Gary Francione’s RAIN WITHOUT THUNDER
Though I’ve referred to the work of Gary Francione many times, I’ve neglected to review his 1996 book that started much of the brouhaha over whether animal welfare efforts can lead to abolition (short answer: no). RAIN WITHOUT THUNDER: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement (Temple) isn’t a day at the beach. It’s more like a day at the zoo–painful and makes you think a lot.
If you’re at all unclear about exactly what a "new welfarist" is, or you still consider Peter Singer "the father of the animal rights movement," Francione sorts it all out for you in 230 pages. Furthermore, whichever national "animal rights organization" you belong to, you’ll probably want to (re)evaluate whether your investment might be more effective for your ultimate goal (whatever that is) if diverted to a different type of organization (like maybe a local one or one that does more direct service).
You might even wonder, like I did, whether your efforts at changing legislation are–in the larger scheme of things–worthwhile.
None of this is fun, I admit, and no one is ever going to stop me from supporting Grey2K USA in their efforts to ban greyhound racing (and those funds aren’t tax-deductible because some go to lobbying). In my opinion, greyhound racing is one of the few issues that just might be resolved (partly) through legislation (combined with the economic pressure that boycotts can easily provide). But I digress.
What I find separates most Animal People from vegetarians and others who claim to "love" animals, is that Animal People are aware that the core of the problem for nonhuman animals is that their legal status is that of property, and as such any interest they have (if they can be said to have one, like, say, an interest in not being used for food, racing, or clothing) is meaningless as soon as a human has an interest in using them for, say, food, racing, or clothing. In other words, they have no meaningful right to their own natural lives.
The issue, from a true animal rights perspective, isn’t that they suffer and we should broaden our circle of compassion to include them. The issue is that we shouldn’t be using them at all. I frequently get e-mails from people saying, for instance, that I’m wrong about horse racing and dog racing. "Sure, there are bad apples in the lot," goes the logic, "But the far majority of breeders, trainers and owners love those damn horses and dogs."
- I don’t believe that. (And if they loved them so much, they wouldn’t kill them when they could no longer profit from them through racing or breeding. Someday soon I’ll deconstruct all this talk of "loving" animals and we’ll see what it really means.)
- Whether it’s true is immaterial. Humans like to think the world is our oyster and that God put everyone and everything on this Earth for our use and abuse. If I were to believe in any kind of God, s/he certainly wouldn’t have created one species to run roughshod over the rest and her/his precious Earth. I think the way we behave (the running roughshod part) is disturbingly lacking in an ethic (note: not compassion). The underlying principle of rights, therefore, is a matter of justice, not compassion and suffering. It is unjust to treat sentient beings as things.
RAIN WITHOUT THUNDER is a necessary read, but not a weekend one, particularly if you’re still in the welfare camp.