In recent times many people have accused myself and others of not having thoughts of our own – of merely being followers of Gary Francione or some other “Animal Rights guru.” I’ve been called “A minion of Gary’s cult,” “An Abolitionist Zombie,” “A mindless Abolitionist drone” and many other less charitable terms – all by “Vegans.”
Not that that makes any sense, or that I feel any real need to defend myself with any urgency. But I realize that there are a lot of people out there who may benefit from a little bit of rational perspective on the subject, so here it is:
It’s 2015 and I’m 43 years old. For my entire adult life I’ve been studying the issues of morality/ethics, science, and other subjects that are based on “rational thought.” In all that time, whenever I’ve discovered some new information or idea that is more rationally or morally consistent than the old info or theory that I already subscribed to, I’ve exchanged the old, inconsistent views I had for the new, rationally “better” views. I never do this in haste, but only after a reasonable amount of study of the new information.
In fact, that is the default position for any scientist to take. It’s a part of “healthy skepticism”, and without it, the world would not function as well as it does (although some would say the world doesn’t function all that well currently, but that just goes to prove that we need MORE healthy skepticism, not less).
The ONLY reason I follow the ideas of Gary Francione, or anyone for that matter, is if and because I find them to be more rationally consistent that my previous framework of ideas. My world view before becoming a Vegan was rationally and morally inconsistent; I was a vegetarian and an unbridled speciesist, among other things. I thought that the point of being a vegetarian was to reduce suffering, and it had nothing to do with the moral problems with exploitation in general, since I didn’t even really connect the 2. But when I discovered Gary’s writing I realized that “The Abolitionist Approach To Animal Rights” is 1 out of 2 of the only really consistent “theories” on why we need to completely eliminate all of our intentional exploitation of other sentient beings. So I threw away my old views and adopted those new ones.
This doesn’t mean I threw away my objectivity. It’s actually the opposite. Gary’s theory demands that we look at our beliefs with a critical and unbiased eye. If anything, I was less objective about things before than I am now.
Also, I didn’t exchange my old views for the new ones because the new ones made me feel better about myself. In fact, it was the opposite. At first, examining my actions made me feel worse about them. But that’s how you can tell a moral stance is valid; if it makes you feel bad, and you recognize that you need to adopt it anyway, then there’s a better than even chance that its the correct stance to adopt.
Now, just because I recognize that someone is a genius in terms of their moral theories doesn’t mean I can’t disagree with them on some other issue. Case in points: Gary and various moderators of his Facebook page engage in cyber-bullying; I don’t like how hastily Gary and his admins ban people from his Facebook page sometimes; I also don’t like the fact that he refuses to consider scientific information when it contradicts something he previously believed was true (regarding human herbivory in particular, not really anything else).
However, just because we don’t like the way a person acts in regards to interpersonal contact doesn’t mean that we should disregard all their perfectly valid theories wholesale. That is why, despite being banned from his page for arguing with him, I still continue to constantly promote his theories and Abolitionist Approach. I do this because to do any less than promote the best theory of Animal Rights would be to let down the animals, both nonhuman and human, who are depending on us. If any other theory comes along that I think nullifies his, I will happily discard The Abolitionist Approach in favor of that one. It also doesn’t mean that I can’t incorporate my own ideas into his theory as well as those of others to form my own new hybrid theory of Animal Rights.
I think when people accuse someone of mindlessly following someone else’s ideas, what they’re really saying is “I can’t logically refute the theories you’re promoting, therefore the only way I can ‘win’ this argument is to discredit your mental acuity.”
Those people would do well to remember that in any debate, it’s much less effective to attack the character of the other debater (which is called an “Argumentum Ad Hominem” fallacy) than it is to attempt to refute the logic of the other debater’s position. Any really rational observers are going to recognize what’s going on, and realize that the person making the Ad Hominem attack is only doing it because their own debate position is relatively weak.
Unfortunately for them, resorting to such fallacies doesn’t really win them anything. In fact, it means that they haven’t elevated the sum total of the knowledge of our species, which means we all lose.
To gain some more clear perspective on this issue:
“Popular Myths About Abolitionism Debunked”:
“Factionalism in the Nonhuman Animal Rights Movement”:
“Ten Myths of New Welfarism”:
“Reclaiming Abolitionism: It’s Time For Us To Take A Stand For Animals”:
My explanation of the various A.R. factions:
If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.
To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.