Thursday, April 30, 2009

Peter Singer and Gary Francione

Anyone who is involved with animal rights has heard of people like Peter Singer, Tom Regan or Gary Francione. You probably already know that the animal rights movement isn't a monolithic block of people that all state the same 'mantras' and don't think for themselves... What animal rights are and how we should promote and implement them into society is subject to heated debate. Both in and outside of the animal movement.

I myself make it no secret that I am very much inclined towards Peter Singer, James Rachels, David Degrazia and others. At the same time I don't make it a secret either that I am by far not an avid Gary Francione supporter. To illustrate why, I'll will blog regulary on Peter Singer and Gary Francione to portray both positions.

In short: I think that Peter Singer's position is more defensible than that of Francione and more pragmatic. Which is important if you want to have any effect on society at all.

A recent blogpost on the abolitionist approach blog peaked my interest. Read it here: Peter Singer, Happy meat and fanatical vegans (very remarkable and compelling title isn't it?)

In this post Gary Francione responds to a recent interview done by Peter Singer for slowfood international on sloweb

Peter Singer said that he was pleased of the advancements done for animals raised on factory farms. This is mostly the case here in the European Union, but also in the US (think of proposition two).

Gary Francione makes several remarks about this that make me frown to say the least.

He states:

the supposed welfare improvements in Europe about which Peter is so excited are worse than useless in that they provide little if any increased protection for animal interests and they make humans feel more comfortable about consuming animals, which facilitates continued consumption.

In this statment I find two very important statements that make me feel uneasy.

1. the welfare improvements are bad because they mean little to the animals.
2. Because of these 'useless' reforms that give animals the ability to walk, spread their wings etcetera...people would be more at ease about eating animals, which makes them less likely to become vegetarians.

This is how I see it:

1. It is absolutely not true that the welfare reforms didn't make any difference for the animals. Because of these reforms certain practices such as battery cages for laying hens are on their way out. In Belgium supermarkets don't sell eggs anymore from such factory farms (thanks to GAIA), In austria this practice is now banned (thanks to Martin Balluch),...

Because of this people are becoming more aware of what animals have to go through, and although many of them would never become vegetarian/vegan, at least the topic is brought to their attention and now shop more 'ethical' than they did before.

I also fail to see how the phasing out of battery cages and replacing it with farming methods that enable them to run, have a nest, spread their wings and display several key natural behavoirs that are necessary for a very basic level of welfare, isn't helping the animals. Is it truly good for their welfare? Many things can and should still improve and in the end, they are still all killed. But at least the animals have been helped, and people are more aware.

2. Gary Francione states that people would feel more comfortable with buying meat because of this. This is a very strange comment...

People buy meat regardless, most people will not turn vegan and anyone who has been a vegetarian/vegan for some time will have noticed this. The only thing that some (not even all people) will concede is that animals should at least be treated better then now. So there is no social acceptance at this moment for a vegan society, but that doesn't mean it can't become more animal friendly. Not more than a 100 years ago bear baiting and cock fighting was very normal in the UK. Now these practices are long since banned because of the inherent cruelty involved. Now people are starting to care for other animals, not just cats or dogs (also not so long ago unthinkable), so society is changing. I don't see how furthering the change by making welfare improvements is hindering animal rights. Quite the contrary, because people support these changes, it means that more and more animals are starting to take animals seriously. Not in the way we would like, but that will still take time...

The statement of Gary Francione is quite unsettling to me, because Gary seems to imply that helping animals being treated better is hindering people becoming vegan.

Am I to infer from this statement that it is ok that animals suffer in factory farms because then more people will be able to be confronted with the horror and stop eating it?

This isn't the case at all, most of society doesn't and just about everyone has seen the images and documentation videos out there on factory farming. Has the majority turned vegan?

And what about the animals themselves? Are we willing to let them continue to suffer while we have the majority at our side to at least lessen their suffering? I think we have the moral obligation to further animal welfare AND at the same time do vegan outreach.

Another quote...

Singer repeats the notion that being a “conscientious omnivore” is a “defensible ethical position.” If the so-called “father of the animal rights movement” (supported by almost all of the large new welfarist groups) claims that it is a morally good thing to consume “happy” meat and animal products, that is likely to become the moral baseline.

And if we now compare this 'interpretation' of Gary Francione to what Peter Singer actually said:

The vegan diet, especially buying organically produced plant foods, does solve more of the ethical problems about eating than any other.

This was in reply to a question asked by sloweb:

Reading your book, it seems that the only truly ethical conclusion is the vegan diet.

Peter Singer has stated on many occasions that the most ethical diet is a vegan one. The only thing that he has said is that the majority won't be turning vegan anytime soon (a reality check) and that buying animal products that are free range and organic are more ethical than those of factory farms.

I don't find this bad at is a fact that society is changing and it has everything to do with animal rights campaigning...

Cleary Francione misses the entire point by writing statements like this in response to the changes in society:

To see the speciesism here, substitute some form of human exploitation. If someone said that a “moderate” amount of “humane” rape was a “big step in the right direction,” we would be outraged.

With this attitude, the animal rights movement today wouldn't even be half as big as it is. You perhaps wouldn't have become a vegetarian or vegan if it wasn't for bigger animal rights groups (called neo-welfarist organizations by Francione) who brought these issues to your attention through the internet or television.

If you would like to know more about this subject, read the now infamous discussion between Martin Balluch (who outlawed fur farming in Austria, battery cages,...) and Gary Francione

Part one

Part two

Part three

8 Hours: stop long animal transports

If you live in Europe, you might have heard of the 8 Hours campaign. The initiator of the site 8 Hours is Danish politician Dan Jørgensen. He is a member of the European Parliament and has opposed long animal transports for a long time.

Other politicians involved are Richard Corbett (Labour MEP), Neil Parish and Struan Stevenson.

Stevenson is a well known politician who has succesfully campaigned for an EU import ban on all cat and dog fur products from Asia in the past.

I mention this succesful ban on purpose. Each person can make a difference. Anyone who has lend his voice (signature) to the campaign to outlaw cat and dog fur has made a difference. Every person counts and together we CAN make a difference.

We helped the dogs and cats of the world, so why not help the other animals too? If you are a citizen of the European Union, please sign the 8 Hours petition and help make life for farmed animals a little less cruel. It is already bad enough that they are being slaughtered. They shouldn't be transported half across europe in the back of cramped trucks to be brutally killed. The least you can do is sign the petition and save them of some of the terrible suffering they have to endure.

One million signatures are needed. If you haven't signed the petition yet: do it know! visit the site and sign: Stop long animal transports

PETA says: meat is not green

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has launched a new campaign called Meat is not green and they are spot on the mark this time. The statement is scientific fact, and yet very few people know about it. Most have never even heard of the environmental costs of meat production or simply don't believe or wish not to act upon it...which is a sad reality of our society today.

Is Your Diet Causing Climate Change?
Watch PETA's Video on the Diet-Environment Connection.

You don't have to take PETA's word on this one. You are free to check the fact for yourself. You can read the Entire United Nations report on the link between global warming and animal agriculture here: livestocks long shadow

Some very important facts:

1. the lifecycle analysis shows us that livestock is responsible 18% of greenhouse gas emissions

2. Because of this report Dr. Henning Steinfeld stated that the meat industry is “one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems" and that "urgent action is required to remedy the situation."

3. The meat industry is responsible for water pollution, loss of biodiversity, ...

So, in short: what you eat matters not just to the animals and your health, but also to the environment. To stop eating meat is to help save our planet. The animal agriculture industries are a large contributor to current global environmental problems such as global warming.

All of this for a product (meat) that we don't need. We can live without it. The planet can't live with it. Go veg!

And if you can't/don't want to, at least eat less meat. This means less polution and less suffering for the animals. And on top of that: buy free range!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The life you can save

Peter Singer (author of 'Animal liberation') has written a new book called: 'the life you can save'. you can visit the site here

His latest book deals with poverty and what we can do as individuals to make a difference. Many feel that we are powerless to help others in africa or other poverty afflicted areas of the world. But nothing is farther from the truth. Each of us can help them.

Each of us as an individual can make a difference to save lives. With the money we spend on a few movietickets we can save a human life on the other side of the planet. So why don't we? We have very little to lose, but others have everything to lose!

If you would like to know more, read an excerpt of this book here: excerpt

You can even follow Peter Singer on Twitter, everybody tweets like a bird these days, while he travels the world to promote his new book: Peter Singer on twitter

Please take the time to visit the website of Vegfam

This organization furthers human rights without exploiting animals. I found it on the website promoting 'the life you can save'. This is a nice example of how human rights and animal rights go hand in hand.

pro human rights, pro animal rights

We hear it often: we should be saving human lives instead of caring about animal lives. It is wrong to care about animal rights, while human rights in this world are still nog accepted.

I don't see how not buying a steak at the supermarket, but an animal and eco friendly alternative is getting in the way of us caring about human beings.

I am sure that many vegetarians/vegans that are reading this right now have heard that all before. And let me be so frank as to say it is all a load of bollucks! We can care about human rights and animal rights. In fact: you could even say they are linked!

Many people within the animal rights movement also fight for human rights, for the equal treatment of women, fight for civil rights or oppose racism...

In fact: to fight for animal rights also means fighting for human rights. Animal advocates reject speciesism, just like any other form of discrimination. We do not consider animals to be inferior just because they have four legs or a tail. We don't accept it that cruelty is being done to an animal just because it is an animal.

Human beings and animals are not the same, there are very clear factual differences. But we should focus on the ways in which we are alike. Animals (including humans) feel, can experience the world, can feel fear, have a psychological welfare,... to ignore this is to be speciesist. There is no rational ground on which to ignore the pain of another animal. It is a form of discrimination, just like other forms of discrimination such as sexism. A sexist thinks that a women is of lesser worth because they are 'women'. There is no rational basis for it, it is just a mere conviction (dogma?) and leads to much suffering.

We reject all forms of discrimination, so this means the discrimination of animals, women,...

This doesn't mean that we want animals and humans to be treated equally. It just means that we want animals te be treated in an ethical and unbiased way. This isn't the case in our society today.

I am not going to provide you with an extensive list of animal rightists that fight equally as hard for human rights as they do for animal rights. I will just point out one person that I find very important: Henry Spira

Henry Spira is considered to be one of the most effective animal rights activists of the 20th century. I mention him for two reasons:

1. I can't help but feel some national pride, since he was of belgian decent (ok, some I'm a bit chauvinistic)

2. He was active in the civil rights movement, teached english literature to youngsters from the ghettos,... in short he did his part to help other people AND animals

If you would like to know more about him, visit the animalrights library

Lets be clear: human rights and animal rights are not mutually exclusive. We can each do our part to help make this world a little better. The retort that we so often hear about caring for humans first, is quite far from reality and even quite naïve.

Welcome to my new blog...first posts are so exciting

The all to common first post...It is somewhat obligatory,I can't ignore unwritten internet law. So here is the introduction.

I decided to make this blog to reach a larger audience. I have been blogging for years on the subject of animal rights in my native language (dutch, I am from belgium) and have had some succes with my blog. I am surely not going to discontinue that blog at all. If you just happen to read dutch, you can always visit my other blog:dierenbevrijding

I will cover all the topics that I also cover over on my other blog...and as you might be able to infer, this means that I will be discussing animal rights, animal welfare, vegetarianism/veganism and many other related topics. So in short: I will be blogging and making a plea for 'empathy' (hence the name of this blog). I do hope that you will enjoy reading my blog and feel free to comment if you have an opinion that you would like to share with me at any time.