Dueling Analogies

Alright, one more post on animal welfare regulations (like Prop. 2 in California, which requires animal housing large enough so the animal can turn around).  In my last post I talked about five cases in which progressives have supported both "revolution" for victims of an injustice and reform.  I argued that victims want both and are entitled to both.  Animals are entitled to both too, if they matter as individuals (and yes, they do).  The analogies were these--
  1. Amnesty International works for better conditions for prisoners on death row (reform), while also working to abolish the death penalty (basic change).  
  2. Feminists work for driving rights for women in Saudia Arabia (reform), while also aiming to change the underlying sexist social structures (basic change).
  3. There used to be packed orphanages in the UK (and elsewhere) because adoption wasn't legal -- children were consigned to these places with no exit.  Children's advocates worked to make orphanages kinder places (reform) while also working to legalize adoption (basic change).
  4. While waiting for child labor to be outright abolished (basic change), you could of course work for shorter working hours (reform).
  5. It's perfectly reasonable that anti-slavery abolitionists worked to stop parents and children being separated in auctions (reform), while at the same time working to abolish the whole institution of slavery (basic change).
Elsewhere (see the comments on this post), I see a completely different set of analogies being used to argue against animal welfare regulations.  Some of the anti-regulation analogies are these (roughly--I've paraphrased)--
  1. A law against sow crates is like an anti-bellum law limiting lashes to 40 instead of 42.
  2. Persuading people to buy more humane products (e.g. pork produced without sow crates) is like persuading a rapist to rape less violently.
  3. Advocating more humane treatment of farm animals is like advocating more humane treatment of people in death camps during the Holocaust.
My analogies are better for these reasons--
  • In all of my cases, the reform is significant.  The prisoners clearly do want more time outside their cells, more phone calls, etc; women care about being able to drive; orphans want fewer beatings; child laborers want shorter hours; slave families don't want to be broken up.  This is important because I think animal can tell the difference between being able to turn around and not being able to turn around -- it matters to them. Anti-regulation analogy #1 is flawed because I very much doubt you can even tell the difference between being lashed 40 times rather than 42. 
  • In my scenarios, the reformers want reform and more.   Everyone knows AI wants an end to the death penalty; everyone knows feminists want full equality for women, not just driving rights; etc. etc. We need this in a good analogy, because the pro-reform animal organizations and advocates are just as clear that they want reform and more.  In the anti-regulation analogies, we seem to be invited to imagine advocacy groups who want reform but nothing more.  I think that's why we recoil.  We think "How appalling to just want to make slavery, rape, and death camps more humane!"  Fill in the details so that the reform groups want reform and more, and now these reformers don't seem so bad -- in fact not bad at all.  Think about a covert German anti-Nazi group with influence on gas chamber designers. They shouldn't exert influence to make death easier for millions?  No--that just can't be right.
  • In my analogies there's no implied approval.  That's important, because supporting reforms of the animal industry doesn't imply approval.  Some who support reform are adamantly opposed to animal consumption. In the anti-regulation analogies, implied approval is at least hinted at.  What's the idea in case #2? Will  rape counselors sit down with rapists and just ask them to tone it down a bit?  With more realistic details, the implied approval and absurdity disappears.  Suppose we try to deter violence by imposing harsher punishments for aggravated rape instead of punishing all rapists alike.  Now separately targeting the "how" and "that" of rape doesn't seem so absurd! In fact, this is exactly what the criminal justice system does.  And (surely) rightly so.
So--I'm not impressed with the anti-regulation analogies. I think they're flawed.  But perhaps "enough with the analogies". I support Prop. 2 for the sake of pigs, and not because pigs are analogous to death row prisoners, orphans, slaves, or anyone else. I think I can grasp the critical considerations without the aid of comparisons, which inevitably both illuminate and obfuscate.  If we must have analogies, though, let's have the right ones.


Spencer said...

" If we must have analogies, though, let's have the right ones."

Another striking difference between the dueling sets of analogies is that the anti-reforms ones are all highly contrived, completely fictional examples, whereas the pro-reforms ones are all real life examples. Instead of creating more fictional examples, it'd be interesting to see Francione deal with the above *actual* cases which make the argument for welfare reform, and show specifically why those analogies fail.

The human analogies, I think, suggest a way to frame the welfare reform debate that I haven't yet seen stated. In the human context, when activists work for both reforms and basic change, arguments for how they're counter-productive and will simply make exploiters feel better are never considered, unless there is very clear and compelling evidence that reforms will multiple the basic injustice. Thus the presumption is in favor of pursuing human welfare reforms--and it's up to opponents to present strong empirical evidence against them.

So, when we analogize to the nonhuman context--applying the golden rule across the species barrier--the presumption should be the same: animal welfare reforms are worth pursuing, unless strong empirical evidence suggest they will make things worse by multiplying basic injustice. Francione hasn't presented any such evidence.

Moreover, it's also worth noting an important, overlooked fact about this whole debate: for Francione, empirical evidence on welfare reforms is irrelevant. He would oppose them anyway even if he thought that, as an empirical matter, they do significantly benefit animals. A key quote:

"I am opposed to animal welfare campaigns for two reasons. First, if animal use cannot be morally justified, then we ought to be clear about that, and advocate for no use...Second, animal welfare reform does not provide significant protection for animal interests." http://www.believermag.com/issues/201102/?read=interview_francione

I wish someone would ask him the following: if, as an empirical matter, Francione were convinced that animal welfare reforms *do* provide significant projection for animal interests, while falling far short of the end goal of liberation--i.e., meaningfully reduce suffering and consumption demands--would he still maintain his objection to them on his first moral ground? Maybe Friedrich could press this point in their upcoming podcast debate.

Jean Kazez said...

Over at "My Face..." GF reasons roughly like this--

(1) We know we shoudln't support welfare reforms to help human victims of serious injustice (he bases this on his 40/42 analogy and others).

(2) So supporting welfare reforms to help non-human victims must stem from seeing them as having lesser lives.

(3) We shouldn't see them as having lesser lives.

(4) So we shouldn't support welfare reforms.

Roughly. No doubt I've simplified, but I find this mistaken at every step.

(1) My analogies show that we DO accept welfare reforms to help human victims of injustice. Progressives do it in lots and lots of real world cases.

(2) Since we accept it to help human victims, it follows that when we accept it to help non-human victims, it doesn't have to be because we see them as having lesser lives. In fact, it could be just the opposite--you can accept these reforms precisely because you think animals count as individuals. (Of course others have other reasons)

As for what he says about Peter Singer--yes, Singer thinks animal lives have less value, but that position of Singer's has nothing whatever to do with why he accepts welfare reform. There is literally no connection.

Etc. The reasoning to (4) is flawed too, but since the starting point makes so little sense, I'll move on now!

Craig Urias said...

I am on your side of the issue, but to play advocatus diaboli there is one aspect of abolition-only argument which I can't dismiss so easily, which is that humane treatment of animal folk can give permission to carnivorous folk. Whether or or not the permission is legitimate is another matter, the problem is the mere perception of legitimacy. It might be that carnivorism declines at a slower rate because of this. Projecting across hundreds or thousands of years, it might be that the abolition-only approach leads to smaller cumulative animal suffering over time. (The area under the curve is smaller in the abolition-only case.)

My own response to this argument is that the values are too difficult to quantify and the error bars are too big. We can't justify actions simply based on what might happen when the "might" is too unknown (and probably unknowable).

Jean Kazez said...

This was one of the issues addressed by Bruce in the debate--he claims that some number of people react to humane regulations by wanting to go even further and consume animals less or not at all. But yes, I can see the worry that it might go the other way. Some might think "everything's OK now" and consume more.

Two problems: all that's very speculative. But more important, if there's a right to liberty, it's surely wrong to violate it now in order to maximize total rights fulfillment over time. We don't go in for rights consequentialism, like this, for people. Why for animals?

Craig Urias said...

Well the argument isn't rights consequentialism over time, it's suffering consequentialism over time. And suffering consequentialism has a following in both human and non-human incarnations. We may decide for a child to undergo a painful operation and recovery, without input from the child, in order to reduce the total suffering over the child's lifetime. And it can happen on mass scales, too, in say economic policy where harsh spending cuts are applied in order to prevent worse problems in the future, trading in a bit of collective suffering now in order to reduce greater suffering in the future.

The suggestion is not that carnivores will have license to consume more. All that's needed for the argument is for carnivorism to decline at a slower rate. Of course, calculating the suffering of future unborn animals is a hairy business indeed :)

Practically speaking, if meat sold at grocery stores had a "humane treatment" sticker then at least concern for animals has, in some way, entered the consciousness of the consumer. It seems at least as likely that, over time, this would cause carnivorism to decline faster.

Spencer said...

I do acknowledge the complacency concern, but like Jean said, it's all very speculative, and apparently there is empirical evidence to suggest that welfare reforms not only negatively affects demand, they make the general public more receptive to vegetarianism or veganism. http://ccc.farmsanctuary.org/welfare-reform-and-vegan-advocacy-the-facts/

But let's analogize this worry to the human context. When death penalty abolitionists campaign to make executions less painful/shorter, isn't there a worry that the general public might be more comfortable with capital punishment? Possible. However, unless the worry - backed up by strong evidence - is so great that campaigns for less painful/shorter executions will very likely lead to far more executions, or far more torture and suffering, then the concern by itself isn't a good reason against pursuing those campaigns.

Also, I don't see how the complacency worry with welfare reforms would disappear unless they were so radical as to ban *all* animal agriculture. Suppose we could ban factory farming legislatively tomorrow, but tens of thousands of animals will still be slaughtered for food in small farms. Isn't there a worry that the public would simply feel better about consuming "happy" animals? Wouldn't the ban "further enmesh animal the property paradigm," by perpetuating the idea that it's okay to use/consume animals so long as they are treated humanely? And yet, I think it would be *crazy* not to ban factory farming tomorrow if that could be accomplished.

Craig Urias said...

Spencer, that's a poor analogy. There isn't a billion dollar industry that has a vested interest in killing prisoners, and people don't have a vested interest in seeing them die. The public doesn't derive pleasure from their deaths, apart from psychopaths and the like. We don't expect propaganda telling consumers that it's OK to derive satisfaction from the killing of prisoners because it is done humanely.

Jean Kazez said...

Craig, You say society is more enthusiastic about the DP, but it seems like the principle is the same. It's bizarre to let execution be more painful to get people to reject it and similarly bizarre to let farms be more miserable, to get people to see the basic injustice of animal farming. Maybe this is your point: are you saying since animal consumption is so extremely entrenched, it's more legitimate to let it remain awful, to get people to oppose it? I guess I'm just not seeing what the principle would be behind that.

Craig Urias said...

Um, what? I didn't say society is more enthusiastic about the death penalty.

Can I remind everyone that I'm playing devil's advocate?

I am just pointing out that if humane conditions for animals are ever achieved, the meat industry will spin it to their advantage. An enormous multi-billion dollar operation won't miss the opportunity to propagandize their "good works" while assuring their consumers that they (both the industry and the consumers) are on solid ethical footing, especially considering it was purchased at great expense.

So humane conditions is the first domino to fall, then other dominos fall (industry propaganda, vested self-interest, etc), then the last domino falls, which is a lesser decline in meat-eating, ultimately leading to greater animal suffering over time.

The death penalty analogy doesn't fit because the dominos in the middle are gone. People have a vested interest in enjoying meat, but few enjoy prisoners being sentenced to death. There isn't a multi-billion dollar industry that profits from prisoners dying, that aims to keep prisoners dying, and that aims to convince people to keep enjoying the death of prisoners. There isn't a chain of causation from one effect to the other.

Jean Kazez said...

Craig, Sorry, I actually meant "less enthusiastic"-- which was a rough paraphrase in the first place. Anyhow, yes, the issue is really about the "chain of causation." But I think it exists in both cases. We have lots of executions in Texas partly because there is popular support for the DP. I think there would be less support if it weren't for the "nice" way we execute people. It's all done very tidily, with a relatively humane method of execution, thoughtful "touches" like a website where inmates' last words are made public and (well, until recently) lavish last meals. The public image of execution is at least one reason why you can't get people in Texas to oppose it. No, there's no industry profiting from execution, but people are mostly for it, and that's partly a matter of how it's carried out. If we had firing squads or guillotines or public hangings, I imagine the support would be lower and the legislature might even abolish it.

Jean Kazez said...

p.s. Yes, I know you're playing devil's advocate--that's fine with me! The discussing gets boring if nobody takes or at least represents the other side.

Craig Urias said...

Jean, OK agreed, there are connections that can be made for the analogy. People don't derive daily pleasure from the execution of prisoners, but it does provide some morbid fascination to otherwise hum-drum Texan days, and it can evoke feelings of old timey fire and brimstone righteousness. There isn't an industry putting forth death penalty propaganda, but there is an "industry" of politicians who campaign on keeping the status quo.

But don't these points support the abolition-only argument? Or are you doing the devil's advocate thing too?

Why is Texas languishing wrt the death penalty while other states have moved on? Isn't this is an example of how personal and institutional forces can perpetuate unethical situations when those forces are "reformed" and made to seem legitimate?