I find that much of what Francione suggests or advocates is strikingly negative in character or orientation. Consider:
- Francione at times in his Introduction to Animal Rights argues in favor of one right for animals—not to be considered property (Francione 2000, xxxiv). At times he says, more consistently, that it is the basis of all other animal rights. (Ibid., xxviii) This is at base a right to something negative rather than expressing a positive vision. It therefore leaves anything positive to the dice of fate.
- Francione tries to negate animal rights pragmatism as “new welfarism,” denying that such pragmatists are genuine animal rights abolitionists, although we have seen that he himself hypocritically buys into speciesist “proto-rights” outcomes
- He negatively construes the majority of the public as being like the sadistic psychopath Jeffrey Dahmer since they eat meat, and obscenely portrays PETA supporters as “petaphiles”
- He is immovable in his pessimism that “welfarist” laws only allows animals to be exploited more profitably, even after this idea is utterly disproven
- He is sweepingly negative in his assessment of progress that has been won for animals thus far
- He seeks to negate animal rights in the form of garbaging his former advocacy of the Great Ape Project
- He only views, say, lacto-ovo vegetarians negatively, rather than having anything positive to say about what they accomplish
Of negativism what good will come? This is not to say that some things should not be negated though. I have tried to refute erroneous statements and illogical arguments in Francione’s work.
Sometimes advocates of Francione are biased in being mesmerized by certain positive aspects of his ideas, while conveniently ignoring many dire considerations associated with what he claims. Yet we must also avoid a biased account of Francione, or one that is unduly negative. I would like to conclude, therefore, with a recognition of what is positive in Francione’s professions:
- He advocates veganism
- He is assertive about animal rights, unlike some believers in that ideal
- He does not wish to see justice compromised by commercialism, as it so often is in human affairs too
- He tries to promote a rational vision of equality in the form of what he calls “the principle of equal consideration”
- He recognizes that his “proto-rights” proposals are not perfect but instead “tries to approximate an idea in a sensible way”
- He uses arguments to try to deflate speciesism
- He tries to find the most efficient way of promoting animal rights that is most consistent with his perception of ethics
- He strives to avoid outcomes that will conduce towards complacency and increased animal consumption
- He has pioneered in the field of animal law
- He contributes much education through his scholarship, informal writing, university teaching, talks for the public, and internet activism
- He acknowledges that some attempts to promote animal welfare are fine, such as helping individual animals, and in general agrees that it is wise to avoid “unnecessary suffering” in a demanding, abolitionist construal of these terms
- He tries to put forward an original theory of animal rights and animal law
Surely there is much that I have omitted regarding both his negativism and positive contributions. Certainly this is not intended as an attempt to weigh pros and cons of subscribing to his approach. Much of what is positive is just his efforts to realize animal rights with integrity. I have refuted that he is most effective in vegan advocacy, negating complacency and animal consumption, putting forward coherent theory, and a great deal more. However, intentions and efforts matter. For all their possible folly, they remain partial indications of character.
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".
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