Monday, October 1, 2012

Use Not Treatment: Francione's Cracked Nutshell

On April 21, 2011, Gary Francione wrote a blog entry entitled, "The Abolitionist Approach in a Nutshell." A nutshell statement for a position that is right you would expect to be rock-solid or impregnable. This is what he wrote:
As long as we think the issue is the treatment of animals, we will seek to make that treatment more “humane.” But because animals are property, that goal is unreachable as a practical matter. The treatment of animals will always constitute torture under the most “humane” circumstances. And the “treatment” (or welfarist) approach ignores that it is morally wrong to kill animals even if we treat them “humanely,” which we cannot do anyway. Welfare “reforms” not only fail to provide any significant protection for animals; such reforms actually make matters worse because they encourage the public to feel more comfortable about animal exploitation and to continue to consume animals and animal products. The problem is use, not treatment. The goal is to abolish animal use, not to regulate treatment. The means to the goal? Go vegan and educate others about veganism.
It is possible to disprove every single statement here:
  1. Since animals are property, we can never make the treatment of animals "more humane". In Sweden, where they have abolished factory farming - although animals absolutely remain property there - the treatment there is much more humane by any sane standard. Perhaps Francione wants us to accept "the Swede Principle". That is, if the Swedes pull it off, we can't in other Western nations. The nutshell has a line on it. Is it a crack?
  2. Animals will always be tortured "under the most 'humane' circumstances". The Swedish animals are not tortured most of their lives, or if they are it is illegal. I am against killing the animals too so that point cannot be used against my sort of "abolitionist approach". Wait - that hairline is a crack.
  3. The welfarist - that is to say anti-cruelty-law - approach "ignores that it is morally wrong to kill animals even if we treat them 'humanely'..." This is a straw man argument, addressed to non-existent arguers. Only traditionalist welfarists ignore that it is wrong to kill animals. My silent majority fellow supporters of anti-cruelty laws campaign against killing animals individually and as a society, and are eager to adopt laws against the murder of animals a.s.a.p. How is such a well-developed position against killing "ignoring" the issue of killing? There's more than one definite crack in the nutshell.
  4. Anti-cruelty laws do not provide "any significant protection for animals". So Francione would consider it "insignificant" if he were forced to eat cancerous carcasses, cement dust, shit, and other things instead of his usual good food? He would say "it does not matter" if he were confined in a tiny space for the rest of his life? If he were never again allowed outdoors? Or he would say it is a matter of no weight if he is required to shit and piss where he lives, without so much as straw? Or if he were denied any medical treatment? What's that, Gary, I can't hear you? Oh, you're saying these things matter to you after all and you don't want anyone to mess with you in these respects? These are all examples of treatments provided to Swedish pigs, unlike American pigs. If you can't say it's true for humans, you often can't say it is right for nonhumans. It would be downright speciesist to count the same considerations as highly significant for a human but as what he terms "insignificant" for a nonhuman sentient being. These fissures in the nutshell are slowly widening.
  5. Complacency means more animal consumption. The complacency argument is treated at length in my article, "Animal Rights Law", pp. 19-21. I show that kinder culture as in Sweden is more conducive to taking animal rights seriously than crueler culture as in the States. But apart from his failure to show how anti-cruelty-laws would retard animal rights laws in the future, I have shown that even if there is a temporary spike in animal consumption once animals are treated less cruelly, animals would still be subject to less suffering and death in the big scheme of things. See my carefully articulated and defended model that shows Francione is wrong yet again. Indeed, given the pervasive dominance of the incrementalist approach to animal law, it has been conclusively been shown that this very approach is saving hundreds - over many years thousands - of millions of nonhuman animal lives which the anti-incrementalist approach, universalized, would have meant killing by failing to save. The nutshell is starting to fall apart.
  6. Then Francione tells us the nutshell of his nutshell: "The problem is use, not treatment." The largest animal rights group in the world is called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). If Francione had his way, I suppose they would have to be renamed as "People for the Ethical Non-Use of Animals". (As if that is going to happen.) But animals are being used even now as part of discourse. Not just concepts of animals, which would have no point if they did not refer to real beings. Animals are used as subjects of photographs, a wonderful alternative to hunting and confining them. Francione himself implicitly uses many animals as photo-subjects on his website that supposedly advocates the abolition of animal-use. Animals are used to study how amazing their abilities are in non-invasive wilderness studies. They are used by ecosystems to help promote natural vitality. They are used at the post office, where the nice human animals will try to help you out if you can pay for it. To say the issue is "use" is silly. It gets away from the more fundamental Kantian notion that we should not treat rights-holders as "mere means", and postal workers if they are respected are not mere means.

    The issue is violent use, not use per se. Violent usage is in fact an excellent definition of exploitation. It is wonderful when we can be non-violently useful. The question is not use but abuse. If animal use is one day finally abolished - at least for some legal realm - but we do not feel the need, on account of Francionist urgings, to legislate that remaining animals be treated well on sanctuaries...we could have Holocaustian treatment of these sensitive beings instead. Experience shows that harsh treatment tends to result - at least in many cases - when such practices are not legislatively and explicitly ruled out. Additionally: use is not separable from treatment. Little is the glimmering within him that use is indeed an ASPECT of treatment. Use = instrumental treatment. Indeed, Francione himself, in Rain without Thunder (1996) wrote on p. 194 that animals have a "claim against instrumental treatment." (my emphasis) But that would be "treatment", would it not? Someone can be treated as a means - or not. Rather than his slogan, "use not treatment", this would be a case of "use and treatment." So would eventual laws not only abolishing use but ensuring good treatment. Utter incoherence, I tell you.

    Not only is use not something we should "abolish" if we are sane, but to say "treatment" does not matter is speciesist. Even when humans used as slaves is no longer an issue, we still say their treatment matters when we legislate:

    • unemployment insurance
    • the minimum wage
    • welfare assistance
    • disability pensions
    • retirement pensions
    • labour laws for conditions of work
    • job security
    • state-sponsored medical care

    None of these programs is about protecting humans from being "used". Even the minimum wage and labour laws only are meant to eliminate exploitation, but not the usefulness of labour.

    So "use not treatment" is both incoherent and speciesist. The nut itself is shrivelled and inedible. Hmmm. It even stinks a little bit.

  7. The means to abolishing the enslavement - let us say instead of use - of animals is going vegan and persuading others to do the same. This is part of our means. But abolishing speciesism means abolishing speciesist cruelty whenver possible too, and vegan education cannot address that at all the way the Swedes have, since the vegan population for a long time to come will leave animals in agriculture still as a matter of fact. Anyone who argues we should not address speciesist cruelty when we can do so might as well say someone should be allowed - legally - to beat a dog since interfering with that would not abolish the "use" of animals. "Use not treatment", so might argue a lawyer for the animal abuser? The issue is not just abolishing use as Francione proclaims. And again, not just straight vegan education, but also much more highly publicized anti-cruelty laws and campaigns are helping people to take animals more seriously. And many individuals are going vegan as a direct or indirect result of such campaigns. This is easy enough to explain. Once you crack the shell of speciesism, thorough anti-speciesism can result in many people's minds. Francione's "nut" - the core of his view - is cracked too. Vegan education as a panacea is part of the essence of his simplistic approach.

He now indicates that his fundamental approach is non-violence. But look at his "theory" of non-violence in action! We are asked to conclude with him that how you treat someone has nothing to do with a non-violence approach. That is one of the most ludicrous things you will ever read. It would be hard even to make up a more wildly deficient non-violence theory. If I wrote in a fictional story that someone embraced and promoted a non-violence theory according to which treatment does not matter, I would be accused of violating my artistic license, because the suspension of disbelief would have been destroyed. But with respect to Francione: believe it, folks! Imagine a "non-violence" specialist going around to schools and telling students it does not matter how they treat each other, but only whether they use each other - such as for learning! Yet he says his approach is based in non-violence, and is entitled to ignore treatment, instead looking to use. So this must be his view by force of logic, or illogic in his case. His only other option is to say that non-violence does include treatment, but that his approach to animal law is not thoroughly based in non-violence for some mysterious reason. Every insult of factory farming is a separate piece of violence working together in infernal concert. His "new" theory of non-violence seems to be that merely "using" someone is violence - or the only "significant" form of violence - and that is not only nonsense, but dangerous nonsense. Its adoption will and does result in countless multitudes of animals failing to be meaningfully protected from the violence of ill-treatment.

Francione says he is Jain, but I think no Jain could agree that how you treat someone is irrelevant to non-violence. Countless examples - such as using civil speech - are given about the non-violent treatment of others. Also, they absolutely revere the use-value of persons. There is a distinction, in Jainism, between the monks and the "householders" as they are termed. The monks live supported by the laity, and this using of the rest of the community is considered extremely honorable on both sides. Jains would wonder about any person asserting the contrary about treatment being irrelevant and use of persons unacceptable. I say nothing in particular about any individuals, but I am prepared to make the generalization that anyone for whom how animals are treated is not an issue is offering a study in cruelty. It is hard for me to imagine anyone discounting "treatment" with a straight face. And yet, if someone does so, I can only evision it as being a very cold face.

Perhaps he thinks the only way to end cruelty is to end use, but such a view is scarcely tenable. The Swedes made huge inroads against cruelty for over twenty-four years in an arena veganism never touched: their ban of factory farming in 1988. Whatever animals remain in agriculture are literally the animals that the vegans could not save. Now if a Francione-type had defeated their anti-cruelty campaign, billions of animals would have lived hellish - Holocaustian - rather than more bucolic lives.

It can conclusively be proven that the new, self-so-called "nutshell" for Francione's abolitionist approach is seriously and fundamentally cracked. We will not indicate that it is "nuts", let us say - it is not insane people necessarily who adhere to this doctrine. Nevertheless the "nutshell" is just as intellectually and morally untenable as the more elaborated version.

Francione has the unenviable trait of being on the wrong side of the debate. In such a case, arguments on the wrong side can usually be refuted in clear enough terms to be embarrassing for normal people. And even to cause them to switch sides. But some people prefer to shield themselves with a cracked nutshell from facts, logic, and compassion. It is not a strategy that is destined to survive in the evolution of ideas. Ignoring disproving facts and arguments is already a dead-end in ideological discourse - because that will always be the case. The most useful treatment for Francionist, indirectly violent dogmas is to discard them. Sometimes a nutshell just needs a good nutcracker.


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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