francionism consists of Francione’s arbitrary intuitions, reflecting his own obsessions such as animals-as-property, which is a very important but certainly not the only aspect of speciesism—the latter concept is far more fundamental to analysis as I make clear in my forthcoming book.) The only name that Francione provides for his views is “the abolitionist approach.” That is an illegitimate label for reasons already given. If instead we say “an abolitionist approach,” which is accurate, that is no longer distinctive. Therefore, “Francionism” will do, for it is both proper and distinctive.

I argue that suffering-reduction, or even welfare-enhancing laws (note that Sweden legislating toys for many farmed animals gives these creatures positive pleasure, not just less suffering) are the best we can do for animals on the legislative front, long before the abolition of speciesism is even possible. By contrast, Francione urges inaction on the legislative front (which is transparently not best for animals) or else (what he favours less) urging reforms that respect 100% of an animal’s interest, such as fully having freedom of movement (which is not best either since such measures inevitably fail in a capitalist society; capitalists would never pay for respecting 100% of any exploited animal’s interest). I also argue that welfarist laws are more effective in promoting kindness and respect for animal interests than measures that leave the laws unchanged either through do-nothingism, or advocating losing-measures, since laws that support factory farming for example only reinforce cruelty, whereas Swedish laws that are enforced to provide for animals plenty of room, time outside, straw bedding, toys, and so on, obviously promote more kindness to animals.

Warning: Johnson does not fully or fairly represent my arguments. But rather than repeat what I write elsewhere to make my full case here, I refer readers to the original article and also relevant blog entries. What Johnson does provide, however, is very extensive misrepresentation of my views.

Johnson makes bold claims about my essay, such as that I make “huge errors” in the examples and arguments that I use. He holds that so-called “welfarist” laws (note that I always say speciesist laws are overall animal illfarist rather than animal welfarist—see my essay in question, but also my other paper, “The Rights of Animal Persons”) are “not pragmatic in any useful sense, [whereas] abolitionism [sic] certainly is.” (Note: I put a “sic” or notice of error after every time Johnson identifies Francionism as abolitionism, since it is an illegitimate term when used in an exclusive sense. I am also an abolitionist. I fully—and I might add effectively—advocate the abolition of speciesism. But I am not a Francionist abolitionist.) Johnson claims that “abolitionism [sic] has a much deeper level of pragmatism than welfarism does.” This is certainly an interesting claim which I will duly examine. I thank Johnson for taking the time and trouble to do what he did.

Johnson is not only in the business of making bold claims (not in itself a bad thing so long as they can be backed up), but also resorts to statements that are merely insulting (called the fallacy of ad hominem) as well as other fallacies such as the straw man, the most frequent offender in his piece. However, I will simply, as a way of being thorough, catalogue 42 points that Johnson makes, which can be plainly refuted point-by-point.

Ad Hominem Attacks

Here I will start my denials of what Johnson erroneously asserts, either because his conclusions are based in outright falsehoods, or fallacious errors in reasoning:

(1) Insult: “Sztybel has…done nothing to illuminate a different line of reasoning…” This merely ignores my use of best caring theory, dilemma theory and in fact many other arguments in the paper that have not been mounted previously, including building kindness-culture, critiquing whole-interest-protection, and many of my objections to Francionist opposition to “welfarist” laws. Others anyway have been astute enough to recognize these things, among others, as being of original value in my paper.

(2) Insult: my essay shows a “basic level of objections to abolitionism [sic]” whereas in fact many people believe that “Animal Rights Law” is the most sophisticated defence of animal “welfarism” to date, as well as the most logically efficacious attack on Francionist anti-“welfarism”. A shortened version was translated into Spanish and Portuguese, and one of these translations was introduced with the comment that it is “already a classic.” Rather, Johnson demonstrates a distortive and highly incomplete or superficial grasp of my analysis, as I will demonstrate below. If I did nothing new that would not account for former outspoken Francionists changing sides after reading my paper, such as U.S. artist Ante Bozanich, Spanish lawyer Dani Dorado, and an American school teacher who, in his blog, concedes that I “demolish” the Francionist arguments in question but only now wishes to self-identify as in his blog title, “Zombie Jesus,” for his own reasons.

(3) Insult: only on “rare occasions” do I address Francione’s arguments. Try matching that slight against the number of times I cite Johnson’s Fountain of Inspiration in my paper.

(4) Insult: I do not approach pragmatic arguments for abolitionism, whereas in fact, any sober reader knows that much of my paper addresses which tactics are most effective more thoroughly, in this context, than anyone else has done.

(5) Insult: I have looked “very little” into arguments of Francione or his allies, that is, the pragmatic case for this aspect of Francionism. On the contrary, if anything, my essay gives disproportionate attention to Francionism, although that is partly justifiable since he is the main author in favour of fundamentalism and indeed “pseudopragmatism” (a term I will clarify in what follows). All of the points I offer in this rebuttal I pretty much treat elsewhere, so it is silly for Johnson to make these assertions about what I “fail” to examine.

Now that simple insults are out of the way, lets move onto Johnson’s biggest kind of fallacy: the straw man. A straw man argument is a kind of misrepresentation. In this case, it ascribes views to me that I do not actually hold and then refutes them—as though such an exercise could actually rebut anything that I actually believe. The use of this fallacy could invite suspicions of maliciousness, but I think it is most charitable to interpret that Johnson is well-meaning though misguided.

Beware the Attack of the Straw Men!

(6) Straw man #1 Johnson erroneously writes that I assume that abolitionism is “fundamentalist” in nature. He feels let down by this, because he considers himself a pragmatist. He concedes: “…if welfarism does work towards abolition, or at least decreases the numbers of animals used without significantly harming the path to abolition, then I would whole-heartedly support it.” First off, not all abolitionism is fundamentalist in nature because I myself am an abolitionist. Second and equally to the point, I never said in my essay that everyone who rejects “welfarism” is a fundamentalist. Fundamentalism as I write usually has an argument about morality and an argument about efficacy. But one can reject the fundamentalist morality part while embracing other elements of Francionism about effectiveness. That is why my definition of "fundamentalism" on p. 1 does not include reference to arguments about effectiveness but only morality. Johnson himself cites a relevant passage from my essay in a different context: "People can respectively [sic]—I actually wrote 'respectfully'] disagree on what is most effective, but my paper is intended to show at least that it is not immoral to argue in favour of the occasional efficacy of ‘welfarism’.” (p. 26) Obviously I am saying here that people can concede my rejection of fundamentalism but disagree with me over what is most pragmatic, as Johnson is doing. So Johnson is creating a straw man when he incorrectly writes about: “…this notion that the abolitionist approach is wholly fundamental [sic]. This is completely unfounded, and as a result his entire article is based on this flimsy assumption.” Absurd. It is obvious from the passage he himself cites that one can embrace Francionist, Dunayerist, or whatever tactics on pragmatic grounds as I acknowledge. Johnson is attributing a “flimsy” assumption that I never make—so how could it undermine my “entire article”?—and what I said in the quote obviously goes against such an assumption. Okay, so Johnson is a pragmatist. But that does not put so much as a scratch in my arguments against fundamentalism, which is indeed characteristic of full-on Francionism. I would be remiss if I overlooked this key aspect of Francionist thought, as it might be called. I would say that Johnson is only a pseudo-pragmatist, though, since he does not advocate measures that really work best for sentient beings, as I argue. He may call me a pseudo-pragmatist in return, but while that would be understandable, it is of very little concern to me. Showing what really works best for animals is. More on this below.

(7) Straw man #2 Johnson writes that I say that “fundamentalists…don’t value [individual sentient creatures]…instead he supposes we value the idea of ‘rights’ more…” I never said that fundamentalists don’t value sentient creatures. If that were true it would have been impossible to write, as I did on p. 4 of my paper: “Of course, fundamentalist opponents of ‘welfarist’ suffering-reduction laws may argue that they also favor what is best for sentient beings…” Obviously they do. I am saying that they fail to promote what is best for sentient beings in the short-term though, and I have made this argument at length without any need for rehearsing it here. Also, Johnson contradicts himself by first reading that fundamentalists don’t value sentient creatures, and then saying that I am supposing that fundamentalists value the idea of ‘rights’ more, which implies that sentient beings are indeed valued. My point still stands. Many Francionist moralists reject animal “welfarist” laws because they are inconsistent with animal rights, anti-speciesism, or abolition, but that makes these abstract ideas the moral baseline rather than ultimately acting for sentient beings. It is senseless to think one can act “for” or “against” a mere thing, as I argue. Ultimately, all significance is in relation to beings with minds. While Francionists are concerned with sentient beings, they do not let this concern practically predominate when it comes to the law. That is why they are often thought of as callous or uncompassionate, neglecting animals whose suffering can be partly addressed via “welfarist” laws. Someone, I don’t know who, came up with the inspired term “abandonitionist,” implying the Francionists are abandoning animals to a worse fate than they need suffer.

(8) Straw man #3 Johnson tries to overturn the notion of fundamentalism by charging that my view is that animal advocacy “fundamentally helps to achieve a kinder culture.” First, I never said this. So it is futile to try to “refute” an argument I never make. Second, it is irrelevant. It is not “fundamental” that animal advocacy promotes kinder culture, as though this is intuited. It is because promoting animal interests generally means being kinder to them, since being kind is being considerate of others’ interests. Of course, almost nonexistent concessions to animals are not “kind,” but I rule out that kind of measure in my outline of the options on p. 2 of the paper (Johnson, we will see later, conveniently forgets this fact). Anyway, I am talking about a very specific kind of fundamentalism in the paper, as I define it, and specifying other sorts of fundamentalism (which I do not embrace in this case anyway) does nothing to undermine what I am referring to. Yet on the basis of this flimsy “argument,” Johnson confidently declares that I offer “unintelligible claims to discredit” fundamentalism. Well, my claims were not “unintelligible” to those who were won over by my arguments. By contrast, I have never seen a single soul embrace my kind of view and then cross over into Francionism-land. Johnson says people like me “can not be seen as anything but fundamentalist in their aims.” This is just the fallacy of equivocation, or depending on different senses of “fundamental(ist).” I do not contradict myself regarding fundamentalism if one is clear about what I truly say. The sense I mark out still safely applies to multitudes of misguided Francionists.

(9) Straw man #4 Johnson reports me as saying that “welfarism” is the only way to gain better welfare standards. Funny thing, I never said that either. Sometimes I have to wait patiently before Johnson even addresses anything I actually do assert. Why would I even say this point in question? One can get better welfare standards by having humane education in the schools, or by promoting good care of animal companions at the vet’s. I would say though that the only way to have better welfare standards in the law is by advocating legal change of that nature. Johnson disagrees, but more on that below. He is somehow emboldened to write: “unless Sztybel can correctly state that the only way to gain better welfare standards for animals is by trading off the lives of other animals then he has no case at all…” The only way though to maximize what is best for animals in the near-term, legislatively, is to pursue what is best for animals in the near-term legislatively; this is true analytically. He points out that abolitionist advocacy and vegan education are also possible, but this is beside the point, since I do that advocacy as well, as I clearly state in the paper, pp. 2-3. It does not change the unique impact “welfarist” laws can have. Advocating veganism or animal rights by itself does not change any laws and will not for a long time to come. Yet Johnson, comfortable in his ignorance of what I actually write, claims that I do not take abolitionism/veganism campaigning into account (as I explicitly do) “and in doing so [Sztybel] leaves strong the big point that Francione could use to level [Sztybel’s] argument in one fail [sic] swoop.” Ooooh. The Francionists can demolish my whole piece by pointing out something I am allegedly missing—and yet it is right there in the text anyway. Scary stuff. But only because it shows how poorly people can read an argument. The irony in the Freudian slip “in one fail swoop” instead of the correct “in one fell swoop” is not lost on me. For it would be a failed swooping down on my position by the Francionist hawks, only too eagerly engaging in their misguided ideological warfare.

(10) Straw man #5 Johnson claims that I support half-measures, in effect, such as giving hens only slightly larger amounts of space. He dismisses what I advocate as “negligible,” which is clearly untrue. He even says, in critiquing my paper and really another straw man unto itself, that we should oppose “letting industry supply animal welfare standards themselves.” By now, the reader should have the distinct impression that Johnson is perilously unreliable in reporting my views. Certainly such miniscule measures are not true of Swedish law, discussed again below. Best caring, my overall framework, advocates what is best for animals at every turn, or the best that can really be secured for them. And that is substantial. On pp. 2-3 I explicitly disavow cosmetic changes for animal “welfare.” Johnson should study what he is studying.

(11) Straw man #6 Johnson tells us that I claim that “welfarist” laws would not be needed in the long-term. I am saying that speciesist so-called “welfarist” laws will obviously not exist once speciesism is largely abolished. It is still true that a nonspeciesist society will need animal welfare measures, though, such as those protecting animals on sanctuaries or wild animals. Indeed, I refer, p. 7 to: “An animal right to welfare in a nonspeciesist society…” (p. 7) A handy tip for Johnson would be to read closely what he is actually purporting to “refute.”

(12) Straw man #7 Johnson claims that PETA doesn’t support animal rights because they cite Peter Singer, who is a utilitarian. See “The Rights of Animal Persons” where I make largely the identical point. Johnson is writing as though I make the opposite point. It never ceases to amaze me how much Francionists rely on distortion, including Francione himself. PETA still says that animals are not ours to use, which is de facto animal rights. They explicitly use the term “animal rights” and offer “Animal Rights 101” workshops all around the globe. Also, for further relevant context, although in one early-on place Singer says he regrets ever making use of the term “rights,” he has also said later on that he is prepared to countenance the term for pragmatic or rhetorical purposes. He seems ambivalent about the term, although strictly speaking he does not defend a philosophy of rights.

(13) Straw man #8 Johnson tries to pin me as holding that we need to go through animal “welfarism” to get to rights, so let’s support the incremental steps to get to animal rights faster. First, let us look at what I actually wrote. Gee, imagine that. I said, p. 20: “This need to go through a ‘welfarist’ suffering-reduction phase first, before animal rights, could only fail to be the case if we could somehow ‘pole-vault’ from abject animal misery, such as the factory farming which now prevails, straight to animal rights. This is doubtful since a culture of cruelty is structurally incapable of taking animal rights favorably or even seriously.” So my actual statement pens no “necessity” but merely probability, or conditional necessity at best. Yet Johnson warns on the basis of his misrepresentation: “This doesn’t make sense, as the way to get companies to adopt more welfare and faster, is not to acknowledge the steps that they have made are sufficient and make them go further.” Funny, the only way to make animal exploiters go further is through the law or consumer activism. If Johnson gets out there and promotes veganism and abolition like I do, and he thinks this will “compel” the industries to improve standards from factory farming, which they find most profitable, he is living in La-La Land. More on this below.

(14) Straw man #9 Johnson tries to land me in a purported self-contradiction based again on statements I never make. He says that I am “assuming that all animal welfare standards are necessary, despite the fact that elsewhere he claims we should ‘bypass’ steps if need be. This contradicts his own point, as well as the logic he earlier points to.” Since I only ever pegged animal “welfarism” as likely as a thing we need to go through, there is no self-contradiction. Also, skipping over speciesism as much as possible does not contradict any logic of mine, but is true to seeking what is best for animals.

(15) Straw man #10 Johnson gets all worked up: “Would Sztybel also argue [regarding China, discussed more below] a cold blooded [sic—this word needs a hyphen] murderer is kinder than a rapist-murderer, by virtue of the fact that the former inflicts less suffering? He would be deemed not just erroneous, but highly bizarre to think so...” Well, who really cares? Because I never thought or said such a thing. Neither is kind. So what? Classic straw man.

(16) Straw man #11 Johnson is prepared to anticipate that I would say that human analogies are “not representative here” because humans are not regularly raped or killed and that is not condoned. Right. But “would we see a cold blooded [sic] killing of animals as kinder than raping then killing of animals? Less suffering is involved, but it certainly isn’t kinder.” Another straw man, related to the last. Never said that, eh? Too bad for Johnson. But the truth is, that if some demented society did want to rape animals before they were slaughtered, as sadistic pig slaughterers now do often anally rape hogs with electroprods (as I personally learned from speaking to an ex-slaughterer), well, we would probably not want to see that happen, now would we?

(17) Straw man #12 Johnson tells us that abstract rights are in the interests of sentient creatures, “[w]hich he [Sztybel] has ignored.” Ludicrous. I explicitly argue in the article that animal rights are best for animals whenever they can be obtained. Talk about ignoring things. However, I also argue that animal rights are only conceptually best in terms of laws for the short-term because they are only conceivably possible in that time-frame, perhaps as a kind of fantasy or pure philosophy, but are not really possible in the law as Francione himself is wise enough to note. Pseudo-pragmatists, by contrast, fail to advocate what is really best for animals, legislatively, in the median-term.

(18) Straw man #13 Collecting hens’ eggs in a forest, where the birds can run around freely, is a law that would never be passed. He points out this would never be passed because it is not profitable to exploiters. Well, yeah. Who said otherwise? Ironically, in Rain without Thunder, Francione concedes that a measure respecting all of a hen’s liberty of movement might be an acceptable reform. But obviously that is impossible in a capitalist society as I argue in my blog. Yet substantial “welfarist” laws do sometimes pass, as the inspiring example of Sweden easily proves.

(19) Straw man #14 Johnson offers that it begs the question to say that “welfarism…is better than publicizing the compelling, logical argument [for animal rights] itself.” Oddly, I never said that, but indicate that we need to campaign for animal rights, anti-speciesism, and all the rest of it. Johnson once again is boxing with his own shadow. It is a false dilemma he proposes in any case: one can publicize animal rights and advocate for legislative relief for animals too.

(20) Straw man #15 Johnson warns against “…the idea that human nature would choose to do over and above without a logical and compelling reason, or jump to the ‘next level’ as it were, is counteracted by the fact that groups like PETA have far, far more non-vegan members than vegans…” First of all, there is no citation for this alleged “fact.” I have no idea that it is true, and Johnson’s reporting and research skills are severely in doubt as the present block of points amply demonstrates. He seems to have an endless capacity for distortion. Second, again, I never say anything even resembling this. Of course I give people reasons to go farther. That’s why I advocate animal rights, veganism, and all the rest of it. This is plain in the essay and other writings of mine. Johnson did not nearly do a competent reading of my paper, let alone other works.

Isn’t it tiresome that we have to go this far down—about half-way—just to get through the baseless insults and the distortions of my views? But the comedy of errors does not end here. Hey, don’t take my word for it…

Messages to the Public

(21) Johnson makes the point that if a an animal “welfarist” campaign is made to change the laws (presumably, since that is the subject of discussion here), a group would be more likely to publicize welfare than rights. That depends on how well campaigners do their job. PETA does a great job in this respect. Think of it as a real-world example in analyzing PETA’s message and how well it gets through. PETA advocates “welfarist” legislation. So do people think they are strictly a “welfarist” organization? Not at all. Anyone who does not live in a cave or have developmental difficulties or the like knows that PETA is an animal rights group. Everyone except the Francionists pretty much describes it that way. Do people think that PETA stands for only wanting to make animal agriculture, fur-wearing, and so on, less cruel? No, virtually EVERYBODY knows that PETA supports veganism and would like everyone to stop wearing fur. For all intents and purposes, PETA’s real abolitionist agenda gets across loud and clear or has an almost 100% success rate. Johnson is not even talking about the real world anymore when he baselessly speculates about how messages “would” get out.

The Example of Sweden Revisited

(22) According to Johnson, “…the abolitionist approach [sic]…speaks clearly, compellingly and logically about how individual sentient creatures…can not be significantly better off because of welfare campaigns…” Yet in my essay, I refer to the example of Sweden, which went from full-on factory farming to a system in which “farmers” must provide plenty of straw bedding, cleaning of the environment including the air, room to move, access to other animals, the outdoors, and even toys. All of these cost more money to provide: straw, cleaning services, quality air treatment, rented or purchased space and constructing larger buildings, pasture lands, and of course the toys. Johnson, though, is even more out of touch with reality here than with the last point about messages that reach the public. Johnson says I have not “significantly countered” that animals cannot be better off through welfarism. Yet anyone with any sense would agree that all of the above more than half-dozen measures (and then some) are a big improvement for the animals over factory farming. At this point, I have to wonder what planet Johnson lives on, because he’s not describing the real world. If the animals left it up to Johnson to decide what is better for them, they would be in very big trouble. Here is a parody that he deserves: a vet could recommend factory farming conditions for The Farm Sanctuary because animals are not really better off there anyway. Johnson uses the tired old Francionist argument that because animals are property, they are considered to have no interests at all and are treated as things. Blind to the example, Johnson astonishingly ignores how every single measure listed above is in the animals’ interests, big-time. Yet the animals are still 100% property in Sweden. The Swedes believe that all of these measures are in the animals’ interests and the whole campaign was based on compassion, not on what is in the producers’ best interests. The producers fought the campaign and lost. If humans were factory farmed and then offered this better treatment they would be delighted with the improvements, even if they dearly would like to be free of such oppression altogether. Similarly, my ancestors who perished in the Holocaust would have been delighted, honestly speaking, by even small acts of kindness though they were marched off at gunpoint to their certain doom in the midst of an evil society.

(23) Johnson extends the Francionist analysis to say that since animals are property only the interests of owners of animals or “other owners” are ever protected. The Swedish example still faithfully falsifies this claim. For these measures to be in the interests of the owners, they would have to profit from them. However, these measures all cost money. Either the owners have to (partly) pay for them, or else the taxpayers have to (partly) pay for them. That is not in humans’ interest. It is a concession to animals’ interests. Yet Johnson announces: “There is no welfare law in the entire world that could be passed otherwise” than in human interests, and that animals are only offered “incidental protection” or that animals can only receive “chance” protection. Falsified again. The animals’ interests were the point of the campaign which was achieved. Here Johnson shows that he is prejudicial, blind-sighted, narrow-minded, and fails to be objective. Johnson persists: “This argument [of animals as property, etc.] shows welfarism doesn’t promote kindness, and isn’t approached by Sztybel. It proves to be damning for one of his main points.” He adds that I do not take into account the legal status of animals showing the owner must get some benefit. Incredibly, Johnson is ignoring how I clarify in the essay how every negative point Francione says about animals-as-property is falsified by the Swedish example. And again, animal “welfare” was the whole campaign started by a Swedish children’s author—out of compassion and outrage—not by the farmers. Apparently, if I do not parrot Francione then I have not “considered” him. Read the essay again, Johnson. I not only “approach” this argument but utterly discredit it. Yet Johnson insists that I have not “backed…up” that Sweden got results. My facts about Sweden are not in dispute and I cite many reputable websites to substantiate all of them. Another insulting and false statement. Boy, people who take Johnson’s word for what I am doing are in for a ride of deceit, however unintentionally perpetrated it may be.

Francionists are often portrayed as belonging to a cult. While I frequently resist such an analysis out of respect, here is a case where it seems somewhat true as a likeness. Johnson has been brainwashed. He uses lines like, “…we must remember…” what Francione says that if a welfare law is passed, it is only “to make the use of animals more efficient.” Why “must” we make up our minds like this at every point? Factory farming is the most direct and efficient way to profits for exploiters, not these measures that are so costly to producers and/or taxpayers. To analyze the Swedish situation, Johnson actually prefers to just recite Francione statements rather than actually to look at the facts. He is trying to get the facts to fit Francione’s theory (which of course does not work), rather than to brave it and go on his own to fashion a theory which fits the facts, which all good science is in the business of doing. Francionists make fun of speciesists as being like “flat-Earthers” who repeat their mantras in defiance of all evidence. But the case is no different here with animals as property in Sweden who have positively recognized interests, and so on. See my essay for more details.

Johnson objects that meat consumption may have gone up after Sweden made these reforms. He also objects that I do not consider the results of banning factory farming, even though much of the paper offers a detailed analysis of the after-effects in general of such measures. Falsity is apparently a very good friend of Johnson’s. There is actually evidence that Swedish meat consumption has increased, although Sweden is also the first country in the world urging people to cut meat and rice consumption in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, am I prepared to concede the point that pragmatically, the Swedish reforms are worse for animals? Not at all. Of course increases in meat-consumption are a bad thing, but they need to be placed in a broader context of analysis. As I wrote in the paper, a temporary spike in meat consumption will occur. But it is unarguable that the animals in the system are far better off than they would have been otherwise. A rights perspective, by the way, looks at individuals’ dignity by itself, and does not consider it as a means to some other end. Yet the Francionists, ironically because they oppose utilitarianism, keep asking what good improving the well-being of animals now will do animals in the future who might one day be liberated. The present-day animals are thus considered instrumentally, or as a mere means. There should be no question as to whether to ramp-up respect for present-day animals, regardless of the consequences. Now in the paper I made the point that passing through a “welfarist” stage may be inevitable unless we can “pole-vault” our way directly to animal rights, so we might as well get the “welfarist” stage over with sooner. In other words, Francionists delay the inevitable, including the spike in meat-consumption. Or suppose a society can go directly to animal rights law. Then of course we should do so. But it is once again life in La-La Land to think that we can do this. In the absence of that possibility the next legal phase in improving the lot of animals is only “welfarist” or nothing. And improving respect for animal interests makes it the case that people will be more likely to consider vegetarianism, whereas again, veganism/animal rights seems less likely to be taken seriously in a more cruel culture. So delaying animal rights now by delaying “welfarism” leads to far more animal deaths, since obviously without an animal right society, animals will go on being killed. Each year of abolition saves far more lives (since no animals are slaughtered) than merely to offset a spike in meat-consumption in a speciesist but more “welfarist” society. So in the wider analysis we are talking about many fewer animal deaths overall if an animal rights society can be brought on sooner by those with the courage and the resourcefulness to actually do something for animals in the legislative realm. For a new, more detailed analysis of this issue as to which approach results in more animal suffering and death, please click HERE

(24) Johnson objects that the Swedes still protect human interests over animal interests. That is true but irrelevant. Yes, the Swedes would save a human over an animal in a dilemma. Yes, meat-eating still puts humans first. But that does not change the fact that animal interests are still being served by the reforms, at least the interests of present-day animals. And as I pointed out, this is at humans’ economic expense. Nothing can change the facts, folks, including Francionist-style red herrings.

(25) Johnson objects that welfare reforms appease the public. True, but in Sweden’s case it appeased a legitimate interest in anti-cruelty. Johnson should take more of an interest in anti-cruelty. Like other Francionists, he is lost in delusions of dogma and callous to what animals are legally allowed to suffer. These reforms also appease many of the inherent concerns of animals in “the system.”

(26) Johnson disagrees with my point that welfare standards will push up the price of meat. Like an entranced cult-member, he recites the Francionist mantra in response: “law will not do wrong by the owners for the good of things.” Again, look at the facts. Someone has to pay for these pricey measures, and consumers pay either as such or as taxpayers. Yet Johnson calls it “pure speculation” that the real price will go up. Apparently it has not occurred to Johnson that someone actually has to pay for these more expensive measures. But then this is just one more sign that Johnson is out of touch with the real world as, in principle or de facto, all Francionists in some measure are.

(27) Johnson criticizes: “Stating that supporting welfarism is ‘necessary’ to improve the lives of animals today, is only so strong as the argument that beating children is necessary to get them to obey moral laws—in both cases there are better methods of getting the result, and in both cases it is incredibly deceptive to state that the subjects are better off.” It is “incredibly deceptive” to say that the animals in Sweden are better off? Again, Johnson’s other-worldly dreaminess is revealed. It is “necessary” to improve animal welfare laws to actually legislate it, yes. It is the only way that producers improve their practices unless it is some other “welfarist” campaign that is consumer-based, as PETA has also done time and again. The vegan boycott, by the way, is not enough to get companies to change since companies know that most vegans are never going to consume these products anyway. And the vegetarians who would eat meat again if practices change are scorned as allies by Francionist purists, though not myself, even though of course I would disapprove of their going back to animal consumption.

It is morally necessary to respect and secure what is best for present-day animals. Comparing pragmatists to child-beaters is just another unfounded insult. Johnson and the other Francionists, you fail to act in the best interests of present-day individual animals, regardless of the consequences, and thus you betray the whole point of rights in the first place. Yet even consequentially-based arguments bear out my abolitionist approach as I argue. Oh, excuse me, I am “not” an abolitionist because some, in effect, cult-leader says only “his” people advocate the abolition of property status of animals or speciesism? Wake up, “culty” folks! I am not just one of those people who repeats what some alleged “mastermind” says, but think for myself, and anyone who advocates abolition is an abolitionist. Only someone who is deep-down insecure would even feel the need to say his is “the” only such approach. That is not merely pathetic, but indeed contemptible. Why? Because it is apt to deceive and manipulate followers. And because it short-changes and deprecates the multitudes of abolitionists like me who vastly outnumber the Francionist abolitionists. I am grateful for that fact, and it also stands as a testament to good sense winning out over misguided ideology. Advocates against injustice should be seriously concerned with such abuse of terminology.

China and the Building of Kindness

(28) I point out how China has few animal rights vegans and virtually no animal “welfarist” laws. Johnson’s response? Another classic Francionist red herring: vegan education and abolitionist campaigns also make society kinder. True, but irrelevant. I also engage in vegan and abolitionist education and advocate same. This misdirection leaves out the fact that the law is a great moral teacher, indeed as it is intended to be. A lot of people even judge right and wrong by the law, although such a stance is crude, wrong, and ignorant. If the laws result in practices such as factory farming, people become complacent with such practices and inured to them. To think that this is not a crucial factor in kindness-promotion—which is the whole point here—is again out of touch with how the real world works. People imitate examples, not least of all the law and those who are law-abiding. Full kindness-promotion requires a full-spectrum approach, considering all factors. Ignore Johnson’s latest red herring, please.

(29) Johnson offers that China is more like other countries than they are different, because animals still are enslaved and slaughtered. Again, another point under the “true but irrelevant” category. Yes, North America and Johnson’s home country of England is speciesist. However, by this diversion, he is just trying to hide the relevant differences pointed out, and this he cannot do unless someone is willing to cooperate with his advocacy of ignoring the relevant facts. Evading an argument does not refute it in any way, shape, or form.

(30) Johnson is very good at “true but irrelevant.” He also says that suffering, or perceived suffering, does not equate to kindness. It is true anyway that suffering can be reduced for reasons other than kindness, but that still may be in the animals’ best interests for that time-frame. Actually, if profiteers can be given an economic incentive that might be a good thing because it may conduce towards some relief for the animals that might not otherwise occur. In any case, the Swedish society did throw off factory farming from its “person” out of kindness. Again, the author’s appeal to compassion was heard almost everywhere in the land.

(31) We hear the oddball notion that kinder societies are “unrelated to animal rights due to the semantic difference in levels of cruelty.” It is unclear what point Johnson is even trying to make here. If kindness conduces towards respect for animal interests, then it is relevant to promoting animal rights.

(32) Johnson complains how I do not make it clear how “welfarism” can make a kinder society, so my analysis is “a knee jerk idea rather than a thought out position.” Again, anyone who thinks at all would agree that factory farming is less kind than Sweden’s non-factory-farming state. Certainly, kindness conduces to respect for interests and cruelty is not. That is true both by analytic definition (since kindness is a respect for interests and cruelty is a disregard of interests), and by scientific recourse to experience, since many Chinese generally, as part of their culture (although there are exceptions such as some Buddhists or Taoists for example), do not give a damn about animal interests at all and their laws mirror that, and they in turn mirror their laws. But this mirroring need not stretch unto infinity if they begin to respect animal interests and this progresses to the complete respect for animal interests that is animal rights. Rather, Johnson is offering a “knee-jerk” reaction to my analysis, because his response does not seem well thought out at all. Only in Francionism School is a cruel state of society equally as conducive towards animal rights as a much more kind state of society. Better listen to what “the” Teacher says about “the” Approach though!

False Analogies

(33) Johnson wrongly claims that my argument can be summarized by an analogy with human slavery. Would we seek to ban caging humans or larger spaces for them? A summary of my arguments? I think he’s left out a few hundred items or so. In any case, my abolitionist approach, as anyone learned about this discussion knows, would by analogy seek to ban the cage as soon as possible, and you can’t do better than that. As for cages, I forget who made this example, but it is true that if animal rightists are unjustly arrested on trumped-up charges, we may be helpless to alter that fact, but advocacy might make a difference in seeing that they are fed healthy, vegan food which in some cases might be denied them. That is reformist, not abolitionist, action. So Johnson’s appeal to human analogies backfires in this case.

(34) Not about to leave out tired old arguments, Johnson makes the point that it would be immoral to offer child abusers protection if they reduce their beatings. Johnson once again ignores key facts. First, I also advocate the abolition of abuse just as much as he does. Francionists, like true believers in a cult, think they are the only ones who promote veganism or animal rights, raising this strategy as though it is some new, inspired, and original idea, when it did not originate from Big Francionist himself. He is just parroting old strategy used by groups such as, yes, PETA, with whom he was once actively affiliated. Second, the situation is not analogous since society does not condone child abuse, but it does approve of eating animals for the most part. We can challenge child abuse effectively where it does occur, but we cannot yet effectively abolish animal abuse. So we need to make the best of it, as in the case of the caged vegans. Third, Francione says we should not reduce beatings, but in Rain without Thunder he approves of legislative changes that would fully protect one animal interest, such as liberty of movement, but totally neglect other interests, such as what he calls “bodily integrity.” That is most analogous to reducing the beatings rather than abolishing them. Francione though is an incredible hypocrite in other areas too: just visit my blog entry from July 15, 2008, entitled, "Francione's Mighty Boomerang" for the incredibly numerous proofs.

(35) Johnson likens this debate over “welfarist” laws to the arguments over whether to be a vegan. Not a very good analogy, since my own “abolitionist approach” promotes veganism just as much as anything. As well, there is no dilemma about whether to advocate veganism. It is an appeal that might succeed with individuals. But try passing vegan/animal rights laws. That will not succeed in the short-term, much as I might wish things were otherwise. But fantasy does not automatically become my reality. I make the best of the situation. Anyone who refuses to make the best of things just sells the animals short. The best means the most good and the least bad, so those divergent from this approach advocate less good and more bad, however unwittingly. And it turns out we find this is actually the case.

“Trading Off” Lives

(36) Johnson pleads that my approach paves the way “for further individuals to be ‘traded off’ for the lives of those currently being used to not be significantly improved.” Garbled, yes, but I think he means that my approach seeks better conditions for animals, and in return the cost is more animal lives lost. Elsewhere he writes that welfare reforms trade off millions of animal lives. But I have already refuted that argument in (23). He assumes that Francionism will save lives, but my own abolitionist approach crusades just as hard for vegan animal rights. The Francionists, if they succeed, will prolong animal illfare, and worse forms of it, and thus delay creating conditions suitable for abolition to succeed. Johnson writes dogmatically that “welfarism…generally leads to higher numbers of animals being used full stop,” but it does not stop there. He cannot win a debate by announcing mere intuitions or opinions. We need to go on to much further rational analysis as I have offered. He points out that his concern is not “fundamentalist” here, but of course I concede that. I distinguish in my paper between fundamentalist moral concerns and pragmatic concerns with efficacy, and basing animal rights in what is best for individual animals (which also works better for animals than obsessing about abstract standards in more or less isolation). Johnson’s approach is pseudo-pragmatist, in my opinion, and will mean more animal lives lost in the long haul, for reasons I outline above in (23).

(37) Johnson says it is immoral to focus on animals we can see, damning many more we can’t. This is simplistic. My approach is concerned with animals in a nonspeciesist society that we cannot see, as well as plenty of animals now and in the median-term who are “invisible” to me too. Perhaps, to be more precise, he means focusing on animals in the present and near-future generation rather than those in the long-term? However, anyone familiar with my approach would not suggest that I am unconcerned with any animal at any time, short- or long-term.

(38) Johnson is am amazing writer. He amazes me when he writes: “it is very intuitive that by supporting the abolitionist approach [sic]…these welfare changes will occur in response without trading off lives.” He predicts that “companies will respond with welfarism” to a vegan abolitionist campaign. Again, producers will not magically change factory farming in response to Francionism. Only laws, or consumer boycotts of companies unless they use kinder practices, will force companies to change, and Francionists themselves explicitly use neither method in their futilitarian frenzying. So they have nothing to offer in this respect. Amazing—Johnson must think that Francione and his Francionists have miraculous powers, since nothing else could bring about the changes he mentions. Again, there is no trading off of lives in the long-term, but saving more lives, or at least I have given a cogent set of reasons to think that is the case which no Francionist has directly considered in any publication that I am aware of—let alone successfully refuted.

(39) I point out that Francione’s “abolitionist” proposals that he accepts are speciesist. This is irrefutable since again as I noted in the paper, he would ban de-horning, but that ban would still be part of a speciesist set of laws. Johnson’s response? “using welfare laws in a future place which bares [sic; should be ‘bears’] no practical resemblance to this one to state that arguments are about welfarism are wrong is quite poor.” His hard-to-read response is startlingly beside the point. If Francione’s ban on de-horning were adopted, it would join speciesist laws now or in near future, not in some far-flung time or place. And it would depressingly resemble the present-day state of affairs, still exploiting animals for “food.”

(40) Francionists never tire of talking about “the thirsty cow” example that Ingrid Newkirk brought up years ago, how it would be callous to neglect these cows. Francione, in a fit of arbitrariness of the sort that he is well used to, said people can individually help the cows but not pass a law that helps them. Johnson cites this example “as a main reason why it’s right to support an incremental campaign.” Preposterous. The cow example is just a minor illustration. My reasoning is very general and theoretical. Johnson educates us that animals can’t be thirsty since they need water to survive. Ridiculous. Excuse me, Mr. Johnson, but the only thirsty beings in the universe are among the living. Dead animals are not thirsty. Cows pre-slaughter are both severely starved and thirsty since the industry people don’t want to “waste” food and water. He repeats the Francionist mantra that a campaign for water could only succeed if it was in the farmer’s interest. The example of Sweden’s compassion-based, successful campaigns—among other such victories in the world—disproves that dogma. Johnson also raises the idea that the campaign would trade off lives, but see again (23). Finally, Johnson calls the cow example an emotion- or intuition-inducing example. I never reply on simplistic or manipulative appeals to either, albeit my moral theory makes a systematic use of feeling cognition in a very specific way. All of my theory is integrally based in a theory of what is best for sentient beings.

“Abstract Suffering”

(41) Johnson concedes that “he [Sztybel] may be right in asserting certain ‘abstract’ levels of suffering are lowered in society, but not that society is any kinder or closer to adopting animal rights.” There is nothing abstract about a chicken who is instantly knocked unconscious, a reform Francione rejects, versus one who is dipped alive and conscious into a scalding tank, the frequent reality Francione in effect prefers to leave unchanged in the legislative near-term. So a “welfarist” society is not kinder? Sweden is no kinder to animals than the U.S., Canada, or the U.K.? Balderdash! Kindness respects interests and that is exactly what we have here, so Johnson is descending into logical unintelligibility here. Of course kinder societies are closer to adopting animal rights. They have fewer degrees of interests to go before fully respecting those interests. As I pointed out in the paper, Sweden has also banned fur farms and is talking about banning trapping too, although recent news indicates that Israel may beat them to the punch on that score.

(42) As I have said, the Francionists are really callous in not favouring simply outlawing all the cruelty that we possibly can. This last part is really shameful, in my way of thinking. Here we have living proof of the callousness, an actual psychological device that speciesists use to be indifferent to suffering through distorted thinking. Johnson consoles himself: “we wouldn’t suffer less if we were the individuals living in [conditions of less ‘abstract suffering’], and hadn’t known worse.” So a Swedish animal does not suffer less? This is just like (and presupposes) saying the factory farmed animal does not suffer more because he or she has never known better. So he goes on to assure us: “degrees of suffering are reduced into abstract oblivions.” Speciesists use the same logic, saying exploited animals “never know any different.” Irrelevant for the same reasons as when the speciesists use such damnable sophistry: we bloody well know better, and that some ways of carrying on society really are better for sentient beings than others. Let’s not fool ourselves here. Johnson’s ignoring the worse suffering is a kind of oblivion of knowledge and sensitivity, and is based on a false, abstract notion that, yes, has also been used to rationalize committing or not doing anything about child abuse (“they never knew any better anyway”). If we accept Johnson’s plea here we might as well not try to improve animals’ conditions generally if they “do not know any better,” for on Johnson’s “reasoning” they would not suffer less.


Johnson triumphantly proclaims that his earlier points “are substantive enough to discredit welfarism in its aims…” Most of what he said is based in either falsity or fallaciousness (the latter means illogically jumping to conclusions; fallacies identify patterns of doing so such as the straw man argument Johnson loves so dearly). But what he has done is not purely garbage, even though every one of the 42 points set out above is refutable and indeed refuted. You see, people think what they do for a reason. So this whole discussion constructively furthers the debate, and that is a useful thing, not “garbage.” Taking out the trash is good too. I appreciate Johnson making the effort, which so few have. It is no doubt well-intended. Most Francionists cannot be bothered to defend their stance and just swallow Francionism whole, which Johnson does not. To his credit, he has not been sucked in by the fundamentalist rhetoric.

He states that welfarism “necessarily harms the interests of animals,” but he has not proved his case by far. He chides me that “…all of his [Sztybel’s] major points are…based on basic levels of logic which have ignored a deeper analysis…” By this presumably he means I have “ignored” the dogma that the Francionists parrot that animals-as-property means all sorts of things are not possible, but I have not ignored such assertions, but proven them dead-wrong in my essay by showing these things were not only possible but real in Sweden.

The most controversial part of my contention with Johnson, who would also be pragmatic, is over the question of the number of lives lost or suffering allowed with different legal strategies. It is hard to predict the future. But at least I have given very cogent reasons to suppose that fewer lives will be lost, based on causal analysis, which no Francionist has come close to reflecting in their own analysis of my work, let alone have they refuted my relevant arguments. Johnson saying I am superficial in my pragmatic analysis, partly on the pseudo-basis that I supposedly leave out echoing the Francionist mantra as I’ve already discussed, is exposed further when we think further. The Francionists only think of a spike in meat sales during “welfarist” times. This is only fragmentary, superficial, and short-term thinking. By contrast, my multi-factorial analysis takes account not only of that, but three scenarios for society, with the three possible phases for each duly compared in terms of suffering and death. My new illustration and table will make this even more plain than what is found in sentence-form in “Animal Rights Law.” To say my much more wide-ranging, deep, time- and possibilities-encompassing model is “superficial,” then, is a highly unintelligent opinion to put forward, again without any reference to reality. Johnson himself I am sure is intelligent though. We all say unintelligent things from time to time, but it is embarrassing whenever this happens in serious or scholarly writing about theory.

Johnson warns that “welfarism” will best me as it did others like him who turned to abolitionism. Well, you will be defeated—all by yourself—if you don’t even try to have more enlightened laws, as futilitarians like Francione and apparently Johnson recommend. They truly earn the name “futilitarian,” pleading futility even though the Swedes have succeeded in part of what I am aiming for, including in the adoption of a socialist society for humans. In any event, it is hard to “best” an approach that itself effectively advocates what is really best for each and every sentient being, at all times. Recognizing that the best that is really possible varies is of crucial import. But not, seemingly, if you become lost in Francionist Fantasyland.


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. Well, that was a thorough, well-written and well-argued rebuttal. It's a shame that Rob Johnson does not understand, even at this late date, how poorly his criticism of your paper fares.