Dear Jean Kazez, you should go vegan!

Dear Jean Kazez,

In a recent blog on your letter to the Editor re: Gary Steiner's mostly good essay in the New York times, you received some constructive criticism from abolitionist commenters. In reply you stated (and here I quote):
"Essentially, [Francione] wants to keep animals in the worst possible condition in order to rally people to the cause of totally changing the status of animals."
http://kazez.blogspot.com/2009/11/in-which-i-casually-mention.html

Out of curiosity, which of Francione's books have you actually read? I'm not asking to be snarky. I'm saying it because it seems clear you completely misapprehend his position. I realize you've held a philosophy PhD a long time, and that tends to narrow one's reading list. As for your meant-to-be rhetorical question about nineteenth century abolitionists and whether they supported amelioration, I'm not overly fond of these kinds of historically and sociologically reductive comparisons. But yes, many abolitionists vehemently opposed a focus on gradual abolition. I'll let William Garrison answer for me:
In Park-Street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, I unreflectingly assented to the popular but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this moment to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and of my brethren the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice, and absurdity.
http://www.sewanee.edu/faculty/willis/Civil_War/documents/Liberator.html

As to whether anyone undertook humanitarian campaigns to help the well-being of slaves, sure. But it is not clear that many abolitionists like Garrison did. Most focused on Underground Railroad work and agitation. Further, it does not follow logically that because X did Y historically, that we are justified in doing the same, or that because X did Y historically that it was not ultimately harmful, or that because X did Y that it was helpful to producing historical change.

I am not saying that any of those are your position. I am only clarifying that whether nineteenth century abolitionists did or did not engage in humanitarian campaigns, it does not follow of necessity that we should. Nor does it follow that analogies of this kind are necessarily or particularly apt. I've never taken a course in logic -- but this does seem to me to be soundly reasoned; the proposal that we should feel justified in simply and uncritically repeating every ritual of previous social justice movements because they did it, not so much.

Of course, I understand if you're not familiar with the history of the nineteenth century abolitionist movement, and that is what it is. I'm just suggesting you might want to tone down the snark a little before you embarrass yourself further (c.f., my previous post on humility and gratitude for some ideas). I'm not a philosopher. And so, at the risk of embarrassing myself, I may misuse some of the words of your trade. It's not because I don't care for the proper use of words or ideas. It's only because I value them that I want to take a minute to correct some misconceptions.

First, Francione's argument is not predicated on leaving any animals in any condition. Abolition is predicated on the view that nonhuman animals have the right not to be used as property -- period. If every chicken were kept in a guilded chicken coop out back and forced to produce eggs, it would still be wrong based on Francione's views. No one needs to take my word for it:

The problem with happy meat:
http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/happy-meat-making-humans-feel-better-about-eating-animals/

Why welfare reform is not a viable approach if we take animal well-being seriously:
http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/the-four-problems-of-animal-welfare-in-a-nutshell/

Further, Francione's argument is not that we shouldn't take animal well-being seriously; it's that nonhuman animal well-being is best protected with a right not to be used as property, and that attempts to effect animal well-being with legal reforms are misguided because their status as property prohibits serious reform that could actually do anything serious on behalf of that well-being.

In a nutshell, he just points out that, under most modern systems of property law, property does not and cannot receive adequate protection. There's no real legal sense of the 'well-being' of books or CDs, except as the property of someone else. The rights of the propertyholder trump anything we might do on behalf of their property. And that's just looking at the law as a completely neutral institution, not taking into account wide-spread and systemic prejudices against nonhuman animals or the economic interests of agribusiness and how those would influence (and undermine in practice) any law that could be passed. That's if the law isn't designed from the beginning to benefit some suppliers over other suppliers, which often tends to be the case. For any meaningful kind of protection of your well-being, you need to be a person and not property legally and socially. Maybe it's just me, but that just seems like an uncontroversial description of legal and social reality.


Further still, Francione advocates animal adoption, something about which a great many animal welfare advocates are ambivalent. In contrast, PeTA has killed 17,000 animals since 1998 according to Newsweek. Many organizations nominally interested in "reducing suffering" continue to encourage breeding, animal use or worse, while they spurn adoption. I find this bizarre, if only because abolitionist veganism is the best way to help animals as an aggregate while personal adoption and shelter work (the Underground Railroad of our time) are the best ways to make a difference directly to the well-being of an individual nonhuman animal, if not save his or her life.

Furthermore, if we take animal well-being seriously, then ending their property status and acknowledging them as persons under the law seems to make sound sense. If we want to provide them with the care that many will need on a mass scale, it is not at all clear how we would do so without ending their property status. It also seems reasonable to me that educating people about veganism is the best way to help their clarify their confusion as to what they owe nonhuman animals in terms of moral consideration, and veganism, to be the moral baseline of what we owe.

In contrast,
sending mixed and contrafactual messages about what helps nonhuman animals seems to me to be potentially very unhelpful. Proposing that we waste time and money on things like Controlled Atmosphere Killing (http://www.peta.org/cak/), that we give awards to people who design slaughterhouses, and, continuing to harm them as you do with every nonvegan choice you make strikes me as a proposal not just to leave nonhuman animals in 'the worst possible condition' but actually to make matters worse potentially in terms of their well-being.

Certainly, if you take the well-being of the most vulnerable, most degraded and most tortured beings on earth seriously (and even those who are violated in supposedly 'nice' ways, 'humane' ways), as a vegetarian, you can do your part to help nonhuman animals by taking their right not to be used as property seriously, by going vegan, and by encouraging others to do the same. It's not a matter of making the slaughterhouse more comfy in the meantime and confusing the public about what they owe other animals; it's a matter of investing time and resources in building a movement that summons serious change for nonhuman animals that acknowledges their personhood and fights for that social transformation.

Moreover, Francione argues, rather than 'raising conciousness' about how poorly we treat animals, these reform campaigns may ease consciences. This argument is not pulled out of the air. It's based on a 20ish years worth of statistical correlation between welfare 'consciousness raising' efforts and a rise in nonhuman animal use. The claim is not that we're guaranteed a victory just by pursuing abolition exclusively; it's that doing what obviously doesn't work is not a good use of our time on behalf of nonhuman animals if we take what we owe them seriously.

As someone who purports to know the worst conditions but is not herself vegan in response to the grave inhumanity that animal use represents, I can only assume that you're not vegan because someone told you it was okay to not be vegan. I'm telling you: it's not okay not to be vegan. Unlike the remarkably bad faith you've shown Francione, I'm going to 'do you a solid' and assume that you do want to take nonhuman animals seriously.

In good faith, I'm going to let you know that the absolute minimum moral baseline of what we owe other animals is not to harm them intentionally and without justification when it is possible for us to do so (i.e., veganism), not to make their lives more miserable, not to prolong their slavery with our trivial choices. I'm asking you to go vegan, right now, today. I believe in you. Having said that, I think it's problematic for an academic, a professor no less, to misrepresent the work of another theorist and another animal advocate so completely. So, I'm also asking you to show some good faith and to apologize to Francione.

To be clear, I'm not asking you to apologize for disagreeing. I'm not asking to apologize for analyzing Francione's argument. I'm not even asking you to apologize for being confused if you read and misunderstood his work. I often disagree with and analyze Francione's work, and there have been times when I have been confused by what he's proposed (as I said, I'm not a philosopher, and not even a particularly intelligent person). But I am asking you to apologize for the statement above which insofar as it grossly misrepresents Francione's position, frankly, is almost unbelievably inappropriate and unprofessional for a member of the academy, where ideas about how to help others and sincere dialogue about those ideas are supposed to count.

It may not have been your intent, but many welfare advocates actively misrepresent Francione's position. That doesn't further the dialogue; it occludes what's at stake for nonhuman animals and sweeps a round dialogue about their freedom and what we owe them under the rug.

In your letter to the editor, you write: "Mr. Steiner might feel less lonely as an ethical vegan -- he says he has just five vegan friends -- if he recognized he has an ally in mere vegetarians like me [..]". Really, are the kind of misrepresentations and personal attacks you made in your blog comments the kind of thing that allies do?
Think about that apology, Jean, and definitely, go vegan!

Sincerely,
Vince

Humility, gratitude and well-being, or abolitionist veganism is a life that goes well

Whoever is fundamentally a teacher takes all things seriously only in relation to his students—including even himself. –Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil)

It’s not a holiday in Canada this week. We have our Thanksgiving in October, but since I am from the US, most of my childhood memories of Thanksgiving are of Thursdays and Fridays around the house with family. I know that Thanksgiving is not popular because of its history and origin. But it is as good a time as any to pause and consider that for which we are most grateful, what is good for us, and, indeed, what makes our lives go well for us.

I'm not very philosophical (and certainly not a philosopher), but some colleagues and I have been discussing well-being at the AE User Forums, as a part of our abolitionist reading group. With the holiday, it has put me in a thoughtful mood to consider my well-being and the well-being of other animals. That has made me grateful for veganism, for abolition, and for those who work, often anonymously, without glory, indeed, often with little thanks in shelters everywhere who help to save the lives of nonhuman animals with proper care. I am grateful to those who help lift our brothers and sisters (human and non) up out of their slavery by insisting that all persons have a right not to be used as property and by going vegan (and more) in light of that view.

It might seem strange to read someone express gratitude for the difficulties we do sometimes face (even if only irregularly) by being vegan. But we cannot base our moral lives solely around pleasure and desires. Indeed, it is out of a concern for the well-being of others in some respects that we must also propose rights to defend them, justice to protect them and, in the case of nonhuman animals, veganism to pay what it is we owe them, and abolition to emancipate them. I believe that to consider honestly the well-being of nonhuman animals and to take it seriously proposes an immediate, unconditional and unequivocal end to their slavery as the only morally defensible position.

Moreover, to be vegan is relatively easy. The "sacrifices" are very modest and very few. A few extra seconds reading labels. Maybe developing some cooking skills (and then eating all of the wonderful food you learn how to make). A little less cake here and there at the office party maybe. Not going to the circus. A linen, cotton or polyester tie. Some new, nonleather shoes, some nonwool and nonsilk clothes, and so on. Some personal hygiene products and some household cleaners that are not overflowing with harsh chemicals. Agave nectar, rice syrup, or a dozen other sweeteners instead of honey. These are fairly small compromises when compared with the life and well-being of another, are they not?

Of course, veganism most often complicates our lives most seriously through our relationships. That has little to do with veganism or abolition themselves. Like many expressions of justice, it often sets us apart from, indeed, often at odds with others (or more commonly, sets others at odds with us). But is also affords us with an entirely different vision of ourselves in which we are moral agents summoning a social transformation unrivalled in human history toward a just and nonviolent world. An opportunity to change the world and to act well is a kind of privilege that to few value too little these days.

In fact, it would be difficult to imagine my life differently as someone who is not an abolitionist vegan. When we think of a life that goes well, can we really say that a life predicated on easy pleasures that grossly harms others without justification goes well? Friendship, a home, clothing, food, healthcare, education are all important to our lives, but so are opportunities to be virtuous, so is a nice painting, so is a good espresso made just right, and so is acting well with respect to others.

In short, although we might imagine our lives ruled by vice and pleasure, by desires well satisfied, it is not my experience at least that this is what's best for me. A life with challenges, but one that helps us to build moral character, to achieve things, one with friendships, beauty, education, one with opportunities to act well when the opportunity is in front of me seems fullest to me. I think something similar (but different) can be said of other animals. I am not an ethologist, but it seems very plausible to me that, like human animals, nonhumans are also persons with more than just vague and immediate desires to be satisfied or only an instinctive desire to avoid pain and experience pleasure.

With very simple animals, of course, it is difficult to say. A continued life would be a good that all sentient beings share in most circumstances. But a habitat free from predators, companionship, freedom of movement, offspring as well as other relationships, a broken wing fixed, a chin stroked, games as well as other forms of play, quiet, cool darkness, warm sunlight, salt water, fresh water, and a good many other things perhaps make their lives go well in ways that cannot be understood solely as the momentary experience of pleasure or desires fulfilled. In short, when I think of well-being, it seems unintuitive to think of the well-being of either human or nonhuman animals as being constituted purely by pleasure or desire satisfaction and it is not clear to me why we would think of nonhuman animal well-being as radically different from our own.

That may not be entirely true of all beings classed as zoologically as "animals", but certainly true of the vast majority who were either killed or used as slaves (and many others) so that yesterday Americans could feel normal, have a laugh with friends and family, watch the game perhaps and then fall asleep in front of their TVs. I am not saying that pleasure or the fulfillment of our desires is necessarily wrong. I am saying that my life could not go well without a broader understanding of my own well-being, and that it could not go well if I refused to consider the well-being of nonhuman animals, as well as the complicated nature of that well-being and what I owe nonhuman animals in light of their interests and rights.

Getting back to Nietzsche, although I disagree with Nietzsche on almost everything, his thought provides us with a sense of how we might think of ourselves as advocates working on behalf of other animals. I think it is best to do so seriously and with humility. I think that that is what we owe them. It is the sense of humility stemming from duty that Nietzsche proposes that drives me to consider to take other animals seriously and to understand my life (and how it goes well) in terms of differences of degrees perhaps, but not necessarily in terms of differences in kind with the lives of other animals (human and non) and to act on what that proposes.

In considering other animals as persons and what I owe them, not as my slaves, not as things with feelings toward whom I act charitably, not as moral burdens I can cast off, abolitionist veganism, and the education of others about the moral need for abolition and veganism seems now synonymous to me with a life that goes well. It fits up with all of the other things I consider to be most important to my life, my concern for equality, nonviolence, my desire to live a simple and quiet life, to eat food that looks beautiful and tastes great, and more; it renders for me a long and happy narrative of my life as one that goes well, and helps the lives of others to go well. My life will go even better when everyone is an abolitionist vegan, and so will the lives of a great many people (human and non).

I believe that most other people want their lives to go well. but they are not sure how to start. I also believe that having been told that this is a matter of pleasuring themselves for generation after generation by a consumer-driven society, they are now ready to start hearing something different. I have good news for them and the news is that an abolitionist vegan life is one that goes very well. If you are not vegan, you can start today. It does not require a donation or more than mostly simple changes to your live (many of which will probably be better for you and for others, definitely better for other animals). If you are already vegan, but not an abolitionist, have a read through my other articles or learn more about the approach at www.abolitionistapproach.com

'He's got the facts! Get him!!' Che Green and his sneak attack on truthiness, and also, my manhood

I don't want a lot of emails about how seriously mean I am. The title correlates with a bit of tongue in cheek. But I woke up to find this gem in my Twitter stream this morning.
Humane Research: @VincentJGuihan - A series of personal attacks and a blog with closed comments. Hmmm... #cowardice"
Lulz. So, what's the next step? A duel at dawn? Or maybe a glaring critique of my Web site design. Who knows.

Humane Research is Che Green (c.f., my previous article). Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I didn't expect an “OMG UR RITE, Do00D!!1one”, but I suppose it was misguided to hope for a thoughtful reply to a thoughtful (and frankly, fairly even-handed) article on Che Green's recent post at Humane Research with all of its flaws. But this is a clear personal attack. I'm not sure why it was necessary or helpful. It also seriously misrepresents my position and the tone of my blog, which were not a series of personal attacks, just pointing out the obvious.

As far as hosting comments on my blog goes, lulz, I know some people are new to the Internet, but that's entirely my prerogative. My blog is my blog. I don't have any obligation to provide a platform for others to post silly missives and personal attacks late on a Saturday night. It's my personal space, my home on the Internet, and frankly, I don't want a lot of silliness in my front room every night complaining. If anyone has a problem with what I write on my blog, then Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, and many others provide them for free. Fill your boots!

More to the point, though, everyone reading this should note that it's bad public relations and ineptly bad marketing to start an Internet feud with your prospective customer base. In Che Green's defense, I suppose it was a bit harsh when I wrote that Che Guevara must be spinning in his grave given his namesake's misunderstanding of political economy. A man's name is his name, and in his family, it may have very personal significance. I really shouldn't have made light of that. I even wrote as much in my first article. For that, I do sincerely apologize: I'm sorry, Che Green.

On the other hand, while I'm not sure why rational arguments based on facts correlate to cowardly behaviour, it does seem clear that I hurt Che Green's feelings with the rest of my post as well. Che Green, I'm sorry my post correlated with your hurt feelings. Now, I'd make a remark about how Che Green's posting this passive-aggressive missive to my Twitter feed late on a Saturday night correlates with the behaviour of those angry vegans protesters he complains about in his blog article, but I think those kinds of stereotypes correlate with silliness.

I could also go on a bit about how 'it correlates with a shame, but I often find that when people are faced with serious and thoughtful criticism, it correlates with their personal attacks in response', but I think most of us in the animal advocacy movement know this song and dance already. Rather than respond with personal criticism, chest pounding and other silly (and yet also, apparently, very serious machismos), though, I'm going to clarify my previous post. I'm not really the kind of person who deals in rumours and innuendos, mostly statistics, facts, rational arguments, etc. So, I hope you'll also forgive me if what follows is a bt dry. Some thoughts:

In his original blog, Che Green represented himself as a social scientist who was an expert on the human/nonhuman animal question. Not at the end, with a “oh, and by the way, I'm also a social scientist!” but up-front. Seriously. The very first sentence. The very first words. If he holds a doctorate in a social science, or even if he's a PhD candidate, has ever taught a full-length class at an accredited college or university, has published a single reviewed paper in a reputable academic journal, all he has to do is provide the citation.

Otherwise, according to Che Green's publicly available CV, Che Green holds a BA in business administration (not psychology, not anthropology, not sociology, not cultural studies, not political economy, not law, not criminology, not behaviourism, not economics, not statistics—business). I'm not saying business is not a field of study. I'm saying that it's a real stretch to imagine that my degree in English makes me an expert on robotics. Che Green may also have a heart of gold and manly, brave biceps, but that's neither here nor there; these things also do not correlate in a statistically significant way with anyone being a social scientist.

That's not a personal attack. It's just intellectual honesty.

I didn't even call him out for just how intellectually problematic this kind of behaviour is; I just remarked, appropriately, on the facts in front of me. Just imagine if I walked into a hospital, claimed to be a doctor and started giving medical advice about humours and ethers. It would be bad for medicine, bad for patients, and bad for doctors. It is similarly bad for anyone who takes nonhuman animals seriously to misrepresent themselves as an academic expert on this question if they are not. It's bad for advocates, bad for other animals and bad for the movement. I'm sorry if that correlates with anyone's hurt feelings. I'm not calling anyone a fake or a charlattan, but we should take the moral obligation we owe to nonhuman animals seriously.

Furthermore, marketing new welfare as a new approach, whether by Martin Balluch or by Che Green, is like marketing a 1996 Ford Fiesta as a 2009 Tesla Roadster. I'm also very troubled by what looks like Che Green's use of another theorist's work without proper citations, representing it as though they were his own ideas. To be clear, I'm not making any accusations. I'm saying that his blog post correlates with some of Martin Balluch's work, which is equally flawed by the way. (Martin, if you're reading this, no need to call me cowardly on Twitter for disagreeing with you -- I've already been briefed!). New welfare is, for all practical purposes, indistinguishable from traditional welfare. What's wrong with welfare? These articles can explain it better than I can:

Francione on the problems of the welfare approach:
http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/the-four-problems-of-animal-welfare-in-a-nutshell/

Francione's reply specific to Balluch's essay:
http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/a-very-new-approach-or-just-more-new-welfarism/

I should say, new welfare is not new. Francione's
Rain Without Thunder is devoted to debunking the idea that 'there is no divide between welfare and abolition', a view he describes as 'the new welfare position.' RWT was published in 1996. Many of the points in Che Green's blog also correlate with some ideas on the Vegan Outreach Web site (c.f., my previous blog: Why does Matt Ball Keep Picking on Me?). That's not a surprise given the make up of Humane Research's board. But it remains intellectually problematic. I didn't call Che Green out too much in my original blog for just how problematic it is to lift someone else's marketing. In marketing, as distinguishable from academic social science, that kind of behaviour is pretty commonplace. But in a field dominated by serious social scientists, it's a faux pas to introduce yourself as an academic expert, and then reproduce someone else's arguments as though they were your own.

In virtually every blog article I write, I mention Gary Francione (and I am not a social scientist, nor do I claim to be an authority about anything -- I often take pains to point this out). It's not just because I like Gary (although I do – he's a pretty nice guy, and a brave one, unlike me -- I'm mean and cowardly). It's because my work would be completely intellectually impossible without his work. It's both right and appropriate for me to acknowledge that. I'm not saying every blog article ever written needs to be fully cited. I'm saying that when you represent yourself as a social scientist, writing as a social scientist, on a social scientific-related topic, properly citing the ideas of others is intellectually and professionally required. Roger Yates and Bob Torres, both social scientists and blog authors, do a bang-up job with this.

Mistakes happen, of course, but given that Che Green wrote blog articles in May 2008 on Balluch's work, he really should give Balluch credit when he reproduces Balluch's ideas, even if it's just: "I got some of my ideas for this blog from Martin Balluch." It's both a matter of giving credit where credit is due and it makes it possible for those of us in the community to respond to the arguments. I'm not going to go on at length about this, because, as we all know, the phrase “as an advocate, I believe...” correlates strongly with rewording what someone else has written. To complain about any individual instance is about as meaningful as saying that “George Bush made a bad decision.” Still, "social scientists" should cite their sources when they use them.

Far more important, though: welfare still doesn't lay the ground work for abolition. It still doesn't make a meaningful difference in the lives of nonhuman animals. It's still morally problematic. It still provides a solution to the problem of easing consciences about animal slavery, not ending slavery. I assume that all of the statistics citing the repeated and wide-scale failures of welfare that Che Green included in his blog article were accurate.

Where I disagree is in the belief as to what caused those failures and the argument that more welfare reform work will result in anything other than more failure for nonhuman animals. The solution to the moral problem of animal use is to stop using nonhuman animals and to encourage others to do the same, and to focus on that exclusively -- not to say in one powerpoint slide that abolition is the answer and in the next say that we can keep on using animals. These views are opposites, mutually exclusive.

Further, 30 years of organized welfare activism, as Francione argues in RWT, has correlated with a rise in use. It's morally problematic, and it doesn't work. Whether I am tall, short, fat, skinny, good looking, hold a PhD, or a mop and a bucket, the facts of this don't change. If someone could provide different, scientifically sound evidence, there's be something to debate, but in the meantime, this is like arguing about gravity.

In closing, I'm disappointed by the attempts of welfare advocates to mischaracterize a serious difference of political views as a personal one. The endless personal attacks on abolitionists by welfare advocates must stop. The Republican Party and the Communist Party may hold rallies, may write news letters, and may claim that they want to help voters, but they do not share an objective or a strategy in any meaningful way. It's not a personal attack to point that out. It is a personal attack to imply someone is cowardly for doing so. I hope the difference here is clear. Welfare advocacy promotes a reform of the system of slavery. Abolition promotes an end to that slavery. There is no overlap.

We don't have to be 'social scientists', or even just BBAs, to know that if a strategy and tactics don't achieve anything, or are designed not to achieve anything, they're not worthwhile. Wishing on a star and good spin doesn't change that. Furthermore, no one needs a doctorate in anything (except common sense, I suppose) to know that these kinds of personal attacks have no place, either in professional life or in a serious, adult social justice movement.

Che Green's personal attack on me, on Gary Francione, and on other advocates on Twitter (and perhaps other places – I have no idea) do nothing to promote an organized and cohesive movement that speaks loudly and clearly on behalf of nonhuman animals. They're unprofessional. They're intellectually problematic. I'm not going to ask for a full and formal apology, but I think Che Green owes Francione and a number of the other folks on Twitter an apology for his misrepresentation of their views.

In closing, what's important is that if you're not vegan, and you're reading this, don't let yourself get put off by this kind of silly drama. Yes, it's strange to wake up to someone pooping on your Twitter like this, but all I'm asking you to do is take the rights of nonhuman animals seriously and go vegan. Today's a wonderful day to start. If you're vegan already, and not an abolitionist, no one wants you to stop working. We want you to start working on things that will make a serious difference in the lives of nonhuman animals; that's abolitionist veganism. You can learn more about the approach at Gary L. Francione's Web site: www.abolitionistapproach.com.

Welfare group admits welfare doesn't work, proposes more welfare to fix the problem

A colleague tweeted a link to this article, which I found rather amusing. This is the kind of stuff you're supposed to read about government spending or on The Onion. I thought I would share it. The full length article is here:


It's written by Che Green. It starts:

"As a social scientist,”

Stop. A social scientist with the name Che Green. Really? Now, I don't want a lot of hate mail for picking on the name someone's parents gave him. I just thought it was ironic. Che Green's article shows a serious misunderstanding of both the failure of the environmental movement to gain traction, but also a serious lack of political-economic teeth. At first, I assumed that it must be a pseudonym, and so, I Googled him. Nope. There really is a Che Green.


But, according to his CV, his opinion on these matters is the opinion of someone with neither the practical experience nor the academic credentials required to refer to himself authoritatively as "a social scientist". He's not a PhD; he holds a bachelors. In Business Administration. He's not someone with decades of social science research on the human/non-human relationship. Che Green worked for one animal advocacy group (starting in 2002, where he was executive director, by himself) before working as Executive Director at Humane Research Council. Before that, he worked at Microsoft doing marketing research.

As someone who knows marketing spin when he sees it, this revelation made me lulz. Yes, I'm a big meanie, but that only raises serious questions about you and why you're reading this blog.

Now, don't get me wrong. I know how animal adovocates love to get wound up when someone claims to know something that they don't just because that someone has studied the issue for years and years, and has bothered to read more than 2 books on the matter, looked at the decades and decades of available data and other evidence on the matter. In the interest of full-disclosure, I think wonderful ideas often come from children, and anyone can make a rational argument.

But what Che Green gives us is a fundamentally irrational and immoral argument, founded on what looks like an apparent lack of knowledge about social justice history, as well as the particular history of animal advocacy and wraps it up as legitimate social science. It's not. Nor is it an argument he's qualified to make in that regard. Nor are the ideas particularly original, since just about every animal welfare organization (except HSUS and very conservative welfare organizations) says we can bridge the gap between welfare and abolition by working exclusively on welfare.

But getting back to Che Green's article, he goes on to point out some obvious, glaring, painful failures of the animal welfare movement:
Companion Animals: Despite significant declines in U.S. shelter euthanasia from 1970 to the mid 1990s, progress over the past decade appears to have slowed. In 2005, on average more than eight shelter animals were euthanized every minute.
Maybe it has something to do with organizations like HSUS refusing to criticize breeding, or maybe it has something to do with organizations like PeTA killing nonhuman animals (17,000 since 1998 according to Newsweek).
Farmed Animals: In 1970, an estimated 3.2 billion animals were raised for food in the U.S. In 2007 that number was 9.5 billion. Additionally, a much larger proportion of farmed animals today are raised in closely confined environments.
Maybe it has something to do with organizations ilke PeTA and Vegan Outreach and many, many others promoting happy meat or "reducing suffernig" instead of promoting veganism. You see, when you promote consumption as morally acceptable, the message people take away is that consumption is morally acceptable. The problem of animal use is animal use, not treatment.
Research Animals: Since the law was created in 1966, the Animal Welfare Act has excluded rats, mice, and birds, thus leaving out about 95% of the animals currently used in research. Not even basic legal protections are mandated for these animals.
Well, maybe this is the result of numerous animal organizations focusing on harassing specific suppliers pointlessly instead of fighting speciesism and promoting the rights of animals not to be used as property and veganism.
Furbearing Animals: Fur is back in fashion thanks to the admittedly brilliant work of the industry to convince consumers that fur trim is less audacious and more ethical. A majority of U.S. adults still believes that buying clothes made of animal fur is "morally acceptable."
Really? It has nothing to do with welfare groups focusing on single issues campaigns, and a move of fur production to Asia, just industry marketing? As a social scientist, I can understand why Che Green might not understand basic political economy, but with a handle like Che? Guevara must be spinning in his grave.
Vegetarianism: Actual vegetarians and vegans in the U.S. are a roughly 2-3% minority among adults, and this percentage has remained essentially unchanged for 20 or more years despite an active vegetarian advocacy community.
This is exactly why we should promote veganism and not vegetarianism. It's worthwhile to note that Che Green does not bother to promote veganism in this article. In fact, he uses the term vegan only 3 times, in this paragraph and two others, both disparagingly. it sounds more like Che Green is opposed to promoting veganism. That's kind of odd. Instead, he suggests that vegans are angry protesters, mobilizes a bunch of silly stereotypes, suggests that the world won't go vegan, etc. Totally unsubstantiated nonsense -- claims pulled from the air without a shred of evidence. Since when is that sound social science?

Of course, these are all obvious failures of the welfare approach, and that's great. But what’s the solution that Che Green promotes? Abolition! No, wait, it's MORE WELARE:
Given the reality of their situation, animals would probably scoff at the increasingly heated debate among some advocates regarding “welfare reforms” vs. “animal liberation.” A discussion of where to focus one’s limited resources is rarely a bad idea, but to suggest that any single approach to animal advocacy is right – or that others are wrong – is just na├»ve. The argument is moot, not least because advocating for animals will always be a diverse effort. But making gains for animals today is perfectly valid, even if those gains are minimal. And ensuring that we stay focused on the ultimate goal of abolishing animal cruelty (at least to the extent possible) is also a valid role for some advocates to play.”
I have nothing against small gains, at all. Everyone who takes animal rights seriously and goes vegan, stays vegan, says vegan is a "small gain". But welfare is not a small gain. It's a zero-sum game, as Gary Francione argues (c.f., the link to his article further down), and this is the same old standard new welfare argument: let's work on reform now and abolition never.

Frankly, I'm also surprised by the proposal that nonhuman animals would care much about human disagreements. This kind of anthropomorphism is silly and contrafactual. Time to crack a book on animal ethology, I guess. What nonhuman animals want is an unequivocal, immediate, and unconditional end to their slavery (and all the harm that goes with it), and in cases where care is required for domesticated animals, care. Welfare, as Che Green promotes it, only further entrenches that slavery. I spoke with a few animals the other day. You know what they told me? They're tired of their "advocates" apologizing for their slavery and promoting its continuation.

But more seriously, one definition of crazy is to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. If I drop a penny, over and over again, I'm not going to expect it to start floating upwards. Welfarism has failed animals, morally and practically. over and over and over. Welfarism is objectively, strategically and tactically misguided. The answer is not more welfare, it's abolition.

As Gary L Francione argues, the choice is not between welfare and nothing, it is between regulating and entrenching the status of nonhuman animals as our slaves and working to abolish that status and to restore their personhood. More welfare as Che Green argues will only produce more failures. Welfare works to entrench animals as our slaves by reaffirming their status as our property both legally and socially.

Promoting welfare is morally misguided. It is rationally misguided. It stands in contrast to about 30 years of statistical evidence that welfare has not correlated with a drop in animal use, and it stands in contrast to 200 years of history during which promoting nicer use (the welfare position) has correlated with more use.

I’m not a social scientist, but I know the evidence is important. Here's an actually well-written piece on the subject: The Four Problems of Animal Welfare: In a Nutshell

A couple of works cited aside, Che Green's piece is clearly not a bit of social science; it’s thinly veiled marketing. With the recession, the life blood of the “Animal Advocacy for Hire Movement" (donations) are on the downswing. I don't think it's a coincidence that HSUS' 2008 spending on fundraising jumped to 20% relative to their 2008 revenues (almost double the spend on fundraising compared with 2007, 2006, and 2005).

When it comes to marketing in an overcrowded niche, it's not just a matter of convincing someone they need indulgences, it's a matter of convincing them that they should buy the indulgences they need from a particular organization. "Don't by the other guy's breath mints, buy mine!" What we’re witnessing, in my view, is a point in the market growth for indulgences/good feeling/adventurism -- the various things that all animal welfare organizations sell is finally resulting in some serious competition and consolidation between these organizations.

For abolitionists, it’s one ideology (abolition) against other ideologies (the wide variety of positions that continue to promote animal use as morally acceptable, and that includes all large animal advocacy groups today). But for those animal welfare advocacy groups, it's their organization's business plan vs. the business plans of their various competitors for donations. So, what I expect is that we'll see a lot of these types of claims going forward: "not all welfare works, just our welfare!"

Don’t be fooled by these kinds of claims. Look behind the curtain. Only abolition works to end animal slavery, and abolition means veganism. If you are not vegan today, you should go vegan. If you are vegan, but not an abolitionist, you can learn more about the approach at Gary L. Francione’s Web site, www.abolitionistapproach.com.

Animal Advocacy, the Musical

I’ve wanted to write a blog staging out the animal advocacy movement as a musical for a long time, and I’ve finally had a quick opportunity. I imagine it as a Sgt. Pepper’s meets Jesus Christ Superstar. Prepare to be insulted!

First, you’d have the traditional welfare groups. A colleague has suggested a wonderful Beatles track for their sequences, and I agree fully.


That track really does remind me of HSUS (who raked in half a billion dollars in revenues since 2005 -- see my previous article), but not just HSUS, also a number of traditional welfare groups.

Next up, you have militant new welfarism. The theme here is still largely financial, but also with some serious life-style politics and lumpenproletarianism thrown in. What better choice than Steve Miller for them?


Oh, Billy Joe and Boby Sue. Turn off that TV and crack a book (you can start with Rain Without Thunder). There’s still hope for you.

As I imagine it, a certain organization responsible for the deaths of 17,000 animals since 1998 gets their own personal theme as well. I don’t want to name names, but their initials are PeTA. A lot of songs to choose from. But I think a classic from Metallic’s first album (Kill ‘Em All) is the appropriate fit here, No Remorse. I know a lot of Metallica fans will be upset with the comparison, but life's not always perfect.


And of course, as a corollary for this one, it would be impossible to leave out a Madonna classic, Don’t Cry for Me Argentina. 




Every time I think of Gary L. Francione, I can’t help think of the Beatles song (and it’s here that the Sgt. Peppers motifs become clearer). Although maybe Hard Day’s Night is more appropriate, since I don’t know many advocates who has so tirelessly done what they could to help life nonhuman animals out of slavery.


I once carried around a picture of Chairman Mao. In the interests of full disclosure, I didn’t make it with anyone. But seriously, I never carried a picture of Chairman Mao. I don’t even own a Che Guevarra t-shirt. I care a picture of myself.

Of course, I’d be remise if I ddin’t have my own theme song. Musicals are for vanity and melodrama, and mine would be incompletely without my own theme song. I really invested a lot of thought into this. I decided to go with Billy Joel’s class.


In my defense, I was only having fun in writing this blog. I don’t own a motorcycle, and I don’t know any dirty jokes, but I am thinking about buying an electric bike, I would ride it in the rain and I have crashed a lot of parties. Now all I have to do is to work out the plot and lined up a producer.

The advocacy movement is often opportunistic, often surreal, often deeply self-serving, often deeply misguided in its views with respect to what we owe nonhuman animals – the stuff of which great musical theatre is made. But no one should blame other animals for that. If you’re not vegan, go vegan today. It doesn't cost a penny. The most important work is perfectly legal. You can save lives rather than taking them, you don't to be crazy, and no picture of Chairman Mao required. If you’re not an abolitionist, you can learn more about the approach at
www.abolitionistapproach.com or reading my earlier articles.

HSUS: Half a Billion Dollars in Revenues since 2005. Not a Penny for an Abolitionist Vegan Campaign

A short blog this time: the numbers speak for themselves. Since 2005, the Humane Society of the United States has realized more than US$515million dollars in revenues. Not a dollar of this has been devoted to promoting what helps other animals most: their right not to be used as property and veganism as the unequivocal moral baseline for taking that right seriously.

Now, I'm not a microeconomist, and so, I may get the math wrong here, but this seems pretty clear. I am not saying that they do not engage in other work or education programs, pay salaries and so on. HSUS does. What I am saying is that none of these education programs explain to people what they owe other animals (veganism and the abolition of their status as our property) or how they can best help other animals (veganism and the abolition of their status as our property). I am also saying that it is simply amazing and shameful that an organization promotes the consumption of some animals while generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues promoting a supposedly "humane" approach to our relationship with nonhuman animals.

According to HSUS' annual reports, they generated the following revenues:

2005 Revenues: $140,912,085
2006 Revenues: $122,635,763
2007 Revenues: $120,552,973
2008 Revenues: $131,281,168

Or about $515 million dollars since 2005. How are they spending the money? There's a popular myth that HSUS devotes a majority of its wealth to direct animal care. But according to their annual reports:

In 2006, $6,608,349 (5.3% compared with revenues) went to animal care facilities. In 2006, $14,112,951 (11.5% compared with revenues) went to fundraising.

In 2007, $6,677,918 (5.5% compared with revenues) went to animal care facilities. in 2007, $12,861,237 (10.6% compared with revenues) went to fundraising.

In 2008, $6,774,268 (5.1% compared with revenues) went to animal care facilities. In 2008, $27,533,910 (20.9% compared with revenues) went to fundraising.

The pattern seems pretty clear, and it's a pretty shameful one. Almost double the amount spent on fundraising compared with animal care facilities, year after year, until 2008, when it jumps to more than 4 times as much.

If you want to take nonhuman animals seriously, you can start today. It doesn't require a donation; you can start by taking the rights of animals not to be used as property seriously, by going vegan and by working toward abolishing (not regulating) their status as our slaves. It won't cost you anything, but the value to other animals is incalculable.

If you are not vegan, go vegan today. If you are already vegan, and not an abolitionist, read my other articles or check out Gary L. Francione's Web site http//www.abolitionistapproach.com to learn more about the approach.

Caring for other animals: does the personal adoption of other animals harm the movement?

There are, of course, some advocates who oppose the personal adoption of nonhuman animals, and some who promote euthanasia or abandonment as the solution. According to Newsweek,PETA has killed more than 17,000 animals, nearly 85 percent of all those it has rescued” since 1998. There are others who propose that using other animals is morally fine, so long as we also care for them. This blog doesn't address either perspective at length; both are very deeply misguided. The untimely killing of other animals or their abandonment are morally derelict and speciesist; the proposal that we can use others so long as we care for them is deeply problematic and speciesist.

However, there are other advocates who argue that we are doing more harm than good to “the movement” with personal adoption and that domesticated animals should be placed in sanctuaries. When this notion functions as a blanket statement that precludes the personal adoption of other animals who require personal care, I believe it is often very misguided.

There are, of course, serious moral considerations to be taken into account with personal adoption. I don’t deal with those issues in this blog, but I am not dismissing them summarily. However, some other animals simply cannot care for themselves and this leaves us with the moral problem of what care is best.

If we promote care, it should be in light of those rights, not in place of them. As Francione writes:

“[F]ood” animals, “laboratory” animals, rodeo “animals”, or “circus” animals assume various social constructs of the “animal” other and all of these characterizations normatively assume that the “animal” is a “thing” that we can use for our “benefit.”
(Francione, Animals as Persons, p. 188)

To propose that we should not fulfill our duties to care for domesticated nonhumans in light of the possibility that it could leave some standers-by with the wrong impression is to return us to a position in which we think of other animals as things; only in this instance as burdens we might reasonably shrug off rather than as tools that might benefit us.

First, we should understand that insofar as abolitionists oppose property status, it should be on the basis that each individual nonhuman animal holds the moral right not to be used as property, and so, should have the legal right not to be used as property. If we are opposed to slavery, and if we are in favor of its abolition, then we should be so out of sense of moral obligation to other individual animals as rights-holders. It is for this reason that we work to establish their legal right not to be used as property. If we cannot pay what we owe (providing care) without leaving others with the wrong impression (that nonhumans are property that we care for), then paying what we owe should always be more important to our thinking and practice.

An example: Let's say that I believe that nonviolence is morally important, and so, as my general political objective, I want a nonviolent world. Let's say, in light of this view, that I believe that beating someone is morally wrong and that I have some duty to protect the rights of others if someone is being beaten. Let's also say I'm opposed to prostitution as an institution because I believe it is a violent economic relationship, and that I have some duty to promote an end to prostitution.

With these moral views in mind, let's say I see someone beating a prostitute on the street. Let's say that I shout help or phone the police on his/her/zir behalf. This act may leave at least some bystanders with the impression that I support prostitution. This would be a bad inference on their parts, but people often reason poorly. It seems clear that if I take my objective of nonviolence seriously then

  • First, I have a some clear duty to intercede on behalf of the prostitute as the victim of violent behaviour,
  • Second, that no one should reasonably infer that just by trying to stop the public beating of a prostitute that I endorse prostitution,
  • Third, that what I owe the prostitute in definite terms is more morally pressing than the conclusion that the crowd may or may not draw and
  • Fourth, and finally, it is really not possible to understand my helping the prostitute in this instance and opposing prostitution as an institution as mutually exclusive, insofar as they both further my objective, which is to promote nonviolence.

Certainly, we are not morally required to risk our own safety to intervene nonviolently in this kind of situation of immanent harm (so the analogy is not entirely apt). We might propose that it would be morally wrong for me to start beating the perpetrator in turn. But it would be morally problematic to propose that someone was doing 'something wrong' simply by nonviolently opposing the rights violation of another person in a situation of immanent harm in a socially appropriate way because it 'might leave people with the wrong impression'. Similarly, it is morally problematic to propose that personal adoption of a nonhuman animals is wrong because it may harm the movement.

Second, we must understand that these individual rights and our duties in light of them should always take precedence over the possible broader social consequences that we might imagine. It is not enough to ask: what do we owe other animals generally? We must also ask: what do I owe the particular animals (human or non) as individuals? Of course, there may be conflicts between individual rights holders, but that is meaningfully different from proposing that we take the negative opinions of some more seriously than what we owe other animals.

I'm not an ethologist, but two things we should keep in mind with respect to almost all other animals. Most of them have 'natures' in the sense that they have biological predispositions and capabilities that help them to perceive and respond to the world. Humans, for example, have a capability for language, and that tends to make them social for the most part. But we all know there are plenty of anti-social human beings, and, in part, this is the result of how they are socialized, personal preferences, etc.

Many animal species are socialized individually, and that includes 'wild' and 'feral' animals. The difference is that some are socialized with humans as care givers, some not. Even if a species is not domesticated per se, if the individuals involved have been socialized around human people, naturally, that makes a difference to what we should consider to be optimal care. Those socialized with humans are probably going to do much better with human care in general circumstances, and even those not socialized with humans are probably going to do much better with human care depending on the circumstances.

For example, the shelter cats that live with my partner and I would probably do poorly even in a very well-suited colony environment. The semi-feral cats that live with us might be fine in a colony in a nonurban area of the world with a climate that suits them, but they also may not be. But, definitely, in an urban area in a climate that reaches well below 0C in the winters, they are all much better off with us (indoors!).

Finally, the personal adoption of domestic animals may leave others with the sense that it is morally acceptable to keep nonhuman animals as property but shelters and sanctuaries do not necessarily address this problem. Of course, it’s not only possible but likely that personal adoption does convince at least some people that it is acceptable to keep nonhuman animals as property. First, however, we should not subject the fulfillment of our moral duties to the bad inferences of others. Second, it's not clear that sanctuaries would not still convince some people that it is morally acceptable to keep someone nonhuman animals as property. Further, many supposed sanctuaries actively use nonhumans to drive donations, some while promoting animal products, serving animal products or otherwise, continuing to profit at the expense of nonhuman animals.

Third, we're still 'keeping them as property' today even in sanctuaries from a legal perspective as much as we're 'keeping them as property' at a personal level. The solution, in this instance, is not to refuse rescue work or personal adoption, but to continue to educate people about speciesism, why it is morally wrong, and why the abolition of animal use and veganism are moral imperatives.

The realities of the present situation leave us with limited choices. There are simply too many domesticated animals that need care today and abolitionist shelters are too far from existing; personal adoption is the only meaningful choice today for most care givers and most care receivers. While thinking and imagining alternatives is very valuable to our work, we must also be mindful of the realities of any given moral situation.

Of course, should certainly create facilities that can provide optimal care for domesticated animals, and it's not clear that personal adoption is always the best choice for all species. In the meantime, though, we cannot meaningfully consider the personal adoption (of a person who has rights to whom we owe a duty of care) and the building sanctuaries/shelters (for persons who have rights and to whom we owe a duty of care) to be mutually exclusive work.

If we stopped personally adopting nonhuman animals, a great many would die of starvation, cold or other means. That doesn't mean we shouldn't support shelters or sanctuaries. It does mean, however, that until there are shelters that could actually do the work, whether personal adoption or sanctuaries are better reflects mostly a thought experiment.

It also raises a serious moral question why so many vegans are so unreflectingly forgiving of themselves and yet so comfortable turning their backs on those dependent on us for care. This almost certainly leaves many people with the impression that nonhuman animals are simply things we don’t use. Other animals are persons with rights, and our actions should be guided by this principle.

But if you wish to take other animals seriously as person with rights, the most important thing you can do is go vegan. If you are not vegan yet, go vegan today. If you are vegan but are not an abolitionist, read through my other articles or go to www.abolitionstapproach.com to learn more about the approach.

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