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Animal Rights Debate–Second Review

March 16th, 2011 3 comments

This second review of The Animal Rights Debate by Gary Francione and Robert Garner is by Carlo Salzani and is published on the Humanimalia Web site. Again, a thoughtful review. This time, however, a third book is also considered: Beyond Animal Rights: Food, Pets and Ethics by Tony Milligan (Continuum), which I’m not familiar with. Salzani concludes

Unlike Francione and Garner, whose disagreement is internal to the animal ethics camp, Milligan opens up the discussion to a greater range of inputs, which help nonetheless to locate the debate against a wider background. What Milligan does not offer, unlike Francione and Garner, is a political strategy: he proposes a personal analysis of a number of issues based on a pluralist set of considerations, which however ends up often in an argumentative stalemate or in a sort of situational ethics. Unlike Francione’s and Garner’s, his voice is not that of an activist, but rather that of a philosopher, sometimes too detached and doubt-ridden to be able to offer the simplification that action requires. His book is therefore to be read in the context of a wider discourse. Together with Francione and Garner, Milligan provides some coordinates to orient the reader within the current philosophical and practical debate concerning animal ethics.

Regrettably, The Animal Rights Debate frames the discussion about strategy as an either/or. Either it is animal rights or it is animal protection. Salzani appears to position Milligan’s Beyond Animal Rights as not providing direct insight into this dispute but nevertheless a worthwhile contribution to the overall discussion. I look forward to reading Milligan to form my own opinion.

Salzani, like Mepham, makes an interesting observation about the different approaches taken by Francione and Garner.

Robert Garner begins his chapter on an apparently more restrained tone: he does not want to criticize animal rights per se, and even states that “a great deal of the ethics of animal rights is convincing” (103). However, soon after he adopts a language that is not second to Francione’s in harshness and condemnation: what he opposes is the “abolitionist” version of the animal rights theory, which he characterizes as “fundamentalist,” “inflexible,” and “dogmatic”; like a fundamentalist religion, it is based on “essential truths” and on an “unwillingness to compromise” in order to achieve incremental short-term goals that fall short of the ideal end point; as such, it is irreconcilable to the “political art of the possible” (104). Garner advocates the position Francione called “new welfarism” but that he prefers to label “animal protectionism,” which defends a “politics” of incremental and “feasible” legal reforms aimed at ameliorating the conditions of animals.

I say regrettably The Animal Rights Debate frames the discussion as an either/or because I believe a smart social justice movement for animals is one which matures sufficiently to understand and appreciate the differences between them. These differences can be irreconcilable opposites if we want them to be. They can also be a clever coordinated strategy which utilises the strengths and weaknesses inherent in each. The strategy I advocate is one which balances the utopian vision of animal rights with the pragmatic politics of animal welfare. Many if not all social movements struggle under a tension of fundamentalism and pragmatism. A smart social movement is one which learns how to deploy both simultaneously. I first made this case in my paper, Utopian Visions and Pragmatic Politics: Challenging the Foundations of Speciesism and Misothery, was published in Animal Rights: The Changing Debate edited by Robert Garner (Macmillan, 1996).

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Animal Disaster in Japan

March 16th, 2011 No comments

Here’s an informative overview published on March 11 providing an initial overview on the status of animal welfare on the day of the earthquake. It would be good to see an update posted here. Here’s a further report published by Animals Asia.

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Animal Welfare in Japan Post Earthquake

March 16th, 2011 No comments

Here’s a link to a report posted by Ric O’Barry about dolphins who were subject to an international campaign, including the film “The Cove.” The volunteers are safe but the dolphins were killed by the tsunami.

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Animal Welfare and Natural Disaster in Japan

March 16th, 2011 No comments

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

Comments posted below this video on YouTube say that the two dogs are rescued. Nevertheless, heart breaking footage.

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Indie on LACS New CEO

March 15th, 2011 No comments

One of the council chiefs who earned more than the Prime Minister has been appointed director of the League Against Cruel Sports. Joe Duckworth, former head of Newham council in east London, was the second biggest earner in a survey of local authority fat cats conducted last year, with a salary of £241,483. He resigned abruptly in July, but is set to replace Douglas Batchelor as chief executive of the LACS. Batchelor, who retires this summer, caused some controversy as the charity’s only employee to earn more than £60,000. Accounts show that he takes home between £110,000 and £120,000 – plenty, given that the LACS only spends £2.25m per year. A spokeswoman declines to say whether Duckworth will get the same when he joins, though she helpfully points out that whatever he gets, it will be a significant pay cut, and that anyway “he cares passionately about the charity

Matthew Bell: The Independent on Sunday Diary

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Animal Rights Debate-Thoughtful Book Review

March 15th, 2011 No comments

The Animal Rights Debate by Gary Francione and Robert Garner is an important book for those who worry over ethics and politics and the tension of strategy within both. My review is forthcoming; however, Ben Mepham‘s is a good place to start. For example, I thought this was an astute remark.

Without attempting a blow-by-blow summary of the exchange, I doubt that I am the only reader to be left with an impression of a discussion characterised by Francione’s somewhat strident approach, to which Garner responded with remarkable amiability. And while Garner was prepared to acknowledge several areas of agreement, Francione’s only reciprocal response was the single word ‘agreed’, in the book’s final sentence, to the proposition that currently animals endure unacceptable levels of suffering. Not even the revelation that Garner was a dietary vegan, in reply to Francione’s ‘personal’ question, elicited any recorded response (p. 257). A discussion where one participant seems unprepared to concede any merit in the opposing perspective, a condition which is perhaps intrinsic to an absolutist, abolitionist stance, hardly provides fertile ground for intellectual enquiry. Yet it might have been anticipated that the fact that both participants reputedly sought to achieve desired changes incrementally would have provided a sound basis for fruitful discussion.

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Animal Welfare and Natural Disaster in Japan

March 15th, 2011 No comments

The natural disaster in Japan is incomprehensible not only on a human scale but also on its impact on animals and the environment. I want to follow how the international animal welfare/rights movement responds to this monumental challenge. So, I start with a RSS feed to WSPA’s Animals in Disaster Blog. Animal Refuge Kansai is accepting displaced animals. Please E-mail me with more sites to share.

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Nocton Lessons

February 17th, 2011 No comments

Yesterday’s announcement of the backer’s withdrawal of the proposed mega-dairy is a victory. But this issue will resurface elsewhere in another form. Vigilance is needed. The dairy industry must be closely monitored. We need to be ready to act again.

But who is “we”?

We, in this case, were national animal welfare organisations (e.g., CIWF, WSPA, Animal Aid, VIVA), national environmental organisations (e.g., Campaign to Protect Rural England, Friends of the Earth, Soil Association), progressive political organisations (e.g., 38 Degrees) and local residents associations (e.g., Campaign Against Factory Farming Operations). This coalition mobilised support from Parliament and the entertainment industry. Further, the campaign was emboldened by reports challenging the application from the Environment Agency and Anglian Water. And, of course, tens of thousands of people who added their voice in a variety of ways.

This impressive coalition of diverse interests demonstrated why the proposed mega-dairy had to be opposed for various reasons (e.g., animal welfare, environmental protection, sustainable farming practices).

This is the lesson to be learned from Nocton. When the case for animal welfare is framed within a progressive agenda of interests there will be increased chances of success.

The challenge to establishing moral and legal rights for animals will not be found in a fundamentalist, moral crusade espousing vegan absolutism.

It will be achieved when animal advocates position animal interests as a natural fit alongside those of the environment and human well-being.

Comprehensive and progressive agendas of social change, as demonstrated by yesterday’s decision to withdraw plans for the mega-dairy, will propel animal issues into the public mainstream and establish moral and legal rights for animals as a public policy issue.

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Trailer for New Film on Nonviolence

February 10th, 2011 No comments

Here is the trailer for an interesting new film, Nonviolence for a Change, which is commissioned by the Turning the Tide programme of Quaker Peace and Social Witness. There’s also a report in The Guardian about this which is written by Zoe Broughton, an undercover investigator who has worked at a number of facilities, including Huntingdon Life Sciences and for Compassion In World Farming.

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BUAV, 30 Years Ago

January 19th, 2011 No comments

It was 30 years ago this month that the “young turks” won control of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection.

I first joined BUAV as an employee in 1978 after two years working at Compassion In World Farming as their campaigns organiser. CIWF was a young, small but important organisation led by Peter Roberts, an ex-dairy farmer who was outraged at factory farming. BUAV, on the other hand, which was founded in 1898, although led by a sincere group of people, quietly campaigned against animal research. This was too much for a young upstart (“young turk”) like me. Consequently, I became increasingly involved with the animal rights movement taking off in the late 1970s. I helped found Coordinating Animal Welfare in 1978 with Fay Funnell and Angela Walder. Our mission was to “bring together the active members of all animal rights societies and work for unity in the movement.”

CAW provided activists with two forums where they could come together to share information and organise. They were an alternating bimonthly cycle of newsletters and public meetings, which were particularly successful as they regularly attracted more than 200 people. These meetings provided us with many opportunities to strengthen our understanding of animal rights and organise successful activities. This included the first public screening of “The Animals’ Film”; the closure of Club Row, a notorious London street market which sold dogs and cats to the public and reportedly to research laboratories; and hearing from such guest speakers as Clive Hollands, Richard Ryder and Peter Singer.

One of CAW’s campaigns was to democratically win control of the BUAV, which was governed by an executive committee elected by its members. From 1978 to 1980 a bitter fight developed between what became known as BUAV’s “old guard” and the emerging animal rights movement’s “young turks.” During this time BUAV fired me because they knew — while I was one of their employees — I was also co-leading CAW and part of the initiative to seize control of what they thought was their organisation. In December 1979 we won a court case which led us to holding the majority on the executive committee. In January 1980 I returned to BUAV’s employment as their campaigns organiser, a position I held until 1986 when I was acting general secretary. In 1987 I left the UK for the US to become the first executive director at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

At the BUAV I played a leading role in revitalising a dormant organisation. My responsibilities included managing the organisation’s programs and activities, including several national demonstrations, public speaking, local group organising and editing a bimonthly membership newspaper. Directed programs which included organizing annual national meetings of local volunteers; speaking to local groups throughout the U.K.; organizing six national demonstrations ranging in size from 6,000 to 9,000 people; organized the country’s first locally elected government (London Borough of Islington) to authorize The Animals’ Charter. I directed the implementation of a corporate image program for the organisation’s public education materials so that they were all recognisable. BUAV was among the first — if not the first — to develop a corporate identity.

Also I was secretary to a coalition of four national anti-vivisection organisations (“Mobilisation for Laboratory Animals”) in a three-year major national campaign which led the opposition to the British government’s Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. This included a lobby of Parliament with 700 people which was accompanied by a public rally, which I chaired, with sympathetic MPs from all political parties, Lords and others. I also organised for the Mobilisation a demonstration in London’s Trafalgar Square with 9,000 people, 600 of whom participated in street theatre.

The Mobilisation argued that the new law would not even ban egregious examples of animal research. We had six minimum demands which we wanted to see included in the new law that was to replace the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. They were a ban on experiments in the following areas: cosmetics, tobacco and alcohol; the Draize eye test (substances dripped into the eyes of rabbits); the LD50 test (poisoning test where one half of the animals die); warfare experiments; and all behavioural and psychological experiments. The sixth demand called for the government’s advisory committee on the implementation of the new act to exclude those who had a “vested interest” in the continuation of animal experimentation.

Fast forward 30 years and it is interesting to note what has and has not been accomplished as well as which issues persist in remaining unresolved among the Mobilisation’s demands. Of the proposed five prohibitions, warfare and behavioural and psychological research continue. Whereas there is some progress in the other areas. The British government banned the LD50 test. The Draize is effectively redundant having been replaced by skin irritancy tests on rabbits and non-animal alternatives. Cosmetic tests are illegal. No animals are used to test tobacco or tobacco products. The government’s advisory committee is not free from “vested interests” and while there is some progress it is not as independent and challenging as it could be. In 1980 there were some 4.75 million animal experiments, which is reduced to 3.2 million in 2007.

So, it is a mixed report.

There’s also, I think, a mixed report on the British anti-vivisection movement. On the one hand, BUAV focuses exclusively on direct negotiations with governments and regulatory agencies; however, some other national groups (e.g., National Anti-Vivisection Society and Animal Aid) either work at the same public policy level and also (or primarily) in public education. Depending upon who you talk to, the grassroots direct action groups have helped or hindered the anti-vivisection cause.

Finally, I find it interesting that, as I consider my thirtieth anniversary of working at the BUAV and notwithstanding the progress made, the issue of cosmetic testing persists unresolved. Notwithstanding The Independent reporting that the EU-wide ban from 2013 on the sale of cosmetics tested on animals will happen, according to the European Commission, the BUAV launches a petition to ensure the ban occurs, which was prompted by reports that this would not be the case.

I see a pattern developing here not only with cosmetic tests with animals but also with beak trimming for egg-laying chickens in battery cages in which commercial interests with plenty of time mandated to them by governments still come to the deadline with an unwillingness to comply. I cannot but help conclude that if it were not for the animal welfare or rights movement and individual animal activists there would still be, for example, drunken rats and calves in veal crates.

In 30 years time when I will be 85, I wonder if the animal industrial complex, including animal research laboratories and agribusiness interests, will still be resisting change forced upon them by enlightened public opinion. Or if their existence will be significantly reduced because the political economy of animal exploitation is such that it is unsustainable. And what animal advocates will learn to do is identify and target its weaknesses thereby helping to push it over. It is going to fall anyway because society cannot afford expensive ways to feed people and keep them healthy.

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