Monday, August 20, 2012

Anti-Cruelty Laws and Non-Violent Approximation

Readers have seen a principle I coined in my recent writings. It is called non-violent approximation. One could see it in action in my recent blog entry on the definition of veganism. Does this principle also relate to the incrementalist question, that is, whether animal rightists should support anti-cruelty laws? You can be sure of it. First, let us review. On the ethic I defend, if non-violence is possible then it should be practised absolutely. Nobody should be a bully, for example. Yet what if it is not quietly preventable? In a case in which violence seems inevitable, it can be said to approximate non-violence as much as possible to choose the option with the least violence. That might mean the forceful defence of the innocent.

Okay. Now let's apply this principle to our case of anti-cruelty laws. In the legislative near-term, we cannot have absolute non-violence. That would mean laws, for example, against eating animals, and in favour of the remaining creatures being given a suitable home in sanctuaries. The most we can have is some imperfect state of affairs compared to absolute non-violence. We should ask ourselves how this might apply to gas-stunning for birds as opposed to an electrocution system that lets the animals often be scalded alive and have their throats cut while fully conscious. (For more detailed discussion bringing in Ingrid Newkirk and Peter Singer, see relevant blog entries from January and February 2010.) Being scalded alive is one kind of violation. And having one’s throat cut while conscious is another. Non-violence is about the negation of violations. Now tell me, which approximates absolute non-violence more, a world where there are these two violations, or a world where they are no longer permitted to exist? The answer is obvious. It is like: which is better, surgery without anesthetics or with? If you have to put up with surgery, as you have to put up with animal exploitation for some time to come, the humane solution beckons quite clearly, thank you very much.

[Please note: in the original blog entry here I wondered aloud if "Francione as a theorist may well have followed me in terms of starting to rely on non-violence theory as a central emphasis. (He never did before, and then suddenly after I did so, I heard about him doing so. History has shown that he is well aware of my writings.)" In a comment on my September 10, 2012 blog post, an unidentified "kaufman" left a comment proving clearly that there are some cases in which Francione articulated non-violence as a central principle. So I have issued a partial retraction of my speculative question, although the bulk of Francione's articulations have not at all thus far featured non-violence as a central principle: not at all in his books, nor the journal articles of his that I have read, not in the web material that I recall, nor in the many talks of his I heard.]

Francione cannot claim his non-violence stance is either more faithful to absolute non-violence, which is not possible in the legislative near-term, nor indeed greater approximation of non-violence. As a non-violence theory proponent he has failed. As miserably as the animals he would have suffer these unnecessary miseries.

He has succeeded though in echoing what he has learned about animal rights from others: not to accept animals as property, to give them rights, combat speciesism, and the rest of the conventional animal rights talk that is to be found in his writings. I will not say that Francionism has fallen though. Apart from the successful aspects that just parrots other animal rights ideas, his own distinctive right not to be property and opposition to anti-cruelty laws (and more) never got off the ground in the first place … except in the imaginations of those animal rights sign-ons who remain hardened to legally preventable cruelties or violations.

These obstructers of relief from utter cruelty think they "know better". They assure us that after all it is "best" not to legally oppose the cruelties in question with every resource we can spare. Yet in all their supposed years of "knowing better", they have mounted arguments that have been burst like balloons (which they continue to wave around as though full), oily-tongued objections that fail to stick, and sheer evasion of honest concerns such as: how can we most approximate non-violence? They know "better" and yet they have no answers. Their continued evasion will all be a part of success always eluding that camp, and people in droves avoiding its invitations to participate in the active furtherance and entrenchment of cruelties on an unimaginable scale. Common-sense has known better than this camp all along, and theory can practically prove what is closer to absolute non-violence: less cruelty rather than more.


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

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