Gary Francione on The O’Reilly Radio Factor
I found listening to Professor Gary Francione’s interview by Michael Smerconish on Bill O-Reilly’s Radio Factor annoying. And the origin of my annoyance was the callers to the radio program. Now, this was an O’Reilly audience, so that accounts for some of why I was annoyed, and evidently Ted Nugent was also a guest on the show, which accounts for the rest. The audience was O-Reilly and Nugent folk, and this is what happens when they are permitted to ask a preeminent vegan a question: they try to trip him up. (This is my interpretation, please note. What’s yours?)
Let’s deconstruct the not-even-close to slippery slope questions that were probably supposed to catch Professor Francione in some way:
1. Are you an atheist? The implication here, of course, is that only someone who doesn’t believe in god could do something so unnatural, freakish, and maybe even sacrilegious, as be a vegan. Professor Francione calls himself a medieval Cathar dualist (all of whom I believe were wiped out by the Catholic Church centuries ago, by the way. There were dualists and gnostics, the dualists believing in a good god and an evil god. There were Perfecti, who were exemplars, as well as more reform-like Cathars, who weren’t as adherent to the idea of nonviolence. Cathars didn’t believe in war or capital punishment, and they didn’t eat/kill animals, except for reasons I won’t go into, fish). Rather than discussing Catharism, Professor Francione gives the caller and Smerconish what they want–or don’t want–when Smerconish asks if there is a religious foundation for Professor Francione’s beliefs: he says he would categorize himself under Christianity, and then proceeds to quote Genesis to support we were all originally vegans. (And Smerconish quickly changes the subject.)
Now, unlike Professor Francione, I don’t believe in god. I am not 100% sure that there is no god, as I don’t think anyone does, but I’m an evidence kind of person and I’m going with the evidence, which is largely against the idea of god. I wouldn’t want to get into an argument about this because more realistically my position is that the existence of god is irrelevant to me. If there’s a god–great! I’m sure she or he will think all of my efforts toward nonviolence and all of the work I do to make the world a better place are exemplary. If there’s a heaven, I’m pretty sure I’m in! And if there is no god–equally great! The existence of god does not in any way alter how I approach life, as my decisions aren’t made to obtain approval, gain entrance to heaven, or guarantee a favorable rebirth. I do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.
Here’s my observation, which appears to be supported by this interview: Nonvegans want vegans to be atheists, or some religion other than Christianity, so they can have a reason to not go vegan. (Again, just my observation, as I’ve also had many conversations like this, and when someone finds out I don’t believe in god, they attempt to dismiss everything else I say as if it all comes from being a heathen.)
2. Along those lines are the "what about abortion?" people. They want vegans to be pro-choice, even though they will ask, "You must be pro-life, then, right?" so they can call us hypocrites, and more important, so they can have a reason to not go vegan. As Professor Francione pointed out, the abortion scenario is unique in that a rights holder (when it is outside the womb, at least) is living inside of another rights holder. But the caller(s) don’t want to see that part of the scenario. They’re all about their belief that terminating a pregnancy, even in the first eight weeks, is murder (in other words, there is sentience). Therefore, if Professor Francione maintains that sentience is very unlikely in the first eight weeks, he is a hypocrite, and they don’t have to be vegans.
3. Next, what’s a "debate" about animal rights without the introduction of "what about the insects?" In this case, it’s ticks. And no, Professor Francione won’t kill them (he’ll relocate them). Nor will he kill the skunk in the backyard (he’ll trap her in a Have-A-Heart trap and relocate her). Again and again, callers play Stump the Wizard rather than asking about rights, property, nonviolence (which Professor Francione does manage to squeeze in), social change, or anything else the rest of us want to hear about (I know, I know, we’re not the audience, so it does make sense).
4. Finally, there was the obligatory blustery "whadda do you feed yer dog" guy in the last moments (at least of the recording), who when Professor Francione said his dogs were vegans quietly said, "oh" and faded away. The presumption? He feeds them dead animals, is therefore a hypocrite (which I, unlike many vegans, would not agree with), and the caller guy now does not have to seriously consider the myriad reasons to go vegan.
Do you see the pattern here? I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I am personally frustrated on behalf of Professor Francione that he must be subjected (and subjects himself, in the hope of making a difference) to such piffle.
But piffle is subjective. For some people, if you don’t agree with their views on god and abortion, they believe they have a free pass to NOT consider anything else you say, regardless of how reasonable–not to mention important–it may be. In other words, even if you think it’s piffle, it’s not. And it should be treated seriously (as Professor Francione did).
What no one let him say (and what I wanted to scream) was:
- If you disagree with me about this one thing (re: abortion and/or insects), why does that mean you shouldn’t consider whether you should be killing animals whom WE KNOW are sentient?
- And if there is a god, don’t you think that god would want us to honor her/his creation with respect and nonviolence, rather than rampant torture and slaughter?
- And whether or not you believe dogs, as secondary carnivores, should be eating other animals, how does that affect whether or not you would consider that humans, who are omnivores (and definitely not carnivores) should be eating other animals?
Thank you Professor Francione, for taking on the O’Reilly crowd, and putting their questions to rest, whether or not they heard the answers. All we can do is provide the information. What the listener does with it (including actually hear it) is not in our control.