Sunday, December 4, 2011

Francione Adopts Central Focus on Non-Violence: Right!

I was looking at Comment #4 that appears beneath the Tom Regan interview on AR Zone, posted at the side-bar of AR Zone page on the top.

Featured is a comment by Maynard S. Clark on May 22, 2011:


Is Gary Francione a closet consequentialist?

In Boston two weeks ago [that would be early May--DS], Gary Francione synopsized his view as 'committing ourselves to the greatest possible reduction in overall violence'

In Gary's view, we should all be in favor of whole-scale reduction in violence so that the overall reduction in violence is optimally achieved. Is that view not a consequentialist view (rather than a deontological position)?


Maynard has a lot of credibility in my book, so I take his report as probably accurate. If Francione follows the theory of non-violence outlined in "Veganism vs. Violence" for example, then he need not be characterized as a consequentialist. He certainly defends individual rights and rejects utilitarianism plainly enough. I will note though that this new emphasis in Francione's thinking is interesting.

When my (caucasian) Jain friend from here in Toronto, Irena Upenieks, visited an American animal rights conference, I recall haearing she got Francione increasingly interested in non-violence. Not too long ago, his Introduction to Animal Rights and other books never even mentioned non-violence or ahimsa. Later, he would summarize his "simplified" approach to animal rights as involving non-violent forms of activism, but his core animal rights theory was more about avoiding unnecessary suffering, abolishing animals' property status, and the principle of equal consideration. Likely he still subscribes to these ideas. However, now, and rather differently, he seems to be focusing on non-violence itself as core to his overall theory. Again, that is interesting.

I personally started putting non-violence front-and-centre in my thinking not long after the new year, in January 2011, although it has always been a part of my philosophy. I published "Animal Rights in Essence" that locates AR in ahimsa on March 16, 2011 (see my blog entry for that date), after doing an essay, "Extending Our Circle of Compassion to Pigs" for Toronto Pig Save (see March 6 blog entry), which touches on non-violence ethics as centrally relevant. It was not until September 29, though, well after the date of Francione's reported remarks (which I was unaware of at the time) that I released "Anti-Vivisection and Anti-Violence." Then on October 20th I put "Veganism vs. Violence" out there, as my blog also notes.

I privately predicted to myself, as the new year dawned, that Francione could well switch to having a core emphasis on non-violence too, because for a long time now, several years that is, he has professed to be an actual Jain (unlike myself to this day; I could never be a Jain for reasons that I will not get into here, albeit, unlike the vast majority of philosophers, I give the Jains a huge amount of credit in the history of ideas). Jains, after all, typically make ahimsa a cardinal principle for overall conduct, and I am sure that, therefore, for years Francione has thought of animal rights as embodying non-violence towards animals, as has Irena, Gandhi, and so forth. Anyway, as I say, the recent shift in overall focus is very interesting. Who can say what inspired it? The main inspiration, though, would have to have been his by now long commitment to Jainism. In fact that would be sufficient on its own to account for the evolution of his thought. Perhaps he will enlighten us on the relationship between non-violence and animals' property status...? I will be somewhat interested to see what his contributions to "non-violence animal ethics" will be, since not many other well-known Western animal ethicists seem to be doing that, aside from, say, Michael Tobias. I do not look to the latter for rigorous reasoning though. I also have not found that in Francione's work, to be honest, as my earlier work testifies, although it seems he has tried. There is, regardless, a rich Jain tradition in animal ethics.

I think that Francione, in his own peculiar way, is on to something here...

I almost forgot to mention. In my first AR Zone appearance, I noted that my style of macroincrementalist (in effect, since that is a term I devised afterward for my paper, "Incrementalist Animal Law: Welcome to the Real World") legislation against cruelty is consistent with many criteria, including non-violence. I wrote in listing my extensive and, I think, helpful criteria for anti-cruelty laws:


(17) consistent with non-violence

FRANCIONE: Does not address the violence often done to birds of
electroshocking, scalding alive, being hung upside down, and being killed
in a cut-throat manner while fully conscious.

SZTYBEL: Makes an inroad in this specific form of violence against nonhuman animals.


I was using the example of instituting controlled gas killing of chickens instead of electroshocking in a hit-and-miss fashion that leaves some of the birds vulnerable to the full brunt of the electrocution, scalding tanks for feather-removal and also the pain of the knife to the throat, and the horror of desanguination--that is, bleeding to death. Industry does not care for the gross suffering caused by more traditional chicken slaughter. Frankly, Francione does not seem to care much about this violence either, since he has spoken out against this particular anti-cruelty measure.

So, yes, by all means bring on the non-violence, Francionists! You will be shown to be hypocritical, failing to do the most to relieve animals of violence, and as motivated by this animal torture actually to do something about it as someone is moved to relieve violence while pleasantly watching frolickers in a swimming pool at a party. Francionists have also had the irony of their often vicious, verbally and otherwise violent conduct towards humans pointed out to them. They show how much they care about that violence too--as much as a child cares about another dollop of vegan whipped cream on her sundae.

None of this is consistent with bringing about the greatest possible (that is, "optimally") reducing of violence, as Francione was worded to say from Maynard's report. Francione's version of animal rights is tacitly committed to infinitely many and agonizing animal wrongs applying to countless animals bound to lack of legislative relief which these so-called "non-violence" activists could hardly care less about.

And these Francionists, as usual, will most probably shy away from addressing these points. They would have to show that the greater violence is either non-existant (which is false) or insignificant (which Francione actually and offensively argued concerning this chicken example, with what I think is speciesist indifference; for documentation, please see my quoting and addressing his response to Ingrid Newkirk on this very question at my blog entries for January 24th and 27th, 2010). Or the Francionists might say they are not committed to choosing the lesser of "evils" or violence, and then belie this assertion because they presumably believe in defending themselves against attackers--only they do not defend these birds and the countless billions, literally, of other helpless sentient beings who are attacked by humans who stand to make a profit from these holocaustian scenarios.

The worst sort of violence, anyone has to admit, is torture. Yet here we have only one of so many aspects of factory farming that is literally torture for the animals in question. Francione's "non"-violent approach does not helpfully address such tortures. Not only is there not "no" violence, but the very worst kind--such as is done to chickens--which would go unchallenged by "non"-violent Francionists. Some non-violence.

Allow me to try to anticipate the Francionists' arguments. I have elsewhere addressed their arguments that anti-cruelty laws prolong delays in the arrival of animal rights laws. I have just addressed Francione's claims that what I call the macroincremental move of abolishing factory farming is really microincremental--recall he tries to say the torture of those chickens is insignificant. But what about the argument that he stands for reducing violence as much as possible, or "optimally"?

I have just shown that he fails to do this, because my approach gets rid of violence that his approach allows to linger on for perhaps uncounted decades. We should not so quickly desert the common-sense nature of this tallying of the violence. Francionists seem to be arguing the following:

  1. Animal rights stands for non-violence towards animals, or abolishing all unnecessary violence towards them.
  2. Anti-cruelty laws aimed "merely" to improve animal welfare stand for continued violence against animals, or more violence than animal rights.
  3. Therefore, animal rights is what optimally minimizes violence overall, whereas anti-cruelty laws fail to minimize such violence.
This might actually sound convincing to some people. However, we need to realize something: we are seeking to realize the minimum violence for actual animals. Obviously helping to cut away the violence to the chickens serves towards such a noble end. The above argument equivocates between (a) minimizing violence to animals in the abstract; and (b) minimizing actual violence faced by animals. The argument also commits the fallacy of the false dilemma, which holds that we must choose one or the other, animal rights OR animal welfare, but not both. Such an assumption precludes the finding that first animal welfare and then animal rights will serve to minimize violence to animals in the long-term.

What we really need to do is to take this argument, which is really about what is less violent in the abstract, and to bring it down to Earth. Actually place it within what Einstein calls "the time-space continuum." Once we do so, the argument needs to be restated as follows, as matters occur in the real-world context:

  1. Animal rights stands for non-violence towards animals, or abolishing all unnecessary violence towards them.
  2. Anti-cruelty laws aimed "merely" to improve animal welfare stand for continued violence against animals, or more violence than animal rights.
  3. Therefore, if we could freely choose between animal rights and animal welfare laws, it would minimize violence to choose animal rights laws. [Notice I had to add the part in bold in order to show the only sort of real-world situation in which this stark choice minimizes violence by affirming animal rights alone; this reasoning accounts for why we should prefer animal rights laws to speciesist animal welfare laws in the long-term, once such choices become actually possible]
  4. In the legislative near-term, animal rights law is not an option, although animal welfare laws are realistic options.
  5. So in the legislative near-term, we cannot choose between animal rights and animal welfare laws.
  6. Therefore the preference premised in 3. does not apply to the legislative near-term.
  7. The legislative near-term is really what is in dispute here, because Francionists and macroincrementalists agree on animal rights laws for the long-term.
  8. Therefore the preference premised in 3. does not apply to the real-world context that is being contested in this whole debate.
  9. The Francionists, in rejecting all animal welfare laws, seemingly, are stating that for the legislative near-term (to which, again, the preference for animal rights over animal welfare in the abstract is inapplicable), we should push the following agenda: "Animal rights laws or nothing."
  10. Everyone agrees that we cannot obtain animal rights laws in the legislative near-term.
  11. Therefore the Francionist insistence on "Animal Rights or nothing" yields in fact nothing for the legislative near-term.
  12. Anti-cruelty laws, such as banning factory farming, radically reduces acts of violence (both by commission as in de-beaking chickens, and omission such as failing to clean up manure) towards animals.
  13. Radical reduction in acts of violence is more consistent with optimally minimizing violence overall than nothing (or no legislative change) which results in no reduction of violence towards animals whatsoever.
  14. Francionists insist on animal rights for the long-term, which would minimize violence more than animal welfare laws for the long-term.
  15. The macroincrementalist position also pushes as strongly as possible for animal rights in the long-term.
  16. Therefore macroincrementalist welfare laws are consistent with minimizing violence in the short-term and the long-term, whereas the Francionists would only minimize violence in the long-term--though not more than the macroincrementalists.
  17. Therefore, although Francionism claims optimally to minimize violence towards animals overall--which must include the legislative near-term and the legislative far-term--it fails to achieve this purpose.

Speaking candidly, I have to wonder how many Francionists actually understand this sort of argument, and its difference from the original three-line argument, and the meaning of the fallacies (which refers to errors logical reasoning) that I have just indicated. For I have made related arguments before and the few people to make a critique do not address the core part of my argument at all, instead presenting a misunderstanding of various of my remarks.

But for those who follow me, and are with me, as logic plainly dictates, imagine a Francionist concluding instead: "Therefore, Francionism claims optimally to minimize violence towards animals overall, and succeeds in achieving this purpose." They would be calling back to premises 1. through 3., where it is admitted that a free choice between animal rights and animal welfare laws yields a preference for animal rights legislation. This wrongful conclusion would then be equivocating between:

  1. optimally minimizing violence to animals overall in the abstract, or in an ideal situation of free choice, with
  2. optimally minimizing of violence to animals overall in the real world, considering both the near-term and the far-term as distinct periods.
Equivocating between two meanings of "optimally minimizing harm," for those unfamiliar with the term, "equivocation," means depending on two very different meanings of a term, with one in some premise(s), and the very different meaning being depended on in some subsequent premise(s) or perhaps just the conclusion. My own argument does not equivocate in this or any other way and shows where the minimization of violence overall for animals truly lies, other things being equal. Others who dispute my reasoning need to show the falsity of some premise(s) or that I have made some illogical inference(s). They also need to show that my reconstruction of the Francionist argument(s) is inapplicable. (Does Francione's approach not rest on the logical confusion that I outline, or some functionally equivalent iteration of this argument?) I doubt either thing can be shown. And if Francionists cannot refute my argument in one of these few ways, then they logically must agree with the conclusion that I have drawn.

Equivocation is alternatively termed the fallacy of amphiboly. It is often used by opponents of animal rights. For example, medical vivisections might say "Animal research works, because some humans get working heart-valves from pigs. Therefore drug testing using animals works." This equivocation here is between animal research working in different fields. Hog heart valves working is a different field from predicting drug responses in humans from the responses of nonhumans. Many such as Dr. Ray Greek have shown that "animal models" of humans taking drugs, as they are termed, give us less odds than chance of predicting what drugs are safe and effective in humans. We need as vigorously to resist this fallacy when it comes from animal rights people (if only implicitly) as when it comes from overt speciesists. (To offset crude readings: no I do not approve of murdering pigs any more than I would approve of slaying mentally disabled humans for their heart valves, and yes, this is abundantly evident to anyone who pays even a modest amount of attention to what I have written over the years.)

Admittedly, I feel sorry for people who cannot understand the kind of reasoning that I am voicing here, but have "no problem" with the three-line argument I paraphrased above. But you know what? I feel much more pity for the animals who suffer more violence than they have to because of human ignorance, be it that of the straightforward speciesists, or those such as Francione who falsely and illogically profess anti-speciesism and non-violence to the so-called "maximum." As Voltaire penned, "If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities." Yes, factory farming measures are atrocities. And yes, the Francionists who argue with Francione using illogic that does not even apply to the real world in which we are supposed to be living believe logical absurdities.

Advocates of violence (I'm thinking of the everyday speciesists here) hide the violence by not even admitting that it exists. The Francionists shrink away from direct dialogue on these sort of points too, through much the same tendency. They slink into the shadows where they recline in complacency with their harmful dogmas. Indeed, Francione himself, in his private chat room, I have had it reliably conveyed to me by a spy, stated that what I wrote into the first AR Zone transcript, including this point about non-violence along with the other point, and pretty much everything I write, "cannot possibly be interpreted as serious remarks." There were also insulting suggestions that I am "mentally ill" in what I write.

These type of potshots--and there have been many more over the years--may seem genuinely puzzling (or even baffling) to many people who can tell that I am mounting a serious and coherent argument here that the so-called "non-violence advocates" need to answer if they can. So what's going on here? Is it a random, individual eruption, or a broader pattern to be understood? Let me try to explain exactly why they make such attacks, following the example of Francione himself.

Francione is a lawyer. Lawyers are adversarial and need to try to win cases even when the evidence is not particularly on their side. When evidence is short, this is what adversarial lawyers do:

  1. IGNORING EVIDENCE. They try to neglect evidence that is damaging to their case, such as when they are making closing remarks, to try to sway judges or jurors as much as possibe, ignoring whatever they cannot counter directly (e.g., the arguments I am making in this blog entry).
  2. ATTACK THE PERSON GIVING TESTIMONY. They try to undermine the credibility of people offering evidence by attacking them personally, hence Francione's tendency to describe people who disagree with him as "mentally ill" and the like; other AR Zone people have told me he does this sort of smearing routinely
  3. CASTING VAGUE AND MISLEADING ASPERSIONS ABOUT THE EVIDENCE. They try to undermine any evidence presented by the other side by making negative, sweeping remarks about the evidence in question, for example, his offering that my remarks are not to be taken seriously, or that I "misrepresent" his position without ever clarifying this supposed charge even once over the some four to five years that I have been challenging his arguments; it is far easier to cast aspersions than to mount a well-defended, intellectual critique
An interesting analysis, is it not? I think it will be handy for people thinking critically to be able to slot such ploys into their respective categories. Even if some specific attempts at argument are offered, as in the weak critiques which occasionally have been sent my way, if these lawyers' tactics are used even once it is going over the line into forms of "argumentation" that are not respectable--quite the opposite, they are contemptable.

Lawyers know for a fact that cases in court can be won in part owing to such tactics. This explains why Francione uses them abundantly. It does not come from academic training, since that denounces the first as the fallacy of arguing on the basis of ignorance, the second as the fallacy of ad hominem (Latin for "against the person") attacks, and the third as the fallacy of begging the question or assuming what needs to be justified. Francionists in general should, however, be taken to task to address specific arguments for "the other side," rather than relying on these transparent, shoddy tactics. The best lawyers do not use them but instead rest their case with dignity once all of the evidence has been presented. They let the justice system continue to work on the basis of bona fide reasoning as much as possible.

There is a reason Francionists resort to these tactics though. It seems to me, and many others, that they cannot win based on the evidence. Let them try to prove me wrong. Yet I think we can reasonably expect the same sort of fallacious responses, such as I have enumerated above, which seem to be the predominant pattern over the years. It is also inconsistent with non-violence, by the way, to use such argumentative tactics. Fallacies can never be embraced because they do violence to truth-seeking, and thus, potentially, to the consciousness of people who actually care about the truth. Not only the people making arguments, but also others who are listening. If the animals could listen to these debates, though, they would not be grateful towards those whose methods would prolong their multifarious tortures for no good reason at all.

I am grateful that Francione has sensibly started to focus more centrally on violence-minimization. All the better to refute his anti-incrementalist claims according to a venerable standard. This dialogue, incidentally, highly resembles the one I had with Dr. Katherine Perlo, who claims that we can minimize harm to animals by focusing only on animal rights advocacy, and not mixing that with health or environmental claims about diet, or inutility claims about medical vivisection. In the exchange, in which I had the last word, featured in the Journal for Critical Animal Studies, I proved that her position results in more harm to animals. I think we can no less prove the same concerning false claims on behalf of anti-incrementalism. However, a proof does not require that the other side agree with one's position. Some minds are, at times, proof against reasoning. I welcome any attempt to refute what I have argued. If I am shown to be wrong, I will simply admit it. Only I do not think that I am the one required to make such an admission in this case.

The greatest priority of animal welfare laws is to reduce harms to animals that we can conceive of as violence. Anti-incrementalist need to introduce some special reason(s) to show that this most important goal or function cannot be achieved. Otherwise such laws--if they are macroincrementalist that is--inherently reduce serious harm or violence, contrary to the pretensions of certain critics. For those lost in conceptual confusion about these issues, please be assured that there is indeed a real world out there just waiting for you to join in.


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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