Dunayer vs. Davis on Speciesism

Joan Dunayer was not impressed by Karen Davis review of her book, Speciesism and posted a lengthy critique of Davis’ review to animal rights mailing list AR-NEWS.

Dunayer elaborates on her anti-welfarism views,

Similarly, the managing editor of the conservative National Review opposes nonhuman rights but approves of PETA’s asking KFC (formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken) to implement less-cruel slaughter. “Why not ‘gas killing,’ as a gentler alternative to the other stuff?” he writes, calling such a change “just.” Killing innocent beings is far from just, wehther or not they’re gassed. These two men endorse “humane slaughter” campaigns because such campaigns aren’t rights-based. To the contrary, they’re based on violating nonhumans’ rihgt to life. Instead of seeking measures compatible with the attitude that it’s acceptable to kill nonhumans, advocates should consistently work to change that attitude. Without such change, slaughter will go on and on.

Dunayer also challenges Davis’ claim that, “There is absolutely no evidence to support Dunayer’s claim that working for ‘welfarist’ reforms retards liberation.” Dunayer vehemently disagrees,

This is false. In Speciesism I provide evidence such as the following:

1. Switzerland’s elimination of battery cages increased the Swiss egg industry’s profitability and its acceptability to consumers.

2. A 2000 Zogby poll indicated that most U.S. adults feel better about eating animal-derived food if they think the animals were treated “humanely.”

3. Vivisectors and other abusers continually point to “welfarist” laws such as the Animal Welfare Act and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act as evidence that nonhumans are treated “humanely.” These laws, which have failed to protect nonhumans from extreme suffering, give consumers false assurances.

4. As reported by the egg industry itself, “welfarist” campaigns against food-removal forced molting have resulted in the industry’s starting to switch to low-nutrition starvation that will be less offensive to consumers.

To a large extent, Dunayer is correct — the main successes the animal rights movement have had so far are simply animal welfarist improvements, and tend to reinforce animal use rather than lead to animal rights. On the other hand, Dunayer’s liberationist fantasies are also doomed, at least in the United States.


Corrections of Davis’s false and misleading statements in her Specieism review. Joan Dunayer, January 11, 2005.

Karen Davis Reviews Joan Dunayer’s Speciesism

As mentioned previously, Joan Dunayer’s new book, Speciesism, has stirred up a hornet’s nest (excuse my maligning of our non-human friends for the moment) among animal rights individuals and groups because of its attack on groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and United Poultry Concerns because those groups have adopted a strategy of seeking intermediary step — such as changes in the size of cages that egg laying hens are kept in — on the way to their animal liberation fantasies. As far as Dunayer is concerned, groups like PETA and UPC are almost as bad as those who “murder” animals themselves.

UPC’s Karen Davis recently posted her review of Dunayer’s book, and the first thing to note is, as with Norm Phelps’ review, that the difference is one of tactics rather than philosophy. So, for example, Davis writes extremely favorably of Dunayer’s overall view of animal rights (emphasis added),

She [Dunayer] challenges the privileging of beings whose mental life fits the profile of a philosopher gazing in the mirror. Not only is there wealth of evidence showing that nonhuman animals, including insects, have rich and varied lives, including, in many cases, “perceptual powers that we lack”; but virtually all nonhumans are better eco-persons than we are. On the basis of reason and ethics, it makes sense, says Dunayer, to “value benign individuals more than those who, on balance cause harm. In utilitarian terms, a chicken’s life is worth more — not less — than the life of the average human, because chickens are far more benign.” But human vanity being what it is, such logic seldom prevails.

If I or David Martosko said that “Animal rights activists value animals more than human beings” we’d be accused of creating a straw man. Joan Dunayer says it, and the usual suspects fall in line to praise her.

What Davis objects to is Dunayer’s assertion that the only difference between PETA/UPC and those who slaughter animals for food is that “PETA and UPC staff won’t commit the murders themselves.”

Davis complains,

Dunayer writes: “If I were in a Nazi concentration camp and someone on the outside asked me, ‘Do you want me to work for better living conditions, more-humane deaths in the gas chamber, or the liberation of all concentration camps?’ I’d answer, ‘Liberation.’ . . . I’d regard any focus on better living conditions or more-‘humane’ deaths as immoral.”

But is the choice so patently either/or? In real prison situations, inmates are ready to sell body and soul for a stale crust of bread — anything! If I were in a concentration camp, I don’t know that I wouldn’t forego the possibility of full emancipation sometime in the future for a little cup of coffee, a reduction in the amount of lice or number of beatings, a less painful death, in the here and now. Stupid maybe, but what did the political machine bosses offer the grateful suffering multitudes in the early 20-th century New York City that the social theorists alone could not deliver? “There’s got to be in every ward somebody that any bloke can come to and get help. Help, you understand; none of your law and justice, but help.”


Book Review: Speciesism. Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns, January 11, 2005.

More Joan Dunayer on Animal Rights vs. Animal Rights Welfarists

In response to criticism of her book, Speciesism, and specifically its attacks on the more non-abolitionist elements of the animal rights movement, Joan Dunayer recently posted a long section of her book which deals with this topic to animal rights mailing list AR-News.

Dunayer charges that animal rights activists who work for reform of certain practices are hypocritical or, at the least, not true to their ideals,

Asking KFC or any other company to implement less-cruel slaughter of chickens conveys this message: “It’s alright for you to kill chickens, provided that you do it in the least cruel way.” As David Nilbert has stated, nonhuman advocates shouldn’t ask a company to sell body parts from chickens slaughtered less cruelly; they should demand that the company “stop selling fried body parts of chickens altogether.” . . .

“Welfarist” campaigning perpetuates a speciesist double standard between humans and nonhumans. As expressed by Francione, treating “the nonhuman context different from the human context” indicates “species bias.”

If I were in a Nazi concentration camp and someone on the outside asked me, “Do you want me to work for better living conditions, more-humane deaths in the gas chamber, or the liberation of all concentration camps?” I’d answer, “Liberation.” In fact, I’d find the question bizarre and offensive. I’d regard any focus on better living conditions or more-“humane” deaths as immoral. It’s equally immoral to focus on better living conditions or more-“humane” killing of enslaves and slaughtered nonhumans.

. . .

Time, money, and effort always are limited. Activists should devote every available minute and dollar to reducing the number of victims and bringing the day of emancipation closer — by promoting veganism and building public support for nonhuman rights. Over the long term, the best way to reduce hen suffering is to increase opposition to hen enslavement, not to seek “improvements” in that enslavement.

Dunayer goes on to argue that animal rights activists who campaign for improved treatment of animals might actually increase their suffering,

Groups such as UPC and AVAR have campaigned against total-starvation forced molting. A ban on any or all types of forced molting would be “welfarist,” not abolitionist. Such a ban-actually a requirement that enslavers give hens adequate food and water-would leave hens to be killed when their egg laying declines.

The forced-molting issue epitomizes the tradeoffs that “reforms” often entail. A ban on forced molting would mean that many more chickens would be enslaved and murdered. “Laying hens” would pass through the egg industry at a faster pace: egg-factory owners who previously used forced molting would “dispose of” and “replace” them after a shorter period. The number of hens and roosters used as breeders also would increase. So would the number of male chicks born and killed.

Even so, Paul Shapiro, Campaigns Director of Compassion Over Killing, has argued that, overall, a forced-molting ban might reduce the suffering of chickens because forced molting causes suffering and prolongs the time during which a hen lives in horrendously cruel conditions. Whether or not the total amount of chicken suffering would be less without forced molting-which is impossible to determine-what are we doing when we ask that the longer suffering of fewer individuals be replaced with the shorter suffering of many more individuals? We never would say of innocent humans, “Please improve the conditions of those who are imprisoned and killed, but imprison and kill more people.” Do we really want more hens and roosters living lives of utter misery and more male chicks being born only to be suffocated or ground up alive? To a rights advocate, the whole idea of attempting to calculate which causes more suffering-torturing and killing fewer chickens over a longer period or torturing and killing more chickens over a shorter period-is morally objectionable. Either way, chickens suffer and die. Either way, their moral rights are completely violated. Remember: chickens shouldn’t be imprisoned in the first place.

According to an industry article on forced molting, the low-nutrition method of starvation was developed because “animal welfare interests” criticized the no-food method as “inhumane”; the new method “addresses the negative welfare connotation that fasting has with animal welfare organizations and consumers.” In other words, while continuing to starve hens, the industry now will claim to feed them. As a result, consumers will feel better about eating eggs.

Of course as Norm Phelps noted in his review of Speciesism, what Dunayer is calling for in practice is no improvement and no abolition, since liberation in Western societies is a non-starter. Lets hope all activists adopt Dunayer’s views!


Speciesism. Joan Dunayer, 2004.

Norm Phelps Reviews Joan Dunayer’s Speciesism

The Fund for Animals’ Norm Phelps recently reviewed Joan Dunayer’s latest missive, Speciesism. Speciesism, like all of Dunayer’s animal rights work, is strictly abolitionist with little room for dissent. Phelps doesn’t have a problem with Dunayers’ abolitionist arguments, but rather disagrees with Dunayer on how to get there.

So, for example, Phelps describes the following excerpt by Dunayer as “an intellectually consistent ethic of moral equality for all sentient beings”,

Sentience, defined as any capacity to experience, is the only logical and fair basis for rights. In nonspeciesist philosophy, all sentient beings have rights. What’s more, all sentient beings are equal. Any needless harm to nonhumans should be viewed with the same disapproval as comparable harm to humans. Am I saying that a firefly is as fully entitled to moral consideration as a rabbit or bonobo? Yes. Am I saying that a spider has as much right to life as an egret or a human? Yes. I see no logically consistent reason to say otherwise.

Phelps has no problem with this insane logic, but he cannot quite stomach the way Dunayer wants to put it in practice. As he puts it, “Unfortunately, what is elegant in theory can become hopelessly tangled upon contact with reality.”

That reality includes Dunayer’s attack on animal rights groups including United Poultry Concerns, Compassion Over Killing, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In her book, Dunayer writes,

If I were in a Nazi concentration camp, and someone on the outside asked me, “Do you want me to work for better living conditions, more humane deaths in the gas chambers, or the liberation of all concentration camps?” I’d answer “Liberation.” I’d regard any focus on better living conditions and more “humane” deaths as immoral.

They just can’t resist the Nazi comparisons at this point. Godwin’s Law is alive and well with the animal rights movement.

But Phelps disagrees,

It is this two-pronged approach — with its simultaneous, and not entirely consistent, emphases on both liberation and reform — that is critical to success in the real world in which animals are suffering and being killed. Dunayer’s Nazi concentration camp illustration is based on the unstated assumption that animal liberation can be achieved within a fairly near time frame. But since it clearly cannot be, refusing to work for better living conditions and less painful and terrifying deaths amounts to a betrayal of the animals whom we are professing to help. We must resist the temptation to sacrifice real-world results on the altar of an ivory-tower consistency because what we are really sacrificing is animals.

Someday, maybe, they’ll be able to treat spiders and humans as morally equal, but for now they need to concentrate on more humane slaughter methods. And if Phelps doesn’t think animal liberation is right around the corner, why does The Fund for Animals keep issuing press releases saying things like it is the beginning of the end for hunting?

Its kind of amusing to see Phelps then turn to a critique of Dunayer which is a pretty good indictment of the entire animal rights movement,

Like religious fundamentalists, Joan Dunayer believes that she has found the only path to salvation and that all who do not agree with her are giving aid and comfort to the enemy. And in fact, her faith that rigid adherence to logically consistent theory is the sole route to liberation has something of the aura of religious zealotry about it. And like fundamentalists religion, her faith is not empirically based. There is absolutely no evidence to support Dunayer’s claim that working for “welfarist” reforms retards liberation. Historically, the notion that the road to social change lies in strict submission to an elegant orthodoxy has always led, not to the utopia that was promised, but to failure, disaster, or both.

Come on, Norm — religious-like zealotry? Adherence to bizarrely impossible ideals? Holier than thou attitudes? Don’t pretend as if Dunayer has a monopoly on those traits; they’re pervasive in the animal rights movement.

Again, people used to e-mail me complaining that I was distorting animal rights activists by suggesting they might grant rights even to insects, but Dunayer says spiders and humans are morally equal and the best Phelps can muster is that its a great ideal that is nonetheless impractical for now.


Trying to Walk Before We Can Crawl. Norm Phelps, Satya, January 2005.

More on Activist's Debate Over California Foie Gras Ban

As this site noted earlier this week, there’s an ongoing conflict between animal rights groups over whether or not they should support California’s proposed ban on force feeding of ducks and geese. One one side is Friends of Animals which is opposing the bill because it doesn’t go far enough, and on the other side are United Poultry Concerns and a number of other groups who argue that activists should take what they can get.

Farmed Animal Watch’s Mary Finelli recently posted e-mail correspondence between herself and Friends of Animals’ Daniel Hammer in which Finelli asked how opposing the bill could help ducks and geese. Here’s the response she got,

>From: "Daniel Hammer" <[email protected]>
>To: "Mary Finelli" <[email protected]>
>CC: "Priscilla Feral" <[email protected]>
>Subject: Re: FoA on SB 1520
>Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2004 16:05:30 -0400

>Dear Mary,

>Friends of Animals proposes that people work for the rights of animals and >promote a vegan lifestyle.

>Friends of Animals is making this happen by fighting the amended version of >SB 1520. The only thing SB 1520 does is protect the "right" of Sonoma Foie >Gras to forcefully fed ducks for the next eight years. "These animals," >those currently at Sonoma Foie Gras, will have been slaughtered when SB >1520 >takes effect--along with an additional 440,000 more. SB 1520 does nothing >for these animals--each one an individual whose rights are just as >important >as those birds eight years from now.

>Friends of Animals is also making this happen by encourage people to adopt >a >vegan lifestyle. There are a number of ways we are doing this, including >our >Vegan Starter and Restaurant Guides. Obviously, if people go vegan it will >help these animals, and many, many, more.

>Thank you for taking an interest in the work of FoA. More information on >what FoA is doing can be found at: www.friendsofanimals.org.

>Cheers, >Daniel Hammer

To which Finelli responded on AR-News,

Apparently FoA thinks there is more hope for these
birds that everyone will go vegan by 2012. Any sane person knows how utterly
improbable that is. Furthermore, supporting SB 1520 and promoting veganism
are not mutually exclusive. Most if not all of the many groups who are
supporting the bill are in fact doing both. FoA is pushing its philosophical
position to a berserk extent, one that is immensely detrimental to these
many birds as well as to the animal protection community. If in 8 years
ducks are still being brutally tortured for foie gras production in
California, FoA and the Humane Farming Association, which is also opposing
the bill, will be among those to blame. It’s inexcusable and infuriating. We
have met the enemy and it is these “Friends.” I urge all reasonable people
to do what they can to support this bill.

An animal rights group and its leader insane? Say it isn’t so.


Controversy over the California foie gras bill. Mary Finelli, E-mail Correspondence, September 1, 2004.

UPC and Other Groups Urge Signing of SB 1520

Yesterday, I noted that Friends of Animals sent out a press release opposing California SB 1520 which would outlaw force feeding of birds for the production of foie gras in 2012. Shortly after the Friends of Animals press release, United Poultry Concerns issued a press release urging Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign the bill and slamming groups opposed to the bill.

The UPC press release said it was joined in support of the bill by the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, VivaUSA, Farm Sanctuary, In Defense of Animals, GourmetCruelty.com, and the Animal Protection and Rescue League.

According to UPC,

The bill if enacted will abolish a farmed animal abuse. The fact that
there will be a phase-in period is not a reason to oppose this bill. We have
applauded the banning of battery-hen cages in the European Union and in
Austria, and the banning of sow gestation crates in Florida, but all of this
important legislation for farmed animals includes phase-in periods. No one
who supports farmed animal protective legislation wants to wait for the law
to take effect, but that is now how the legislative process works. Yes, the
foie gras industry is going to use the time to try to overturn the law and
do other nefarious things, but this means that our public education work is
cut out for us. Given the facts of foie gras production and the videotaping
of the procedure that we have (Delicacy of Despair), it seems unlikely that
the public is going to be persuaded to abandon the ducks and oppose a ban on
foie gras production and sale in California.

. . .

Those groups who actively oppose SB 1520 could lobby at state and federal
levels to try to enact legislation that would ban foie gras production/sale
immediately, but they are not doing so. Instead, they are obstructing the
passage of this bill while offering no real alternative, just bashing the
bill and the groups that have worked so hard to get the bill introduced and
to retain as much of the original intent of the bill as possible.

United Poultry Concerns urges activists to support SB 1520 and to refuse to
reject this opportunity in pursuit of a purist fantasy. The objections being
raised against SB 1520 are unrealistic given the realities of the
legislative process and the enormous obstacles that farmed animals have
traditionally faced legislatively. Sabotaging this bill is going to hurt the
ducks, not help them.

The foie gras ban is one of about 1,000 bills that Schwarzenegger must either sign or veto by then end of September. Schwarzenegger has previously called the bill “silly” and pointed to it as an example of why California needs a part-time legislature.


Why UPC Supports SB 1520 and Urges Everyone Else to Support the Bill. Press Release, United Poultry Concerns, August 31, 2004.