Friday, 19 September 2014

Do The Twist With Gary!


Until a few years ago when I had a pleasant meeting with Gary Francione admirers, who amusingly tried to convince me that “Peta doesn’t promote veganism”, which was refuted within ten seconds thanks to Google and left them gasping with their mouth wide open, I, a three decades long vegan and animal rights activist, never did hear of Gary Francione, but, as it turns out, he is quite the fellow.

Gary is a distinguished professor of the Rutgers University. I couldn’t miss that because it is mentioned a few dozen times on his web blog. His mother must be proud.

Gary L. Francione Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Law Nicholas deb. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy Rutgers University of Law.

Okay, I get it, it is interesting to know that Gary is a professor and certainly should be mentioned on his web blog, but so many times, all the time? Sorry, I am not impressed because, basically it has little to do with veganism or animal rights. Grass roots activists who leaflet in front of the supermarket on rainy days impress and inspire me, or undercover investigators who witness and document animal cruelty, even Ingrid Newkirk who runs a big organisation and has to make practical real life decision, as opposed to philosophize from your couch, not “being a distinguished professor” who has learned to express his oddball ideas in a fashionable way and mostly uses it to slam his fellow vegan ARA’s into the ground.

Okay, so here I am, not happy with Peta and not too shy to express that unhappy Peta feeling, with arguments, and presented not as the Absolute Truth but simply as my opinion and as my personal hope that Peta one day will concentrate on education, grow some teeth, and get rid of pleasing wacky media campaigns that prevents many ordinary people from taking animal rights seriously.

Based on that, you might think that I am a fan of Gary Francione, famous for Peta bashing. But I am not >at all<, on the contrary.

What is wrong with Gary??

I mean, what is wrong with you, Gary???  You have successfully graduated from some philosophy university or zzzzumting because you probably had a rich mummy and daddy, and you are not shy to stick that in everybody’s  face, so you of all people should know that in an argument you should stick to arguments. Don’t Get Personal! Get personal and you loose the argument!

Okay, I can see I am also personal, but I am only returning the favor, so to speak. Besides, on average three people visit my blog. When i do something highly visible, like writing an article for a magazine with much readers, i accordingly act and write with that knowledge in mind.

What is wrong with you Gary?? Denigrating your fellow vegan animal rights activists by name calling them the “New Welfarists”? What a very sly insult. You are perfectly aware that one of the biggest insults for any animal rights activists is being called a “welfarist”. Is that what you have learned at your philosophy school? How to make clever insults to fellow vegan ARA’s?

In this article I will discuss two main issues of Gary's broken record and come with arguments why, IMO backed with arguments, Gary is fundamentally wrong, and unjust. He might be right but he misses the point.

The Big Animal Organizations.

According to Gary, ALL animal organizations (and that is ALL every single one of them) are nothing but welfarists, and are part of the problem. You will search in vain on Gary’s blog for any harsh words against the animal industry, his whole blog is mostly a clever and bitter rant against fellow vegan ARA’s.

Absurd of course. Here is how I would categorize animal organizations.

Basically you have environmental and ecological organizations like WWF and Greenpeace, and also Sea Shepherd, which do invaluable good work with regards to protecting endangered animals, eco systems, etc. If you are an elephant in Africa, you vote for these guys!

Then there are the real animal welfare organizations, like the RSPCA, organizations of mostly concerned meat eaters who want to improve the lives of factory farm animals.
Animal welfare organizations deeply hate animal rights organizations but usually do their best to get all mushy with the animal industry. If you are an omnivore who feels guilty about the cruelty on your plate, just donate ten dollars a year to animal welfare to clear your conscious! Yeehaa! Ride the Happy Meat train, cowboy!

Lastly, there are the animal rights organizations, like Peta, Animal Sanctuary, ALF, SHAC (who, by the way, recently ended their campaign), etc. Empty Cages Not Bigger Cages is the slogan. Run by vegans, supported by vegans. People who not only made a big personal change in their private lifestyle (e.g. stop eating meat, no leather shoes, etc) but took their compassion and social justice feeling a step further and became ARA’s.
If you are an elephant in the circus, you call these AR guys and girls!

It is this last group of people and organizations that Gary deeply despises. He shares that deep and fundamental hate (what else could I call it?) against traditional AR with the real animal welfarists and the animal industry! How strange.

Abolitionists? They are in the animal rights category, imo. They want empty cages, just like all the other ARA’s. They, we, the same; vegans who wants empty cages. No need to feel all egalitarian about yourself. We just have our own tactics, but, as the saying goes, Many Roads Lead To Rome.

Gary’s argument for labeling Peta (and all the other organizations) as “new welfarists” is mostly because e.g. Peta occasionally supports laws that aim to give factory animals at least a little bit legal protection, and e.g. demands from the big fast food chains that they at least reduce the worst cruelty of the animals. Is that so bad? According to gary the answer is YES!!! That is very bad!
By demanding to reduce the worst cruelty of food animals you are suddenly a “welfarist”? What an oddball way of  logic, and so unfair.

A good way of getting a more objective view is by comparing. Let’s compare Peta with Amnesty International, just as an example.

Amnesty International fights for releasing innocent political prisoners, right? They simply want innocent people that are  locked in prisons in totalitarian countries, to be released. But at the same time, Amnesty International monitors how these innocent political prisoners are treated and also demands  a humane treatment of innocent political prisoners. Not torture, access to legal advice, etc.
Just because Amnesty International demands better treatment doesn’t mean that they agree with the incarceration or that their ultimate goal isn’t an unconditional release!
In the same way, Peta definitely wants empty cages but at the same time fights for less cruelty for captive factory animals. If i were a chicken i would be happy about that.

Peta actively promotes veganism, fact, Peta actively campaigns against so called Happy meat, fact. Peta simply acknowledges that reducing animal cruelty is a very obtainable goal and practically means a little less suffering for billions of animals. Perfect? Of course not. Practical? Yes. Does this suddenly makes Peta “welfarists” and part of the problem? Of course not.

It confuses me why such an obvious intelligent and educated person as Gary calls Peta “welfarists”. Am I missing something? You can disagree with Peta tactics, but you cannot rightfully argue that Peta are not vegan ARA’s and are simply a bunch of “new welfarist.”

IMO, calling fellow vegan ARA’s “new welfarists” is deeply disappointing and deeply unjust.

“One Issue” Campaigns.

One of Gary’s returning themes is his opposition of what he calls “one issue campaigns”.

On his web blog Gary offers surprisingly little details, e.g. what exactly is a “one issue campaign” according to Gary.

I finally did find a more detailed answer through a link on Gary’s blog to another website with an interview of Gary.


There is a similarity between those who promote welfare reform and those
who pursue single-issue campaigns (e.g., anti-fur campaigns) because both groups
seek to characterize certain forms of exploitation as morally different from other forms.

Finally I knew that Gary had anti fur campaigns in mind when talking about “one issue campaigns.” Most likely, although unsaid, Gary is referring to anti fur campaigns from the “new welfare groups” like Peta.


Protesting against fur is wrong?? Wow, another twister of distinguished professor Gary!

Basically it is like this. When I, ordinary people, and probably you, see an anti fur protest/campaign, we see just that, an anti fur protest/campaign.

Gary on the other hand, when he sees an anti fur campaign, he sees something completely different. He doesn’t see an anti fur campaign, he sees a pro wool, pro leather campaign!

Gary says: “why you protest against fur? Wool and leather are just as cruel.” If you would listen and include leather and wool in your campaign, he is the person who would then say : “why you only protest against fur, leather, and wool? The use of circus animals is just as morally wrong.” and so on.

Got the picture? Of course he is right, but he is also missing the point.

One Issue campaigns like the anti fur campaigns (let us stick to this example, since it is mentioned by Gary the man himself) are extremely good and successful educational tools.

One issue campaigns simply highlight one specific issue of institutionalized animal cruelty. 

One issue campaigns usually come with an undercover investigation, full with details that effectively educates us, vegans and ordinary omnivore people, how extreme cruel the animal industry is.

Take Peta. I would say that Peta is greatly responsible for changing the public image of “fur”, from once a desirable luxury object just a few decades ago, into a cruel unnecessary luxury item, thanks to their continuous one issue campaign against fur, like disrupting fashion shows ("violent" in Gary's view!) that show fur, paint bombing fur hags in public, using celebrities in stylish anti fur campaigns like “I rather go naked then wear fur.”

Peta didn’t clown around when it came to fur, no wacky campaigns, instead Peta showed its teeth and it worked. Fur is not cool anymore, and many fur animals are spared from a cruel life on a fur farm or from being caught in the wild. 

Take Peta, the anti fur campaign according to Gary is a despicable “one issue campaign”, but have a closer look. Peta has other active “one issue campaigns” against sheep wool, against angora wool from rabbits, against leather. Peta in fact, is far from a “one issue campaign organization”, Peta covers just anything, from testing, entertainment, meat, fur, wool, you just name it. It is very unfair and rather puzzling why an intelligent educated person like Gary doesn’t see that.

In fact it are mostly the detailed one issue campaigns that give us the information and the tools to educate ourselves and other people about the horrors of animal factories.

Conclusion. One issue campaigns are just campaigns that highlight one aspect of animal cruelty, often with an undercover investigation. All the one issue campaigns “out there” together cover most if not all of the important animal rights issues.  

One issue campaigns are the core of the animal rights movement, an educational tool that has proven to be extremely successful in gaining truly positive media coverage, making ordinary people, and even vegans, aware of the extreme and hidden animal cruelty in our society, and effectively stimulating people to stop buying cruel products and to go vegan.

Conclusion and Opinion about Gary and his Abolition.

When I read Gary on his blog and his articles, he often has valid points and makes intelligent and stimulating remarks. I also appreciate and share his advice of trying to educate other people about veganism, and his view that veganism should be the moral compass of any ARA.

But my problem is this, just when I appreciate some of his remarks or am stimulated by his intelligent words, I feel I am lead towards some kind of Negativity that stuns and kills any positive activity in me. IMO Gary is clever with words, he can toss up a remark that is true, only to continue with an extreme negative outcome. That is why I named this article “Do The Twist With Gary”.

IMO Gary is clever, but not bright, negative, not positive.

Let me put it this way, I never encountered somebody who did go vegan because he did read Gary’s blog or books. I DID encounter on the other hand active and smart young vegans who did get interested in Gary’s writings, and as a result became extremely anti-animal rights groups, especially against Peta, and they hardly became involved in positive activism. 

What a waste of good human AR potential!

Take a look at Gary’s blog, it is full with rants (written in intellectual style though…) against fellow vegan and AR organizations, they are “not real vegans” or “not real animal rights” kind of attitude. Gary’s web blog has hardly if any, advice how exactly we can go out there and educate people. 
Gary’s blog has hardly educational material, except for articles from Gary himself. But it is with informing people about life on the factory farm, what truly touches and changes ordinary peoples view and attitude, not with philosophical articles.

Now take Peta. Their website is FULL with information about cow milk, leather, fur, circus entertainment, fishes, you name it, it’s there! Even practical advice what you can do to become active for the animals. Peta’s website stimulates and invites all of its visitors to become vegan  and active for the animals. Such a positive and stimulating message, even if you disagree with some of Peta’s wacky campaigns, you have to admit Peta has a very good (and measurable) effect on it’s readers and effectively educated many, MANY people about veganism and animal rights.

Lastly, I just took a look at Gary’s blog (again). Take this, a random quote from Gary’s blog.

Many animal advocates take the position that veganism is not required as a baseline principle of the animal rights movement.”

I am really stunned by such a quote. In three decades of being a vegan and animal rights activist (on the streets, not a cyber activist..) I have never encountered an ARA during an anti fur protest, or an anti whaling protest, or any other protest, who wasn’t vegan, or who wanted anything less than Empty Cages.

But I get it, Gary is the typical Me-Against-The-Rest-Of-The-World kind of person. He, and he alone, is the Greatest And Only True Animal Rights Person, a True Abolitionist. Gary's slogan reads "Let Perfect Be The Enemy Of Good."

Amusingly somewhere on his blog Gary rants even against people who become abolitionist thanks to his writings, and calls them welfarist because in their enthusiasm they start a small abolitionist group which is not to the liking of Gary. Gary is anti groups, period. Start a group? You are a welfarist.

According to Gary it seems, you, me, with our petty anti fur protests; we are just fake, new welfarists at best, part of the problem. No way of sugarcoating it.

Advice, don’t let yourself be sucked into Gary’s negativism. Sure, he says intelligent and amusing things and occasionally is intellectually stimulating and has some good point, no denying, but, IMO, he leads people to a very negative view and hardly stimulates people to become active, and influences good vegan people to become very denigrating about their fellow vegans and ARA’s.

Gary makes an interesting and amusing blogger at times but nothing more then that. He certainly doesn't qualify to be a leading animal rights philosopher, despite being a “distinguished professor". 

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