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"ARZone is facilitating and exacerbating the confusion about animal ethics by acting as a showcase for new welfarists, who are presented in a format that does not allow for any effective challenging of their claims.”   

~ Gary Francione, writing at the Abolitionist Approach forum.

 

In your opinion, Professor Francione, in your opinion. Now, I realize that in the circles you run, your opinion is gospel, but out here in the real world, thank goodness, it isn’t. So, let us examine the claim, bit by bit.

 

“ARZone is…a showcase for new-welfarists”

 

What is a “showcase for new-welfarists”? I don’t know what Francione means, but typically, a showcase is a place where something is put on display, in its best possible light, so as to help the sale of the thing. Is that what ARZone does?

When we have guests on who disagree with any of our views, and we ask them questions which highlight those disagreements and call them to explain them, is that putting those guests forth in the best possible light? Whether the guest answers a question to our complete satisfaction is another matter altogether, and it’s one every interviewer and debater has faced. But questions are asked, and follow-ups are asked, and the transcripts are read and commented on. The guest’s ideas are challenged and debated, whether during the chat or afterward. So, no, there’s no objective standard by which one can claim that ARZone acts as a “showcase” for anyone, as that term is normally understood. Others, like Francione, will still claim it, but it’s just their opinion. It isn’t a fact.

Does ARZone “facilitate and exacerbate confusion about animal ethics” even if it is not acting as a showcase for “new-welfarists”? I’m not sure how. Unless one assumes that the visitors to the ARZone website will be unable to follow the chat and read and understand the conversation, then it seems that people will be able to see when a guest dodges a question or answers incompletely or incoherently. Given that site traffic is almost as high for the two days following the chat as it is on the day of the chat, it appears that many people are taking the time to digest the information gleaned from the chats. Francione himself took part in a conversation on the site in the days following Robert Garner’s chat, both as part of a live discussion in the main chat room, as well as in the comment thread of the transcript to the chat. He knows how the process works. How that process is supposed to facilitate and exacerbate confusion eludes me, and so this part of the claim has no objective basis either. It isn’t a fact.

Perhaps the part of the claim which gives it its force is this: “new welfarists, who are presented in a format that does not allow for any effective challenging of their claims”. But that’s already been addressed. It is true that guests are asked questions and that they are often not asked follow-ups, but they are available to be asked, and whether it is in the chat itself, or in the ensuing discussions in the comments to the posted transcript and elsewhere, challenges are made. It is entirely possible as well that our members realize that some guests are not going to be very forthcoming in their responses, and that follow-up questions to them may not be useful. If that is true, it indicates that challenges are unnecessary, because the challenge is implicit – ARZone is an animal rights website and social network, and our members are typically knowledgeable and supportive of animal rights – they are confident enough in their own views to let some things go unchallenged during the chat. We are a civil bunch after all.

There is an argument to be made that a better way to question guests would be to “hold their feet to the fire” and press them on issues until they “break”. I guess if there was a way to lock the door to the chat room so guests had no choice but to stay and answer badgering questions, that would be an option. But, as I am sure Francione knows from experience, when one doesn’t want to continue a debate, one can always just walk out of the room. So, while the format isn’t perfect, it does allow for the guests to be challenged, and challenged they are. It may be an open question about how well guests are challenged, but to say that ARZone doesn’t allow for ANY effective challenging of its guest is just flat wrong. It isn’t a fact.

In summary, while it is Francione’s opinion that “ARZone is facilitating and exacerbating the confusion about animal ethics by acting as a showcase for new welfarists, who are presented in a format that does not allow for any effective challenging of their claims”, it is only his opinion, it is not based on any clear objective standards, any fair reading of the record, or any reasonable appraisal of the entirety of the website.

Francione makes one more claim, and this one is quite insidious. He says, about ARZone: “It is just one of a million little entities out there that carry water in one way or another for the dominant new welfarist machine, which is led by the large groups.”

ARZone is a “little entity”. I guess, since ARZone’s membership is nearly eight times the size of Francione’s forum, we shouldn’t take that to mean little in size but instead, of little significance. I’ll ignore the obvious condescension; if I were to dwell on every petty insult from Francione, there’d be no time for anything else in life.

“Carry the water” is a term that means, roughly, do the dirty work for someone else, someone more powerful who needs servants (i.e. waterboys). Oops, I said I would ignore the insults!

Anyway, ARZone, because it hosts some guests who hold views with which we disagree, and because, in Francione’s opinion we don’t sufficiently interrogate those guests, therefore we are actually working for, acting as the servants of, the dominant new-welfarist machine. Is that not an outrageous charge? It seems to me it is. I can understand Francione’s disagreement with the efficacy of ARZone’s methodology (although a little generosity with respect to those efforts wouldn’t kill him, would it?). But this is nothing short of ridiculous. Because ARZone doesn’t meet Francione’s standards, he is accusing ARZone of being complicit (with those nefarious “large groups” no less) in the continuation of the use, abuse, and misuse of nonhuman individuals. This is a serious charge, and it is one he should retract.

Gary Francione’s views and opinions about ARZone and the work being done there are not grounded in any objective facts or supported by any fair review of the body of work produced by ARZone over the course of the last 13 months. The conclusions he reaches, based on his unfounded views and opinions, are false. His characterization of ARZone as supportive of and working together with new-welfarists is misguided and mistaken. His claims about ARZone can be,and should be, dismissed.

 

 

http://timgier.com/2011/01/31/in-defense-of-arzone/

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Comment by Robert James on February 7, 2011 at 10:37

"I'm fairly certain those of us who engage the ARZone guests and/or read the transcripts afterwords are more than capable of determining which guests are stonewalling the questions in one form or another and which are honest and from the heart, which are contrived and which are genuine."

 

i think i took that wrong sorry what i was meaning if people come here they should answer the questions they are asked truthfully thats all sorry

Comment by Carolyn Bailey on February 7, 2011 at 9:36

I'm not sure I understand your question, Robert. I'd be happy to answer you if you could elaborate. Who lied and when?

 

 

Comment by Robert James on February 7, 2011 at 8:28
if people are going to lie in there answer on here whats the point in coming on here in the first place ?
Comment by Carolyn Bailey on February 7, 2011 at 6:28

Hi Alex,

You said: 

"I'm fairly certain those of us who engage the ARZone guests and/or read the transcripts afterwords are more than capable of determining which guests are stonewalling the questions in one form or another and which are honest and from the heart, which are contrived and which are genuine."

This is exactly the point we've made ourselves, over and over again. ARZone members are intelligent enough to receive information and be able to scrutinize that information and form their own opinions. Members may also ask questions of other members or admins at any time, create dialogue about any part of a chat, at any time, in a number of different forums.

It's unfortunate that many of those currently criticising ARZone don't seem to understand this is possible. I guess if they were to spend a little more time in ARZone, they may understand that rational discourse really does work. 

Personally, I find it more constructive to support others as they learn, ask questions and discuss issues, rather than insist on others adopting my position and my position alone, without consultation of the facts, other than "because I said so."

 

 

 

Comment by Alex Richards on February 6, 2011 at 23:48
Francione himself publicly interacts with welfare-promoting individuals. A couple of the many cases are: (-) his new book, "The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation", and (-) his 2/25/07 debate with vegan.com welfarist Erik Marcus (http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/audio/) (scroll down to locate "Erik Marcus Debates Professor Francione on Abolition vs. Animal Welfare"). It would seem Francione may feel "that's different" regarding his conversations, possibly because Francione may consider his more intense, less yielding, than ARZone's, but nevertheless, Francione, too, "showcases" welfarists. Francione is amazingly dynamic in many ways. I've been a vegan for many years, but until I listened to Francione, wasn't aware of the difference between welfarism and abolition. Now I know and consider myself an abolitionist. I do wish all campaigns would more visibly and consistently add adopting the vegan lifestyle as something each of us can do on an individual basis to help the animals. And I do feel many of the welfarists, especially the large multi-million-dollar organizations, have sold out and may even be accepting donations from the very industries who are deeply vested in the continued use, exploitation and commodification of animals. But there are also many smaller groups who are doing great work, who are maximizing their knowledge and experience, who are incredibly dedicated and committed to their animals, and would never sell out or be complicit with those who cause harm. I'm fairly certain those of us who engage the ARZone guests and/or read the transcripts afterwords are more than capable of determining which guests are stonewalling the questions in one form or another and which are honest and from the heart, which are contrived and which are genuine. It's exposure to all these voices that enables one to discern that difference and educate others accordingly. As Francione himself does.
Comment by Brandon Becker on February 4, 2011 at 5:43

I agree completely, Lisa. Veganism doesn't spread itself; we need effective outreach to the general public (especially influential members) to change society and win animal liberation.

Comment by Lisa V on February 2, 2011 at 2:17

 

I'd already been vegan for a few years before I'd ever heard of Gary Francione and already had developed my own idea of abolition by then. I do think messages such as his are the most logical and consistent, and abolition is what makes sense. 

 

However, I don't know even one vegan who became vegan because of Gary Francione. Because they read Skinny Bitch? Yes. Watched Earthlings? Yep. Saw Meat Your Meat? Uh huh. Got a PETA veg starter kit? Absolutely. If the desired result is veganism, then those "less perfect" messages are working better than the "perfect". 

 

What's the point of having the perfect message if all you're going to do with it is cloister yourself with less than 200 of your followers and talk about how horrible and misguided all the other messengers are? Seems counterproductive to me.

 

 

Comment by Tim Marshall on February 1, 2011 at 19:38

As someone who two years ago thought he held all the answers... wow.

As I gained more friends here in the vegan community and online (internationally) I saw anyone who brought an idea of their own or had a slightly different view on the dictionary definition of a term get systematically shutdown and blacklisted.

I would LOVE to believe that the man who wrote and holds such wonderful ideas about and strategies for the advancement of AR embodies the principles in his dealings with other human beings and in fact practices the ahimsa he is supposedly fond of.
In reality I've seen intellectual xenophobia and what has bordered on bullying. very disappointing. 

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