Monday, July 20, 2009

Adam Kochanowicz Interviews Professor Gary L. Francione

Just a handful of days after being interviewed by Elizabeth Collins of the NZ Vegan Podcast on the differences between welfarism and the abolitionist approach to animal rights, Professor Gary L. Francione is on the interwebs again to discuss those vast differences in much greater detail. Adam Kochanowicz, Vegan Examiner and host of The Vegan News, was fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak with him last week. The first part of their interview can be heard here at Examiner.com and provides a really excellent suscinct introduction to what actually constitutes the abolitionist approach to animal rights. In the second part of the interview, released today at Examiner.com, they drill down further to discuss the complete inefficacy of incremental welfare reforms, with Adam serving as an effective devil's advocate to ensure that welfarist (and new welfarist) supporters' claims are properly addressed. Both parts of the interview can also be accessed in the audio resources section of Prof. Francione's website.

I can't be adamant enough about how potentially eye-opening these interviews will be for those who either haven't given much critical thought to the huge essential differences between the welfarist and abolitionist approaches to animal advocacy (and how nonsensical it is to believe that incremental welfare reforms will lead to the abolition of our use of animals as property), as well as to those who currently embrace these incremental reforms, thinking that "something is better than nothing". Prof. Francione describes the misrepresentation of their efficacy, stating:

It is analogous to saying, "We've got to do something now about torturing people, so let's make sure that everybody getting tortured is sitting on a padded chair as they're getting the electrical shock supplied. That's really not going to get anybody anywhere and it's not going to lead to the abolition of anything.
I think that in light of the reactions of various new welfarists and others involved in animal-related movements to the recent discussion that took place here between HSUS supporters and abolitionists over the differences between the terms, the theories and their practical applications, that it's crucial for people to get their facts straight. Not only does the confusion between welfarism and abolitionism need to be sorted out, but efforts to blur the significant distinctions between the two both need to be prevented and discouraged. To quote Ward Chanley: "Just as you cannot reasonably claim to be a vegan who eats flesh, you cannot reasonably claim to be a welfare abolitionist.” Ward's full piece concerning the attempts at language appropriation to blur the lines between two aforementioned essentially different philosophical approaches can be read here. As he states, the need to avoid lumping one approach in with the other isn't merely about squabbling over words:
It goes deeper than which group of persons has the “right” to use the abolitionist label. The issue is that the abolitionist approach has a very clearly defined underlying first principle: we reject ANY welfare regulation, whether or not people may think that such a regulationist approach will “eventually” lead to animal rights, because the fundamental issue is USE and not just treatment.
Additionally (and even more problematically), as Prof. Francione pointed out in the comments below concerning the history of language appropriation by welfarists:
Welfarists (what I called "new welfarists" in my 1996 book "Rain Without Thunder") then tried to blur the distinction between concepts that are quite clear in a very deliberate attempt to stop debate and discussion. They took the position that welfare reform was an appropriate strategy to pursue despite the rights critique because there was no real difference between the rights and welfare approaches and that these approaches were compatible.

The same is happening now with the use of "abolitionist."
If the abolition of the exploitation of animals--of their use as property--is to happen, there needs to be clarity and consistency concerning both why and how it needs to happen. The debate needs to continue--not to be silenced. I don't believe in browbeating, but I also don't believe in sending mixed messages. If being unwavering in educating others that veganism should be the moral baseline of the animal rights movement leaves someone seeming less snuggly, then so be it. If insisting that it's morally inconsistent to both a) support regulating the continued usage of animals, and b) attempt to co-opt the term "abolitionist" to define oneself offends some who are convinced otherwise, then so be it. I'm more interested in presenting sound, logical arguments and saving animal lives than I am in hand-holding people into continuing to delude themselves and to confuse and misdirect others. And there's no shame in that.

ETA: Angel Flinn recently wrote a rock solid piece that I recommend called "Animal Welfare Reform: Total Denial, One Step at a Time". Take some time to read it, as well as the debate that follows it.

16 comments:

marinel said...

Unfortunately, convincing people it is unethical to torture animals for a simple taste preference doesn't always convince them to stop eating them. In fact, I would say that this is true in most cases. A sound, logical argument for the abolition movement is only useful when presented to people who actually feel sorry for the animals it is designed to help.

Of all the people whose ways I've managed to change over the years, only one did it because she felt bad about the unnecessary suffering of farm animals. She is the only one to whom I presented the ethical argument because it was obvious she empathized with non-human beings. One person, in particular, who went vegetarian in the wake of our many discussions on the subject, knew exactly what farm animals go through (when younger, he worked in a factory farm to make ends meet and saw first hand the ill treatment). Although he agreed it is unethical to treat them this way, he had no problem being a willing participant by supporting the industry through his eating habits. He gave me no argument and agreed all the way, but in the end, "they taste good" was enough of a reason to keep eating them.

All this is anecdotal, of course, but still, and sadly, I'm not convinced that getting people to admit their behavior is unethical is enough to make them change their ways.

Mylène Ouellet said...

"All this is anecdotal, of course, but still, and sadly, I'm not convinced that getting people to admit their behavior is unethical is enough to make them change their ways."

Just out of curiosity, Marina, are you suggesting that educating people about veganism, then, is pointless?

Babble said...

I think that a) humans are selfish, for the most part, and b) change is only going to happen slowly. I hate it, but I can't really do anything about it.

People will still be eating animals when I die, one day.

People will still be using animals, in every single way we currently use them, when I die, one day.

But that's really not especially important.

We're planting seeds in the larger culture that will grow - maybe sooner, maybe later, but INEVITABLY - into a change in consciousness about the moral status of animals.

Just as we no longer consider it entertainment to sacrifice humans in the Coliseum, this change *can* and *will* happen.

I wouldn't be doing any of this if I didn't believe that. I'd still be vegan, but I'd sit in my little faux ivory tower eating my oatmeal and that would be that.

The change won't happen in time for me to see it - but if I'm not working for it, it won't happen *at all*.

So I'm working for it.

marinel said...

"Just out of curiosity, Marina, are you suggesting that educating people about veganism, then, is pointless?"

Not at all. However, making ethics the focus is, in my opinion, ineffective in more than 90% of the time. People are more likely to change their ways in the wake of an ethics discussion if the subject matter revolves around the (mis)treatment of human beings. They are reluctant, or even resistant, when the victims in question are non-human animals.

Most people may feel discomfort, or they may even feel sorry for the treatment of farm animals, but not enough. Their habits and taste preferences are usually more important.

If the idea is to get as many people as possible to drop the meat eating habit, then proving to them that their behavior is unethical is not going to yield the intended result. People tend to respond to health and environmental issues far more positively and readily because it affects them and their families directly.

It's a sad thing indeed that most people are speciests because the challenge to change their ways , IMO, is by far more difficult than when the victimized beings are humans. Racism, for instance, can be combated on ethical grounds because in the end, ethnicity aside, victims and perpetrators alike are all human. Even the most driven bigot can't deny this simple fact. But animals are not human, thus, only those of us who see their worth will respond to the call to treat them ethically. And we are the minority.

Babble said...

I have to say, given the number of *former* vegans I know personally, and know of generally, a focus on ethics is the only real way forward, if we want to produce lifelong vegans, instead of folks who will dabble for a few months and go back to eating whatever they were eating before.

Human health benefits are nice. But they're not why I'm vegan.

Reducing my environmental footprint is great - but it's not why I'm vegan.

I *went* vegan and I *stay* vegan because friends of mine took the time to hold my feet to the fire and say, "Well, look. You either believe in the rights of nonhumans or you don't."

Babble said...

Hey Marinel,

Your experience has been very different from mine. I think there's no one magic bullet that works to get my foot in the door each and every time (I'll use any argument I think folks will listen to, initially) but when I've focused on human health or environmental concerns, I've not been any *more* successful than by just focusing on an ethical argument.

Given that, and given that I have direct experience that human concerns tend to produce temporary vegans, I don't think a focus on the ethics is inappropriate.

marinel said...

"Human health benefits are nice. But they're not why I'm vegan. "

I think that's wonderful and I wish more people were like you.

You're right, thre is no one magic bullet. To clarify, I'm not saying the ethical argument is always inappropriate. There are people, like you and me, and others reading this blog, who can make the leap and see farm animals in a different light from how the rest of the world views them.

In my experience, I've found that bringing up ethics is most effective at some time after a person has made the transition from eating animals. This is not surprising given human nature. It is much easier to be critical of behaviors in which we, ourselves, do not engage.

For instance, the majority of people know it is unethical to support any industry that sells products made in China. The human rights violations and the treatment of workers are enough to make anyone's head spin. Yet, people who boycott Chinese products are in the minority. No surprise there, since shopping is more pleasurable than abstaining, even as awareness of the problem lurks in the back of the shopper's mind. It is also easier because others are doing the same thing.

In China's case, the victims are human, but because they are a world away, most people can ignore the problem.

I once heard someone say that if slaughter facilities had glass walls, no one would eat meat. I don't believe this to be true. Killing animals for food has been a human practice for thousands of years and until recently, it was something that was done by individuals. They either hunted them in the wild, or killed them in their own back yards. While it would shock people with personality types such as yours and mine into never touching meat again, I think most people would become accustomed to the sight, and after an initial shock period, they would fall back into complacency telling themselves "it's just the way it is".

Let us not forget that atrocities committed against humans usually have one thing in common: the perpetrators convince themselves that the victims are less than human. The acts of violence are usually the idea of a handful of twisted minds (think Hitler, Stalin), but the actual implementation of those ideas is done by armies of common people. Hitler's soldiers were not mad men. They were common members of the general population, yet, they were able to bring countless people to their deaths, children and women alike, by visualizing them as less than human.

Sometimes the hypocrisy is striking. Here's a little more of that anecdotal "evidence": when I was little, my family had two pet chickens. They had a very happy life living with us and died many years later of natural causes. Both my parents loved the chickens and I have no doubt they would have committed bodily harm to anyone misguided enough to mistreat Coco and Ricky. Yet, they dined on store bought chickens or chickens killed by friends living in the countryside without blinking an eye.

After convincing my mom to go vegetarian to fix some health problems she had, she eventually grew a conscience and saw the errors of her ways. It didn't happen over night. It took a few months of improving health to get her to stick with it. Not long after, she began to show disgust toward meat eating. Within a year she became outspoken about the morality of meat consumption and to this day, some eight or so years later, she still voices her outrage every chance she gets.

To sum up, I think it is important to assess people on an individual basis when discussing meat consumption. Those who respond to emotional appeals with empathy may best be approached from an ethical point of view. Those who feel "it's just the way it is" can best be approached from a health or environmental point of view. There are, of course, those who are unapproachable.

Babble said...

Hey Marinel,

There are, of course, those who are unapproachable.

...that's the whole problem, isn't it?

I could lay out 100 different cases for veganism to someone, supported with facts, argue my position coherently (and this has actually happened), and that person will still say to me:

"I can see what you're saying, but I'm not going to stop eating animals."

The majority of people are unreachable right now, no matter WHAT argument we make.

Given that, it doesn't make sense to fret over the ethical argument not working "often enough." Nothing works as often as I'd like. If I could wave a wand and turn the world vegan overnight, I'd do it.

But I can't.

Dan Cudahy said...

Marinel,

You said:

“It's a sad thing indeed that most people are speciests because the challenge to change their ways , IMO, is by far more difficult than when the victimized beings are humans. Racism, for instance, can be combated on ethical grounds because in the end, ethnicity aside, victims and perpetrators alike are all human. Even the most driven bigot can't deny this simple fact. But animals are not human, thus, only those of us who see their worth will respond to the call to treat them ethically. And we are the minority.”

While this is true of most of today’s racism, it was not at all true in 19th century racism. The arguments and stubbornness of those who defended slavery are almost identical to the arguments and stubbornness of those who currently defend animal exploitation. In fact, many did think of slaves as nonhuman animals and argued vehemently that they were things to use.

I agree with you from the standpoint that the ecology and health reasons will play a big role if widespread veganism ever comes about. For example, slavery didn't end ONLY for moral purposes. It ended in large part because industrialization happened and it's better economically to rent labor than to own it in an industrial society compared to an agrarian society, respectively. If widespread veganism happens before human civilization collapses, it will be in large part due to environmental threats and health concerns. That's not to say that pushing the moral issue isn't effective. It's very effective over time, and it was for slavery also. We should be pushing the moral argument more than anything unless we are experts in the nutritional or ecological aspects (for experts in specific areas, it makes sense to focus one’s efforts in the area of expertise). But it will end up being a combination of factors that ultimately brings about AR and widespread vegansism.

marinel said...

"many did think of slaves as nonhuman animals and argued vehemently that they were things to use."

Yes, and eventually they all had to face reality: non-whites are human. Animals, however, will always be non-human.

"That's not to say that pushing the moral issue isn't effective. It's very effective over time, and it was for slavery also."

I'm not saying it isn't effective. I'm saying it is effective only for a minority of people.

"We should be pushing the moral argument more than anything unless we are experts in the nutritional or ecological aspects ..."

I disagree. If we are committed to achieving change, then we must adapt and use whatever kinds of arguments work, rather than stay the course by employing something that will only have an effect on a small number of people. Adapting means learning about health and environmental aspects. You don't have to be an expert to make a valid argument for either if you acquire basic knowledge on these subjects. If you need extra help there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian experts who can make the case with books and online to whom you can defer when an omni has you stumped.

I'm working on a masters of science in clinical nutrition. I was going to continue my education in psychology until it dawned on me that I can do more good for humans and animals alike by counseling people on their dietary choices rather than working in a hospital. I'm not suggesting people change career paths. I'm simply saying that when something we're doing is not achieving the desired result in a timely manner, perhaps it is time to change gears, and focus on something that yields better results. Talking to people about health and environmental issues does not preclude discussing ethics as well.

"it will end up being a combination of factors that ultimately brings about AR and widespread vegansism."

Yes, definitely. All the more reason not to put all of one's eggs in the ethics basket. :o)

Dan Cudahy said...

“Yes, and eventually they all had to face reality: non-whites are human. Animals, however, will always be non-human.”

But even when they accepted that non-whites were human, they still hated them and wanted to enslave them. Racists and speciesist think EXACTLY alike. They know they are racist or speciesist, and they say “YES, of course I’m racist, and there is absolutely no problem with racism!” Most speciesist will say the same thing. So, really, it’s not about human-nonhuman; it’s about epistemic irrationality and strong prejudice. Prejudice is prejudice is prejudice. There are neo-Nazis today who are just as prejudice against non-whites as sadistic slaughterhouse workers are against chickens. In the end, prejudice is always the same underlying psychology in different forms.

As for the rest of our disagreement, it is an empirical one on whether moral arguments work. I think they work more than we can obtain evidence for because of a lag time (often a long one) between the stimulus (moral argument) and the change in attitude and behavior.

Further, my (tiny) hope for the future lies not in humanity’s sweet light breaking through the clouds (that’d be funny if it weren’t so damn tragic), but in the herd mentality of humans. In moral psychology, I agree largely with Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche: humans are generally immoral as individuals (with a few exceptions); however, humans have an extremely strong herd instinct. The herd instinct in most people is so strong that many people will put themselves through all kinds of prolonged misery to either go along with or impress the herd (depending on the individual). If the herd thinks racism is bad, racism will be bad not because of people’s genuine moral convictions, but because they want to fit in. Same with speciesism. Speciesism is acceptable now, and even required in many social circles, but if it ever goes the way racism has, there may (or may not) be a time when it is un-herd-like to contribute to animal exploitation, and veganism will be widespread. It wouldn’t be because humanity found morality; it’d be because that’s what the herd is doing now.

Babble said...

Yes, and eventually they all had to face reality: non-whites are human. Animals, however, will always be non-human.

This is true, but we're dragging folks - slowly, excruciatingly so - toward the idea that at least *some* nonhumans may be *persons*. The idea that Great Apes should be afforded personhood isn't dismissed out of hand today, as it once was. Is that real progress?

I don't know.

It's morally problematic for me to play the species game that says that animals that are "like us enough" deserve recognition as persons, because that still leaves out every animal we eat, use for clothing, (and nearly all of the ones we) experiment on, etc.

But we don't need to convince everybody that dolphins are *human* - we just need to get them to see that the defenition of a moral/legal *person* isn't wide enough. (If you think this can't happen, think again - corporations are, for all intents and purposes, legal persons). 


gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

Babble states:

"The idea that Great Apes should be afforded personhood isn't dismissed out of hand today, as it once was. Is that real progress?"

Putting aside that I am not really sure that it is accurate to say that we are giving nonhuman great apes "personhood" (as opposed to providing greater welfare protection), but I fail to see how that sort of thing does anything more than reinforce the hierarchy. We just bring a few animals over to "our" side because they are "like us." We leave the rest on the "other" side.

It reminds me of legal measures that distinguished between blacks and quadroons and octoroons and gave the latter those in the latter two categories preferential treatment because they were more "like us."

I was one of the original contributors to The Great Ape Project. Even then (1992), I said that sentience was all that was required. But in retrospect the entire GAP project was problematic at its very core.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University
www.AbolitionistApproach.com

Babble said...

Putting aside that I am not really sure that it is accurate to say that we are giving nonhuman great apes "personhood" (as opposed to providing greater welfare protection), but I fail to see how that sort of thing does anything more than reinforce the hierarchy.

Hey Prof. Francione,

I really didn't mean to overstate the case - I don't mean to imply that this is remotely close to a settled issue among primatologists (at least, not according to ANYthing I've seen so far); it's just to say that as it goes to marinel's point -

Yes, and eventually they all had to face reality: non-whites are human. Animals, however, will always be non-human.

...I don't know for sure that a lack of *shared species membership* is an insurmountable hurdle. Ape personhood is far from widely *accepted*, but it's not exactly universally *dismissed* at this point, either.

I'm fully aware that it reinforces a "close enough to us to matter" sort of heirarchy, and I totally don't want to *defend* that (I tried to touch on that specifically).

marinel said...

"Ape personhood is far from widely *accepted*, but it's not exactly universally *dismissed* at this point, either.

I'm fully aware that it reinforces a "close enough to us to matter" sort of heirarchy [...]"

This is why I'm not very optimistic. A cow doesn't qualify as "close to human" or "human cousin".

Babble said...

Not *yet*. I'm not convinced that it will *ever be thus.* I'm not saying you should use different arguments to get people to go vegan than you're already doing; I'll use any argument that gets my foot in the door.

But once I've shoved my way into somebody's awareness, I'm (in my experience) almost guaranteeing a temporary vegan if I don't try to make an ethical case. There are probably a dozen reasons to *go* vegan. There are very few reasons to *stay* vegan.