Tuesday, 14 August 2007

A Commentary on Gary Francione's Blog Entry entitled "A Comment on Violence", by Karin Hilpisch

Gary Francione: "Violence treats others as means to ends rather than as ends in themselves. When we engage in violence against others -- whether they are human or nonhuman -- we ignore their inherent value. We treat them only as things that have no value except that which we decide to give them. This is what leads people to engage in crimes of violence against people of color, women, and gays and lesbians."

Homophobia is that manifestation of morally unjustifiable discrimination which is regularly omitted in the antispeciesist discourse, as far as I know, in the German and in the English one. The fact that Gary explicitly and constantly considers homophobia as on the same level as sexism and racism cannot be esteemed highly enough in a societal context which is not only entirely entrenched in speciesism but in which even many of those who claim to be opposed to the latter see -- or are inclined to see -- heterosexism as different from other forms of discrimination, that is as not being one at all. Gary has recently examined this variation of moral schizophrenia more closely: "Is Heterosexism Different?"

Gary Francione: "Anyone who has ever used violence claims to regret having to resort to it, but argues that some desirable goal supposedly justified its use. The problem is that this facilitates an endless cycle of violence where anyone who feels strongly about something can embrace violence toward others as a means to achieving the greater good and those who are the targets of that violence may find a justification for their violent response. So on and on it goes. This is consequentialist moral thinking and it is destroying the world..." [...]

[F]or those who advocate violence, exactly against whom is this violence to be directed? The farmer raises animals because the overwhelming number of humans demand to eat meat and animal products. The farmer raises those animals in intensive conditions because consumers want meat and animal products to be as inexpensive as possible. But is the farmer the only culprit here? Or is the responsibility shared by the rest of us who eat animal products, including all of those conscientious omnivores, the non-vegan 'animal people' who consume 'cage-free eggs' and 'happy' meat, who create the demand but for which the farmer would be doing something else with her life? I suppose that it is easier to characterize farmers as the 'enemy,' but that ignores the reality of the situation.[...]

In other words, in a world in which eating animal products is considered by most people as 'natural or 'normal' as drinking water or breathing air, violence is quite likely to be seen as nothing more than an act of lunacy and will do nothing to further progressive thinking about the issue of animal exploitation." ("A Comment on Violence," see above)

The keyword "violence" stands in the centre of a highly controversially considered subject which is part of the welfarism vs abolitionism debate and, therefore, allegedly about strategy whereas in fact conditioned by a deep ideological division, the unbridgeable gap between consequentialist and deontological thinking.

The controversy about violence starts off with the question what violence is resp. what it is not; a vast area which requires far more consideration than I'm prepared to spend on it, at least in this post. Just one note: as far as violence, by whichever actions constituted, is linked with violating the law, and doing so in a significant manner to which the legislative response is the Animal Rights Terrorism Act, this response is certainly suited to achieve one thing: to impede or to complicate legal activism, the most effective form of which is abolitionist education.

I used to see animal rights activism in more than metaphorical terms of being at war -- with everyone taking part in the killing of animals, primarily in the slaughterhouse. This concept of warfare led me to sympathize with most of those actions which are the subject matter of the AETA but also to regard acts of violence in an uncontroversial sense of causing physical harm as a morally -- if not strategically -- perfectly sound way of fighting animal exploitation, and any objection on moral grounds against this activism on the side of supposed allies as expressing a serious lack of moral judgement, of solidarity with the nonhuman victims of the oppressors; as a poverty of ambition in any case.

It was by learning more about the ideological division mentioned above that I realized how deeply rooted in consequentialist thinking and, therefore, ethically unsound the approval of a kind of action is which appears as legitimate only under conditions where moral standards are suspended: war. This suspension of moral standards -- of what goes beyond the Old Testament's an eye for an eye ethics -- is the fertile ground on which war never ends. Simply realizing the ideological nature of what I considered sound moral intuitions made me question them, since I'd like to think of myself as being opposed to consequentialism.

What among other things caught me on this ideological redefinition of myself was a section of the debate between Gary and Erik Marcus where the latter quotes the retired president of the United Egg Producers as commenting on the detrimental impact the HSUS’s anti-battery/pro cage-free egg campaign allegedly has on the egg inustry’s profits, resulting in the statement: "We are at war." Whereas Marcus seeks to use this quote as proof of the effectiveness of cage-free egg campaigns in terms of a significant decrease of the demand for eggs, Gary points out to him and the listeners the fact that such proclamations are to be seen rather as a well-considered part of public relations than as a critical evaluation of the situation. [1]

A situation which pro animal activists tend to frame exactly the same way as does the head of one of the exploiting industries: "We are at war." Why do animal exploiters obviously like the idea of being at war with animal liberators? Because if this IS a war, given the common mindset of the opponents and the extremely disproportional distribution of resources, it can never be won for the animals.

The only thing that can be won for the animals is a revolution, a revolution ot the mind, against war, by shifting the paradigm to the idea of the abolition of animal exploitation. However long it will take this idea to prevail, there is no other way to go.

[1] See the transcript on http://www.gary-francione.com/francione-marcus-debate.html (The Unofficial Gary Francione Website in whole is a great source), drawn up by two volunteers; thanks to them for the fabulous job they did.

An inspiring article,"Exclusive Non-Violent Action: Its Absolute Necessity for Building a Genuine Animal Rights Movement" by Jeff Perz is to be found here: http://www.abolitionist-online.com/article-issue05_exclusive.non.violent.jeff-perz.shtml