Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why Gary Francione Is Right

Since my last post is getting some modest traction from people who tend to agree with Gary Francione, I wanted to clarify two significant places where we agree.

First, and most importantly, nonhuman animals have an unequivocal right not to be property -- that is, not to be used merely as a means to human ends. Abolition and veganism are the only moral positions consistent with that right. Anyone who favors even the most so-called "humane" use of animals, be it for experimentation or for food, is not acting in accordance with animal rights.

Second, and perhaps more surprisingly, to the extent that they exist I actually think Francione is correct in his critique of what he calls "new welfarists." However, it is important to distinguish those that meet the criteria of Francione's "new welfarists" from the broader category that, borrowing from David Sztybel, I am calling animal rights pragmatists. Francione lists five distinguishing features of "new welfarists," which he uses to contrast with classical welfarists but work equally well in comparison with pragmatists.
  1. They generally support abolitionism, or at least oppose speciesism
  2. They think animal rights theory doesn't provide any practical gradual path to abolition
  3. They pursue welfare campaigns identical to those of classical welfarists, and consider them "rights"
  4. They see welfare reforms as necessary as steps to abolition
  5. They believe there is nothing inconsistent about animal advocates reinforcing the use of animals
I should hope it would be clear from reading my previous post that I do not meet the last four of these criteria, with the arguable exception of number 3, and I come out on the right side of number 1. I may be, in Francione's estimation, some form of welfarist since I support some "welfare" reforms, but I would seem to fail the "new welfarist" test. I do think animal rights theory (and by extension, vegan activism and the incremental quasi-rights Francione endorses) is enough to achieve abolition; in fact, I think it is the only way to do it. I do not support all "welfare" campaigns a classical welfarist might, but I might support some. I do not see "welfare" reforms as necessary steps to abolition -- I think "welfare" reforms and abolition are essentially unrelated, except in that they both deal with the treatment of animals. Finally, I absolutely think there is something inconsistent about animal advocates reinforcing the use of animals; where I disagree with Francione here is that all "welfare" reforms do so.

But there are people who do meet these criteria. You especially find a lot of PETA supporters who think every "welfare" reform is a "victory" on the road to liberation, as if there is some sort of causal link between exploiting gently and not exploiting at all. So I think that Francione's critique of "new welfarists" is accurate -- but I don't think everyone who supports some form of "welfare" campaign is a "new welfarist" according to these criteria by a long shot.

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