Saturday, 20 February 2010

Poor President Priscilla

Priscilla Feral, the president of the corporate organization Friend's of Animals (FoA), was recently interviewed by MikeyPod on Meat Free Radio. This interview was as intellectually threadbare as its personal attacks were densely woven, with Feral's resorting to cavilling against abolitionism and - what is worse and different in kind - defamatory ad hominem attacks against Francione himself - attacks which were facilitated by MikeyPod, who eschewed the responsibilities of serious interviewing. I will say more about MikeyPod's contribution later.

Now ad hominem attacks present one with a problem, not by the magnitude of their message, which by definition is entirely absent, but by dignifying them with a response one inevitably gives those who resort to them, like Feral, a veneer of wholly unmerited respectability – a risk I hope to parry by stating that what Feral said is not worth addressing in and of itself, but only because it represents a prevalent way of trying to discredit Francione's abolitionist theory.

To begin with, Feral and MikeyPod set up a straw man by characterizing abolitionism in ways - as, for example, an "all or nothing approach" which is "defeatist" - which do not even resemble Francione's theory in the way that is implied by the idea of an ordinary caricature (which must contain at least some element of truth). Indeed, in lieu of a rebuttal of Francione's critique of FoA's single issue campaigns, Feral alleged - dishonestly, of course - that Francione resents FoA because he had been unable to become FoA's president. Emboldened perhaps by MikePod's lassie faire attitude to such defamatory nonsense, Feral went on to masquerade FoA's opportunism as honest opposition to what other corporate welfarists refer to as Francione's alleged ivory tower intellectualism and what Feral herself referred to as his "large salary" that is paid for "by the taxpayer," implying, among other things, that Francione's critique of single issue campaigns is based on a lack of understanding of what it is like to be "in the trenches" of animal advocacy. Furthermore, Feral alleged that Francione wanted everyone to "march to his drum."

Now these allegations and others like them, repeated ad nauseum by corporate welfarists, are so weak that they may as well be written in the sand by the wind. Behind all of them lies rancour against the very thing that Francione actually stands for, namely: a grass roots abolitionist movement guided by theory as opposed to a corporate welfarist movement masked as progressiveness but which actually is externally motivated by its own financial self-interest and long-term survival.

The claim that Francione does not know what it is like "on the ground," once divested of its coarse stupidity and brazen dishonesty by a cursory inspection of Francione's long and varied biography as an animal rights advocate, can be seen for what it really is, namely an attempt to discredit abolitionism without going to the trouble of actually addressing it.

Unfortunately, for Feral, referring to Francione's alleged "large salary" which is paid for "by the taxpayer" was an especially inept diversionary tactic, because whereas Francione makes no money at all from animal advocacy and gives all the royalties from his books to animal causes, Feral, by contrast, pockets over $100,000 annually in animal money, a remarkable sum for someone who claims to be an advocate for justice and not the CEO of a self-serving corporation, a distinction that seems to elude or is cynically elided by her and other corporate welfarists generally.

Feral claimed that single issue campaigns are successful and necessary. But the only people/groups which pretend to take seriously the paradoxical "success" of campaigns which miseducate the public (embarrassingly, it was left up to Weir to point out the incoherence of campaigning against fur without also openly opposing leather) and impose an opportunity cost on social justice (by diverting time and resources away from vegan education) are the corporate welfarist groups themselves which profit thereby and animal industry, which tactically portrays welfarism as the "enemy" to help fuel its campaign against veganism, the latter being the real enemy of animal use.

I will mention one further point only to get it out of the way. Feral claimed that Francione "worked for" PeTA, even though Francione actually worked with PeTA; never for pay.

Feral's personal attacks on Francione were not addressed by MikeyPod, who instead blathered obliquely about abolitionism, or what he imagines it to be.

In conclusion: let us be clear above all about this: Francione and other abolitionist enrage the "leaders" of the corporate movement because they tell them what they must jettison: single issue campaigns and welfarism – the very things that keep the corporate movement running safely efficiently, and profitably. But since corporate welfarists have nothing of substance to say, they shift the discussion from abolitionist theory, which they cannot address, to irrelevant personal issues, which they can address by means of personal attacks.

But we as abolitionists must reject in principle as well as practice the ad hominem discourse in which the corporate welfarists want the abolitionism / welfarism debate to be cast. Instead, we must keep on indomitably arguing, in the teeth of the corporate welfarists' ad hominem attacks, for the conclusions that we know by reason and evidence to be right: single issue campaigns do not work, welfarism does not work, and the corporate movement, with its self-appointed "leaders" some of whom earn six figure salaries, does not work.

Conversely, we must, as continuously as possible, and by every appropriate means, promote veganism. We owe animals nothing less.