Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rain without Thunder Indeed!

Professor Gary L. Francione's book on animal rights movement strategy, Rain without Thunder: the Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement (1996), is by all knowledgeable accounts outdated. He has since made his legislative strategy more rigid than ever, and more allowing of extreme torture of animals to go unaddressed through action in the theatre of legal changes. (This makes the arrogance of his subtitle, proclaiming "the" ideology nothing but amusing.) But many elements of that book he presumably still stands by.

In his frontispiece, which roots the idea borrowed in his main title, he quotes, as follows, former slave and leading abolitionist Frederick Douglass:

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation,...want rain without thunder and lightning.

After the first sentence, Douglass' fuller statement actually said:

Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, or people who want crops without plowing the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.

Also entertaining is that Francione's omissions from Douglass' actual statement blot out, among other things, the reference to growing crops. This makes the entire rain without thunder idea confoundingly confusing and utterly obscure. It is also so ironic that Francione leans on this quote. The truth is, my form of abolitionism demands far more from power than Francione's approach. My style of pragmatist demands changes for animals to relieve their torture NOW. Francione, in relation to factory farming, is dozing at the legislative switch. PETA and other groups such as the Farm Sanctuary, by contrast, are creating thunderation throughout the whole established way of things, making matters better for real, live animals, and those who will inevitably come into being. They do this through the power of the law, upon which organized citizens can have a deep impact. These pragmatists also demand an animal rights society just as much as anyone else.

The Francionists truly neglect animals legislatively. So it is a propos to consider the words neglected by Francione that are to be found in Douglass' fuller statement. Francione again leaves out Douglass' demands that we not neglect ploughing the ground in order to yield our crops. That is hard work. Francione and his followers patently shirk many much-needed incremental moves in the battle-arenas of the legislatures. Indeed, that is any moves at all. Unless, that is, we will be legislating animal rights in Francione's lifetime. He has effectively given himself a lifelong vacation from matters legislative, apart from some sputtering side-talk. There is also an emphatic, second reference to "struggle" in the original words that is left out by Francione. The pragmatists really struggle with the legislators to make progress for animals. This is beautifully metaphorized by Douglass in the idea of the roar of the ocean. And the Francionists? They frankly can't be bothered in this anti-cruelty aspect of opposing the millenia-long oppression of animals. He also neglects the part about making demands. PETA makes infinitely more demands of the legal system than the ABANDONITIONISTS. (I only wish I could remember who crafted that ever-so-apt label!) Francione's approach is unworthy of Douglass' fine rhetoric.

The Francionists these days propose leaving factory farming legally alone--or rather, to the "animal industrialists"--due to a tangle of feeble rationalizations, as I have discussed on my site and in this blog. Such measures--or rather anti-measures--are more like a series of brain farts than any serious sort of "thunder". Oh, I don't know. Maybe subjectively, in their own minds, that sounds somewhat like thunder. But no one is stealing Gary's thunder here. He never had it going on in the first place. Demanding long-term animal rights laws is certainly no "thunder" in the present-day legislative realm. First, it is no distinctive thunder, since virtually all animal rights people call for it. But second, calls for vegan laws are by no means now so very "thunderous". Calling for a long-distant utopia of the law is in the idle pastures of a quiet dreamy-land. It is hardly anything that resembles fiercely flashing and mightily cracking storm-clouds. For regardless, and so unfortunately, the dozey legal establishment is not yet shook up from its "dogmatic slumbers", to use a phrase borrowed from the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant.

But that is all the Francionists ask for with regard to the law, unlike the animal law processes now underway by pragmatists that are really moving and shaking the world as it is now, and in the near-future too. Francione's rhetorical flourishes may dampen practices such as factory farming a little bit. And just as quickly it all dries up, because when all of his speeches come to an end, factory farming remains just the same. But forget about the thunder. It's not happening for either this guy or his colleagues. And as for lightning? The Francionist indoctrination truly resembles an "endarkenment" far more than any enlightenment!


This is a note to ward off those who might misinterpret these remarks. Notice that I am talking about the law here. Hence I wrote: "Demanding long-term animal rights laws is certainly no 'thunder' in the present-day legislative realm." [emphasis added] Now promoting veganism apart from legislation is having a somewhat major impact on society, although it needs to be much greater. I hope it will not be assumed that I am missing the obvious fact that pro-veganism profoundly shakes up individual lives, and to some extent, commercial practices. But anyone who thinks that we are quaking the laws in a vegan manner is really living in Dreamland. Hence the justifiability of these remarks. One day we might well see "thunderation" shaking up the legal establishment in a thoroughly animal rights way. But on that day, all animal rightists will be playing a part in that societal arousal as I have already indicated--not just the anti-incrementalists.


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. Thanks David, this is a great critique of faux-abolitionism.

  2. craigd@sandpoint.netApril 20, 2012 at 10:44 PM

    Not sure I fully understand the arguments here. The only method guaranteed to prevent intentional cruelty and suffering is to go vegan. All the laws in the world won't prevent billions of sentient creatures from being consumed. The issue is not whether they have room to stretch or if they get daily massages before being slaughtered. As long as the demand is there, the animals still die. There is no such thing as happy meat.

    1. I sympathize with your concern to promote veganism. But that will not help trillions of animals at the lack of mercy of legal systems who will not be affected by current calls to veganism. Your dogmatically declaring what is or is not the issue does not help anyone. I address how whether my pragmatic approach results in less suffering and death, in more detail than anyone else has done, at, under General, 2nd last item presently, entitled "Sztybelian Pragmatism versus Francionist Pseudo-Pragmatism". I agree that "happy meat" is a disgusting perversion of the language. I never say that anti-cruelty measures will make everything perfect. That is part of the point. We need to choose the best of imperfect realities, and those are macro-incremental changes as I argue elsewhere.

  3. I agree, but the tone is a little condescending/angry ;) Isn't Francione's main point that regulations will prevent us from moving towards animal liberation? It would be useful to show how this is not the case, and how regulations do help animals.

    1. Sorry if I come across as condescending. That is not my intention. As for anger? Cruelty does make me angry. And those who are anti-anti-cruelty laws are pro-cruelty according to what I have been arguing all along. I believe that if being pro-cruelty does not inspire at least some anger, then there is something missing there. However, if you have reservations because anger should not be immoderate, then I am with you. You are asking for a fuller case, and I have replied to this concern in the last reply I gave to another commenter.

  4. I'd like to see you develop your argument by using more excerpts from Francione's work that support your position that his work lacks any pragmatic application of animal law. This reads more like a bitter attack of Francione rather than a constructive point by point critique of his lack of a call of legal action. He is a law professor after all which is the irony here. Your not citing enough of his work to make these claims plausible. If your hope is to persuade those Francione adherents to see things differently, I think you've got a lot of work to do still (or perhaps you've already written extensively on this already?). In any case this one story alone does not lead me to believe that Francione's work negates pragmatic legal action for animals.

    1. I can understand why you would wish to see a rigorously developed case. Hence I wrote in the blog entry, for those careful enough to read it, that Francione's stance is "due to a tangle of feeble rationalizations, as I have discussed on my site and in this blog." It is inappropriate to expect me to repeat my rigorous case against Francione's brushing aside of anti-cruelty laws. It is also unfair to conclude that there is any lack of development of the argument without checking out my website and blog as recommended. On under Academic, you can reading the scholarly article, "Animal Rights Law". And under General there is an abbreviated version of that scholarly article for more general audiences, and also "Incrementalist Animal Law", an historical account. And there is a lot of material elsewhere on the site and in the blog that can be seen only if one is willing to actually look. This blog entry measures Francione against his Rain without Thunder quote. I believe it is only fair to assess this article based on what it sets out to do, and not in relation to goals that are arbitrarily imposed upon the piece. Granted, though, the goals of good scholarshhip are not "arbitrary" to uphold.

    2. I am reading those essays. Didn't see the link upon first read. I hope that you cover two big questions in my mind: 1. Why do animal groups whose mission is animal liberation focus almost exclusively on promoting modest welfare campaigns and almost never state their true mission? How can this possibly help the cause of liberation? and 2. Why should we not use the lessons of human slavery and the abolitionist movement as a "historical lesson" and apply what you call a fundamentalist strategy to approaching animal rights?

    3. Hi Robert. Thank you for reading further. Your comment among others was valuable not least of all for prompting me to include suggestions for further reading. Thank you. You also make a few other good points here. I agree--I think it would be a terrible omission were animal rights groups not openly to state their cause. It would be a failure to fulfill a duty of justice towards nonhuman animals. PETA in my opinion is not perfect. But they do say up front that people should go vegan, and that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on or exploit for entertainment as their motto. As for slavery, that is an interesting question. That is why I wrote Incrementalist Animal Law" which shows that all U.S. laws supposedly giving rights to blacks (to free them from slavery or else the case of rights post-slavery) were incrementalist steps, which is what I advocate, with total liberation being the endpoint sought. I also prepared a chart showing incrementalist progress for blacks in the U.S. in legislative terms. Fundamentalism feeds into anti-incrementalism on the moral plane, but the history of progress for all humans considered property has been incremtnalist as I believe I have well substantiated. Good point to parallel animal abuse with slavery, Robert.

    4. Interesting conversation here. About the slavery argument, I would add that, from my understanding of Francione's perpective, and therefore from a Francionist point of view, even though slavery was indeed abolished in an incremental way, we can look back at this incrementalist progress in retrospective, and say that that was not necessarily the right thing to do. What I mean is, for many moral issues we would not adopt an incrementalist approach (to take some of Francione's examples, we would not advocate for more humane rape or murder, even if that would indeed make a difference for the victims), and the fact that it was used in the past does not make it reasonable today. Of course doesn't change the fact that those incremental steps are the ones that actually lead to the abolition of slavery, and it is interesting to translate this to the context of animal rights...
      Again, very interesting points, I'm glad I found this website!

    5. Thanks. You are correct of course that just because slavery abolition was achieved incrementally does not logically entail that incrementalism is morally right. Thankfully, though, there may be ethical arguments sufficient to warrant some version of incrementalism.

  5. A few were concerned about me offering substantiation for my claims. So I added selections for further reading. Enjoy!

  6. So happy to discover this blog. Will be following up reading the articles you referenced. I like the term abandonitionists- sums up what I have been thinking. Thank you!

  7. Thanks, comrade! Glad you are finding some resonance.