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.
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.
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 all...it 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