Friday, 22 January 2016

Five questions for Gary Francione

Following on from my previous post about the problems of Francione’s Abolitionist Approach I would like to put the following questions to Gary, and to anyone who is an adherent to Francione’s version of animal rights.
His argument is centred around two main tenets. The first of these is that speciesism is wrong and indeed equivalent to other “isms” such as sexism, as they are all based on essentialism.  The second tenet is that if you believe animals matter morally then you must also accept his animal rights theory is correct, specifically that animal sentience, which Francione believes is the foremost morally relevant characteristic, means they have the right not to be used as property, a right that comes before all other rights. The questions below challenge these arguments and have never as far as I can tell been addressed in his writing
1.       Underlying your argument is we should give animals the right not to be treated as property based on their sentience and have interests. Is not this purely based on a moral intuition?

2.       Why do you believe your moral intuition that interests = rights is logically more valid than the utilitarian intuition that animal suffering and wellbeing is what matters most?

3.       Do you agree that ascribing moral worth to Human vs non-human animals based on moral intuitions is no more essentialist than ascribing moral worth to sentient vs non-sentient animals?

4.       Do you agree that deciding what is, and is not a morally relevant characteristic, and what rights they entail, is purely based on morally intuition and only invalid when held inconsistently or is based on a factual misconception (such as when racists hold moral intuitions against races based on biased factual misconceptions about  racial “inferiority”?

5.       Given your lack of advocacy to give wild animals all the rights we give to children, specifically the rights we give to infants to have their basic needs satisfied, does that make you a speciesist?

These questions are so important because of the effect they have on the debate within the animal rights movements. Francione uses arguments about speciesism and his version of animal rights to effectively divide vegans against each other, whether that be against major vegan campaign organisations or against others such as vegan feminist groups. He uses inflammatory language, and then falls back on mischaracterising what his opponents think, such as that they think he is somehow an ableist, sexist or racist for holding his views against speciesism or even just his particular brand of animal rights.

This is absolutely not the case. By and large accusations are made against him due to the language that he uses, for example when he argues that his opponents need to take medication or have "moral schizophrenia". There are many theories on animal rights, and even if one accepts his arguments against speciesism, this does not require one to hold his other particular views on animal rights. And even if you accept his arguments on animal rights and against speciesism, you don't have to believe it in the fundamentalist way that leads to Francione belligerently rejecting other vegans moral intuitions that lead them to give partial support for reducetarianism to reduce animal suffering, even if you disagree with them. I ask you to think about the above questions and avoid getting bogged down in his divisive campaigns against vegan groups such as the vegan society, which have done and continue to do so much good. Go vegan and but don't be driven by fundamentalism.

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