Saturday, December 17, 2011

Francione’s Three Feeble Critiques of My Views

Professor Gary L. Francione has three key substantive points to make about my work (albeit without any evidence provided), in an excerpt from The Abolitionist Approach Forum. I assert the right to defend myself against these back-room attacks. It is in response to my essay, “Animal Rights Law,” my blog entries on the incrementalist question, and especially my first appearance as a “chat guest” on AR Zone on January 16, 2011. I will lay aside for now his gratuitous comments about my alleged incoherence, misrepresentation, insultingly "diagnosing" me as mentally ill, and the like. And his libel that I tell outright lies. Here are his three points, which I suppose are meant to be devastating findings against my position after years of confident consideration:

  1. “Sztybel simply does not understand the economics behind welfare reform.”
  2. “[Sztybel] maintains that welfare reform is a morally [sic—should say “moral”] and practical way of achieving abolition. That is new welfarism.”
  3. “This [ergo: Sztybel’s work]…is part of the effort to reduce abolition/animal rights to new welfarism.”

Let’s address these concerns one at a time. Just as I refuted, one by one, all of his points that he made about Ingrid Newkirk’s opinion column in my blog entries for January 24th and 25th, 2010. So I do not “understand” the economics behind welfare reform? Francione apparently believes that people do not “understand” reality when they do not agree with his own views. He assumes that his views reflect an “understanding” of reality. Let us carefully consider, however, Francione’s dogmas about economics. First, he puts forward a misnomer of a phrase: legal welfarism. This conception maintains that welfare reforms just make the exploitation of animals more efficient and more profitable for the exploiters. This dogma has long been refuted by me. I have proved that Sweden has abolished factory farming, and that we can prove that this does not make exploitation more efficient and profitable for exploiters. Let us consider the phenomenon of factory farming from an economic point of view. It is rather intensive “agriculture” itself that makes exploitation as efficient as possible, and that is the main reason why the perversely cruel technology and techniques of factory farming were invented in the first place.

To quote my recent essay on hog exploitation for Toronto Pig Save:

It is usually thought that there is more money to be made in confining animals by cramming them into minimal indoor spaces (less rent, building, or land costs), in feeding them awful food (which is cheaper), keeping them in filth (rather than paying for cleaning), letting them suffer stifling, toxic air and extremes of hot or cold (rather than pay for adequate regulation of the atmosphere in factory farms, transport vehicles, or slaughter facilities), failing to attend to their medical needs (to offset veterinary costs), and transporting and killing them forcefully and hurriedly (because workers are paid by the hour and meat is sold by the pound).

In other words, all of the measures of factory farming save “farmers” money. Therefore abolishing factory farming costs more money to exploiters. Indeed, if they refuse to pay these expenses, they would be fined, which costs more money too. Therefore Francione’s thesis is utterly refuted. Either direct exploiters pay the extra expenses, or else some government(s) pays. Government is unlikely to cover all of industry’s legally incurred costs. But anyway, if government pays then indirect exploiters still pay more because it is consumers or taxpayers who pay, and the bulk of them are indirect exploiters of animals too, not just the “animal industrialists,” as they might like to be called. Animal rightists pay taxes too, as a tiny minority, but this in no way undermines the fact that factory farming saves big money in the process and proceeds of animal exploitation. In short, this last fact about animal rights people is totally irrelevant as a saving grace for the Francionist position here, but I consider it just to be thorough enough. These reflections totally refute Francione’s ill-considered idea. Also, speciesist customers typically pay more if really costly "welfare" measures are instituted, since farmers normally pass on higher costs to consumers. This totally refutes Francione’s ill considered idea as a mathematical and economical certainty. Perhaps though in "Francionomics" more is less and less is more.

With all due respect, he never seems to have gotten the idea that people have to pay for things in this society. He used to embrace an incrementalist program to the effect that if all of an animal’s interest were respected, he would accept it ethically, because it would be almost like a whole animal right were secured, a proto-right as he called it. His example was that a reform could mean complete liberty of movement for birds. What he failed to consider then shows his parallel basic lack of insight into the money system. Full recognition of liberty of movement would need to be equivalent to what we would find on an animal rights sanctuary. That would be a generous amount of space. Keep in mind that this would be needed for animal agriculture to practice. Under speciesist rule, private industry would never provide animal rights conditions of sheltering, and neither would government. Animal rights people could not afford to shelter all of these animals. So his former “proposal” for animal is so unrealistic as to be untenable due to a lack of even the most basic sort of economic insight. (A Francionist with a graduate degree enthused to me in correspondence once that such expensive measures would be great because they would put the "farmers" of animals out of business. A government would pass a law killing animal agriculture in a speciesist society? I do not know if this person was repeating Francione's thoughts, but the level of thinking examined here is also poor.) But now he has reportedly abandoned his former incrementalism. Anyway, his incoherent claim that welfare reforms make economic exploitation more efficient show again a lack of insight into the simple proposition that they generally cost more.

Another economic dogma of Francione is that if we make animal industries less cruel, animal consumption will go up, contributing to greater profits, and more animal suffering and death. I address this misconception in considerable detail at:


No need to repeat myself here.

What truly matters is what affects the animals: less suffering and death. I show, with reasoning for every move, that on every scenario, Francione’s approach results in more suffering and death. He at most delays a spike in animal consumption since incrementalism is historically inevitable as I document in “Incrementalist Animal Law.” Unless animals will be treated better than blacks, which is improbable to the point of absurdity. Blacks have had to endure a painfully slow and highly insulting administration of incrementalist legislative relief dragging over more than two centuries.

Francione thinks that it is self-evident, as well, that we should never adopt any anti-cruelty measures that are more profitable for industry. He is not taking an animal-centred view of the situation, but rather a Francione-centred view. Professor Francione does not like exploiters to make money. Nor do I, but what chiefly matters is less suffering and death for animals. Now the animals literally do not care how they get relief plainly from torture. If anything, the chance to make more profit is a useful incentive for exploiters to be more certain to make things better or less cruel for animals (although again: welfare reforms cost money; we are just conceding his ill-considered idea of anti-cruelty measures that are profitable to industry for the sake of argument--it would apply to precious few measures, since again most factory farming cruelties are installed to save money; removing them costs money). Torture is far more important than someone getting richer off of exploitation from the point of view of the animals. In considering oppression, the standpoint of the oppressed should be paramount, not that of oppressors or witnesses. In other words, it is true that I do not “understand” economic realities of animal “welfarism” in the way that Francione does. That is because he consistently misunderstands and so misevaluates reality. He does this so consistently and pervasively that I am not surprised that he continues in his great clockwork of erroneous thinking, on and on, seemingly without end.

What about his second statement: “[Sztybel] maintains that welfare reform is a morally [sic] and practical way of achieving abolition. That is new welfarism.” Again, more and more errors on Francione’s part. He will never tire, evidently, of this particular straw man argument. I always say that anti-cruelty laws do not achieve abolition. It is worth quoting “Animal Rights Law,” pp. 9-10, to address this total misrepresentation of my view (not that I expect him to “get” it since I have said this so many times before but it never “takes” in his mind evidently). I make it clear that welfare reform is NOT a way of achieving abolition. Abolitionist campaigns do that. But welfarism can be CONDUCIVE towards abolition. I do not say that it is a “moral” or “practical” way of achieving abolition if it itself is not such a way at all! He will apparently never tire of misrepresenting not just me, but also so many other incrementalists who agree with me on this point. Humorously, without at all meaning to be, Francione concludes that I am a “new welfarist” because I maintain that welfare reforms are a moral and practical way of achieving abolition. But since I never say that, and in fact deny it, how can that make me a new welfarist? Also, I repeatedly trot out Francione’s five characteristics of “new welfarists” from Rain without Thunder (e.g., Sztybel, "Animal Rights Law," pp. 22-24) and prove that I do not even fulfill a sole one of his conditions. Pitiably, Francione does not even know what he is talking about.

The following quotes prove that I have stated this all along, only Francione likes to talk but not quite as much to listen:

To be clear, animal “welfarist” laws do not play a “causal role” in abolition as Francione claims supporters of such laws believe. I do not know anyone who thinks that just creating “welfarist” legal reforms will somehow magically bring about abolition all by itself. Indeed, “welfarist” reforms do not even contain in them anything directly related to abolition, and therefore such laws are obviously insufficient causes to bring about the destruction of speciesism. Fundamentalists tend to consider causation in black and white terms. So if “welfarist” laws do not “cause” abolition, they are prepared to reject such proposals as doing more harm than good.

Here I make a relevant distinction between causation and what I call “conduciveness.” In causation, if A causes B, then A being present ensures that B will come about. In conduciveness, if A conduces to B, then A may make it more likely that B will occur, in conjunction with other factors, but does not guarantee its occurrence and in many cases one can have A without B occurring, or A at first leading to an improvement in the form of B and then a regressing even to a state worse than A. I am not saying that so-called “welfarism” causes abolition, then, but that “welfarist” norms favorably influence abolition to grow as I have argued above, like good conditions for growing a plant. Sunshine, water, air and soil do not cause a plant to be—these conditions can exist without any plants—but are part of what favorably conduces towards growth. A plant could still suddenly die of drought, but this does not change the fact that the conditions aforenamed are generally favorable to plant growth. The plant can only come to be in a place by appropriate seeding or transplanting. Radical abolition can only be caused by abolitionist tactics, not only by the “sunshine” of kindness to animals.

According to the principle of sufficient reason, a politically distinctive demand for abolition must eventually move the body politic to abolitionism for the cause to succeed. Abolition needs to grow in people’s minds using the seeds of education and to be transplanted into the minds of others. Conduciveness is admittedly a bit of a hit and miss matter. Still, it is not blind faith but what tends to work pragmatically that makes one put stock in what is conducive. Textbooks do not “cause” learning but often conduce towards it in concert with other factors. I have clearly argued above how “kind culture” is more conducive to animal rights and how unkind culture is conducive to the absence of animal rights in the long term.

In other words, Francione’s reading of my work is dead wrong.

His third critique, recall, is as follows: “This [Sztybel’s work]…is part of the effort to reduce abolition/animal rights to new welfarism.” Let us make sure that everyone understands what “reducing” means here. It is not as in reducing prices, that is, causing a decrease in some manner of quantity. Usually, reductionism means that you have two ostensibly different things, but that you can account for one thoroughly in terms of the other. That is, they are in effect the same. For example, in philosophy, reductionists concerning the mind say that the mind is reducible to matter, such as the brain, or neuron firings (or some say that it is reducible to the functioning of the brain). Thus really we are only talking about material realities whenever we are discussing mental entities. These particular reductionists are called materialists or physicalists.

Now Francione’s claim that I reduce animal rights to new welfarism is holding that in effect, they are the same. First of all, again, I do not match a single defining characteristic of new welfarism that Francione himself lays down. So how could I say that animal rights is reducible to new welfarism when I do not even advocate the latter? Let us suppose instead, for the sake of argument, that he would agree that I supposedly am advocating the view that anti-cruelty laws are really the same as animal rights laws. He is alleging that I am confusing animal rights and animal “welfare.” That is completely false. I have always distinguished between animal rights/abolition for the long-term, and mere anti-cruelty laws in the short-term. So one does not “reduce” to the other. If animals’ interests are fully enough respected in concert with each other, then of course that is virtually equivalent to animals rights even apparently on his own view. But not otherwise. I do say that increments of animals’ interests can be respected, but that is merely a truism. He presupposed the same idea when he insisted ALL of an animal’s interest needed to be protected in Rain, a previous view which he has now partly garbaged. The following quotation from “Animal Rights Law” proves that I have always distinguished things in this way, as anyone even superficially familiar with my work knows for a fact (indeed, I have on occasion praised how Francione insists that we not confuse anti-cruelty laws with animal rights):

…[a new welfarist, according to Francione,] claims that animal rightists’ campaigns are “identical” to traditional “welfarism.” However, animal rightists only temporarily and conditionally recognize possible progressive merit in “welfarist” legislation, whereas traditional “welfarists” permanently and unconditionally support such laws. Animal rights advocates see such laws as prima facie morally wrong, unlike traditionalists who tend to see them as absolutely morally right. Animal rightists are not unconditionally “welfarist” or “anti-welfarist.” It depends on the meaning of “welfare” and the context of political action. It is not “identical” to traditional “welfarism” that PETA says animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, etc. I even deny that the laws in question are truly welfarist and instead dub them illfare-reducing, which is hardly the same as traditional “welfarism.”

Enough said. All of Francione’s substantive points against my work fail entirely, and show that he himself does not even comprehend what I am saying. This time, however, in what I write, we have claims not only with evidence, but quite likely conclusive evidence. Just like he failed to get what Professor Peter Singer was saying when Francione repeatedly misrepresented Singer as holding that animals are not self-aware nor aware of the future (actually these should be distinguished better than Francione allows), and therefore they have no right to life. I proved in my blog entry of January 27, 2010, that Singer maintains that farmed animals CAN anticipate the future and DO have a right to life, as Singer plainly states in Practical Ethics which Francione has “studied” and cited. Unfortunately, though, Francione supplies his readers with a totally inadequate interpretation on this point. Francione might say that it is I who misunderstand Singer after all. But that does not square with Professor Singer publicly thanking me for countering Francione's misrepresentation via my blog entry of February 5, 2010.

Francione gets my philosophy wrong with the second and third points that he makes, and then he neglects my work on his “economic” theses. First, he ignores how I disprove his point about legal welfarism (which could only be wrong on my part if factory farming is more expensive for exploiters—good luck trying to prove that!). Second, he needs to show that the spike in consumption of meat which can be predicted would not result in more suffering and death, but I show this conclusion is unwarranted, using a far more sophisticated analysis than any he has brought to bear. He would have to disprove my comparative analysis to claim otherwise, and each component of it is carefully justified in the document I link to above. And then there is his wrong assumption, in effect, that animals would rather exploiters not make a profit than those animals being relieved from torture. But then, sorry: I am presuming that he is primarily interested in the interests of animals here. We cannot assume too much.

After all of the some four years that he has had to consider my work, this is what it comes to: a bunch of insults, two obvious misreadings of my views, and several obvious misreadings of economic reality. He goes on repeating untenable dogmas about economics like a broken record. Indeed, his claim that I do not understand economics distorts as well, because many of my writings display an understanding of economics, only my construals are justifiably different from his own musings. In the years to come, expect more boring talk that I am mentally ill, misrepresent his views, etc. He will use the same tactics as the speciesists: insulting, selectively ignoring points, never conceding that he is mistaken even when it is clear, and so on. Being stubbornly prejudicial. Expect that he will not learn anything from this refutation. Never admit or apologize for his errors, such as the damage he did to Singer. The best scholars accurately reflect their opponents’ beliefs through careful analysis. Then they show how statements of one’s opponents are false, or how they have illogically leaped to a conclusion. Those are the two main routes for criticism. Francione, at least in this case and also in his particular "critique" of Singer, does neither. I however use both routes in critiquing Francione's own and indeed Singer's work.

Here we have an event of sorts: Francione deigns to criticize my work on the incrementalist question for the very first time. Three critiques. The result?

Sztybel: 3

Francione: 0

Actually, I believe I have established a great many more points over the years pertaining to this particular issue, including points against his own (type of) stance. Presumably he was offering reservations or criticisms that are meant to defeat my sort of view. Actually, if you look closely, all of the critiques seem to pertain to seeking anti-cruelty legislation in general: economic theory, evaluating animal welfare laws as a "means" to abolition, and concerns about conflating animal rights with speciesist animal welfare. He has yet even to consider my own particular arguments. But his critiques, regardless, were all defeated. Thus my side of the debate appears to be more potent than ever.

I will have a demolition crew of other arguments waiting for any Francionist who tries to mount academic criticisms of my position which, after all, only accords with common sense: actually supporting anti-cruelty at the legislative—as well as every other—level. What we have here is a dialectical breakdown. "Dialectic" can mean back-and-forth between two positions, as in a dialogue. (Although Hegel and Marx have had embarrassingly far-flung interpretations of "dialectic," which need not detain us here. Plato's dialogues, though, provide rich examples of dialectic in action.) Our dialectic could have been more direct, although Francione lit out of the Toronto Animal Rights Society debate I was to have with him. He agreed to debate, and his excuse for leaving was he did not think it would concern my essay so much (a draft of "Animal Rights Law" before it was published), although that was only about the incrementalist question we were disputing. As soon as I put challenging queries to him in that forum, he fled.

Regardless, this is what I mean about the breakdown in this dialectic. Francione has asserted many points, a lot of them dated many years back, and I have laid telling critiques against them. Those critiques have never been refuted because, I suspect, they cannot be. And Francione has applied a few counter-critiques, reproduced in this blog, which have been fully refuted. I predict that he will not do any better in time, although he may well do worse by compounding this patently erroneous thinking. This pattern of poor thinking will inevitably continue unless he changes sides, because you cannot make a falsehood true, nor a mistaken inference logical. I originally was going to entitle this entry, "Francione's Three Lame Critiques of My Views," but then, a very astute observer brought to my attention that "lame" can have ableist connotations. Feeble, though? If the shoe fits...


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 comment:

  1. To my eyes this is a very accurate and well-reasoned rebuttal indeed and an important contribution to the economic debate regarding welfarism.

    I agree that the reality is that gradual change is an inevitable part of social change.

    I find that incrementalism is the realistic, practical and most effective way forward on animal liberation. It seems abolitionists are unfortunately in denial over the reality. Incrementalism will achieve animal emancipation faster than abolitionism would.

    Confusion abounds over which is a means and which is an end. The debate between abolitionists and incrementalists has now become a waste of time and intellectual resources. Welfarism is, as you say conducive to abolition - it is potentially a prerequisite of greater progress for animal rights and so the animal movement as a whole should look to the bigger picture. I think it natural for humans to be impatient; we must however accept that the incremental approach is the most optimal course.

    I am glad to have found your work, it is going to be most useful to my own thinking. Thanks.