Is it Speciesist to Support Animal Welfare Regulations? (part 2)

As he promised to do a while back, Gary Francione has put an essay on his website about why (he thinks) it's speciesist to support animal welfare regulations.  In a nutshell, he says those who support animal welfare regulations must, to be consistent, also support campaigns for humane rape, humane child molestation, and humane chattel slavery.  If you support animal welfare regulations but not the latter three, there's no other plausible explanation but speciesism.

Let's deal with the allegation of speciesism first.  All the major animal protection organizations support animal welfare regulations, and I don't see them signing on for humane rape or humane child molestation campaigns.  But they also don't engage in campaigns for humane dog-beating.  In fact, these things seem equally bizarre:
  1. Humane rape campaign
  2. Humane child molestation campaign
  3. Humane dog-beating campaign
The fact that animal welfare regulations don't seem bizarre, but #1 and #2 do, can't be a function of speciesism, considering that #3 in the list of bizarre campaigns involves animal victims.  So much for the charge of speciesism.

I think we have to figure out what's bizarre about #1 - #3.  Then we can ask ourselves if an animal welfare campaign is bizarre in the same way.  What's bizarre, I take it, is that, from what we know, rapists, child molesters, and dog beaters have no compassion for their victims.  That's why they commit these horrible acts.  It seems preposterous and futile, then, to try to influence them to tone it down.  Any resources you shifted from trying to stop rape to trying to make rapists kinder would just be misdirected and wasted.

Are animal welfare campaigns preposterous and futile in the same way?   No, because animal consumers are not like rapists and child molesters. They don't eat animals out of cruelty. In fact, they can be both consumers of animals and quite compassionate.   An animal welfare campaign trades on that, helping animals through regulation precisely because the vast majority cannot be helped by convincing people to give up animal consumption, animal research, etc.

There's another, deeper reason why it's not inconsistent to support animal welfare regulations, but reject #1 - #3.  Using animals for food isn't actually analogous to committing rape or molesting children or gratuitously beating dogs.  (No kidding!)  I'm inclined to think using animals for food is wrong because it's unnecessary; whenever it's necessary, it's not wrong.  But it seems altogether inappropriate to think about rape (etc.) that way.  Rape is more deeply and fundamentally wrong, not just wrong because "unnecessary."

This is relevant where the issue of regulation is concerned because if you think animal consumption can be necessary, and sometimes is necessary, then you think the balance of harm to benefit matters.  That means you must think it does improve things in a core sense, and not just peripherally, to reduce the amount of harm inflicted on "food" animals.  By contrast, the core wrongness of rape is not reduced when a rapist inflicts less suffering.

But the main reason  to think one can consistently take one stand on animal welfare regulations, and another on #1 - #3, is because the facts about animal consumption are different from the facts about rape, child molestation, etc.  We know #1 - #3 are so futile as to be preposterous but have no reason to see animal welfare campaigns in the same way. They can do more good than abolitionist campaigns alone, because the majority of voters/consumers are resistant to ending animal exploitation, but quite willing to support humane reforms.


Wayne said...

I hate making the ad hominem argument here, but Francione in his interview on philosophy bites doesn't seem to be very consistent with his own views. He admits to having dogs, and he says that under his philosophy that it would be wrong to have dogs.

Owning a pet is analogous to slavery, in a very direct way, than his analogies to rape and molestation. We can even point to the slaves that were treated well, as most pets are, to press the point home.

Okay enough of ad hominem attacks.

I have a slightly different take on this. I think that animal consumption trades more on ignorance than anything. So when people argue for animal welfare, we're trying to educate people more than anything, and when the message gets across, people change their habits, because they recognize the wrongness of unnecessary cruelty.

But when people are confronted with rape, they already are abolitionists about it. They don't rape, and don't need to be told that its bad (typically).

Now in a world where we could educate people to rape less.... WE SHOULD.

We could make the same argument about social caste systems. Should we abolish them? Yes. But does that mean we shouldn't put any efforts in reducing the pain and suffering of those trapped in the current caste system now? No... In fact reducing the suffering of those in the caste system sheds light to the wrongness of the caste system, not encourages it.

Saying that animal welfarists are encourage animal abuse is flatly wrong. I can advocate for half-steps, then once that is achieved, advocate for the rest of the movement.

Gay marriage might be a good example of this. Civil unions reinforce the second-class citizenship of gays, but it was a good step towards having their full-citizenship recognized.

Jean Kazez said...

Yeah, the dog thing puzzles me. He worries that the humane labels at Whole Foods transmit the message that animal consumption is basically OK. Surely having 5 dogs transmits the message that having pets is OK. He is sometimes worried about messages and sometimes not.

Generally speaking, I'm not as worried about "dirty hands" as he is -- I think that's really the worry here, reading between the lines. He thinks it's wrong to cooperate in any way with the worst rights violators, even if the cooperation is aimed at helping victims. I disagree--in fact, I think these scruples amount to focusing on one's own purity instead of the suffering of others. To do good in an imperfect world, you often have to get your hands dirty--i.e. cooperate with people and practices you would rather avoid altogether.

Rosemary said...

I think his position on dogs is a bit more complicated - he seems to be arguing that all future dogs ought to be eliminated by spaying and neutering all currently existing ones.

This worries me: I think the obvious human parallel is the abolitionists who wanted to deport all the freed slaves to Liberia and in any case I don't see that it's terribly respectful of someone's rights to plan to make their species extinct.

In practical terms I think this kind of view is dangerous because you potentially wind up with a kind of pathological version of Buddhism whereby you're darn well going to eliminate suffering by eliminating all individuals who might suffer.

Jean Kazez said...

This is the inconsistency I see--

GF worries that "humane meat" labels express approval of meat eating, and this will impede progress toward what he sees as the ultimate goal--no more using animals as food.

On the issue of companion animals, he thinks the ultimate goal is extinction--they shouldn't exist. But then, doesn't adopting dogs and cats now express approval of the institution of pet-ownership, and doesn't that to some degree impede progress toward extinction? I would think so, but he's a champion of adoption and has lots of dogs himself.

Personally, I'm for both humane regulations and adopting pets. Whatever the ultimate goal of animal advocates, I don't think you can do nothing about current injustices to individual animals--whether in animal farming or animal shelters.