Some people might wonder about this "issue." In my mind it is not a serious question, since I know what I am about, but it might seem an interesting question to others, so I will say a few words in order to lay any doubts to rest. An obsession, according to The Oxford Concise Dictionary, is an “unreasonably persistent idea in the mind.” Actually, the idea of Gary Francione himself is not even what persists in my mind. Believe it or not, I am not overly fond of thinking about Francione. Rather, I am currently drawn to thinking about some of the things that he states. I do not address Francione as a person, with personal attacks, but merely discuss the issues that he raises.
Is it “unreasonable” for me to discuss the issues that he raises? Let me share some of my reasons. This blog, A Philosophical Animal Voice, focuses for now on Francione’s philosophy as one of the greatest threats to promoting animal rights and welfare in society. Speciesist arguments are for the most part easy to refute, because they are so transparently logically flimsy and false for the most part. Other animal rights thinkers than Francione do not exert such a destructive influence. Joan Dunayer argues along comparable, though not the same lines, as Francione, but for whatever reason she has not built up as strong a following, with an ever-growing internet presence as has Francione. In any case, I deal with her own contributions to the debate in my essay, "Animal Rights Law."
Francione’s own arguments, although often simple enough to refute for one well-versed in the ways of logical arguments, have the advantage of being partly right. Francione emphasizes sentience, animal rights, veganism, and other aspects that are fine to affirm. Yet part-truths are a greater stumbling block to inquiry than sheer falsehoods. Also, many are not well-trained in logic and may not be able to come to grips with poorly reasoned appeals that may easily seem slick and intellectual. Indeed, logic often proves to be an unsuspected problem even for professional theorists. So good people can be misled by seemingly sound arguments that are really wanting in logic, as I have extensively demonstrated in this blog. Not everyone has my particular qualifications for researching and engaging in critical analysis, so I am offering a public service, and there are reasons for me to be doing this. As I have argued, responding to his philosophy should be a high priority for the animal rights intellectual community.
Let me further characterize how his approach threatens the animal rights movement. Aside from individual activists whom he has spoken of with great negativity, he has attacked People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Great Ape Project (GAP), and the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics (OCAE), organizations dear to my heart which he savages unjustly. There are legitimate criticisms of PETA and the GAP, to my mind, but his wholesale rejections I have tried to show are severely unjustified. Francione’s thinking obstructs offering animals relief in the form of animal “welfare” legislation, which is also conducive towards kindness culture. Is cruel culture more conducive to animal rights than kindness culture? This should be a no-brainer, however, his flawed thinking potentially affects billions of animals, and if people believe what he says, he could actually derail the GAP.
So my blog entries are profoundly issues-driven, and they derive from the fact that I have recently published a significant peer-reviewed journal article, “Animal Rights Law,” on Francione’s beliefs about movement strategy. It is only natural that when a researcher engages with a body of work by an author, that they may come up with a variety of results that they wish to share. So I have good academic as well as activist reasons to offer my results. Since there are several different topics, it makes sense to address them in different blog entries. And given that further thoughts occurred to me after publishing my essay, it makes sense to present them, or else to expand on some existing points.
I will not write on Francione “forever,” and what will determine the time limit is not any “obsession with Francione,” but rather how many significant issues remain in what I wish to discuss. Again, believe it or not, his work is not of unlimited interest to me. I started my blog when Francione referred me to his blog’s attack on the OCAE, and I was moved to respond to his illogical and harmful misportrayal.
So there is no shortage of excellent reasons why I’ve persisted in this course, and it should be obvious by now that “obsession” has nothing to do with it. I am merely a passionate scholar trying to do my job of offering relevant and accurate critical analysis, in an effort to promote not only separating truth from falsehood, but to try to benefit and protect sentient beings in crucially important ways. If, after considering all of this, someone still thinks I am “obsessing,” then he or she must be irrationally obsessed with that particular idea.
FURTHER READING ON ANIMAL RIGHTS INCREMENTALISM
A Selection of Related Articles
Sztybel, David. "Animal Rights Law: Fundamentalism versus Pragmatism". Journal for Critical Animal Studies 5 (1) (2007): 1-37.
Short version of "Animal Rights Law".
Sztybel, David. "Incrementalist Animal Law: Welcome to the Real World".
Sztybel, David. "Sztybelian Pragmatism versus Francionist Pseudo-Pragmatism".
A Selection of Related Blog Entries