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Distract/Divide/Demoralize: Fifth Column Veganism
Penman: “Why are there so many animal experiments when there are alternatives? One reason, ironically, is that violence and intimidation by a handful of animal rights fanatics has clouded the debate. For if you question the work of scientists today, you risk being lumped together with the extremists. Thus the scientists have been able to expand their research on animals without anyone in authority examining whether their tests are truly necessary. This seems to me both unjust and against the spirit of academic inquiry.”
Francione: “Penman is absolutely right. As a result of a relatively small group of people who advocate violence against vivisectors, to question or debate vivisection even in academic contexts invites having one’s views dismissed as part of an extremist or violent agenda. This observation applies not just to vivisection but to animal issues generally. The actions of a small number of people have allowed a reactionary press, together with institutional exploiters who would rather not have any discussion about these matters, to create the impression that those who oppose animal exploitation generally are violent misanthropes who value animal life but do not care about human life. Violence against institutional exploiters is not only immoral but it is incoherent—it makes no sense.” http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/on-vivisection-and-violence/#.U6niErGYzMB
Think about what Gary Francione is saying above. Ignoring the issue of why he, the alleged vegan, would be quick to agree with the side of those who torture innocent lives from birth to death for pleasure and money, how many vivisectors, to this date, have been killed or seriously injured by animal advocates? Do we have a tally? None. Not one. We have the claims of those like proud vivisector Colin Blakemore that he is under constant attack with mail bombs from animal rights extremists, and yet he feels safe enough to go for a daily health run. If an animal activist had seriously harmed a vivisector, we would hear their name repeated as often as the soldier/deer hunter/bomber Timothy McVeigh, or anti-abortionists who killed doctors. The claim that vivisectors are being attacked goes with the psychological profile of the vivisector. As George Bernard Shaw observed:
“Consequently the vivisector is not only crueler than the prizefighter, but, through the pressure of public opinion, a much more resolute and uncompromising liar…It is the vivisector’s interest to refine upon the cruelties of the laboratory, whilst persuading the public that his victims pass into a delicious euthanasia and leave behind them a row of bottles containing infallible cures for all the disease. Just so, too, does the trainer of performing animals assure us that his dogs and cats and elephants and lions are taught their senseless feats by pure kindness.”
And yet Gary Francione is taking the side of vivisectors. He, the vegan and “animal rights expert” is agreeing with the worst enemy of animals. Animal activists are the problem. In 1992, Francione co-wrote an article with Tom Regan on welfare vs. abolition:
‘“We should add that ARAs who support animal welfare means are playing into the hands of the biomedical establishment’s current strategy of portraying this “temporary” acceptance of animal welfare as proof of the “dishonesty” of the animal rights movement. In a recently published article, Patrick Concannon of Cornell Veterinary School argues that animal rights advocates often support welfare reforms, but “are not bound by any moral requirement to be truthful about their ultimate goals and intentions.” The animal rights movement must be careful to ensure that these untruths do not succeed in creating an impression of a movement that is dishonest in any sense.’ Tom Regan/Gary Francione The Animals Agenda 1992 January/February http://arzonetranscripts.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/point_counterpoint-regan_francione_newkirk.pdf
While George Bernard Shaw or Mark Twain had no illusions about the motives and integrity of the average vivisector, Francione and Regan appear to be suggesting that the opinion of an exploitation supporter which amounts to a cheap delirious slander (that animal activists are liars) should be heeded. Think about it. Concannon is attacking activists for proposing common sense, moral, and decent legal reforms (i.e. making it a legal requirement that animals in labs be given adequate food and water). To oppose this is to reveal that the vivisectors don’t care about animals. It makes them look cruel to the general public which would easily support such a measure. Attacking the activist as dishonest about their ultimate motives makes no sense—unless it comes from the vivisectors who are against these decent reforms and want to change the discussion to an attack on the activists. Why do Regan and Francione seem to agree with the vivisection apologist that animal activists are guilty of dishonesty about their ultimate goals and intentions? And what would the goals be? Seeing an end to the needless torture of innocent beings? Any decent human being will seek to end all unnecessary suffering and death to the best of their ability. This is an unspoken common sense sort of truth, whether that means giving lab victims water or shutting down painful lethal useless experiments. It is disturbing that Regan and Francione would want activists to focus on an abolition message only (even though it would be impossible to achieve such a goal at present) in order to prevent an accusation of dishonesty thrown at them by a vivisector on the defensive. Presenting an abolition message instead of totally reasonable and immediate reforms would actually be playing into the hands of the biomedical establishment’s eternal strategy. The exploiter always tries to portray the activist as an extremist to the public—Francione and Regan are essentially implying—we should present ourselves exactly as they would like to depict us. This is bad advice.
Gary Francione proposes an animal advocacy strategy based on narrow definitions determined by him:
1) Veganism—a personal commitment to boycotting all products connected to nonhuman animal exploitation as much as possible, as well as personal devotion to spreading this message to others. Nothing short of veganism is permitted, thus single issue campaigns or legislation banning practices are not allowed. It is all or nothing. The only exception is adopting cats and dogs and other animals from shelters—ironically, this is one type of advocacy that institutional exploiters and abusers of animals do not oppose.
2) Intersectionality—a commitment to universal human rights, which includes the avoidance of language that he may consider offensive or oppressive. It is all too common for exploiters to accuse animal activists of being racist if they oppose seal killing or whaling or any activity where the perpetrators are not Caucasian. Indeed, even a Caucasian hunter/lobbyist for the NRA who gleefully shot an elephant in the face referred to animal rights protestors as “animal racists.” If the issue were women’s rights or children’s rights of LGBT issues, then the “race card” is not applicable, it only comes into play when it is nonhuman issues. This is also known as a double standard. The idea that a campaign targeting a dog meat industry in China is “encouraging racism” may have some merit, but it is a risk worth taking when the far greater concern is a victim being born to be skinned alive and no viable alternative is presented by critics to raise awareness about this. Francione’s criticism is subtle, but it suggests he doesn’t believe nonhuman victims deserve equal concern or individual focus. He may say he opposes speciesism, but it reveals he adheres to a belief in human supremacy or human exceptionalism.
3) Non-violence. As we noted, Francione characterizes a portion of animal advocates as promoting violence, and he also accuses them of promoting or encouraging racism/sexism (he refers to PETA ads against the fur industry). It does not make sense for someone who claims to be an animal advocate, seeking to stop massive industrial systemic torture and death of innocent victims, to be as worried about offending someone with an ad displaying partial nudity (which we find in all sorts of advertising without protest from anyone). It is one thing to say you feel a particular campaign isn’t effective enough, but it is another matter entirely to say the campaign encourages racism or sexism—this latter concern implies you care more about hurt feelings than trying to address systemic, economic-driven torture and death. Not a position a true supporter of nonhuman animals would take. But this is what Gary Francione says over and over again. In essence it repeats two ideas that exploiters and abusers of animals have said whenever they are criticized by animal advocates:
“Animal rights activists are racist—they hate people.”
“Human problems come first.”
It should also be pointed out that another common response that industrial exploiters of nonhuman animals say is:
“These animal rights activists are crazy/they want to abolish everything/They want to take your freedoms and rights!”
When dealing with the public in media, there is not much time to engage and educate. As soon as the news story or commercial is ended, there is bound to be an ad or message that is anti-vegan. Exploitation industries, the ones Francione says are not the problem, are constantly seeking to not just maintain but expand profits. Not only are they aggressive in this, but they are at least as aggressive in attacking any effort to help animals (which means harming their profits). When a representative for the meat and dairy industry, or hunters, or vivisectors, or the fur industry, or zoos, or circuses, appear in the media they have a strong inclination to divert from the issue at hand by saying that animal advocates do not really seek reform, they seek an end to all animal exploitation. Veganism. In fact, the very kind of veganism that Gary Francione advocates as the only kind of activism that animal activists should pursue.
One might assume that if veganism is used as a scare tactic—then the best response is to repeat the word and philosophy enough times to make it un-scary and promote public acceptance. That sounds reasonable. The problem is that when you seek to attack an industry, focusing on an issue that makes them the most vulnerable is usually the logical strategy, especially when you are vastly outnumbered. How often can you repeat “go vegan” in a news story segment when the next commercial is an anti-vegan message? How receptive can the audience be to that, as opposed to a message to ban or regulate an exploitation practice to eliminate unnecessary cruelty (even though the exploitation practice itself is unnecessary)? Consider this Paul Watson’s interview.
Interviewer: My editor wanted me to ask you: Why is killing a whale worse than killing a pig, for example, when a pig is intelligent, too?
PW: “I get this question from the Japanese a lot, and I find it offensive. How can anybody compare the killing of a pig to the killing of a whale? First of all, our ships are vegan. Forty percent of the fish caught from the oceans is fed to livestock – pigs and chickens are becoming major aquatic predators. The livestock industry is one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions ever. The eating of meat is an ecological disaster…You cannot compare the killing of animals in a domestic slaughterhouse to the killing of a whale. What goes on with those whales – or dolphins, say, in Taiji – would never be tolerated in a slaughterhouse. Those slaughterhouses would be shut down. It takes from 10 to 45 minutes to kill a whale and they die in horrific agony. That would be completely intolerable and illegal in any slaughterhouse in the world…..Also they’re an endangered and protected species – pigs and cows are not. They’re part of an ecosystem, which pigs and cows are not. It always bothers me that that comparison is brought up. And especially when it’s brought up by the Japanese, who eat more pigs, cows, and chickens than all people of Australia and New Zealand combined. Only one percent of the Japanese people eat whales; for the most part they eat cows and pigs and chickens. It’s a ridiculous analogy.” http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/eij/article/sea_shepherds_paul_watson
What Watson does in this reply is to reject the idea (repeated ad nauseam by Francione) that a more widespread and wrong activity can be used to negate focus on another smaller and equally wrong activity. Watson supports the concept of veganism, and cleverly depicts how absurd and destructive meat and dairy is to the planet by highlighting that ocean life are fed to land animals on farms in such massive quantities that pigs and chickens consume as much or more than sharks. Although a devoted vegan may take his claim on slaughterhouse cruelty to be inadvertently defending it as less cruel than whaling, the general public—usually his target audience in an interview– would not. He is using the reference to prevent someone from dismissing the whales issue as no different from the vast numbers of slaughterhouses around the world. Meat eating is still considered normal by most people, and for those who bring it up in response to whaling or the fur industry or vivisection, the goal is not to bring light to these injustices, the goal is to destroy animal advocacy. And this is what Francione advises to animal advocates: destroy animal advocacy (except cat and dog adoptions in shelters).
And yet, Francione’s own message in the mass media is quite different from the one he gives to a smaller audience of vegans or would-be vegans. For the smaller audience he advocates his 3 point abolitionist approach. But for the major media he has a different theme. He is not advocating veganism to the public; instead he attacks animal advocates or “animal people” for being morally schizophrenic. They condemn fur or hunting or vivisection but eat meat. What does a fur industry supporter say about animal activists? These animal rights activists are crazy. He has also responded to the Michael Vick dog fighting issue by saying “we are all Michael Vick.” And he has declared, when it comes to exploiting/abusing animals, “we are all Jeffrey Dahmer.” To say such a statement without providing context for the ignorant observer is to invite being dismissed as an extremist, just as the meat industry would want.
Gary Francione wrote on the subject of banning horse carriages. Consider the title to his piece: Carriage Foes Are Right But Reveal Our Hypocrisy. What did we say about the common attack made by animal abusers? The activists are hypocrites. Now take a close look at what he says and how he says it. “Various animal advocates, who have been opposing the use of carriage horses for decades, are applauding Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pledge to ban horse-drawn carriages, claiming that it is inhumane to have horses on the streets of New York City. The carriage horse trade is predictably opposed and is threatening to take legal action should the Mayor succeed. A Quinnipiac University poll found that about 61 percent of residents surveyed opposed the ban. The pleasure of a ride in the park doesn’t justify the distress of the horses, but can you oppose the carriages and still eat meat? The carriage-horse race is on. This seems like a no-brainer. Conventional wisdom about animal ethics tells us that we should not impose suffering or distress on animals unless it is necessary to do so. There can be no doubt that these horses have very sad lives on the congested streets of New York. Surely, the pleasure or amusement of a ride around Central Park cannot constitute any sort of necessity that would serve to justify this use of horses.” http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/01/17/horse-carriages-are-not-just-a-ride-in-the-park/carriage-foes-are-right-but-reveal-our-hypocrisy
Same here where he doesnt express his agreement that the FBI said it would start tracking animal abuse cases: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/gary-francione-stop-scapegoating-cat-kicker-article-1.1969363
Consider Gary Francione’s anecdote about encountering a man who sought to confront a fur wearer. Francione said that instead of supporting the idea, he challenged the “animal person” about a beverage they had which contained dairy, and asked how that was any better than the individual wearing fur, and the would-be fur protestor responded, to Francione’s amusement, that he could see why the professor was considered divisive. Thus, the fur wearer was left alone, and all Francione accomplished was to demoralize the “animal person.” If Francione wanted to do something for animals, he could have said: “Thank you for caring about animals and wanting to speak to this stranger about their wearing of fur-a cruel industry. This one reason I am vegan-I am against all unnecessary animal exploitation-thus I do not eat them or wear products from them.”
More Francione discouragement:
“I was talking with someone recently who was involved with a campaign against hunting in a particular park. He withdrew from the campaign and explained to me that he decided that what the hunters were doing was really no different from what he was doing in buying and eating meat from his local supermarket and since he certainly was not about to give that up, he couldn’t see the logic in opposing hunting. And, of course, he was right….I was talking with another person who had, for years, been involved in the campaign to stop the clubbing of seals. She withdrew from that campaign because she decided that there really was no difference between seal fur and the fur, wool, or skin of any other animal and since she wasn’t going to give up all animal clothing, the seal campaign was really just based on the fact that animal groups could cash in on the fact that seals were adorably cute and that really was not a good basis for a moral position. And, of course, she was right.” http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/why-veganism-must-be-the-baseline/#.U7XLzihOJ8E
Rep. Andy Holt, a Tennessee industrial pig farmer and politician who tabled ag-gag legislation, sent an email to HSUS Public Policy Coordinator Kayci McLeod saying that “propagandist groups of radical animal activists, like your fraudulent and reprehensibly disgusting organization of maligned animal abuse profiteering corporatists … are intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17 year old women,” and referred to HSUS methods as “tape and rape.”
And what has Gary “vegan” Francione said about large animal groups? He has also referred to them as “animal welfare corporations” motivated by making money.
“All of the large animal charities, such as PETA and HSUS, are businesses. They want to maximize their donor base so they try and let everyone stay in their comfort zone. They don’t take the position that veganism is the only rationally and morally acceptable response to the recognition that animals have moral significance. They promote reform and not abolition.”
“Single-issue campaigns are, on many levels, a very bad idea. They serve one primary purpose: fund-raising devices for animal charities. This is not to say that animal charities intentionally embrace campaigns that they know to be counterproductive in order to make money. It is, however, to explain the practical motivation that helps to account for why such welfare reform campaigns and single-issue campaigns are chosen and the failure to see how counterproductive they are.” http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/the-kapparos-campaign-a-good-example-whats-wrong-single-issue-campaigns/#.U6nis7GYzMA
“Industry needs welfarists like Newkirk to provide a positive moral characterization of their efficiency efforts. Industry needs to have its efforts to achieve efficiency, resulting in largely minor changes to the institutions of animal exploitation, declared “humane” by those identified as animal advocates. But PETA needs industry as PETA uses these efficiency measures to proclaim “progress” and to fundraise. For the most part, the campaigns of animal welfare organizations target economically vulnerable industry practices for precisely that reason. These practices are “low hanging fruit,” so there is an easy “victory” for fundraising purposes.” http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/debating-eating-animals-museum-modern-art/#.U6njXrGYzMA
Imagine the Ku Klux Klan Having a “Civil Rights” Conference
“I *just* got an email telling me that I “am among the first invited to register for the Animal Rights 2015 National Conference.” A conference run by and for the large animal groups who have sold out the animals and who have, in effect, become partners with animal exploiters. I think I’ll pass. Those who support such events support animal exploitation. This event has *****nothing***** to do with animal rights. Indeed, to call that event an “animal rights” event is like calling a Ku Klux Klan Convention a “civil rights” event.”
“It must be admitted, that in the course of the present imprudent and dangerous attempt to bring about a total abolition, one essential advantage has been obtained, namely, a better mode of carrying the slaves from Africa to the West-Indies.”
Exploiters and their supporters seek to distract, divide, and demoralize their critics, but when someone claiming to be on the same side of the advocates does the same? Then it is time to pause and reflect.
Contrary to Gary Francione’s views that 200 years of animal welfare has been a complete failure and that there is more fur visible on the streets of London, England today than when he visited in the 1970s, it is undeniable that animal advocacy has seen advances in the last few decades. In the 1980s the concept of animal concerns was considered peculiar, even for the welfare of cats and dogs, but over time we have seen it grow, expanding public awareness about the issues facing animals used in various exploitation businesses. Vegan has become a mainstream word, and the merits of a plant-based diet is now being taken seriously by governments, and people of influence, thus an ancient truth known to Plutarch and Leonardo Da Vinci and the author of Frankenstein is finally coming around to public attention. But exploiters do not go quietly into the sunset, and will fight common sense any way they can when their profits or desires are threatened. Honesty is not among their virtues. Not only do they seek to hold onto what they have, but to expand it with a maniac’s passion. Thus Huntingdon Life Sciences and Smithfield go to China to bring the wonders of vivisection and factory farming to even more people.
Whatever Gary Francione’s motives are in attacking animal advocacy, the fact is that he routinely attacks animal activists—seeking to distract/divide/demoralize them, and at the same time, will be polite and agreeable to the worst exploiters of animals. He uses basic truths as his shield, and exploits the idealism of his audience. Imagine how someone like Richard Berman, posing as a vegan, might try to use animal advocates for the benefit of vivisectors and the meat industry. One way could be to isolate the realists like PETA and HSUS and MFA who target his client industries. Cultivate the idealists (new vegans and animal activists eager to help animals), and educate them to be radicals (not ALF-style activists who engage in economic sabotage and rescues, but rather those that say ALF is violent, welfare reforms are the greatest enemy to animals, and PETA and HSUS are racist/sexist/hate humans and/or collaborators with industry). Get these radicals to agree with industry (“welfare reforms are bad for animals”).
It is anyone’s guess what sort of presence exploitation industries have in animal advocacy—one statistic claims up to a third of online activists are corporate agents. However, one can start to question the sincerity of people who repeatedly spend much more time criticizing animal advocates with little desire to chastise exploiters. Exploitation isn’t the problem, activists are the problem.
As we said, Francione uses some truths in order to spread a lie. Of course abolition is morally preferable to reforms. Consider the situation with the World Wildlife Fund. This is a large organization (started in part by hunters) which does not promote veganism or even sincere consistent animal advocacy. In the 1990s the WWF encouraged hunters who were killing rhinos (for their horns to use in traditional Chinese medicine) to kill the saiga instead—which led to a 90% decline in their numbers. In this case, an abolition message would have been preferable. But Francione is too busy attacking real animal advocacy groups like PETA which would never advocate such an obscene immoral position. Yes, if people made decisions based on a vegan philosophy so many problems would disappear—but it does not make sense to aim a message of veganism at “animal people” alone, which is what Francione does. He has never accused vivisectors or hunters or dog abusers of being morally schizophrenic, only those who care about nonhuman animals. He accuses animal advocates of being racist but did he offer a view on Mr. Bundy of Nevada, the anti-government, gun-toting cattle rancher who said African Americans were better off under slavery? He is too busy attacking animal advocates. The vegan who attacks animal advocates.
If he doesn’t accuse them of being hypocrites he accuses them of promoting racism or sexism. PETA used the “I’d rather go naked” campaign to counter the images used by the fur industry to promote fur to women. The PETA ads worked. They drew the attention to the target audience: women. Some recently have claimed those ads were ineffective because college-aged men indicated the ads didn’t make them consider animal rights issues. Why is this surprising? The ads are aimed at women—the main consumer of fur products—to make them regard it as bad. Francione urges that PETA not use such campaigns because they violate his definition of veganism which includes a strict interpretation of human rights, one that the fur industry would concur with, for it would discourage the type of advertising that has been effective in drawing attention to fur.
Some point to the mostly Caucasian and Western nature of animal advocacy as proof that it is racist/elitist. But this is hardly a conspiracy. Advocacy for women, children, LGBT issues, and the handicapped—they also started as mostly Caucasian and Western organized issues. Are we to abandon human rights concerns because we do not have agreement among all people in universal human rights? Those who fought slavery in the 19th century were also accused of elitism—should they have heeded those voices and quit? Most nonhuman animals cannot advocate for themselves or defend themselves, thus they are totally dependent on others—preferably those with influence—to advocate for them. This isn’t racism, it is reality.
Being vegan is preferable to abstaining from meat (but eating some dairy as a transition to full vegetarian or vegan). If someone is ideologically committed to eating dairy on the basis that it can be done without suffering or killing, then the debate becomes whether that is true, however, we should applaud anyone’s efforts to reduce consumption, whether meat or dairy. Some (including Francione) will dismiss ovo-lacto-vegetarians as doing nothing of consequence. He does not commend their efforts and he condemns organizations that do. He may claim that reduction isn’t good enough for the nonhuman animal victims—but given the fact that one person’s efforts does little or nothing to stop industrial exploitation, it makes more sense to be supportive than dismissive of any change to the status quo. It makes more sense to build support rather than tear it down for trivial reasons.
If “new welfarist” organizations did as Gary Francione demands, they would lose media interest—why would the media have PETA or HSUS on air to talk about going vegan? It isn’t news. They would only be on air if there is a focus topic—a single issue campaign. And remember what Francione said: “Single-issue campaigns are, on many levels, a very bad idea.” He wants them to discuss it only as part of an overall vegan message (as he defines it), which is precisely what the meat industry or vivisectors or hunters say when they appear in the media: “these activists don’t want welfare; they want to make the world vegan.” If Paul Watson had followed Francione’s advice in that interview on whaling, he would have ceased to discuss whales and focused on how bad factory farming is, which would make the whalers happy and do nothing to help animals in factory farms around the globe. If PETA and MFA ended single issue campaigns they would lose support and money—and before long be as small in influence as current vegan groups (such as Francione’s). It makes no sense to heed the advice of Gary Francione on activism and strategy unless you are on the side of vivisectors, whalers, hunters, the meat industry etc.
Francione has said that in the 1990s animal rights was talked about in the media, but now the message is more about “welfare” and reforms, a step backwards. It is true that in the 90s, when animal concerns were seen as a curiosity, the focus was more abstract: “do animals have rights?” What he overlooks is that the idea of animal concerns became an accepted one, and as organizations increased their membership and focused on specific campaigns that seemed winnable (logical strategy—why focus on a campaign you are sure to lose?), this was reported by the media, and thus reinforced the idea that animal concerns matter—whether defined as welfare or rights. Issues are talked about regularly, unlike in the 1990s. This is a step forward whether Francione likes it or not.
Despite the industry-applauded infighting we see with animal activists these days, it is fair to say that the exploiters are still their own worst enemy. They seek to increase profits or to expand the boundaries of cruelty–thus they push atrocities to such a grotesque point that they draw attention to themselves, and in doing so, invigorate the opposition. The same occurred with slavery. But, unlike slavery, the issues surrounding nonhuman animal exploitation literally have global repercussions. Climate change, water and other resource scarcity—these factors will likely be the greatest agents in forcing the collapse of the animal agriculture industries. But public awareness of the victimization of nonhuman animals is growing steadily alongside as well.
This doesn’t mean one should be satisfied as things are at present, but there is legitimate criticism and sincere concern and then there is the kind offered daily by Gary Francione and his followers which appears designed only to demoralize activists and that makes the meat industry happy:
‘”Francione, a lawyer, contends that the ethical position stance regarding animals is “the complete elimination of all animal ownership.”
This is a position that leads Francione “to bash HSUS at every turn.”
Yeah. That’s what I’m talking about! And if I might suggest that a wonderful the outcome of this debate would be a further widening of the schism between the hardcores and the reformers. That would be highly entertaining for everyone involved in animal agriculture. So get it on, activists.’
Dan Murphy-Anti-Animal Rights Food Industry Writer http://www.cattlenetwork.com/news/meat-matter-great-debate