Sunday, September 8, 2013

Demolishing the Absurd Myth of Complacency with 10% Support

The Francionists always rely on faulty arguments. You just wonder which ones they will come out with next. In his recent essay, "A Simple Question", Gary Francione reports:

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion. The finding has implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideals.

And so Francione asks us all the following question:

Why is every animal advocate and every large animal organization not working to get to that 10% rather than promoting welfare reform, "compassionate" consumption, and "happy" exploitation?

So we are all supposed to rush out and follow Gary based on this "research finding"?

First of all, you have to wonder: what is the mental achitecture of the geniuses who came up with this this study's conclusions? The latter are falsifiable even by those who are not specialists in the field such as myself, so long as I give the matter a little thought using some commonplace facts that I happen to know.

In recent years I read that 33% of Americans are Christian fundamentalists. They are highly convinced of their positions and are unlikely to change. At least for the most part. According to this "study", all of Americans are destined to become Christian fundamentalist. That is utter tripe and nonsense. The researchers have not "proved" their findings. It is unsupported speculation that goes contrary to current, widely available data, probably on any number of fronts.

Take, for example, political parties. It used to be that a huge number of Canadians were Progressive Conservatives. Far more than 10%. They also won elections on a much greater electoral base. But they never become dominant. They went extinct, replaced by new conservative bodies. And many people would deny that conservatism is our evolutionary destiny. It would be foolhardy to assume that we all must become conservatives due to some false law posited by polytechnical researchers.

All of the other political positions have more than 10% following too, by people who probably will not change much in their lifetimes (surely those unshakeable of conservatism will number more than 10% of society, and will not vary from being conservative ever, thus fulfilling the "law" supposed here), and it would be senseless to be complacent that any of them are going to take over society based on this "finding" by this polytechnical institute.

Indeed, the liberals will have more than 10% of society too who are irrevocably of that persuasion. This means the research findings "prove" that society will eventually be all-conservative, and all-liberal. Really impressive findings! It is always impressive to do the impossible, such as an implicit self-contradiction, after all, isn't it? If we knew statistics as to how much of the population subscribes to certain philosophies, we could perhaps show that 10% are die-hards of one school. But determining who wins out in the end depends on real-world interrelationships at micro- and macro-levels, not polytechnical institute erroneous, statistical "laws". Probably again there is more than one school that can claim the "magical" staunch 10%. But you get the idea - that is, unless you are a rigid ideologist.

How about a more relevant example? Many years ago, I heard that 10% of British people are vegetarian. After the mad cow disease scare, based in tainted beef, I was told that number jumped up to 25%. But does this mean that animal rights is a shoe-in, and animal rights laws are soon to come, so we do not need to abolish factory farming? Complete nonsense.

Suppose we achieve 10% animal rights support. We cannot be complacent that the rest of society will "magically" follow due to some formula. It takes hard work and convincing appeals, not theories somehow "expressing themselves" in reality. Francione said even 20% is realistic to aim for. Eventually, yes. But even if achieved, animal rights laws are very far away. Look at how divided the United States was over slavery, with far more than 20% of the population actively favoring this misbegotten institution. It took a very long time for anti-racist laws to appear after slavery was abolished, 78 years in fact as I show in my paper, "Incrementalist Animal Law: Welcome to the Real World".

So the "finding" in question is useless to the anti-incrementalist cause. There is still a very long time to go before we get to animal rights laws, no matter how you slice it, or how you attempt to spin it. And we should be ashamed of ourselves if we do not abolish factory farming, one of the worst inventions ever - an atrocity in itself - long before animal rights laws shine from the books.

"A Simple Question", eh? Simple indeed.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Holocaust Memoirs by Maria Sztybel

Please read these excerpts that are a new part of the Holocaust Comparison Project. I received the translation of my Aunt Maria's diary a few months ago from her daughter, Lola Drach, who let us learn what was said in the original Polish.

This is not reading for enjoyment, but it is nevertheless important in my estimation.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Great Britain Bans Wild Animal Acts in Circuses

Significant incremental progress thanks to effective single-issue campaigning. Non-wild animals in circuses still need protection though. See article for more details.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How I Became Vegan

I am an animal rights philosopher. My Ph.D. from University of Toronto is in animal ethics, and I also did a post-doctoral fellowship at Queen’s University. I have taught many animal rights courses at Brock University, have had several peer-reviewed journal and encyclopedia articles, and maintain a website at, which also links to my blog. Now I have been a vegan since 1988, nearly a quarter-of a century. What inspired me to go vegan? As is the case with many people, especially from around that generation, it was one particular book: Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer.

I used to haunt the World’s Biggest Bookstore in downtown Toronto. One day I was unaccountably drawn to Singer’s book and decided to read it. I took in his lucid reasoning (although now I take issue with a number of his ideas), and his detailing of factory farming and vivisection. I stumbled out of my bedroom and said to my mother something like, "The way they treat these animals in factory-farming is so horrible…" She interrupted me and finished my sentence: "So you want to be a vegetarian? Okay." From then on she cooked such meals. My sister Miriam was already a vegetarian for many years, although she never breathed a word about it to me. My mother and father went vegetarian years later, and she said she was being vegetarian vicariously through her children prior to that time. The death of the family dog brought on my mother’s conversion, and she eventually persuaded my father to follow suit.

Since I left the nest I have learned vegan cooking and offer a modest cookbook on my website with some of my family’s favorite recipes. The truth is I had not yet decided to be a vegetarian, but my mother finished my thought, and for the life of me I could not think of a more appropriate conclusion. Every animal product I learned about was mired in suffering and cruelty. My susequent conversion to veganism shaped my career as a philosophy student and scholar. The best reason to go vegan is for the animals, but the environmental and health reasons only make conditions better for all animals too, if only indirectly. There is an incredible array of reasons for going vegan, and only pathetic few excuses for omnivorism that give up the ghost on close examination. I hope that people will energize such life-giving transformation on an ever-broader scale.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Friday, January 4, 2013

Israel Bans Commercial Products Testing

As of the end of 2012, Israel banned testing on animals of cosmetics and household products, including imports - even imports of animal-tested ingredients. It is being hailed as "a revolution in animal welfare". And the Francionists would have to condemn it because it resulted from a single-issue campaign, as opposed to the one Francionist campaign for veganism I suppose. For the full story, please see HERE.