I really hope people who read Francione don't take his word for it when he attributes positions to Peter Singer. For example, in paragraph 5 he says Singer maintains that being a "conscientious omnivore" is a "defensible ethical position." But when you follow the link, you read this passage from an article in the Guardian, written by Patrick Barkham--
Is Singer arguing that, ultimately, veganism is the only ethically defensible position? [Singer said:] "I wouldn't phrase it in such absolute terms. It's pretty difficult to be a conscientious omnivore and avoid all the ethical problems, but if you really were thorough-going in eating only animals that had had good lives, that could be a defensible ethical position. It's not my position, but I wouldn't be critical of someone who was that conscientious about it."Francione forgot to include the phrase "It's not my position." If you read Singer's writing about humane meat, it's very clear what he thinks. It's better than regular meat, but no meat is best. See his excellent book The Ethics of What We Eat.
Francione says Singer is a "'flexible' vegan who will be non-vegan when it is convenient." That makes you think Singer eats hamburgers in airports, or something. But no. Follow the link (to a very interesting interview in Satya) and you'll find out what it means. His example is that he will eat dishes containing ghee at Indian restaurants.
Francione says Singer maintains "that we may have a moral obligation not to be vegan in situations in which others will be annoyed or disconcerted by insistence on veganism." What, he thinks vegans should eat hamburgers at family barbecues? No, no, no. Follow the link (that Satya interview, again), and it turns out Singer was talking about something very specific.
I think animal people should think more about the impression they’re making on others because my ethics are based on the consequence of what you do. I think it’s more important to try and produce a change in the right direction than to be personally pure yourself. So when you’re eating with someone at a restaurant, and you ordered something vegan but when it comes there’s a bit of grated cheese or something on it, sometimes vegans will make a big fuss and send it back and that might mean the food is wasted. And if you’re in company with people who are not vegan or not even vegetarian, I think that’s probably the wrong thing to do. It’d be better off just to eat it because people are going to think, ‘Oh my god, these vegans…’Francione is right that Singer thinks killing animals doesn't have the same moral import as killing (normal) humans. In my new book I make the same objection Francione does. But that doesn't mean I find Singer's view scurrilous. The whole issue of killing is very, very difficult if you delve into it with any philosophical sophistication (for evidence of the complexity, see Jeff McMahan's extremely intricate book The Ethics of Killing). Smart, well-informed people who care about animals simply will not reach all the same conclusions.
Then we get Francione's summary of the abolitionist approach, and his commitment to the idea that animals are persons. He wants us to see that an abolitionist vegan has to be a 100% pure, full-time vegan. But really, I don't see why. Being a very pure vegan has consequences and opportunity costs. On any moral theory, that has to matter. Surely what does no good at all for animals, or even alienates people from animal causes, cannot be morally required, no matter how you look at animal ethics.
Related: Meet the Vegetarians
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