Excellent letter. It sums up a lot in a few words.
Great letter.... too bad some of the letters that follow are terrible... Comparing keeping a pet to factory farming (okay milking a cow), and utilizing evolution to justify eating meat... I wonder if the NY Times publishes responses to responses....
I know...these folks obviously haven't taken Animal Rights 101.
I'm at work now, so I'll keep my response brief.I take issue with just about every statement you make in your letter. For example, I find the term "ethical omnivore" to be a oxymoron, sort of like "ethical rapist".Gary Francione (whose writings you apparently include in your animal-rights course) has spent his career refuting most of your assertions. I think he does so convincingly, but opinions obviously differ. It would be interesting (interesting for me, anyway) to see you address his arguments directly. Perhaps you've done so already, but I haven't seen it.With all due respect, I find your attitude to be discouraging. If a person who is as educated and thoughtful as yourself continues to defend the consumption of animal products, then what hope is there for the rest of society to adopt veganism -- and consequently, what hope is there for the animals to become free from exploitation?
Alex, My outlook is just pragmatic and results oriented. An ethical omnivore is someone who's making food choices on ethical grounds, and does think animals matter. They may not be going far enough, but they're doing much better than the total animal dismissers.I am worried about Francione's approach--especially his opposition to proposition 2 and the like. It's certainly true that such reforms are not enough, but to actually oppose them strikes me as bizarre. Imagine someone in the 19th century started a campaign to supply shoes for slave children. Would any reasonable abolitionist object to that, on grounds that images of shoeless children strengthen the abolitionist cause? It seems to me that Francione's rejection of the humane movement is analogous. Essentially, he wants to keep animals in the worst possible condition in order to use their suffering to rally people to the cause of totally changing the status of animals. I've got to run right now, but I hope to write a post in the not too distant future about Francione and what I like and don't like about his ideas.
Jean wrote: "Essentially, [Francione] wants to keep animals in the worst possible condition in order to use their suffering to rally people to the cause of totally changing the status of animals."This is not at all what he says.The abolitionist position is that welfare "reforms" (such as Proposition 2) do precious little to improve the lives of animals while simultaneously soothing the consciences of consumers. The end result is that the animal-exploitation industry becomes more entrenched. (Francione uses both empirical and theoretical arguments to make these points.)Furthermore, resources are squandered in promoting these useless (actually, harmful) measures -- resources that could have been used instead to promote the abolition of animal exploitation.If you click on the link in my original post, you will see an expanded version of what I just wrote. (You will not find anything about promoting the suffering of animals so that the suffering can be used to rally the troops.)To run with your example, a person who spent time and money giving shoes to slave-children could have instead used those same resources to agitate in favor of abolishing slavery altogether. It's a zero-sum game. The image of shoeless slave-children (as per your response above) is not relevant here.Now, granted, real life is complicated, and there may be times when you have a moral obligation to help an individual who is in front of you and in obvious need of assistance.In Francione's book, Rain Without Thunder he develops the example of a thirsty cow being led to slaughter:"I am unable to discern anything in rights theory that is inconsistent with my giving water to a thirsty cow on the way to slaughter. [...] I am acting consistently with her interests and her inherent value to provide her with water and to ease the suffering caused by institutionalized exploitation."I do think you have misunderstood Francione's arguments. They are perhaps more subtle than you give them credit for.
Alex- I think you're being a bit black and white here, because it isn't a zero sum game. We're talking about suffering, and suffering comes in degrees. Sure I can spend my time telling people to not eat meat, or telling people to eat responsibly raised meat. But one is going to be more effective at converting people than the other. Similarly, I can tell people to not drive their cars, or drive hybrids or electrics. More people will switch to hybrids than simply not drive cars. Is that the best scenario? No... obviously not, but it is a BETTER scenario.Yes, slaughterhouses are terrible places, but given the choices between a more humane slaughter vs less humane, we should opt for the more humane. Ideally we'd opt for no slaughterhouses, but that isn't a likely scenario. Francione would rather have us argue the strict vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, and have nobody converted, than to convert people slowly through raising awareness and making incremental steps.
Well this is an enormous ammount to discuss here but I'll take one small piece to illustrate a key point.Francione writes:"Ironically, animal welfare reform may actually increase animal suffering. Assume that we are exploiting 5 animals and imposing 10 units of suffering on each. That’s a total of 50 units of suffering. A welfare measure results in a reduction of 1 unit of suffering for each animal, but consumption rises to 6 animals. That’s a total of 54 units of suffering—a net increase. There is no question that this phenomenon occurs. For example, in Europe, veal consumption has increased as the result of regulation about the confinement of veal calves."Well that's all very convenient. What if the welfare measure results in a 9 units of reduction in animal suffering and increases the ammount of animal consumption by a factor of 2--all the way up to 10 animals? Then you have only 10 units of suffering, a huge reduction of total suffering. Playing with numbers is fun!Now there remains the question of whether no such a reduction is practical at the level of mass animal production, it may not be. This is a valid argument to make. But IF it is possible to significantly reduce the ammount of suffering involved in flesh production, then it seems perfectly valid to suggest that this is better than our current practices. That doesn't mean it will be good as zeroing out our meat production. 0 units of suffering is clearly better than 10 units. But 10 is clearly better than 54. The notion that there CANNOT be a continuum here in principle is simply stupid. That there may not in practice be a solution that actually produces this reduction is plausible--at least at the mass scale. Though I will note that on a small scale it is CLEARY realizable. At that point one has to enter into the aguments that center on killing per se, independant of the suffering up to the point of killing. That's a topic that requires a seperate line of argument.
Alex is absolutely correct. And the comments I've read on abolitionism by others clearly demonstrate a misunderstanding of abolitionism so great, the credibility of those comments becomes obsolete.Abolitionism seeks not to ameliorate the suffering involved in the exploitation of animals but to abolish the exploitation of animals.If you disagree with this position you either also disagree with the position to abolish and not merely reduce the suffering of human rape and murder or you use the difference of species as a criterion on which to say abolitionism is justifiable for crimes against humans but not those of animal property.Wayne: Is Alex being black and white? Let me again change the terms to human dilemmas. Am I being black and white to say that incest is always wrong? Am I being irresponsible to not support campaigns to find new methods of incest to reduce the suffering involved?You also set up a disjunction to say that campaign A is "more effective at converting people" than campaign B. This is logically misleading because campaign A "converts" people to something completely different than campaign B.Would it make sense for me to say that hitting children is wrong, but it is easier to ask people to untie their shoelaces than to completely stop hitting their child overnight? After all, untying shoes is more attainable for these people.Jean: I am blown away by your statement that "An ethical omnivore is someone who's making food choices on ethical grounds, and does think animals matter."Can you explain to me how taking the life of the animals we use for food is ethical? Because it doesn't make sense to me to say one scenario is ethical for the reason that a second scenario exists which involves more suffering.If we were to judge something to be "ethical" based on your logic, I could justify any of my own actions by finding other individuals who have committed actions involving much more suffering than mine. I kicked someone today but someone else stabbed their friend. I made an ethical decision. You cannot take the life of an animal and be "ethical." If the "ethical omnivore" believes animals matter, why does (s)he not believe the animal has the right not to be property? You contradict yourself here.I humbly suggest to Wayne and Jean to read Introduction to Animal Rights so that if you do disagree with his position, you can at least understand his position, use quotations, page numbers, and correctly represent abolitionism.
Francione's literature clearly demonstrates welfare is immoral and ineffective for reasons beyond the fact it "does not do enough.""Imagine someone in the 19th century started a campaign to supply shoes for slave children. Would any reasonable abolitionist object to that, on grounds that images of shoeless children strengthen the abolitionist cause? It seems to me that Francione's rejection of the humane movement is analogous."The situation is not analogous. You need only read Introduction to Animal Rights to understand why. Animals are bred into this world to be our property--ends to our means. Welfare reforms are not only flawed in their lack of progress, they are flawed because they help the industry to produce animals in a more efficient manner and educate the public that we can continue to exploit animals in an ethical or humane way.For example, you need only look to Jean's comment that "An ethical omnivore is someone who's making food choices on ethical grounds, and does think animals matter." No one who takes animal rights seriously should be making any kind of statement like this one.There also appears to be a false conclusion that we are ignoring suffering by promoting abolitionism. But how do you think the industry would respond if we demanded abolitionism instead? If instead we used our resources for vegan education and actually educating the millions of people in the world who need only our encouragement to go vegan, would you disagree with me that the industry would not self-reform their products (which I would argue they are actually already doing) to attract demand, to say they'll improve?Of course, I do not believe the industry's adoption of methods is an improvement in exploitation but I just can't see how any reasonable person could continue to support welfarism knowing these points. Having once been a welfarist myself, I think it may be a fear of change or a fear that one is turning one's back on the animals for some reason. Is this the case? Is this something we need to discuss?
Dear Jean Kazez:Your misunderstanding and misrepresentation of my ideas is profound and disturbing. You appear to not understand at all (among other things) the structural limitations of welfare that result from the status of nonhumans as chattel property. It is not merely a question of animal welfare "not doing enough"; it is a question of animal welfare actually improving production efficiency and not even moving incrementally in the direction of animal personhood. Although I welcome informed criticisms of my work, you have an obligation not to misrepresent blatantly the work of others.I do a podcast that is listened to by a fairly large number of people. I would like to invite you to have a discussion with me in which we can explore what you say about my work.Will you accept my invitation? It will be an informal chat that will focus on what you say here. We can do it over a phone line and there is no special set up required. Thank you.Gary L. FrancioneRutgers University
Professor Francione: Would it be possible for you to discuss the issue here with Ms. Kazez, so that others can participate in the debate, which promises to be very enlightening? Thank you
Dear Amos:I would like to engage Professor Kazez directly as the dynamic of a personal interaction is very different from what occurs in this sort of format.Gary L. FrancioneRutgers University
Professor Francione: There is no doubt that the dynamic of personal interaction is different in another format. The question is which format is more suitable for discussing this issue and for permitting questions and comments from others. However, that is something for you and Ms. Kazez to decide. In any case, I'm sure that it will be a thought-provoking discussion.
Dear Amos:I am really not interested in doing an online debate like this. I do not think it is effective. I have proposed to Professor Kazez that we discuss this issue one to one. She can accept or decline.Gary L. FrancioneRutgers University
In my view, a one-on-one discussion between the professors is a better way to communicate than an online forum.
I may be left out of the loop here. Jean have you accepted Gary's invitation yet?
Adam- I understand the abolitionist position, I just don't agree that animal welfare ranks up to moral wrongs quite like incest or rape. Clearly, there are things that are more wrong than others. Genocide and torture are really wrong. Robbery is wrong too, but I wouldn't put them on the same level of wrongness. Now I hate to admit this, since I'm such an animal advocate, but the wrongs that we do to animals arn't nearly as wrong as the wrongs that we do to human beings, since animals are simply not as valuable as human beings. If they were then it would mean that medical experiments could begin with human testing, since animals and humans are equivalent in value. But they're not. Humans have a greater capacity for happiness, because of our greater intellect, and my largely being a consequentialist, allows me to say that that makes human beings more valuable. (I'm not saying anything new here.... this is all pretty straightforwardly Peter Singer.)So I cry false analogy. There are relevant difference between crimes against animals and crimes against humans. That doesn't mean we should stand for either, but it does mean that we can treat them differently in trying to deter them, just like we take different approaches trying to deter incest vs. speeding. (Although I readily admit that speeding is a terribly good analog with animal suffering.)
Adam- sorry a couple more things... I don't think its fair to compare my disjunction with tying people's shoes, and I think you know it. Both forks of my disjunction has relevance to animal suffering, one mitigates it, the other eliminates it, but one is much less likely to be achieved. But you are right in that its a false dilemma... we can and indeed do both, and I don't see anything wrong with that. You on the other hand seem to find that offensive.R.M. Hare wrote a piece, Why I am a Demi-vegetarian, where he argues, I think rather persuasively, that demi-vegetarians (compassionate omnivores) have a greater effect on the market, than vegans or vegetarians. They create a demand, whereas vegans and vegetarians do not. Without creating a demand, the market won't respond. If dollar votes are being spent on humanely raised animal products then you spur change in the industry, since dollar votes are not being spent on cruelly raised meat.Francoine wrote above "it is a question of animal welfare actually improving production efficiency and not even moving incrementally in the direction of animal personhood."How does it not move towards personhood? Again back to the slave analogy, what if I started paying my slaves wages. I still owned them, but it would be treated them less like a means to an end, so consquently, I'm recognizing more of their claim to personhood. I'll admit I haven't read your book. But it still strikes me as the wrong --pragmatic-- tactic, even if you may have the superior moral position. Even slavery was abolished incrementally. Women's rights, gay rights, and animal rights have all made incremental changes towards the ideal.Ultimately, we both share the same position, but we differ on how to achieve it.
Wayne: I have my doubts as to whether humans have a higher capacity for happiness. I am almost done reading a wonderful book called, Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good, by Jonathan Balcombe (incidentally, I'm disturbed to see that the new edition apparently has an introduction by Peter Singer).Anyway, I think that humans spend a great deal of time obsessing about the past, worrying about the future, and bellyaching about the present (god knows I'm as guilty of this as anyone). It's not clear that animals engage in these sorts of counter-productive ruminations.If I have time, I'll look for a few good passages from Balcombe's book, and I'll post them here.
Wayne: The quote from Hare assumes that there is such a thing as "humanely-raised animal products", but that issue is one of the points of contention in this debate of abolitionism vs. welfarism.I don't agree with everything on this site, but it's worth taking a look at www.humanemyth.org.
My fellow abolitionists have made great points, but I would like to comment on this:Imagine someone in the 19th century started a campaign to supply shoes for slave children. Would any reasonable abolitionist object to that, on grounds that images of shoeless children strengthen the abolitionist cause?If you read African-American slave literature, the slaves were not calling for shoes for their children.
Alex- No I agree with that point, thats why I'm a vegetarian. I don't think humanely raised meat is easily accessible.... I just blogged about it (click on my name to get to my blog) Although I don't think its a complete myth either.But, back to the first point, about humans being able to experience more pleasure.... the fact that we can think about the past and the future is why we have a greater capacity for pain and suffering than animals. I was looking over Francione's blog, and he says he think's Singer is being speciesist when he says that humans are more important than animals, but he doesn't state why on his blog. Singer's distinction about speciesism is the same one Francione is making however, using irrelevant features to distinguish between two persons is wrong.... but why is intelligence irrelevant? Intelligence, in this case, directly affects the capacity for pain and suffering. I can think about my future losses, but animals, generally, can't.
We don't even have to go into the argument of who is more valuable. What if we grant Wayne and Peter Singer the idea that humans are more valuable because they're smarter and capable of greater happiness and greater suffering. Ok. But how does that justify making the enormous leap to saying that this makes it okay to enslave and exploit animals whom we all agree are capable of some manner of happiness and suffering? This is making the jump from the statement "we have more value" to "they have no value". Especially when talking about eating animals which we do for pleasure alone as opposed to medical testing. Being a vegetarian compared to a vegan certainly engenders vast suffering as cursory knowledge of the industry will show. Is exploitation the habitual action of a creature of such lofty happiness and intellect as Wayne claims humans are? Perhaps the statement should be revised to say "humans are more valuable because they're capable of greater denial than any other animal". We are all in denial to varying extents here, and can do our best to see the truth and each other with compassion.
Rock- I think you're missing the point of establishing their personhood level. Since they're not the same, then we can treat them relevantly differently...Now, that means we can eat them, so long as we raise and slaughter them humanely... Whether that is possible, is a separate matter of debate. But its at least plausible that it can be done.Hare and Singer both could appeal to a utilitarian argument to say that the world is a better place with more animals than less since the more animals, the more things that are capable of maximizing happiness. But if we were all vegans, there would be fewer animals in existence, etc. etc.I'm not sure if I buy that... But I think Parfit has said really all that needs to be said on that.
Perhaps the statement should be revised to say "humans are more valuable because they're capable of greater denial than any other animal".I would advise "more valuable because they have more capacity for agency." Humans are more capable of more things than any other animal. This includes bad things as well as good things. Are other animals capable of cruelty the way we are? Can they lie? Certainly they can decieve but do they do it consciously? Can they wax nostaligic? Is it wrong for non-human predators to kill other animals? Do they cause suffering when they do so? If so, does that fact that they are unaware of the suffering they cause make it OK? If so, when humans are unaware of causing suffering as a result of their actions does it make those actions OK in a similar fashion? And of course even if we say *some* animals have such and such capacities, it certainly doesn't mean they all do. And what does that mean? Do ants feel pain? Do they feel as much pain as a cow? Does the cow feel the same kind of pain as a snake? Of course the capcaities argument can be pushed in the other direction. What if there were aliens that landed and had capacities both intellectual and phenomenological (or at least this is what they tell us). An entire race of Einsteins with remarkably refined aesthetics. If they found roast human to be simply the most divine thing EVER (particularly small children) would that make it OK for them to eat us? Is there some sort of phenomenological devide, a threshold of qualia that one must have access to prior to being granted freedom from "use" for whatever purpose? How do we go about establishing this threshold? Can it be measured? Or is it somethng that any old person can just "feel" once they have been sufficiently sensitized?
Human beings are more valuable because we're human, just as my children are more valuable (to me) than are yours. I bet that your children are more valuable to you than my children are to you. Why should that be bad?
I have to say that some of these comments here are deeply troubling.For example, Amos, what possible relevance is there between your valuing your children over other children and our thinking that our species is morally superior? And how is your position different from those who say that we should favor whites because we whites value whites more than people of color?And Wayne, the logical implication of your position is that more intelligent humans are worth more as a moral matter than less intelligent humans. So let's kill less intelligent people in order to harvest organs for more intelligent ones. I have not yet from Prof. Kazez. I hope that I hear from her soon as I plan to respond formally to her outright misrepresentations of my views. Moreover, a number of you seem absolutely clueless about the structural limitations of animal welfare reform given the property status of animals. Gary L. FrancioneRutgers University
"What if there were aliens that landed and had capacities both intellectual and phenomenological (or at least this is what they tell us). An entire race of Einsteins with remarkably refined aesthetics. If they found roast human to be simply the most divine thing EVER (particularly small children) would that make it OK for them to eat us? "I love this analogy Faust. I think it really gets to the heart of it. I think you should add that these smarty aliens are also made of impenetrable steel and have the strength of superman.The truth is that value only exists in the eye of the valuer. There is no universal value, value depends only on what each believes is valuable. When we recognize the suffering in others as our own (animals or people), then we value it as much as our own. When we don't see the suffering there, i mean *really* see it there, not just intellectually know its there, then it has no value. So while my children may be more valuable to me than yours, I still *know* yours can suffer like me. I may not surprise your kids with a favorite video game like I would my own, but that doesn't mean I will pay someone to enslave your kids for my own gain. The reason is because I can fully empathize with the pain this would cause them and so to do this would be to suffer myself.I see vast differences between animals and myself, but I recognize their curiosity, their sense of trust, their innocence and their capavity to suffer. Even if the suffering is only for one minute during their "humane" death, for that animal, who is actually a point of awareness in a body like myself, that minute is likely an eternity. They may have suffered in the wild or at the hands of another human anyway, but that is no justification for me to intentionally cause it myself. I am responsible for my own actions alone. But these are my beliefs. Though we cannot choose what to believe, we can choose to sincerely question our beliefs to fully understand if they are true. I remain very open and do my best to continually question mine. So please let me know if you think there's something based in these comments that I might do well to question.
Dr. Francione: I never said that our species was morally superior to any other species. Please don't misrepresent the positions of other people. You seem very upset that others don't understand or distort your position. Please reciprocate. I said not that our species is morally superior, but that we give priority to our own species, because it's ours. As to races, the only race I belong to is the human race and I give priority to that race, just as I give priority to my children over yours. That does not mean that your children don't concern me: however, they concern me less than mine do.
Amos:This is what you said:"Human beings are more valuable because we're human, just as my children are more valuable (to me) than are yours. I bet that your children are more valuable to you than my children are to you. Why should that be bad?"You certainly did say that humans were morally more valuable to animals and you analogized to your preferring your children.Please do not accuse me of misrepresenting your views. I did not. Your words speak for themselves.And your reasoning could be and has been used by those who support racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc.Gary L. FrancioneRutgers University
I do plan to join this discussion when I get back from travels later in the week. Jean
Gary: Read my words. I never said that my children are more morally valuable: just that they are more valuable. And please don't use smear tactics, associating my arguments with racism or sexism. Guilt by association went out of style with McCarthy.
Amos: I think it is tragic that when welfarists are called on what they say and are unable to say anything of substance, they lapse into name calling.Again, you stated:"Human beings are more valuable because we're human, just as my children are more valuable (to me) than are yours. I bet that your children are more valuable to you than my children are to you. Why should that be bad?"The fact that we (or some of us) would prefer humans over nonhumans does not make humans "more valuable" in any relevant sense. In other words, the fact that we would may prefer certain humans over other humans, or humans over nonhumans, says nothing about who is "more valuable."In any event, you got called on the logical flaws in your comment and you responded with ad hominem remarks. This is precisely why discussions like this are not useful. In any event, I have invited Adjunct Professor Kazez to do do a podcast discussion. I emailed her this morning and I hope that she will respond as I plan to do the podcast this week. But I have no intention of continuing this chat as you are obviously not up for a civilized, let alone rigorous, discussion. Gary L. FrancioneRutgers University
ERock,I'm glad you like the metaphor. I'm not 100% sure aobut it myself in terms of its usefullness to persuade most people, it's probably better to focus on more concrete examples such as the already existing continuum between smart humans, less smart humans, and severely impaired humans. On the other hand maybe there is something there that could be extra illustrative. V is back on TV. I'm wondering if they will treat the human eating in a more complex way this time around. Or maybe they just won't eat humans this time around. In any case I'm firmly convinced that at a pragmatic level "education of sentiments" is the only way these issues will gain traction in the broader society. Most people are far too tribal and viceral in their responses to these issues to respond well to philosophical arguments. Vicerally "we" know that it is "wrong" to torture dogs, or at least more wrong than it is to torture pigs. But there is no rational set of criteria that Joe Average could articulate that would establish why this is so.Likewise "we" "know" that it is "wrong" to exploit or use cognitively impaired humans the way we exploit or use animals. But what are the rational criteria behind this judgement? Some think that by showing that we are operating without coherent criteria across species that we will be able to expand our circle of compassion. I wonder if this is true given how irrational human beings tend to be. A raw "education of sentiments" seems a better approach. How to accomplish this seems to be the question at hand from my point of view. I mean, in the US right now we can't even seem to get universal health care for children, let alone adults, how are going to get enough compassion going that we will extend it to animals? Our empathy quotient has a long way to go I'm afraid.
gary- I don't think my position entails that more intelligent people are more valuable than others. I think humans have the same general intellectual capacities, but that doesn't mean they have the same intellectual "strength" sort of speak. Koko clearly has more intellectual strength than other gorillas, but I think all gorillas have the same intellectual capacities as Koko.That said, just because something is less morally valuable, doesn't mean that we have some kind of obligation to kill them either. e.g. fetuses have no intellectual capacity, so it is permissible for us to abort them, but not a requirement. And there are some people who are more morally valuable than others, e.g. given the choice between myself and the President, I think one should rightfully attribute more value to the president than I (in most normal circumstances). So if we were both in a burning building, save the President (be it Bush or Obama) than me.
Jean, you say:"In fact, a whole lot of semi-vegans can do much more for animals than the tiny number of people who are willing to give up all animal products and scrupulously read labels. Farm animals also benefit from the humane farming movement, even if the animal welfare changes it effects are not all that we should hope and work for."100 people cutting back consumption 20% is not the same as 20 people opting out completely. Those who merely cut back consumption still view other animals as commodities. Those who become vegan refuse to see other animals as food, clothing, or resources for human use. A vegan movement counters speciesism and builds the critical mass of support to abolish the property status of nonhuman animals and secure their rights as persons under the law.
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