No one is perfect. Everyone is open to criticism. Any individual or group can be examined and criticized where appropriate and fair. The misery and death perpetrated against nonhuman animals is an unfathomable catastrophic hell, and one should seek to improve the lives of victims whenever possible while pursuing an end to the practices. This is what we would do with a human rights situation and nonhumans deserve no less.
In the 1980s and well into the 1990s, the conflicts between "animal rights" and "animal welfare" centered on disagreements between those who sought only to improve the lives of victims of exploitation and those who sought to end it, as well as disputes over illegal methods of protest (as was the case with efforts to end the slave trade). But any improvements in the wellbeing of nonhuman animal victims were not seen as a bad thing - except by the exploitation industries and their supporters. This is what we would do if the victims were human. Anti-death penalty advocates would welcome changes in policy that eliminated more sadistic forms of execution. We would not say: "Who cares if they suffer when they are going to be killed anyway?"
In recent years there are individuals who repeatedly declare their support for non-human rights and vegan goals but have been intensely critical of traditional tactics and campaigns, as well as the advocates themselves. And yet, so strong is their criticism that the exploitation industries are given much gentler treatment if not ignored completely.
It is reasonable to assume that someone who is very harsh on advocates would be as hard on the exploitation side they claim to oppose - the cause of the problem. If not, then one can ask this question: Why are you agreeing with the anti-AR arguments of those who engineer and profit from maintaining and increasing the exploitation of nonhuman animals?
There are a few beliefs being circulated by vegan animal rights advocates which originated from the mouths of the most hostile opponents to veganism and animal rights:
"big activist groups that oppose vivisection and other industry exploitation needlessly kill shelter animals when they can use donated money to keep them housed indefinitely"
"protests (aka single issue campaigns), ballot initiatives, and legislative changes by activists are useless, and will only increase not decrease animal exploitation"
"we can trust exploitation industry to make reforms according to consumer demand"
"a vivisector is more ethical than a non-vegan anti-vivisection campaigner"
"activists must be morally perfect–they must be against all exploitation of human and nonhuman animals"
"anti-fur campaigns are motivated by hatred of women"
"animal rights activists are racist"
"single issue campaigns only serve as fundraisers for big charities"
Every single one of these statements essentially mean: Exploitation isn’t the problem, the activists are the problem.
If you are a vegan or animal rights advocate, do you want to be agreeing with the side that opposes your goals?
This is what needs to be asked of supporters of Nathan Winograd and Gary Francione.
Who cares if they suffer as long as they aren’t killed?
Nathan Winograd advocates no kill shelters claiming that the overpopulation of cats and dogs is a myth and that PETA and HSUS are maniacally committed to killing healthy animals (for monetary or nefarious ideological reasons), when the animals can be housed indefinitely through donations (a charge that was made against PETA in the early 90s by vivisectors facing criticism for animal torture).
He emphasizes a "let the market decide" view, claiming that if all shelters were no kill, this would drive animal breeders and pet stores out of business.
Regardless of whether PETA and HSUS can be criticized on ideology or policy, Winograd portrays PETA and HSUS as the problem, not any other factor or entity. He talks about PETA and HSUS having the budgets to house shelter animals indefinitely, but interestingly, does not make such a demand for financial assistance to shelters from the pet/companion animal industry such as food manufacturers or big chain stores, who help engineer and profit from the problem. Winograd does not offer solutions for how to avoid animals crammed into cages for their entire lives or ending up in abusive situations.
On his blog he speaks in vague terms on his opposition to nonhuman animal exploitation, but when doing a major media piece with a wide audience, he goes for the most savage sensational attack on his target: animal charities that oppose vivisection and meat industry business practices.
One could assume the purpose was to damage the public image of the organization in order to divert from exploiters, the source of the problem, as well as distract, divide, and demoralize advocates. But Winograd claims to be a 20 year vegan, and yet his first book interview was granted to the Center for Consumer Freedom, a widely criticized "astroturfing" group for major exploiters, including vivisection and the meat industry. He has responded to this lapse of integrity by comparing his interview with CCF to Fox News, equating a giant media corporation with a tiny obscure industry front group that opposes everything he claims to stand for.
Nathan Winograd recently announced that he had been denied his request to participate in a vegan conference where he intended to debate Gary Francione.
He wants you to eat like you care but when you stop eating, not care?
Gary Francione is a law professor and author opposed to all forms of nonhuman animal exploitation for human use, while apparently focusing a great deal of his energy on criticism of animal rights advocates and organizations. He bases his "animal rights" argument on the property status of nonhuman animals and the arbitrary nature of criteria used to defend human superiority, maintaining that sentience is the only criteria that matters for determining moral value and that veganism (as he defines it) should be the baseline.
He has long been critical of the concept of "animal welfare" (as he defines it) and criticizes Peter Singer, who has defended some vivisection and non-vegan food consumption in accordance to his utilitarian moral philosophy, for not being a true proponent of animal rights/veganism.
In the 2000s Francione began criticizing "happy meat" welfare reforms, especially after a well-publicized agreement with Whole Foods which was supported by PETA and other organizations, and expanded his opposition to any single issue campaigns (with one exception).
He has regularly attacked PETA and Mercy for Animals among other groups. Like Winograd, he proposes a "let the market decide" solution to nonhuman animal exploitation and is consistently vague and brief on the wrongdoing of industries, sometimes appearing to agree with them in attacks on advocates who support legislation and protests that targets industry or groups.
Here are some examples:
- He has said single issue campaigns and legislative efforts are not only useless but counter–productive (and immoral), fueling a demand for animal products (i.e. a ban on foie gras would encourage people to eat other meat, improvements to the treatment of calves would encourage people to eat more veal).
- He alleges that if people engage in direct on the street vegan advocacy the types of reforms people want to see in farms will happen anyway as industry conforms to public sentiment (but without legislation or protest).
- He has said that there is more fur visible on the streets of London than when he visited it in the 1970s. He has said anti-fur campaigns encourage (if not being motivated by) hatred of women and has hinted that advocates are cowardly for not confronting motorcycle gangs for their use of animal hides in clothing.
- He has implied animal rights advocates who are not purely vegan are hypocrites and should be morally perfect.
- He has said 200 years of welfare reform in the treatment of nonhuman animals has been a total failure.
- He has implied campaigns against dolphin slaughter in Japan are racist and protests of Jewish ritual animal slaughter anti-semitic.
- He has said those opposed to speciesism must also be against racism, sexism, and all other human rights concerns, however, he does not bother to say that an anti-racism or anti-sexism advocate must also be opposed to speciesism, nor does he say someone opposed to racism must also be opposed to sexism etc. (i.e. someone campaigning to end child abuse in Africa is not expected to also advocate for an end to sexism or discrimination against homosexuals at the same time - they are permitted to use single issue campaigns).
- Moral perfection is not demanded of human rights advocates, but it is demanded of nonhuman rights activists.
- This is a common double standard found in the arguments of those who say humans are morally superior in value (which as we have repeatedly said in other articles, falls apart quite easily after you examine the "Supremacy Myth").
- When Francione says a campaign that targets practices of a particular group promotes or encourages racism, he is saying in essence that the suffering and deaths of the nonhuman victims is not as important as hurting the feelings of the victimizers. In other words, humans are superior in value to nonhumans (aka adhering to the myth of human superiority).
His rhetoric is almost identical to comments and attacks made by supporters of exploitation industry dating back well before the 1980s. Every one of these claims has been made by those who engineer and profit from nonhuman animal suffering and death. At the same time, despite his support of a total vegan message, he is surprisingly soft on anti-vegans (those who are aggressively hostile to all aspects of veganism and nonhuman animal rights), often using defensive arguments (i.e. if someone challenges him to choose between a human and a nonhuman he answers by suggesting that if the choice were between a healthy human and a comatose person, just because he may choose the healthy individual does not mean the comatose person should be used in farms or labs. This does not make a strong case for why nonhumans should not be used in farms or labs, but it does counter the Peter Singer view that some nonhumans would be more deserving of moral regard than some humans).
He has also pushed the term "abolitionist" and linked the vegan philosophy to efforts to abolish the African slave trade, implying that abolitionists were not doing a single issue campaign, did not seek incremental change and sought immediate uncompromising abolishing of the slave trade. He ignores that the word abolitionist was a slander term used by pro-slavery interests to label anyone who criticized slavery as an extremist, or that abolitionists split on the issue of including women in leadership positions, and that they included John Brown, who advocated killing slavery supporters.
He has repeatedly equated current public attitudes towards human rights issues with nonhuman rights, ignoring the fact that acceptance of human rights did not happen immediately and came about through incremental changes (racial equality, children’s rights, etc) as public awareness and acceptance of these new ideas overcame ignorance and peer pressure among other obstacles. As we know, a perfect human rights society does not exist even today. His claim that 200 years of welfare reform has been a total failure conveniently ignores increases in world population and the role of exploitation industry in aggressively pursuing greater and greater profits during this time. He employs a glaring double standard, demanding that advocates ignore current abuse of nonhuman animals in society even though, if humans were the victims, such a position would be considered callous and immoral. Interestingly, his implied belief that universal human rights existed as a concept in society in the time of the African slave trade also echoes sentiments by nonsensical anti-animal rights parties that try to romanticize "human supremacy" as something universal and eternal instead of the reality: a recent conceptual development no different in design from racial supremacy or other bigoted harmful beliefs.
Despite his use of the term abolitionist, he is fiercely opposed to ALF activities as well, and when a pro-vivisection writer opined that an increase in UK experiments may have been due to the acts of a small number of "violent" activists - Francione was quick to agree in full, ignoring other factors like the greed of vivisectors or the callous disregard of institutions. Apparently only the advocates are to blame, and if they cannot police their own ranks (something no social movement has ever been able to do successfully) then they are responsible for the exploitation.
Francione’s hostility towards single issue campaigns that do not emphasize veganism has one exception: the adoption of cats and dogs from shelters, an issue that is completely removed from advocating vegan philosophy and one that is not opposed by anti-animal rights interests since taking an animal from a shelter does not challenge exploitation businesses.
On one hand he promotes a naively idealistic vegan "domino effect" conversion and on the other he consistently seeks to divide and demoralize activists, slandering them in public media, and steering them away from advocacy that would champion campaigns that exploitation industries oppose while demanding they seek vegan personal purity. It must be noted, exploitation industries do not oppose his "domino effect" vegan advocacy or his demand that vegans be morally perfect since a boycott of products with stearic acid by vegan individuals will do nothing to affect their businesses.
Like Winograd, he blames activists for imperfection in dealing with a problem although Francione avoids claiming there is no problem except the actions of advocates as Winograd does. However, he also goes very soft on exploiters, stating it as a matter of fact that exploitation is wrong without a detailed reason as to why for the benefit of any non vegans. And like Winograd, he ignores the role of exploitation supporters in maintaining or increasing cruelty and injustice. And rather incredibly, Francione suggests that industry can be trusted to make compassionate improvements on the road to vegan utopia without any kind of legislation or protest as they will apparently gladly concede to change (despite all news reports of them aggressively lobbying to prevent changes in law except for such things as criminalizing undercover investigations into the meat and dairy or vivisection industries).
Francione has not appeared to comment on Winograd’s single issue campaigning efforts or criticized him for not promoting a vegan message. But he has shared Winograd’s hysterical attacks on PETA through his internet media pages.
Francione has related anecdotes of his alleged encounters with single issue campaign protestors who gave up protesting on seal killing or hunting because they concluded they were in no position to protest when they weren’t vegan aka morally perfect. In almost every case Francione adds a comment such as: "they’re right" or "I absolutely agree." Does he convert them to veganism after announcing his agreement with exploiter’s demoralizing and diversionary rhetoric?
Francione’s advice for advocates is to ignore stubborn nonvegans and concentrate on people who show compassion for nonhuman animals. And yet he has compared meat eaters to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer or convicted dogfighter Michael Vick, speaking in a cavalier presumptive fashion which is sure to alienate people unless a detailed explanation is given for the morality behind extending concern to nonhumans (it is like shouting: "We are all Pol Pot!" during a discussion of genocide in Rwanda). A detailed explanation he does not bother to provide.
Also, he avoids going into compassionate appeals or detailed examples of exploitation - sticking to a mechanical recitation of an ethics formula adapted from Singer and Regan but more inclusive than theirs. This would suggest he is even more of an animal rights champion than they are, and yet, he consistently spreads a message of discouragement and divisiveness.
In the final analysis it does not matter what motivates Winograd and Francione to behave as they do, what is important is the message they convey, who benefits, and who doesn’t. The victims of vivisection, the meat and dairy industry, and other exploitation are not served by those who declare to be on their side while naively working to distract, divide, and demoralize the advocates challenging the institutions that create and profit from suffering and death. Nathan Winograd and Gary Francione may have the very best of intentions, but by being the unwitting mouthpiece of the injustices and industries they oppose, they harm more than they help.
Please, don’t be a fifth column vegan.
There are endless examples of curious statements and behavior by Winograd and/or Francione. Here is a tiny sample (boldface is not in source text):
Victim of censorship?
You would think if he, a "20 year vegan", regarded vivisection as important he would start off an interview by declaring his firm opposition to it and other exploitation instead of adding it as an after thought on his blog with far less public reach:
I just did a radio interview on PETA’s campaign of companion animal extermination, based on my Huffington Post expose. Toward the end of the interview, the host asked me about killing rats for medical research and when I tried to speak out against that, too, I was cut off. (Blog)
Here he goes into a hyperbolic tirade against PETA as usual and someone asks what they can do about a no kill shelter that abuses the animals. Instead of telling her how awful that is or to take the matter to the police or other authorities, he makes a short dismissive comment and directs her to a PR pamphlet for his site. This is Nathan Winograd, the animals’ savior. Also notice he deleted all negative comments.
Sherry M: "I’ve got a question. Is there any oversight for Rescues? Ran into one, very bad! Does anyone check on these rescuers? I’m all for no kill, but don’t want to see dogs tortured either…. So if a rescue takes in dogs, collects the donations, but doesn’t feed, socialize, exercise, clean them, what as a citizen can I do? I had rented my house to a rescue and witnessed this. As far as anyone was concerned this was legal. They would let things go just long enough. The dogs were adopted, without the new owners, knowledge of this, and no home checks either. Some were aggressive, and just might wind up in shelters again, because they didn’t socialize them. Scary to think it could be a cycle."
Nathan Winograd: Sherry M It depends on the state, but as you know, it is not an either-or proposition. In other words, the choice is not death at the pound or torture. (Facebook)
Nathan Winograd says don’t blame breeders or the pet industry
"To continue to reduce every issue to a failure to spay/neuter is exactly what the regressive shelter director and the large, national groups which fight No Kill want animal activists to do: point the finger of blame anywhere but on those who are actually doing the killing. Those who love animals must stop giving them the luxury of this out. We don’t need animals to disappear from the Earth before we can do right by them. Instead, we should be demanding that those we pay to care for homeless animals with our tax and philanthropic dollars provide them the care, kindness, and a loving home that is their birthright." (Blog)
(see previous item where he doesn’t appear to care about oversight of no kill shelters)
To Nathan Winograd, CCF = Fox News in media value?
Fox News is a giant media company that is impossible to avoid (even if you want to). CCF is a tiny obscure front group for industry that is easy to ignore (if one wants to).
During the same period, I did an interview on Fox News. For those who know me, my politics are different than theirs. I voted for Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich in the last two presidential primaries, not exactly the candidates embraced by Fox News. But I did the interview, not because I am caught in a "web of corruption" with Fox News, but because I know that when it comes to saving dogs and cats from death in shelters, all those things that separate us as Americans don’t apply. Red states or blue, rich or poor, black or white, Democrats or Republicans, we all love animals. (Blog)
Gary Francione appears to throw some support towards a single issue campaign
"And it is time for New York City shift toward a progressive no-kill shelter situation. This can be achieved if New Yorkers have political will to make it happen." (Website)
Gary Francione: Industry is not the problem/vivisectors aren’t so bad either?
The institutional exploiters are not "the enemy". We are the ones who demand animal products. If we stopped consuming animal products, institutional users would shift their capital elsewhere. (Website)
Let the market decide!
Gary Francione: vivisection is so wrong that vivisectors are right?
Here he seems to make the assumption that many nonvegan anti-vivisection supporters have thought about their diet and the suffering and death it brings to nonhuman animals and deliberately and callously dismissed such concerns. He then suggests that a vivisector who directly and knowingly tortures an animal is morally superior to such protestors. He denies the anti-vivisection supporter the possibility of being kind but ignorant and gives the vivisector, who knowingly engineers torture of victims, the credit of noble social intentions.
"Many 'animal people' are not even vegan and are willing to tolerate and support the torture of nonhuman animals simply because they like the taste of animal products and just cannot give up the cheese, ice cream, or whatever animal products it is that they eat. How are these people any different in a moral sense from vivisectors? At least some vivisectors think that they are performing some social good. As I have indicated in my writing, I do not agree that the use of animals is necessary as an empirical matter and, like Penman and others, I maintain that vivisection is often clearly counterproductive."
Gary Francione: Those who give up on protesting injustice are right?
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. (Website)
Then did he convert them to veganism???
Gary Francione on Karen Davis and UPC
Let me be clear: I oppose the use of chickens as Kapparos–or for any other purpose. And I like Karen Davis personally ; I am glad that she was out there beginning in the mid-1980s trying to sensitize people to the plight of chickens, who are, with fish, the animals most exploited by humans but were often overlooked even by animal advocates. I appreciate that she promotes veganism more than many other charities do but I disagree with some of the welfarist campaigns she has supported and I am bothered by the anti-Kapparos campaign.
This is a perfect example of what is wrong with single-issue campaigns: they encourage the idea that what some group does is worse than what the rest of us do. A single-issue campaign focused on fur lets everyone who wears wool or leather off the hook and gives them an excuse to hate or attack those (mostly women) who wear fur. A single issue campaign about the dolphins at Taiji allows people, many of whom are not even vegan, to engage in vile ethnocentric and xenophobic hate speech against the Japanese. A single-issue campaign against a squirrel-shooting in a rural community encourages people to call those involved "rednecks" and "backward" when they are doing nothing different from what any non-vegan does or supports. And a campaign focused on Kapparos gives people an excuse to segregate the Jews as "bad people.
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. (Website)
Gary Francione: PETA and exploitation industries are collaborators?
Although Newkirk’s praise for Grandin is ostensibly bewildering, it makes perfect sense. There is a symbiotic relationship here. 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.
As I have written in connection with this debate and elsewhere, including my academic work and blog essays, I regard the actions of groups like PETA to be problematic. I think that it is terribly wrong under any circumstance to say that some form of "better" exploitation should be normatively endorsed when the resulting situation still involves a violation of fundamental rights. To say that a slave owner who beats his slaves five times a week is "better" than one who beats his slaves six times a week does not mean that the former is practicing "humane" slavery, or that the "better" slavery is morally acceptable, or that the "better" slave owner ought to be declared a "Visionary." (Website)
Gary Francione: They are right but hypocrites?
Here he has a major media platform to speak out as a vegan and animal rights supporter why horse carriages are wrong - instead, he does a brief "Oh yes it is wrong of course" and attacks the horse carriage opponents for moral imperfection as any supporter of horse carriages would do.
So it’s apparent that our thinking about animals is very confused. Given the grand scheme of animal use, it is somewhat arbitrary to target the carriage-horse industry. Indeed, opposition to that industry by those who criticize it while chomping down on their burgers is based on nothing more principled than that we fetishize horses but not cows. It is like sitting around the dinner table eating animals while we discuss what a bad person Michael Vick was for fighting them. (NYTimes)
Gary Francione: Veganism and child abuse?
Gary Francione posted an article link at his facebook page 27/06/14: It may not seem so at first glance, but this is a rather demoralizing item about veganism in the news and also provides a poor response to use on others when such an issue is raised. Who would feed their infant child hard boiled eggs or steak? If he is inviting people to use this answer it would set the vegan advocate up for ridicule. Also, in the original fb post he doesn’t say he will write to Salon and set them straight or urge others to do the same.
Is veganism child abuse? A mother is arrested for infant neglect after a hospital crisis that began with her veganism. (Salon)
These parents limited an infant’s diet to "soy milk and apple juice." That’s not a vegan diet. That’s a stupid diet. If the parents fed the child nothing but hard boiled eggs or steak that the child could not chew or digest, we would not be reading some article titled, "Is feeding animal products to an infant child abuse?" This is appallingly biased and just plain bad journalism.
Gary Francione on Vegan Outreach
Getting people to accept the beliefs and ideology of veganism is not easy especially as industry and social culture maintain so much peer pressure against it, and when you sincerely wish to get people to change it is probably not a good idea to badger them with a "you must be morally perfect" right from the start. You can run the risk of sabotaging the effort and making them regard all future vegan entreaties with hostility (as well as spreading bad publicity to others about veganism). And yet, here we see Francione chime in to support a demand for vegan perfectionism in advocacy, just as a proponent of exploitation industries would demand of animal rights protestors.
While Donald Watson, who coined the word "vegan," was not advocating personal purity or moral perfection, Francione has a different view (in line with the views of exploitation supporter attacks on animal rights advocates).
"Vegan" Outreach maintains that it’s okay to eat meat and other animal products on occasion and we should not seek personal purity. (VO pdf) In my view, that’s not vegan outreach-it’s vegan bashing. If you care about veganism, consider whether supporting "Vegan" Outreach is a good idea. (Facebook)
Gary Francione: Vegans must be morally perfect? What about human rights activists?
Getting the public to pay attention to vegan/animal rights messages is difficult, and for those who think that the torture and death of billions of nonhumans is an infinitely greater concern than the risk of offending some people’s beliefs on race and gender in advertising imagery, the use of nudity or comparisons to racial injustice is considered acceptable and/or necessary. Whether such imagery is effective is another debate entirely. Francione is demanding that animal rights activists strive for moral perfection and avoid anything that would violate total allegiance to human rights beliefs. But does he make the same demand that human rights advocates avoid speciesism? He does not say, but his demand is exactly what supporters of exploitation industries have demanded of animal rights activists.
2. Those who reject speciesism are committed to rejecting racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other forms of discrimination as well.
Explanation: Some animal advocates maintain that the "animal movement" does not take a position on other forms of discrimination. That is not correct. Those of us who want justice for nonhumans are necessarily committed to justice for humans and for an end to human discrimination as well as discrimination against nonhumans. The animal movement should not, for example, be perpetuating sexism as a means to the end of animal rights. Sexism involves the commodification of women. Commodification is the problem, and not the solution. (Website)
Additional Critiques of Nathan Winograd and/or Gary Francione
Why PETA Euthanizes
Website devoted to answering Winograd’s attacks, not to be confused with Why PETA Kills although that is what Winograd likely hopes will happen as he created that website in response to the other.
Dr. David Sztybel Blogs:
Negativism in Francione, and Avoiding Negativism towards Francione
Playing into the Hands of Animal Exploiters
The Test Period
Demolishing the Absurd Myth of Complacency with 10% Support
Am I Obsessed with Gary Francione? No.