Some people have a very small moral universe. That is, they only extend moral concern to a very small number of people, ignoring strangers and other animals. Others seem, at times, to have a limited metaethical and jurisprudential universe or, at least, take an unduly reductionist approach to ethical and jurisprudential concepts. In doing so, despite having developed ethical and philosophical theories – far more developed ones than my shaky metaethics – people can reduce complex jurisprudential or ethical ideas to convenient boxes.
Jean Kazez has refused to discuss her misrepresentations of my work with me on my podcast. She is obviously unable to do so.
Although not as well known as Professor Francione, Jean Kazez has a few things in common with him. Both teach philosophy. Kazez is a professor of philosophy at the Southern Methodist University of Dallas Texas; Francione is a Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark. Both have written books that purport to advocate for ethical concern for animals. Both frequently update their respective blogs: Francione’s Abolitionist Approach and Kazez’s In Living Colour and Animal Rights SMU. In her course on animal rights, Kazez covers Francione’s work. So why was Professor Francione challenging Professor Kazez to a debate?
Well, that’s where the similarities end.
Professor Francione advocates abolitionist animal rights, promotes veganism as an ethical baseline, and remorselessly attacks ‘new welfarism’. Indeed, Francione wrote – in my opinion – the definitive work on the sad state of the animal ‘rights’ movement: Rain Without Thunder. According to Francione – and if you are involved in the broad animal liberation movement or simply vegan or vegetarian, I cannot recommend his work highly enough – the majority of self-professed ‘animal rights’ organisations are more accurately termed ‘new welfarist’ organisations. This is because rather than advocating the rights of animals (that is, to not be property and to not be killed) they advocate bigger cages, demand longer chains, and accept slaughterhouses. Thus, instead of actually helping animals, according to Francione, attacks on battery farming and the like help the animal industry by in effect promoting humane meat (I have missed whole swathes of his reasoning and grossly simplified the picture; my apologies to the Professor for that. Again, I recommend his work highly).
In contrast, Professor Kazez is new welfarist in the extreme. She is vegetarian, but sees ‘allies’ in ‘ethical omnivores and even carnivores’. According to Kazez: ‘animals also benefit from the humane farming movement’ so ‘half-measures ought to be encouraged and appreciated’. In her forthcoming book, she ‘argues against certain kinds of egalitarianism’.
So, those are the two characters for this story. The setting is, naturally, their respective blogs and the internet at large. But the story begins in the New York Times.
I linked to Gary Steiner’s New York Times editorial last weekend and noted the controversy that it generated. This controversy is, of course, understandable: Professor Steiner advocated veganism in the United States’ largest metropolitan newspaper. Moreover, he quoted the Polish-born, Jewish author Isaac Bashevis Singer describing animal slaughter as ‘the eternal Treblinka‘. When you compare something most people (sadly) tolerate or accept to the Holocaust, you will stir up trouble. Even though I agree entirely with this part of Professor Steiner’s article, I can understand people’s hostility. The New Zealand Herald yesterday published a ridiculous op-ed from former WTO head Mike Moore, in which he compared environmentalism to fascism (and book-burning, and religious fanaticism, and just about to the Majestic-12, Illuminati, reptilian, ZOG secret world-government, so deep runs his apparent delusion). I was, as you can probably tell, a little miffed. So, I can understand that some people who like meat wouldn’t like his comparison.
But, the thing that demands more thought is that the vast majority of the controversy online is between self-professed animal liberationists, animal rights advocates, vegans, and vegetarians. One such vegetarian is … Professor Kazez. I have already quoted her letter to the editor. In summary, she objects to his rejection of ‘half measures’ because apparently those half measures help animals. Kazez didn’t just write a letter though; she also posted a blog entry: Humane Turkey.
Her blog entry is textbook new welfarism. She starts by demanding more patience and tolerance from Professor Steiner. Why? Because, uh, there is ‘no denying that meat tastes good, leather looks good, and egg whites make a cake nice and fluffy’. So, presumably, using creative, non-violent means to advocate veganism won’t work. She has, apparently, ‘been encountering a lot of people like him’. These people are, apparently, misguided because ‘humanely’ raised turkeys and free range chickens have better lives than factory farmed animals. Abolition is ideal, but no one will accept it, so let’s just call for welfare.
This sparked a flurry of criticism, often from self-professed abolitionists. The metaphor of slavery, naturally, entered the discussion. According to Kazez:
Steiner thinks killing animals for food is wrong no matter how they’re treated, but surely it’s still important to improve the treatment of farm animals. Same goes for slavery–you couldn’t make it right no matter how much you improved life for slaves. Yet it was still the right thing to improve life for slaves before slavery was abolished.
One of her readers disagreed, using examples influenced heavily by Francione:
Does this reasoning always hold? Would you advise rapists to only rape occasionally if they intend to keep on raping? After all, a little rape is surely better than a lot of rape. Would you say that “If the goal is not moral perfection for ourselves, but the maximum benefit for women, half-measures when it comes to rape ought to be encouraged and appreciated?”
The debate continued on her next post. One reader made the very simple point that most of Francione’s writings have been efficiently and effectively refuting her entire argument. And remember, she teaches students about Francione in her class so she cannot claim unfamiliarity. According to Kazez her ‘outlook is just pragmatic and results orientated’, but according to Francione her position produces meaningless, counter-productive and negative results. She then raises the analogy of slavery again:
Would any reasonable abolitionist object to that, on grounds that images of shoeless children strengthen the abolitionist cause? It seems to me that Francione’s rejection of the humane movement is analogous
And, then, she distorts Francione’s position into some sort of charicature of the old Marxist line that capitalism has to get worse before it gets better, before summarily dismissing the straw man. For this, she is taken to task. The most entertaining response, at least to me, was:
If you read African-American slave literature, the slaves were not calling for shoes for their children.
Bang. Right there, in one line. If I were a slave, I’d rather be a barefoot free man than be given a pair of shoes to go with my shackles. And, well, that’s what the slaves wanted, as expressed in their own literature and art, and that’s what the abolitionist movement got. History has not, as far as I know, recorded the success or failure of the ‘shoes for slaves’ movement.
Professor Francione himself launched several heavy barrages and invited her to discuss things with him on his podcast:
Your misunderstanding and misrepresentation of my ideas is profound and disturbing. You appear to not understand at all (among other things) the structural limitations of welfare that result from the status of nonhumans as chattel property. It is not merely a question of animal welfare “not doing enough”; it is a question of animal welfare actually improving production efficiency and not even moving incrementally in the direction of animal personhood. Although I welcome informed criticisms of my work, you have an obligation not to misrepresent blatantly the work of others.
I have not yet from Prof. Kazez. I hope that I hear from her soon as I plan to respond formally to her outright misrepresentations of my views. Moreover, a number of you seem absolutely clueless about the structural limitations of animal welfare reform given the property status of animals.
Therein lies one of Francione’s fundamental points: The problem is the property status of animals, because that is what allows for every act of cruelty and every killing. More fundamentally because – ethically and jurisprudentially and really – animals are sentient beings, their own beings, themselves, not ours to own. Indeed, I would say that reducing animals to property in law necessitates breaches of animal welfare, because it puts the profit motive ahead of the animals’ interests and rights, by definition. The problem with slavery was not that slaves were whipped (or that slaves didn’t have shoes). The problem with slavery was that people were being treated as things or as property. Their interests were systematically and structurally diminished; their identities subsumed into their masters’ demands; and their rights denied.
Kazez refused to debate Francione. Her defence? Below:
A fairly offhand remark I made about Gary Francione in the comments to my last post apparently caused offense, so I need to expand, explain, etc, especially because Gary tells me he plans on using me as a poster child for the “welfarist” (i.e. utilitarian) stance in a planned podcast. My forthcoming book is actually steadfastly non-utilitarian, so this doesn’t make much sense. Let’s understand the child, before we put her in a poster. I’ll explain what I think about Francione and humane farm reform later today. Stay tuned.
This has since been replaced by a more thorough post.
And here is where I return to my initial observation. There may have been an impression, from my observation, that I intended to accuse Professor Francione of reductionism and dividing ‘animal advocates’ into simplistic boxes. Others have made that accusation before. But Francione’s division of new welfarism and abolitionism is anything but reductionist simplicity. His analysis covers practical, jurisprudential, and ethical spheres. At times, I differ from his thought, but it remains nuanced and multi-disciplinary. So, that is not what I am saying at all.
According to Kazez, welfarism is utilitarianism. Thus, presumably, abolitionism is deontology (and virtue ethics is, I expect, plain ignored). According to Kazez, even though she walks and quacks like a new welfarist, she is nothing of the sort, because she is not a utilitarian. This simplistic analysis ignores Francione’s criticism of Tom Regan’s deontological ethics; ignores Francione’s analysis of the so-called animal rights movement; and, frankly, has nothing to do with Francione’s concept of new welfarism.
Kazez’s mistake? Equating new welfarism with utilitarianism. In doing so, she reduces Francione’s work to another straw man. The vast majority of her attempts to criticise his thought then, fall short of the mark because she’s drawing her bow and loosing arrows at entirely the wrong target.
Vincent J Guihan of We Other Animals calls for Professor Kazez to go vegan. Professor Kazez dismissed his post as ‘insulting nonsense’. However, I propose a simpler, quicker option for Professor Kazez: Re-read Gary Francione’s work, specifically Rain Without Thunder. Professor Kazez is a far more learned ethicist than I and I would not dream of criticising her personal ethics or her grasp of metaethics. However, her take on Francione simply misses much of his point and so fails to truly engage.
Her point should not be that she is not a new welfarist. By Francione’s definition, she is. If she wants to engage his argument, she must present a thorough defence of new welfarism. Which, frankly, she has not. For myself, I see new welfarism as very close to indefensible.