[Note: this blog entry replicates a page under my General Audience menu on my website.]
I have contributed to the philosophy of incrementalists versus anti-incrementalists (basically, the latter deny we should have anti-cruelty laws on behalf of animals). I have even done an informal history paper, "Incrementalist Animal Law: Welcome to the Read World." Here is a little bit in the "political science" department for this overall debate. I have had experience with anti-incrementalists showing up at animal rights groups, real-life or virtual, and demanding that no one support anti-cruelty laws and the like. I have written already on how this is a bad idea and amounts to cruelty without any real justification. These individuals can disrupt the meetings and AR productivity terribly. So here are some tips on shutting disruption out democratically and politely. The best case scenario is that you shut them down but do not shut them out. That is, you decommission anti-incrementalism in group meetings, activities, and representations, but work with these activists, say, to promote veganism. SO LONG AS these anti-incrementalists do not disrupt the goals of the group.
However, some will not want to work with you and will insist on their anti-incrementalism as regards the group. Okay. Well, Caskie Stinnett once said: "A diplomat is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip." Hell--or some part of it--for these people is exclusion from any grassroots animal rights groups. These fanatics who will not take "no" for an answer falsely think that they alone defend animal rights. However, the pro-cruelty agitators need to be sent to this "hell," politely, although in truth we should wish only the very best for these zealots as persons. I do not literally mean telling them to go to hell, or being sent to a place of suffering as punishment, and so on. Just being sent to the hell of exclusion from mainstream, local AR groups. And we should not be sorry about it, so long as we are acting on behalf of the animals, not ourselves or the Francionists. We cannot help that this is where they belong. They may have bruised egos from being systematically pre-empted, but believe me, that weighs as less than nothing against the extreme suffering of factory farming that they would have linger on and on. Let them talk endlessly on "The Abolitionist Approach" website. This "hell" is only for anti-incrementalist disruptors, I will re-emphasize. Anti-incrementalists who will serve on other tasks are of course to be welcomed. Otherwise there may be less productivity for the group, and anti-incrementalists would be the target of discrimination by people who dislike them or whatever. That is not morally defensible.
I used the form letter in response to Michael Lanfield telling us on Toronto Pigsave's Facebook page: "we should be striving for...[no] welfarism..." He did not even say, "It is my opinion that..." in typical Francionist style. Trying to dictate to the whole group. Several people in the group, on the Facebook page, said they liked my form letter. We need this to get out there to do the work it is meant to perform.
Here is a document on how to shut them down in 5 minutes flat.
There are form letters you can send to anti-incrementalists either online or in person. Please go to my site in order to access these form letters.
The form letters have a blank for either an animal rights group or one whose mission intersects with animal rights, as so many do or could. One could even use the generic salutation: "Dear anti-incrementalists" if applicable, or even as a pre-emptive move if that is desired. There is more to know than is contained in the above three documents. Individuals who are disruptive may force a democratic vote to ban them from the group’s activities. If the anti-incrementalists are served the letter, and there is a subsequent meeting, and there is a perception that the meeting is “stacked” to favour anti-incrementalists, then forming a separate group, with an incrementalist constitution, may be in order.
I would like to address concerns that may arise that we should have open dialogue and debate about how best to achieve animal rights. I agree. But there is a time and a place for everything. There are plenty of internet forums to discuss these issues, and readings available from both sides. Scholars can address these concerns, and so can conferences for activists and private conversations. The fact is, I do not take kindly to cruelty. I believe that animal rights groups should stand up for animal rights, including the right not to be treated cruelly. If indeed it is the will of the majority of members, then I agree that this discussion should take place in the animal rights group. It may do some good. But otherwise not, and I prefer it if the group actually gets down to its business of helping animals rather than holding this discussion. Indecision about combating cruelty to me is a vice rather than some academic virtue. The aim of moral philosophy is to find out what is morally right and put it into practice, not to be indecisive about everything. I am not a moral skeptic and believe that there are ethical absolutes, and that the other side has been discredited even if they do not perceive it. I do not believe that there are no answers, and we can only scratch our heads in puzzlement over whether to prolong world animal cruelty. The animal rights movement needs, for the most part, to resolve itself on this issue and move forward.
The Francionists, to the extent that they have an effect, will ensure that billions, perhaps even trillions over the long haul, of animals will be tortured more than need be the case. I think we should rule out torture in the human case and no less vigorously in the nonhuman case. Ethical animal rightists should band together to combat these extremely destructive effects on animals. It is not a neutral matter. Any interest in discussion that I have is an activist one, to win converts if possible. I am also interested in the truth, but I have seen Francionists who are indifferent to logical flaws that have been identified in their arguments, and cannot be bothered to address them. I think the truth is there is no genuine excuse for cruelty. I have no objection to these people cooperating on matters of common concern, and they should have full freedom to form their own activist groups. But my democratic vote is that we should be in the business of helping animals in animal rights activist groups, not debating about whether we should be cruel to them. If we concede that we will not tolerate cruelty, then I do not see why a pro-animal activist group should tolerate a pro-cruelty position. It is as simple as that (although obviously the whole debate is much more complex). If they want to help fight cruelty, fine. If they want to promote it then I do not have common cause and would rather they keep their distance, and stay out of the way of anti-cruelty activists with whom they would eagerly interfere.
Take children's rights as an analogous example. Francionists often say that we do not abolish child abuse by degrees, so we must do the same for animals. As my history paper shows, although it is noble to want to abolish all child abuse, the history of law-making in children's rights is all incrementalist, so in effect it was abolished to an extent by degrees in American society as my sample country. Yet child abuse lingers on, including malign neglect on the part of society. Should children's rights groups have had debates about whether they should have supported all of this incrementalist legislation? Should they have listened with great attention to people who wanted to prolong cruelty to children because otherwise people would be too "complacent" to pass full children's rights legislation? No, the objectors had some catching up to do compared to the rest, and should do that largely on their own time. They should literally not be allowed to interfere with true progressivists, keeping in mind that the anti-incrementalists accomplished nothing in the arena of human rights either, as I show in my paper. Anyone doing anything socially significant has to place nay-sayers firmly to one side at some point (and there are ALWAYS nay-sayers), hopefully sooner rather than later in order that productivity be as great as possible.
Those committed to making progress with the right not to be treated cruelly are on a mission. The mission is not interrupted with the inception of an animal rights group but only continued. It does not vary as Francionists come and go. And they will. It is part of a never-ending campaign for practical life purposes. And you are not alone in your mission. It is shared, thankfully, by a community of noble beings. Some will overlap with your mission entirely, some largely, and some with notable differences. Others will not overlap at all even though at an intellectual level, there seems like there should be room for cooperation. Sometimes it gets all too personal and opportunities are wasted. If the latter category of people try to intrude, be arrogant, demanding, or obstructive...well you need to defend the anti-cruelty mission against people who are unwittingly pro-cruelty. The alternative is to be unwittingly pro-cruelty oneself. As Eldridge Cleaver, founding member of the Black Panthers said in 1968, "What we're saying today is that you're either part of the solution, or you're part of the problem."
You will actually be doing the Francionists a favour by being calm and assertive with them. You will save them the waste of time trying a takeover bid of a group that stands firm against cruelty in all forms, including their frequent bullying (see my blog entry on Insults and Illusions ~ November 21, 2007). With all due respect, let's put these people in their place in the world of AR activism. They should be asked to stand aside from those making progress, or not to stand in our way with their discouragement or lack of encouragement of incrementalist, enlightened legislation.
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