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September 18th, 2012 at 10:30 am

Gary L. Francione: Irreconcilable Differences

The Animal Rights DebateYesterday, we posted an article by Professor James McWilliams discussing the debate over the Humane Society of the United States among supporters of animal rights. In particular, McWilliams mentioned “the abolitionist wing of the animal rights movement, which views HSUS welfare reforms as craven capitulation to industrial agriculture.” Today, we have a guest post from Professor Gary Francione, distinguished professor of law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark, co-editor of the CUP series Critical Perspectives on Animals: Theory, Culture, Science, and Law, author of Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation and coauthor of The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, and one of the most outspoken members of this abolitionist wing.

In his article today, Francione argues that his criticisms of the HSUS are justified and that McWilliams has misunderstood these criticisms. Professors Francione has also written a follow-up article, which he has posted on his blog.

Irreconcilable Differences
Professor Gary L. Francione

After Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852, a number of novels appeared suggesting that slavery protected slaves who were, for the most part, delighted with the institution. These novels attacked abolitionists as “meddling” in the efforts of regulationists to improve slavery. The regulationists maintained that if the abolitionists would just shut up and go away, they, the regulationists, would steadily improve the conditions of slavery until it was no more.

My fellow Columbia University Press author, James McWilliams, argues that those who favor the abolition of animal exploitation and who view veganism as a moral baseline are, in effect, “meddling” in the efforts of regulationists—who, in the McWilliams narrative, are those at The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)—to improve the treatment of farm animals as we all march incrementally to that glorious vegan future. McWilliams urges the abolitionists to just shut up and jump on the HSUS bandwagon.

I have a high regard for McWilliams and am often in agreement with the positions he takes on matters of animal ethics, but, unfortunately, this is not one of those times. Putting aside that HSUS, which claims that “[a]bout 95% of our members are not vegetarians,” much less vegans, and explicitly disavows that it is “moving in the direction of eliminating animal agriculture,” McWilliams simply fails to understand the nature of the debate between abolitionists and animal welfare regulationists.

I can’t speak for all of those who identify themselves as abolitionists. Some of them advocate positions with which I do not agree and, on occasion, oppose. But I have been writing about abolition, and the moral and practical problems of animal welfare regulation, for more than 20 years now and McWilliams accepts my work as establishing the fundamentals of abolitionist theory.

As an initial matter, McWilliams ignores that there is a profound moral difference between the abolitionist and the animal welfare positions. The animal welfare position is that animals matter morally and are not just things but that we can still use and kill them for human purposes as long as we treat them in a “humane” way.

According to welfarists, animals are not self aware and do not have an interest in continuing to live. We do not harm them if we kill them painlessly. Animals don’t care that we use them; they care only about how we use them. As long as we provide animals a reasonably pleasant life and a relatively painless death, we have acted morally.

This was the position of Jeremy Bentham, the 19th century founder of the animal welfare movement; it is the position of the “father” of the modern animal movement, Peter Singer; it is the position that most of the large organizations accept. Indeed, it is precisely that position that allows People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to kill healthy animals that it takes in at its Norfolk facility.

The abolitionist position rejects the welfarist view as blatantly speciesist because it arbitrarily privileges a particular sort of self-awareness, namely the sort that we associate with “normal” humans. We cannot justify using animals for human purposes irrespective of whether that treatment is “humane” or not. Yes, it is worse to impose 10 units of suffering than 5 units of suffering. That does not make imposing 5 units of suffering morally right.

McWilliams accepts uncritically that animal welfare reforms actually provide significant improvements for animal welfare. I disagree and, in The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, I discussed at length the problem that, because animals are chattel property, welfare reforms do very little to improve animal welfare and are, at best, analogous to padding a water board at Guantanamo Bay. Note that I said “at best.” That was deliberate. Most of the time, they do even less.

Another consequence of the property status of animals is that we generally protect animal interests only when we get an economic benefit from doing so. Consider the Humane Slaughter Act in the United States, enacted originally in 1958, which requires that large animals slaughtered for food be stunned and not conscious when they are shackled, hoisted, and taken to the killing floor. This law protects the interests that animals have at the moment of slaughter, but does so only because it is economically beneficial to do so. Congress recognized that large animals who are conscious and hanging upside down and thrashing as they are slaughtered will cause injuries to slaughterhouse workers and will incur expensive carcass damage. Of course, these animals have many other interests throughout their lives, but these interests are not protected because it is not economically efficient to do so.

McWilliams argues that various HSUS “victories” demonstrate the success of the regulationist approach. But it’s really just the same old same old. For example, McWilliams points to HSUS persuading various food companies to abandon the use of gestation crates that confine pregnant pigs. But an HSUS Report acknowledges: “Sow productivity is higher in group housing than in individual crates, as a result of reduced rates of injury and disease, earlier first estrus, faster return to estrus after delivery, lower incidence of stillbirths, and shorter farrowing times” and “[c]onversion from gestation crates to group housing . . . marginally reduces production costs and increases productivity.”

McWilliams notes that I objected to the agreement between HSUS and United Egg Producers to promote a national law requiring “enriched” battery cages for laying hens. I plead guilty. These cages do not provide significant welfare benefits. Even the ultra-conservative Compassion in World Farming claims that they “fail to overcome [the] severe welfare problems” of the conventional battery cage. The United Egg Producers are most certainly jumping for joy given that a national law would preempt any more ambitious state legislation regulating factory farming and protect egg producers from state ballot initiatives.

McWilliams thinks that these regulations are meaningful because industry seems to oppose them. But that is all part of the symbiotic relationship that exists between industry and these large regulationist groups. Groups like HSUS identify practices that are economically vulnerable, such as the gestation crate; industry resists; a drama ensues; industry eventually agrees to make what are meaningless and possibly even financially beneficial changes; the animal groups declare victory and fundraise; industry, praised by the groups, reassures the public that it really cares about animals.

In any event, the level of animal welfare protection has been and always will remain very low. Indeed, if we implemented every single one of the reforms that are advocated by the various regulationist groups, animals used for food would still be treated brutally.

McWilliams fails to understand that the animal welfare paradigm has been dominant for more than 200 years now and we are using more animals in more horrific ways than at any time in human history. And he does not recognize that the “happy” exploitation movement he supports is explicitly intended to make consumers feel more comfortable about consuming animals. That is the whole point of all the “humane” labeling schemes.

McWilliams claims that people go vegan gradually. That may be but we shouldn’t modify the ethical end point to accommodate the circuitous route that many of us take to get there.

Finally, McWilliams endorses the notion that abolitionists reject the idea that people will go vegan only “when they’re personally ready to” and that abolitionists favor “strong-arm[ing]” people into going vegan. That is inaccurate and unfair. The abolitionist position, as I have developed it, is clear: we need to have a respectful discussion on the matter of animal ethics. Indeed, the fundamental tenet of the abolitionist approach is that we ought to seek incremental change through creative, nonviolent vegan advocacy.

Let’s decline the invitation to climb aboard the animal welfare bandwagon. It sails right past the moral issue.

52 Comments

  1. Paul Miramontes says:

    Well said Mr.Francione!

  2. Further Thoughts on Happy Meat « Animal Blawg says:

    [...] who also wrote about related issues here and here. Columbia University Press blog published a response by Professor [...]

  3. Jason says:

    Excellent.

  4. John T. says:

    There is no way to get around Francione’s logic or his facts about animal welfare regulations.

    Human slavery exists, albeit in a smaller way, on this planet today. Should we seek to regulate it or abolish it? And if animal welfarists say that we should abolish human slavery but work to regulate animal treatment, then why the difference? The difference in “tactics” is absolutely speciesist in nature.

  5. Sarah Woodcock says:

    Professor Francione’s philosophies are clear, consistent, and applicable. In my animal rights advocacy, I am constantly trying to dispel the myths promoted by welfarists and new welfarists. I encourage everyone interested in animal liberation to read his essays and his books…especially his book The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?

  6. Francine L. says:

    In his article, McWilliams referred to long-time vegan Melanie Joy, saying:
    “Asking people to stop eating animals, as Joy sees it, is more than asking for a change in behaviour; it’s asking for a profound shift in consciousness that people make only when they’re personally ready to do so.”

    I can’t see the point of this statement. Of course people will become vegan on their own. What we can do is stop trying to delay the shift in consciousness by promoting useless welfare improvements.
    The reason so many people become vegan gradually is that the animal organisations are encouraging them to do it gradually. Welfarists assume that few of us have the integrity to deny ourselves enjoyment for the sake of justice and compassion. It is condescension of the worst kind; the kind that assumes others are too stupid and short sighted to see reason even when defenceless creatures are facing suffering and death. And, as Francione has pointed out in the past, it smacks of dishonesty. To me, it’s like being invited to a picnic only to find out it’s actually a prayer session in a church basement where you only get a sandwich if you agree to ‘be saved’.
    ‘We all come to Jesus in our own unique little ways’
    I see this as a meaningless comparison. Firstly, to say it doesn’t matter how we get there as long as we get there in the end is to place such an extraordinarily small value on the life of a creature. Secondly, one doesn’t have to be acquainted with Christianity or religion to prevent cruelty. One does however, have to abstain from PROMOTING any sort of exploitation, whether or not it’s ‘cruelty-lite’ in order to bring about the end of animal exploitation.
    Abolitionism is definitely working. People are turning vegan every day. Sure, they may slip up a few times (maybe many times) but they are clear what their goal is: the end of animal exploitation.
    Take a look at the RSPCA welfare standards in the UK, a country that is considered to be fairly ahead in terms of animal welfare:
    http://www.rspca.org.uk/sciencegroup/farmanimals/standards/hatcheries
    CK1.2 states that a permitted method of killing chicks is maceration.
    Welfare reform is not working.

  7. Douglas Ou-ee-ii-jay-ii Jack says:

    Thank you professor Francione for your clear writing. Your call for non-violence represents a huge positive opportunity for vegans to plant the seeds of mutual-aid collaboration, economic welcome & ‘community’ (Latin ‘com’ = ‘together’ + ‘munus’ = ‘gift or service’). As a vegan 24 years, I’m anxious to join together with other vegans so that we can collaborate in the whole cycle of food growing, transformation, storage, eating, composting & nutrient capture. Three-dimensional Polyculture Orchards of humanity’s worldwide ‘indigenous’ ancestors with roots penetrating tens of metres as deep as the canopies pump water, mine-minerals & develop extensive nutrient colonies. 3-D Canopies absorb 92 – 98% of solar energy through photosynthesis producing 100 times (10000%) more food, material, energy & water-cycle than 2-D ‘agriculture’ (L ‘ager’ = ‘field’). Protein, starch, essential oils, vitamins & minerals are all much stronger with 3-D food. So many opportunities for powerful vegans! https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/design/responsable-health

  8. Janet Weeks V says:

    I am supportive of animal welfare measures in order to provide relief to suffering animals here and now. Does that make me a “welfarist”? My ultimate goal is to win animals their freedom ASAP–but I am certainly NOT averse to doing whatever I can to reduce their suffering TODAY. Therefore, perhaps I am what might be called a hybrid: a welfare/abolitionist. I’m sure Professor Francione would scoff at the very idea.

    Francione misrepresents many “welfarists” when he states their position as follows: “…that animals matter morally and are not just things but that we can still use and kill them for human purposes as long as we treat them in a “humane” way.” (I don’t think any such thing!)

    He then goes on with his essay as if he has established some sort of fact. This factoid, in fact, is a typical Francione tactic. It is fallacious argument at its core.

    In McWilliams’ Slate article, Francione submitted a letter, or some “brief comments” as he called them, in the comments section, addressed to McWilliams. First, he prefaced his “Dear James” letter by insulting his own abolitionist followers(!), noting how they “very generously borrow and then regurgitate (yes, he used that word!), often inaccurately” HIS ideas. How dare they! The seven paragraphs that follow are riddled with fallacies, false premises, false dilemmas, bold but questionable assertions, and finally an invitation to James to join him in what he terms a “discussion.” I advised James to take due precautions and obtain a qualified and neutral moderator, lest the “discussion” become a “Gary-controlled free-for-all.”

    Beneath Gary’s letter, I posted another, addressed to the “Prof” himself, to which he never replied. Let us see if he will respond this time:

    Dear “Prof” Gary Francione,

    I find it bewildering that you would preface your “brief comments” by insulting your steadfast abolitionist followers, noting how they “very generously borrow and then regurgitate, often inaccurately” your ideas. One would think you would thank your regurgitative fans. Imitation, after all, is the highest form of flattery.

    It is also bewildering to me how your next seven paragraphs are riddled with fallacies, false premises, false dilemmas, bold but doubtful assertions, dubious claims about what other people “think,” and poorly supported opinions, coming from a professor and all.

    You write, “The animal welfare position explicitly accepts that animal life per se has no moral value and that we do not harm animals if we kill them painlessly.”

    Where did you read that?! This is the fallacy of false premise. The fact that someone believes in animal welfare does NOT mean that person “explicitly accepts” that animal life has no moral value. In fact the reverse is probably more like it. The one simply does not follow the other, and, I’d wager, rarely does. Nevertheless, you advance your argument on this false premise.

    You disagree “that animal welfare reforms actually do provide significant improvements for animal welfare.”

    Have you asked, for example, the cows who now will get to keep their tails because the dairy industry has decided not to endorse cutting them off, as a direct result of public outcry when the large animal groups exposed this horrific industry practice? I’d say that’s a pretty significant improvement in the cows’ welfare, at least from their perspective.

    You cite HSUS’ literature that says “welfare reforms actually increase production efficiency,” as if HSUS’s use of the science argument is a bad thing.

    If science shows that the vastly more humane group housing of sows makes better economical sense for agribusiness, then it is scientific evidence we can and should use to convince them to switch from their exceedingly cruel gestation crate systems to more humane group housing. (Again, ask the pigs if they agree.) What is your problem with animal groups appealing to science? After all, agribusiness is the first to claim their systems are “science-based” and, as such, acceptable. It is fair game, then, for animal groups to fight science with science.

    You ask, “So why does industry fight?” And answer your own question, “Because that is all part of the symbiotic relationship that exists between industry and these large groups.”

    Wrong again! Industry fights because of the threat to their bottom line. These large groups (HSUS, Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and others) expose to the public agribusiness’ filthiest secrets and their most egregious “standard industry practices,” arousing the ire of consumers, and, potentially costing agribusiness big bucks in having to convert existing systems to meet consumer demands for more humane systems.

    And do please stop accusing, and perpetuating the myth, that animal groups achieve victories for animals IN ORDER TO raise funds. They do not. They do it for the animals. Nonprofits can’t operate without funds! Donations are their sole means of doing the work they do. Stop begrudging their fundraising efforts. If fundraising happens to follow a particularly effective animal advocacy campaign or undercover investigation, they have every right to use that positive momentum to the animals’ advantage (more funding means bigger and better campaigns and investigations to help the animals). It costs money, and lots of it, to do battle with agribusiness and all the other animal user/abusers.

    You say, “The issue is whether we are going to make the argument that people ought to make that moral choice [OR] reassure them that they can discharge their moral obligations by eating “happy” animal products and consuming “compassionately, …”

    This is not an either/or issue. It is possible to encourage people and offer support when they take steps toward veganism without reassuring them about any happy or compassionate meat-eating choices they may make. We CAN do the one without doing the other so your reasoning fallacy is that of false dilemma.

    You find it “bewildering” that “James thinks we are going to make people more receptive to a vegan message by deciding, along with Joy, Cooney, and others that the public simply is not ready to hear a serious argument about animal ethics.”

    First, how do you know what anyone thinks? And second, when and where have McWilliams, Joy, or Cooney publicly stated or written that “the public simply is not ready to hear a serious argument about animal ethics”? This is the fallacy of projection. You are projecting your conclusions and ascribing them to others, whether or not they are true. As to your claim that animal welfare groups avoid discussions about the vegan message, why do you suppose they have links to vegan recipes and vegan support on their webpages and videos of their undercover investigative work? If those aren’t vegan-makers, I don’t know what is.

    Finally, you invite James to “discuss these issues,” since you are “both academics [who] try to look at ‘big picture’ issues.”

    To that, professor, I would advise anyone who considers taking you up on your offer to hire a competent and neutral moderator to conduct a fair debate, disallow fallacious arguments, disallow false premises, have questions for discussion mutually prepared and selected ahead of time, and insist on timed responses, with opportunity for rebuttal at the end. Nor should any interrupting, bullying, or dominating the conversation be allowed. I’ve seen how you operate in so-called “discussions,” and it ain’t pretty or fair.

    For the Animals,

    Jan Weeks

  9. Gary L. Francione says:

    Peter Singer, the so-called “father of the animal rights movement,” maintains that with the exception of “higher” animals, such as nonhuman great apes, animals live in an “eternal present” and do not have an interest in living. As long as we provide a reasonably pleasant life and a relatively pleasant death, we can discharge our moral obligations to animals. Several examples:

    “You could say it’s wrong to kill a being whenever a being is sentient or conscious. Then you would have to say it’s just as wrong to kill a chicken or mouse as it is to kill you or me. I can’t accept that idea. It may be just as wrong, but millions of chickens are killed every day. I can’t think of that as a tragedy on the same scale as millions of humans being killed. What is different about humans? Humans are forward-looking beings, and they have hopes and desires for the future. That seems a plausible answer to the question of why it’s so tragic when humans die.”

    Peter Singer, Indystar, March 8, 2009

    “[T]o avoid inflicting suffering on animals—not to mention the environmental costs of intensive animal production—we need to cut down drastically on the animal products we consume. But does that mean a vegan world? That’s one solution, but not necessarily the only one. If it is the infliction of suffering that we are concerned about, rather than killing, then I can also imagine a world in which people mostly eat plant foods, but occasionally treat themselves to the luxury of free range eggs, or possibly even meat from animals who live good lives under conditions natural for their species, and are then humanely killed on the farm.”

    Peter Singer, The Vegan, Autumn 2006

    If someone “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.

    Peter Singer, quoted in The Guardian, September 8, 2006

    There are other references that I could provide but it is clear that Singer, following Bentham, does not believe that killing an animal is per se to harm the animal. That is a fundamental premise of the welfarist position.

    Gary L. Francione
    Professor, Rutgers University

  10. Jill Fletcher says:

    I am in complete agreement with Professor Francione. I find the actions of the welfare movement confusing and distressing. It is difficult to know where they stand. Some individuals within the movement are vegan and yet the missions and/or philosophies of the organizations do not reflect a clear message and certainly a very weak vegan message, if any at all.

    Animals are now also at the mercy of the leaders of the large welfare organizations who decide what constitutes “humane” practices and then support and promote farmers and businesses who raise and sell this type of meat and dairy. When doing so they also encourage the public to buy more animal products, which means more animals are killed. That certainly is far from humane. It could be said that the consumers are just going to buy meat anyway, so it is better if it is “humanely” raised. But there is nothing humane in how these animals are killed and many cruel practices continue on these same farms. It also sends the message that it is okay to exploit animals.

    I think the animal welfare groups underestimates the public. Teach people about the benefits of a vegan lifestyle. Make a vegan world the goal. Some people won’t follow but many will and many of those people will become advocates for animals and continue on the work.

    The welfare groups should take a lesson from the plant based health movement. The medical professionals that lead this movement are not afraid to tell the public that, “The amount of animal products we need in our diet is zero” Their message is clear and they are thriving and gaining a huge following of people who now refuse to partake in the unhealthy, cruel and environmentally devastating products of the animal agriculture business. Now that’s a bandwagon we should all be on.

  11. Sarah K Woodcock says:

    Regarding the commentary by “Janet Weeks V”…

    As someone who has read Gary Francione’s books, it is exceedingly clear “Janet Weeks V” has no idea what The Abolitionist Approach is. This is exemplified by when “Janet Weeks V” said, “perhaps I am what might be called a hybrid: a welfare/abolitionist.” The first point, THE FIRST POINT, of The Abolitionist Approach is: “promotes the abolition of animal exploitation and rejects the regulation of animal exploitation”.

    Some people will never understand because they don’t want to understand.

    In the beginning of my animal rights advocacy, I embraced new welfarism because I thought it was the only way. When I heard a philosopher believes it is harmful, I was determined to understand why so I could, at the very least, refute it. Fortunately, many people are seeing through the myths of welfarism and new welfarism and dedicating their time to challenging the commodity status of non-human animals and the speciesism that makes it possible (neither of which welfarism or new welfarism do).

  12. Dave says:

    McWilliams’ article is an odd one. The article’s discussion (I won’t dare to call it an argument) has roughly the following structure):

    - A large group does X and says that doing X is important.
    - A legal theorist says that doing X is a mistake and that it is harmful. (The theorist’s reasons are not much explored.)
    - But the group still thinks that doing X is important. And some other people think that doing X is important.
    - So (the author concludes) doing X is important.

    The content article gives no real sense of what is at stake in the debate between the welfarist and the abolitionist. Nor does it give the reader the tools she would need to come to a conclusion of her own. It is just a long-winded and shallow report of the fact that there is a disagreement, culminating in a near-arbitrary endorsement of the welfarist side.

    Evidently uninterested in substantive explanation and analysis, McWilliams’ favors caricatures and appeals to numbers. If McWilliams’ were taken at his word, we’d be looking at a debate exclusively about movement strategy, with one old philosopher screaming angrily from his tower that we ought not to do welfare reform work (why?!) and, opposed to him, legions and legions of folks who disagree with him (for one reason or another). On McWilliams’ reading, while the philosopher has “logic”, his countless opponents claim to have the results. And McWilliams likes results!

    It really does not get much deeper than that. But let me try to be charitable.

    Abolitionists, we are told, think that welfare reform involves “capitulation to industrial agriculture” and that they “justify and perpetuate the ongoing existence” of animal agriculture. Now, why, exactly, does the abolitionist think this? Well, we’re never told. We’re just told that this is what we think. And then we’re told, in the next sentence, that they’re surely wrong. (“There is little doubt that HSUS is doing something right.”)

    When the abolitionist gets a second chance to make his case a little further along, we get six-sentence snippet of Francione explaining that “enriched” battery cages still involve massive suffering and death. But, then, just as quickly, we’re taught by the learned McWilliams that Francione’s message is too extreme for the non-vegan public. Francione might be right about the cages, but his overall theory is mistaken!

    By the end of the article, we have a very unclear sense of what the abolitionists believe and positively no sense of why it is that they believe it. But, thankfully, we have the authors’ promise that the abolitionists are wrong.

    I shouldn’t have to say it, but I will: this is ridiculous and irresponsible ‘journalism’. McWilliams’ article is a casserole of caricatures, over-simplifications, and flat-out nonsense, which entirely ignores the actual history and structure of the debate.

    Not once in the article does McWilliams explain Francione’s legal research. Over the past 20 years, Francione has argued that that the legal system — and, specifically, the property system — structurally inhibits meaningful welfare reform and renders impossible the achievement of legal rights for animals. Through countless case studies spanning (literally) hundreds of years, and accompanied by a full-blown theory of the relationship between property, property-owners, and legislative reform, Francione argues that meaningful progress (toward the realization of animals’ legal rights, or toward the greater protection of animals’ interests) cannot come from within the standard process of legislative and corporate reform. In place of the reformist strategy, Francione offers a theory of grassroots social-moral change. Francione proposes that a widespread social-moral vegan movement — guided by a commitment to nonviolence and a belief in the basic moral equality of all sentient beings — is the only thing that will bring an end to the property status of animals and help today’s and tomorrow’s animals.

    I am just talking about Francione’s legal theory. Never mind any direct abolitionist moral objection concerning the trading of interests, collaboration with exploiters, or anything else. These concerns, too, have been extensively developed in Francione’s work. But discussing these issue would be much too much to ask; McWilliams can’t even get the basics down on paper.

    I realize that McWilliams’ article is very short. In a few hundred words, we cannot expect a retelling of the whole history of the debate and a complete account of Francione’s theory. But in what amounts to a take-down piece on Francione’s position, we should at least expect a barebones explanation of what his position is and why he holds it. Unfortunately, effectively none of Francione’s view winds up in McWilliams’ article. And, so, of course, nothing McWilliams offers in response to the abolitionist position is an actual answer to Francione’s critique and theory. Where there should be a real debate, McWilliams has crafted an embarrassing lacuna, about five books wide and twenty years deep.

    I learned two things when I read this article. First, I learned that James McWilliams dislikes abolitionism. Second, I learned that James McWilliams is either (i) completely unaware of what abolitionism is or (ii) willing to misrepresent the abolitionist position in his public writings.

  13. Scott Slocum says:

    What a lot of academic posturing. In this essay, Dr. Francione presents weak versions of his opponents’ arguments and then proceeds as if that’s all there is to discuss. It’s a little game he plays for some reason other than to make the world a better place.

    However, if we can ignore all of that and focus on what he writes about his own positions, we can get something from this essay: for instance, that “the fundamental tenet of the abolitionist approach is that we ought to seek incremental change through creative, nonviolent vegan advocacy.” Now that makes perfect sense. I guess it wouldn’t sound scholarly enough to just say that.

    Now, getting back to common sense, most of us do whatever we can to address the problem: improve our own vegan lifestyles, help others to improve theirs, and work to alleviate the suffering of animals. When someone tells us that we should only be doing one of these things, we don’t pay them much mind.

  14. James says:

    This so bad it’s difficult to read.

    Straw-men, obvious misunderstandings or ignorance, redefining ‘animal welfare’ (did the terms ‘animal rights’ and ‘animal liberation’ get lost form the english language, such that you’re either an ‘abolishionist’ or a ‘welfarist’, while I wasn’t looking?) basically to just slander you opponents.

    I mean:

    “Yes, it is worse to impose 10 units of suffering than 5 units of suffering. That does not make imposing 5 units of suffering morally right.”

    Who disagrees with this?!!!

    Yes the utilitarian would say it’s ‘right’ (BUT, as a philosophy professor should damn well be aware, right =/= good for the utilitarian) to inflict 5 units of suffering IF, and only IF, your only options are between 10 units and 5 units of suffering but so what? Would you disagree with this? To say disagree shows that you put your PERSONAL PURITY above the welfare (*gasp*) of the animals.

    Also:

    “Putting aside that HSUS, which claims that “[a]bout 95% of our members are not vegetarians,” much less vegans,”

    What should they turn down donations and other offers of support from non-vegans? i.e. should they put the PURITY of their company above the welfare (*gasp*) of billions of animals? Of course not.

    “But an HSUS Report acknowledges: ‘Sow productivity is higher in group housing than in individual crates, as a result of reduced rates of injury and disease, earlier first estrus, faster return to estrus after delivery, lower incidence of stillbirths, and shorter farrowing times’ and ‘[c]onversion from gestation crates to group housing . . . marginally reduces production costs and increases productivity.’”

    Don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, their reports are a little likely to be extremely bias in favour of things that protect rather than harm animal? Do you think that the HSUS is EVER going to claim otherwise? “Pork producers it turns out sow crates are actually more economical than alternatives but don’t use them anyway because it’s not nice, pretty please”

    Basically, and to put it bluntly, these reports are meant to lie to pig producers who will never change because of people like you telling them that they should be nice to animals. HSUS will tell animal exploiters anything if they think that it’ll make them change for the better.

    “That is inaccurate and unfair.”

    Oh, the irony.

    I want to say though that, while I have no problem whatsoever with attempts to work pragmatically to improve the lives of billions of animals, I do think that having stalwarts that promote this position is extremely important for the ‘animal whatever word you want to use’ movement; so long as they stop being stupid and spend less of their time attacking their allies.

  15. Elizabeth Collins says:

    Fantastic essay!

    “As an initial matter, McWilliams ignores that there is a profound moral difference between the abolitionist and the animal welfare positions. The animal welfare position is that animals matter morally and are not just things but that we can still use and kill them for human purposes as long as we treat them in a “humane” way.”

    Yes, and this is also always conveniently ignored by the entire welfarist movement, in fact I have yet to see any proponent of animal welfare – especially the self-described “abolitionist” who claims we can get to abolition with welfare reform i.e. in essence a new welfarist – I have yet to see any one address this fundamental moral difference, this point is always conveniently sidestepped.

    Whether someone claims that they themselves recognise that animals matter morally and that they are not things to be used or not, the supporters of welfare fail every time to address the fact that animal welfare (focusing on the treatment of the ‘things’ being used) is *clearly perpetuating that notion* despite the proponent’s claims that they don’t agree with that notion. The actions contradict the alleged belief. In fact, to me, knowing that animals are not things to be used and yet still perpetuating that notion by promoting welfare is even worse.

    Thank you for this great essay. I do hope that McWilliams will address this point in particular. At least Peter Singer addresses it: he admits that to him it is “ethically defensible” for people to use nonhuman animals as long as it is done “humanely”. Garner also admitted in his book that to him nonhuamn animals matter *less* morally. It is heartbreaking but at least they are being honest. If you think that nonhuman animals matter no less morally than human animals and you are not promoting the abolition of animal use and rejecting as immoral the promotion of “welfare” then you are either lying to yourself or to others.

  16. Debate Declined | james-mcwilliams.com says:

    [...] Francione, of Rutgers University. He took exception to what I wrote, and went on to articulate it here. After our conversation (which was perfectly civil), and several productive e-mail exchanges, I [...]

  17. Linda McKenzie says:

    Francione’s response to McWilliams’ surprisingly naive and confused essay demonstrates exactly why the abolitionist animal rights movement is growing. Abolitionists have no need to “strong arm” anyone into becoming vegan (an absurd and unfair characterisation considering the central focus of Francione and those who support his views on creative, non-violent vegan education and respectful discussion). It’s the sheer force of coherent, reasoned argument based on incontrovertible facts and penetrating insight gleaned from over thirty years’ involvement in animal rights which Francione delivers that is so irresistibly persuasive to those who are sincerely open to understanding how their moral concern for animals should be translated into meaningful action. And, as Francione so ably makes clear, the most meaningful action, indeed, the only action that will end animal exploitation is to address the problem at the root — take responsibility for our own contribution in sustaining demand as consumers of animal products by becoming vegan and then educating others to do the same. By contrast, welfarism constitutes the greatest obstacle to ending animal exploitation by encouraging people to believe that they can fulfil their moral obligations to animals by maintaining their consumption, switching to so-called “humane” or “happy” animal products, all of which still involve torture and death, leading to complacency and increased demand — a win-win situation for the animal agriculture and animal welfare businesses, but sadly a loss for the animals.

    Contrary to the mythology that the large animal welfare organisations peddle, veganism is neither difficult nor daunting; in fact it has never been easier to eat a healthy, satisfying and delicious vegan diet. Moreover, there are many people who are actually interested in doing the right thing morally by animals, who are willing to undergo some minor inconvenience from time to time, if necessary, for the sake of their moral convictions. We owe it to these individuals to provide them with the kind of clear, reasoned argument that Francione advances for veganism as a moral baseline. We ought not to do what welfarist organisations do — take the elitist and patronising attitude that people are either too stupid to understand that argument or too self indulgent to act on it. Welfarists are proven wrong every day by the increasing numbers of people opting to go vegan on being exposed to the abolitionist argument, which is compelling in its logic and can be easily understood by anyone of average intelligence and acted upon by anyone who wants to do the right thing by animals. This is the most effective way of “doing something to help the animals now” since every new vegan represents less animals bred purely for the purpose of exploitation.

    As for McWilliams’ claims that “most people are going to embrace veganism on their own” and that we all have our own unique path in coming to veganism — these facts are so obvious as to be fatuous and it’s difficult to see what relevance they could possibly have in determining our best strategy for ending animal exploitation, or how they constitute an argument against abolitionism. Adults generally make all their moral decisions “on their own”, in the context of their own personal situations, but they don’t do so in a vacuum. Their moral decision-making is influenced by the information and discourse to which they’re exposed. The whole point of any social justice movement is to effect a change in the thinking of the public, based on the reality that people *can* and *do* change their views and practices, based on sound information and new insights. Accordingly, our responsibility as animal advocates is to make sure they’re exposed to a clear abolitionist argument for veganism as a moral baseline. If we, as advocates, don’t have the confidence and the conviction that our perspective is powerful enough to profoundly impact people’s attitudes and behaviours, then we’re probably wasting our time. It’s certainly not our role to assume that people are so intellectually and morally poverty stricken that they are only capable of repeating what they’ve always done, albeit in a slightly modified form, or that everyone will necessarily take a slow, circuitous route to veganism, and then expend energy actually encouraging and reassuring them of the rightness of this!

    Firstly, it’s a complete fallacy that everyone transitions to veganism gradually or indirectly. Many people, anxious to act morally, eagerly embrace veganism immediately on finally attaining a clear understanding of the issues. It’s a positive relief for them to totally extricate themselves from culpability in massive injustice. It strikes me as misanthropic of welfarists to completely ignore the existence of these people in their compulsion to reduce us all to the lowest moral common denominator. Secondly, for those who choose to make the transition to veganism more gradually, the benefit of abolitionist education means that they do so with their sights clearly set on veganism as the only morally justifiable goal, and not vegetarianism or happy meat or some other morally compromised position which involves continued use of animal products. There is absolutely nothing in abolitionist theory, contrary to tired and inaccurate claims by welfarists, that says we expect people to “go vegan overnight”, any more than that we unrealistically nurture an “all or nothing” fantasy of “ending animal exploitation overnight”. Of course abolitionists understand that their message will not resonate with everyone at this time and that not everyone is going to go vegan soon. But, as Francione often advises, let’s deal first with those who *are* interested in justice for animals; let’s get the message out to them, and experience shows that they are many. That way we can gradually grow a grassroots vegan movement that represents true and secure incremental change for animals and the more it grows, the more socially normalised and acceptable veganism will become.

    It’s simply counterproductive to pour our limited time and resources into meaningless and ineffective welfarist measures, of the kind engaged in by HSUS, as suggested by McWilliams, which only perpetuate the speciecist status quo of exploitation, when we have a real and workable solution — veganism and grassroots vegan advocacy and education — which directly and effectively address the problem. Of course the welfarist and abolitionist positions are irreconcilable. The former leads only backwards while the latter is the way forwards. I am personally grateful to Professor Francione for his tireless efforts over decades in advocating for the most vulnerable among us and for sharing his insights in such a clear and accessible fashion.

  18. Janet Weeks V says:

    Why does Francione insist on bullying and verbally destroying the very people on his own side, you know, people and organizations actually helping animals?

    Why doesn’t he debate the animal exploiters? Now that’s a debate I’d like to see. Enough of this ridiculous divisiveness already. Man up, Francione, and invite someone to debate with you from the American Meat Industry or the American Veterinary Medical Association, for example, to discuss their “Guidelines on Euthanasia,” for example. Or set up a verbal fisticuffs with Temple Grandin, designer of that infernal “Stairway to Heaven.”

    What does he really hope to accomplish debating McWilliams? To “prove” that he is right and McWilliams is wrong? How does THAT help animals?

  19. Gary L. Francione says:

    I am sorry to hear that James has declined to do the debate. I have three observations:

    First, I am surprised and disappointed that he regards that this is a matter of “verbal sparring.” It’s anything but.

    There are important substantive issues here, including the notion, embedded very firmly in welfarist ideology, that animals do not have an interest in continuing to live, or, at least, that animal lives have less moral value than human lives for purposes of justifying treatment as a commodity.

    Moreover, there is the matter of whether welfare reforms actually do provide significant improvements to animal welfare both as an absolute matter and in terms of encouraging continued consumption. And there is the issue of whether those reforms that are accepted or enacted actually increase production efficiency, and thus fail to represent any sort of incremental step toward abolition and further enmesh animals in the property paradigm.

    Second, James is a tenured full professor of history. He talks and makes arguments for a living. I am surprised that he feels that he’s not up to this.

    Third, it was my understanding that Columbia University Press invited James to do a written debate with me on this issues, similar to the one that I did with Professor Marder on plant ethics. I was told that James declined.

    Gary L. Fancione
    Professor, Rutgers University

  20. Gary L. Francione says:

    If it were not so sad and indicative of the level of complete confusion on the part of welfarists, it would be comical to point out that one of them thinks that the solution here is to debate Temple Grandin.

    Let me say that I’d be delighted to do so.

    But as Temple Grandin has received an award from PETA and HSUS praises her as a “[r]enowned animal welfare scientist,” I am not sure how the discussion would be any different.

    McWilliams put an essay out there telling everyone to just shut up and jump on the HSUS bandwagon. Someone called him on it. I am sorry that anyone thinks it inappropriate that I did so and I find it tragic that some animal people are so very frightened of discussion. But to suggest that the solution is to debate Grandin indicates a total failure to comprehend what this is all about.

    Gary L. Francione
    Professor, Rutgers University

  21. Anonymous says:

    “complete confusion on the part of welfarists” “total failure to comprehend what this is all about” These are typical insults Francione flings at people who poke holes in his ability to reason. He doesn’t deny the fallacies he commits, he simply insults the person who identified them. Is it any wonder McWilliams politely declined his invitation to “discuss” their differences of opinion?

    Also, show us the direct quote where McWilliams told “everyone to just shut up and jump on the HSUS bandwagon.” You see, “professor,” you can’t just make stuff up to have it be true. I’m surprised even you don’t know that.

    Here’s another “for example” of someone you could debate, if you had the cojones to do so: communications director for the National Pork Producers Council, Dave Warner, who reportedly said, “So our animals can’t turn around for the 2.5 years that they are in the stalls producing piglets. I don’t know who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around…”

    Now there’s a debate where you might actually make a difference for animals, Why, you might convince “pork” producers with your stellar reasoning skills to abolish those wretched stalls, turn the pigs free, and just go vegan. What’s the point in splitting hairs and engaging in philosophical debates with your fellow animal advocates when there are honest, productive debates to be had, you know, for the animals?

  22. Janet Weeks V says:

    “complete confusion on the part of welfarists” “total failure to comprehend what this is all about” These are typical insults Francione flings at people who poke holes in his ability to reason. He doesn’t deny the fallacies he commits, he simply insults the person who identified them. Is it any wonder McWilliams politely declined his invitation to “discuss” their differences of opinion?

    Also, show us the direct quote where McWilliams told “everyone to just shut up and jump on the HSUS bandwagon.” You see, “professor,” you can’t just make stuff up to have it be true. I’m surprised even you don’t know that.

    Here’s another “for example” of someone you could debate, if you had the cojones to do so: communications director for the National Pork Producers Council, Dave Warner, who reportedly said, “So our animals can’t turn around for the 2.5 years that they are in the stalls producing piglets. I don’t know who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around…”

    Now there’s a debate where you might actually make a difference for animals, Why, you might convince “pork” producers, with your stellar reasoning skills, to abolish those wretched stalls, turn the pigs free, and just go vegan. What’s the point in splitting hairs and engaging in philosophical debates with your fellow animal advocates when there are honest, productive debates to be had, you know, for the animals?

  23. Steve says:

    Janet Weeks V-

    You complain that Francione ‘insult’ed you earlier by pointing out the confusion inherent in your suggestion that he debate Grandin instead of McWilliams. He said he’d be delighted to debate Grandin but he pointed out that Grandin is a darling of the same welfarists whom you claim are all ‘on the same side’ with the abolitionists.

    Now I think that’s pretty confused on your part and I am not trying to insult you but you can’t deny that the fact that welfarists embrace Grandin is exactly the problem that Francione is identifying. The fact that you don’t even recognise that is indicative of confusion on your part. That’s not an insult but a fact.

    Your also seem to think that disagreement with the welfarists is a matter of gender. You demand that Francione ‘man up’ and accuse him on not having ‘cojones’. How very odd.

  24. John says:

    It isn’t right to equate people who truly are advocates of animal welfare and those who clearly aren’t. Those who compromise and concede to a sub-standard situation aren’t actually advocates of welfare.

    The inconsistency here is in what you prescribe for everyone. People should make the individual decision to “go vegan”, and that works for an individual to reduce animal suffering (except for all of the animals and sentient insects who die due to vegan agriculture, albeit less offensively than a factory farm), but you have required the animal welfare position to make sweeping changes to the entire industry on a massive scale or be invalid. What of the farmers who just want to use their land to raise animals humanely and what about the people who support them at a farmer’s market? That’s unacceptable according to your position, because welfare doesn’t work, apparently. By your criticism of “animal welfare”, veganism doesn’t work either because it can’t sway the commercial meat industry.

    Do you honestly think that anybody who is even interested in having this debate supports the commercial meat industry?

    I don’t happen to be for welfare or rights, just people doing what produces a better society for me to live in. If the regulations were actually followed that would be enough, but they aren’t, and so I have to go to the individual ranch and see what’s going on. Is that unrealistic? No more than what you propose and people give up something that they like with no personal or societal incentive.

  25. Mylène Ouellet says:

    From McWilliams’ post (which reads like a sad, sad self-effacing dodge):

    “Here’s (in part) what I told Gary: ‘I’ve decided not to appear on your podcast. While I’m not pleased about going back on my word, I’ve reached the conclusion, as I’ve watched you promote this podcast, that it will accomplish nothing except intensify the polarization that I’m trying to minimize. Put differently, it appears to be an ‘event’ that’s designed to be more about Gary Francione and James McWilliams, and our respective followers, rather than the cause of animal advocacy to which we are both dedicated.’

    “I’m posting this information because I know that many readers have been anticipating this debate and I felt you deserved an explanation. The last thing about this I will say (forever) is that I am not declining to appear because my arguments won’t hold up (although I will admit that I’m nowhere near as talented as Gary when it comes to verbal sparring). I’m simply more productive developing those arguments in the context of Eating Plants and elsewhere, as I will continue to do with a passion.”

    ————-

    So, he doesn’t want to participate because debating the issues — i.e. defending his promotion of welfarism and his critique (and seeming dismissal) of abolitionism — is purportedly destructive to “the cause of animal advocacy”? Because an intellectual debate in which he’s given the opportunity to elucidate and to substantiate his attack on the abolitionist approach (and Gary Francione is given an equal opportunity to correct and clarify misunderstanding and misinformation) is supposedly nothing more than the bumping together of two egos? It seems that McWilliams himself made it clear in choosing to write his original article in Slate that this discussion is indeed an important one to be had. Otherwise, why would have brought it up publicly on such a widely-read and mainstream site (whose readers, incidentally, mostly don’t give a bean about the difference between between either the regulation or the abolition of animal use)?

    He insists that his arguments’ substance isn’t a concern, but that he sees it as a sparring contest where sparring skills may trump substance? He wants to do the humble and noble thing and focus on advancing “the cause” without taking this opportunity to provide those who are actually interested in animal advocacy a well-thought out rational explanation for how it is that he thinks wefarism is in any way benefiting other animals and that the abolitionist approach fails to do so? That seems like such a passive-aggressive dodge to me. I’m sorry, but I’m more disappointed in McWilliams now as an advocate than I was when he wrote that wrongheaded Slate article. I hope that he eventually comes around, but this explanation for his refusal seems quite disingenuous and sympathy-seeking. I would have expected more from an earnest advocate and most certainly from a tenured academic.

  26. Janet Weeks V says:

    People, people, people! Have we become a nation of non-critical thinkers? Do we just buy a person’s argument because he attaches “prof” to his name every single time or because of his vehement speaking style, his apparent passion, or his evident sorrow that no one understands him? Poor Francione. Why don’t people get him? Why don’t they see his brilliance?

    Well, here’s why. Reread the first two paragraphs of his article above in which he states the premise of his case against McWilliams. (Are there really no “profs” at Columbia University Press who teach or study critical analysis of messages? Where are all the critical scholars?)

    The “prof” starts out with a reasonable-enough sounding premise (see critical analysis of the message in brackets [ ]):

    “After Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852, a number of novels appeared suggesting that slavery protected slaves who were, for the most part, delighted with the institution. [They did? What are these novels and what is that number? Where is Francione's footnote? Are we wary enough yet about where this is headed?] These novels attacked abolitionists as “meddling” [Why the air quotes? Francione loves air quotes. Ever wonder why? It's to make the reader think what he wants them to think, to get them in the proper mood or thinking mode to agree with what follows. The wink and the nod are understood. We, the reader, are in the know. Air quotes are highly unscholarly.] in the efforts of regulationists to improve slavery. [This is subtle. Francione projects motive without proof--another favorite Francione tactic. He wants us to see regulationists as ridiculously trying to improve something (slavery) we all know is wrong and CANNOT be improved, when there are other possible motives--such as making the public aware of atrocities to gain support for abolition.] The regulationists maintained that if the abolitionists would just shut up and go away, they, the regulationists, would steadily improve the conditions of slavery until it was no more.[This statement demands a footnote. Every half-way competent scholar knows that. Where is his proof that this is what regulationists "maintained"? Where is his supporting evidence? He doesn't supply it because he made it up, the factoid serves his agenda of making regulationists appear unreasonable, and he hopes (expects) his readers will simply buy it, take it for fact, on Francione's professorial authority.]

    My fellow Columbia University Press author, James McWilliams, argues that those who favor the abolition of animal exploitation and who view veganism as a moral baseline are, in effect, “meddling” in the efforts of regulationists—who, in the McWilliams narrative, are those at The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)—to improve the treatment of farm animals as we all march incrementally to that glorious vegan future. [Whew! This is a long-winded attempt to obfuscate (confuse) the point of McWilliams essay. It is an attempt to jumble multiple ideas into one sentence, attribute them all to McWilliams, and to interpret for us unscholarly types McWilliams' message, without supplying any supporting quote or evidence.] McWilliams urges the abolitionists to just shut up and jump on the HSUS bandwagon.” [Again: Where is Francione's proof that McWilliams urged abolitionists to "just shut up" or "jump on any bandwagon"? There isn't any. Francione made it up. Francione deliberately chose words meant to rile us, to anger us, rude words, so we would be repelled by the notion that ANYONE would dare tell anyone else to "shut up." Again, he does this deliberately to get us in the proper hostile mood so we will accept the rest of his attack on McWilliams.]

    This is what Francione does and does well. He is a lawyer, trained to manipulate the mind and sway juries. He is a master manipulator, which is why true scholars refuse to debate with him. Listen to him in action some time. Google one of his “discussions.” Watch him take over and control the argument. Observe his vehemence. Critically analyze his method AND his message. Take apart his words. And always–ALWAYS–demand sources, footnotes, and proof.

  27. Mylène Ouellet says:

    “People, people, people! Have we become a nation of non-critical thinkers? Do we just buy a person’s argument because he attaches “prof” to his name every single time or because of his vehement speaking style, his apparent passion, or his evident sorrow that no one understands him?”

    Nope. Which is why some of us think that it would have been enlightening and informative to have heard McWilliams actually flesh out and back up his arguments in a podcast discussion with the man whose theory he dismissed. We didn’t “just buy” the claims in the Slate article.

    Also, it’s odd that you’re demanding that people engage in critical thinking, Janet, when it’s clear from your comments that you’re more bent on sneering and launching emotion-laden denigrating personal attacks which include name-calling (e.g. “manipulator”) and a couple of outright lies (e.g. “true scholars refuse to debate with him”). Instead of the ad hominems, why not stick to the issue at hand: McWilliams was offered a chance to substantiate claims he made about HSUS’ being effective and abolitionists’ criticism of welfarism/regulationism as being destructive to animal advocacy. He agreed to it, then backed out, citing that the substance of whatever arguments he has to support his stance would hold, but that he doesn’t have the skills to present and defend them (although it would seem from your own thoughts on this, having these skills is worthy of being demonized, but I digress). So, Columbia University Press offered up an opportunity for a much less “scary” written exchange, but this too was declined. You write in your post of the need for footnotes and documentation to back up claims; isn’t it reasonable to expect a scholar attacking another scholar’s work to articulate the arguments behind the claims made in doing so, as well?

    Instead of trying to build Francione up as being some sort of Big Bad Wolf to build sympathy for someone who was confident and comfortable enough to publicly criticize him but who won’t engage him in plain old critical discussion to substantiate the criticism, why not consider for a moment that Francione was, in fact, making an effort to engage him in the sort of essential earnest and critical dialogue that is much more crucial between the welfarist and abolitionist movements than throwing snowballs and then retreating behind the snowbank?

  28. Lain says:

    Thank you Professor Francione for being, as always, a powerful and steadfast voice for freedom!

    IMO: “Animal welfare” is and always has been nothing more that a marketing campaign to reinforce cognitive and emotional dissonance (mind in conflict will take the path of least resistance, no matter how illogical and/or immoral).

  29. Janet Weeks V says:

    Rather than attack me, Mylène, why don’t you address my specific criticisms of Francione and his fallacious arguments, which I’ve named and provided examples of one by one? Francione certainly (and curiously) appears to be avoiding them. If you’ve ever heard Francione in debate with a fellow animal activist (listen to his stuttering, spit-spraying attack on Erik Marcus, for example, or, better yet, read the full transcript), you would know that Francione seldom allows anyone to “flesh out” or “back up” their arguments. It is seldom a “discussion” with Francione, but more of a take-over lecture with long-winded, rambling responses; ad hominem attacks; fallacious reasoning; and questionable claims or interpretations of other people’s thoughts and positions. He is an habitual interrupter, talking over people rather than with them, and seldom allowing them to finish a thought or point. Which is why I strongly caution anyone considering one of Francione’s so-called “discussion” invitations to hire a professional moderator to maintain proper debate procedure and decorum. I think McWilliams correctly recognized the pointless futility of attempting to “discuss” anything with Francione.

  30. Mylene says:

    Janet, if you knocked off the hostility and dug some worthwhile criticisms out of the mess of ad hominems you’ve strewn about, I’d be happy to engage you. I’ve no interest in having to peel back the passive-aggressive taunts, insinuations and dishonesty to get to any possibly honest and earnest questions you may have posed. I’m not wearing my hip-waders and the muck’s a little deep.

    If you have some clear and objective points to raise that aren’t laced with hostility, though, please do share.

  31. Ellie Maldonado says:

    Professor Francione, thank you for “Irreconcilable Differences”. I agree completely. As an abolitionist, I have been posting some of the same realities on Professor McWilliams’ Blog for several months — including that “humane” reforms encourage meat-eating. Professor McWilliams did not debate my comments on his Blog, or consider them in his article, “Vegan Feud”, with the exception of adding a brief quote of mine that explained very little.

    After “Vegan Feud” was published, I again appealed to posters on his Blog (“Eating Plants”) for a “reasonable and polite disagreement” with my view, but to no avail. Apparently, they simply do not have one.

    In my opinion, the “welfare” bandwagon is extremely ego-centric. It thrives on celebrating feel good “victories”, based on the illusion its followers have made farming “vastly more humane”, and that somehow these reforms will magically morph into animal liberation. I think it’s because of their self-centered interest that some followers regard criticism of their methods as a personal attack, though it’s not intended to be.

    For “welfare” followers who refuse to reason, the interests of nonhuman animals are very secondary, and it’s entirely unreasonable to expect abolitionists to work with them.

  32. Ellie Maldonado says:

    I’m not sure I added my email address to the above comment, September 20th, at 4:33pm. So if so, it’s added for this one.

  33. Janet Weeks V says:

    I have and you can’t so that’s it.

  34. Ellie Maldonado says:

    Professor Francione, thank you for “Irreconcilable Differences”. I agree completely. As an abolitionist, I have been posting some of the same realities on Professor McWilliams’ Blog for several months — including that “humane” reforms encourage meat-eating. Professor McWilliams did not debate my comments on his Blog, or include them in his article, “Vegan Feud”, with the exception of a brief excerpt that explained very little.

    After “Vegan Feud” was published, I again appealed to posters on his Blog for a “reasonable and polite disagreement” with my view, but to no avail — apparently, they simply do not have one!

    In my opinion, the “welfare” bandwagon is extremely ego-centric. It thrives on celebrating feel good “victories”, based on the illusion its followers have made farming “vastly more humane”, and that somehow these reforms will magically morph into animal liberation. I think it’s because of self-centered interest that some followers regard criticism of their methods as a personal attack, though it’s not intended to be.

    For “welfare” followers who refuse to reason, the interests of nonhuman animals are very secondary, and it’s entirely unreasonable to expect abolitionists to work with them.

  35. Ellie Maldonado says:

    As an example of the egotistical component in animal “welfare”, see “The HSUS Undercover Investigation: Wyoming Premium Farms Exposed”
    ( http://james-mcwilliams.com/?p=819 )
    post dated May 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm, in which my criticim of HSUS was regarded as “completely unfair and downright hurtful”.

  36. Steve says:

    Janet Weeks V:

    In your relentless slandering of Francione, you say “He is a master manipulator, which is why true scholars refuse to debate with him.”

    Just today, I watched a debate between Francione and Professor Machan, a well known philosopher and a debate between Francione and a professor at UCLA who is a vivisector. Both were recently made available on Francione’s site. Several weeks ago, I listened to a debate between Francione and Professor Jan Narveson, another well known philosopher. There’s also the debate between Francione and Professor Garner. All are available on his site.

    So your assertion is plainly false.

    I note also that McWilliams was invited to do a written debate with Francione and McWilliams refused. This, of course, undercuts everything you are saying about any concern about a live debate.

    McWilliams said he declined the debate after “several conversations I had with activists whose judgement I deeply trust” and you say you were advising him.
    If McWilliams listens to people like you, then he lacks judgement in addition to being a person who wrote a very poor essay that he could not defend and quite properly ran from when challenged.

  37. Ellie Maldonado says:

    For anyone who believes HSUS supports an end to animal use, note that Wayne Pacelle doesn’t even suggest people should be vegetarians, as long as they buy “humane” meat:
    http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/being-vegan-help-animals

  38. Ellie Maldonado says:

    In response to James, September 19th, 2012 at 1:52 am:
    “What should they [HSUS} turn down donations and other offers of support from non-vegans? i.e. should they put the PURITY of their company above the welfare (*gasp*) of billions of animals? Of course not.”
    ——-

    It’s not about purity, James, it’s about integrity — if HSUS claims to advocate for nonhuman animals, then animals should be its priority, not its bank account. Animal consumers support HSUS because it puts its “humane” stamp of approval on animal products — voila, guilt free meat-eating!

    If HSUS prioritized animal interests, as it should, it would advocate consumers stop eating animals — but of course, it doesn’t because it would lose millions.
    ————————————————

    ” ‘But an HSUS Report acknowledges: ‘Sow productivity is higher in group housing than in individual crates ….’ Do you think that the HSUS is EVER going to claim otherwise? …. Basically … these reports are meant to lie to pig producers who will never change because of people like you telling them that they should be nice to animals.”
    ——–

    Nope, read the footnotes at the end of the HSUS report. The increase in pig production was verified by studies and comparisons of different types of pig farming. I find it mind boggling that a group which claims to advocate for animals is promoting a measure that increases the number of pigs subjected to the inherent cruelty of farming — and that “welfare” followers continue to support HSUS.

    And no, it’s not just about “being nice to animals”. There is, I think, a fundamental moral tenet that prohibits causing gratuitous harm. Care to argue with that?

    Furthermore, the promotion of “humane” products actually encourages meat-eating. When D’Agostino supermarkets included meat with the “certified humane” label, meat sales jumped 25%. Former vegetarians are now spokespersons for happy meat. See: “Something Almost Primal”, by Angel Flinn: http://gentleworld.org/something-almost-primal/

    Groups that promote animal consumption are not my “allies”. And I’m appalled that you would suggest they should be.

  39. Francine L. says:

    Janet Weeks,perhaps the solution is, as you suggested earlier, to arrange the debate with a good moderator? As long as the debate is regulated, it won’t matter how Francione phrases his arguments. If McWilliams’s points are solid, they will stand.As long as we have moderators, there is no reason why the debate with McWilliams shouldn’t go ahead, is there?

  40. Linda McKenzie says:

    Janet Weeks V, I strongly object to your repeated ad hominem attacks on Professor Francione. They only succeed in highlighting the paucity of substance and general incoherence of your comments.

    I invite readers to listen to the informative and stimulating podcast discussions between Francione and various guests on his Abolitionist Approach website http://www.abolitionistapproach.com , all of which are conducted in a civil and respectful manner and have tremendous educational value.

  41. Gary L. Francione says:

    In reading the comments on the Columbia site and McWilliams’ site, it appears as though his followers think that it was just fine for James to publicly and in writing criticize my theory but that it was apparently not fine for me: (1) to respond; and (2) to invite James to discuss the matter in a podcast or in writing (I had actually suggested a written discussion as an alternative and I understand that Columbia did as well). To call the reactions of his followers bizarre is, I think, charitable.

    Gary L. Francione
    Professor, Rutgers University

  42. A Response to James McWilliams–And It’s Not Debatable | Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach says:

    [...] the following day, the Press printed my reply to Professor [...]

  43. Gary L. Francione says:

    Talk about timing!

    On Friday, September 21, HSUS announced “great news” that three companies would phase out gestation crates over a 10 year period. HSUS asked for animal advocates to show support for these companies.

    I wrote an essay on this: “Eat a Sausage. Do It For the Animals.”

    http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/eat-a-sausage-do-it-for-the-animals/

    It remains a puzzle to me as to why James McWilliams thinks that animal advocates in general, or those who advocate the abolitionist or rights view, should support this.

    Gary L. Francione
    Professor, Rutgers University

  44. Eat a Sausage. Do It For the Animals. | Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach says:

    [...] of being “divisive” more times than I have eaten broccoli (and I love broccoli) for criticizing these sorts of things. If it “divisive” to draw a line between what I think and this [...]

  45. Ellie Maldonado says:

    As a former poster on Professor McWilliams’ blog, I can also verify that “welfare” followers are allowed to post derogatory and absurd comments about Professor Francione, and the abolitionist perspective.

    According to McWilliams, I have been banned from posting on his Blog because I was arguing with Janet Weeks who has clearly been insulting me for several months — but as of this moment, “welfare” followers are not banned from posting derogatory and absurd comments about myself.

    No matter, since Professors Francione and McWilliams will not be debating, I will post my disagreement with McWilliams’ “Vegan Feud” on the Slate website.

  46. Gary L. Francione says:

    Ellie Maldonado:

    Although I am always happy to have intelligent criticisms made of my work, I am sorry to hear that James has been allowing derogatory comments about me on his site. I was not aware of that. Indeed, when James originally posted “Vegan Feud,” someone referred to him as a “stooge of HSUS” on my Facebook site and I immediately stated that I did not want such comments on my site.

    Francine L:

    I am more than happy to have a moderator. James can even choose the moderator.

    But it really is quite clear that James’ withdrawal has nothing to do with his concern about the actual debate. If that were the case, he would have agreed to my invitation–and to Columbia’s–that he do a written exchange about these issues.

    In any event, if having a moderator would get James to have a discussion, I am by all means agreeable to that.

    Gary L. Francione
    Professor, Rutgers University

  47. Francine L. says:

    @ GF -Yes I am aware you have always been willing to have a moderator and have even offered to do a written debate. It doesn’t get more fair than that. I have listened to the debate with Erik Marcus that Janet Weeks referred to and you did say that he should get a moderator if he wanted one or even a number of people on his side. I think you have always played fair.

    Janet Weeks’s were quite shockingly aggressive. If we’re all in this for the animals, there is certainly no reason to attack Prof. Francione like that.

    I hope James McWilliams will at least agree to a written debate. There is absolutely no reason not to.

  48. Janet Weeks V says:

    No one is “attacking” Francione. I’ve just called him out on several fallacies, which he seems unwilling or unable to defend. I’ve also pointed out his style of “discussion” is anything but friendly, and is often one-sided, with the “Prof.” doing most of the talking and very little of the listening. Which calls to mind the classic riddle: Why does man has two ears but only one mouth?

  49. Francine L. says:

    Janet Weeks-It seems clear to most people on this thread that GF has answered your accusations.

    Why do you keep calling him “The Proff”, as if his professorship is some bogus title he has given himself so he can influence people? People are not stupid. He is indeed a professor, why shouldn’t he use his title? You are certainly not obligated to call him Professor but your attempts to discredit him by sneering at his title are quite transparent. Which calls to mind what my mother used to tell me: Behave yourself.

  50. Ellie Maldonado says:

    “Janet Weeks V” claimed Professor Francione dominated discussions, implied that he was a bully, and advised Professor McWilliams to get a moderator, lest Professor Francione would be unfair (on McWilliams’ blog). Another poster said Professor Francione’s statements were weird and his followers were like a cult.

    When I posted the link to Wayne Pacelle’s video that support the consumption of “humane” meat (on McWilliams’ blog), “Janet Weeks V” told me to “Get a life”. Clearly, “Janet Weeks V” is unwilling to even consider that the alliance between industry and “welfare” groups is encouraging meat-eating, even to the extent of supporting a ban on gestation crates that increases pig reproduction.

  51. Columbia University Press says:

    We’d like to thank everyone for participating in the lively discussion on this post. However, we believe that the most relevant points on both sides of the issue have now been made, and so we have decided to close the post for future comments. We apologize for any inconvenience.

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