The debate between pacifism and advocates of militant direct action (MDA) has been heating up recently and at the forefront of those opposed to violence and non-violent property damage is Professor Gary Francione. Francione, a law professor and philosopher on animal rights subjects, says that vegan education is the way forward and appears, at first glance, to advocate a pacifist approach.
Francione’s non-violent beliefs are not simply a personal matter as he actively argues against MDA and what he sees as violent action. But this isn’t about the rightness or wrongness of truly opposing violence and property damage. This article should interest pacifist and MDA activists alike as it poses the question: Is Gary Francione truly a pacifist?
Recently Francione issued a statement claiming that some people have said they had received ‘threats and/or violent communications’ because of posts they had made ‘in support of non-violence’ or that were ‘critical of the views’ of prominent animal rights MDA-proponent, philosopher Steven Best. He goes on to name animal activists that run a Facebook group he dislikes and warns people against contacting Prof. Best.
But this article isn’t really about this bizarre and sensationalist statement. The ‘Green is the New Red’ blog has covered it very well already (see here) this article is about a specific part of the statement. A part of the statement that goes to the heart of Francione’s claim to pacifism.
In the statement Francione goes on to say
If you feel threatened, you should go to the appropriate authorities. One can only surmise he is referring to the police when he says ‘appropriate authorities’. But if Francione is against the use of violence and force, why would he be urging people to turn to the police? Even with the most theoretical look at policing one must acknowledge it relies on violence and the threat of force. If the police could not use violence, suspects could and would just walk away from them.
How can this be in line with Francione’s ideals of pacifism? Remember, he does not only see this as a personal lifestyle choice, but he actively criticises the use of violence. How does encouraging the use of violence by proxy fit into this belief system? In the USA police officers regularly carry guns so the level of potential violence is very high and many of us know first hand that the police are more than happy to use violence to get their way.
It seems clear that Prof. Francione is not a pacifist but believes instead that his supporters should allow the state to execute violence and threats on their behalf. It is not violence or property damage that he opposes, it seems. It is simply who is doing it that Francione takes issue with. This is not pacifism or non-violence. It is contracting out violence. A shot from a gun or a hit with a stick does not magically become non-violent because it is carried out by a uniformed officer.
Whether it is a correct position to use the police or not, to personally refrain from violence and property damage or not is a debate for another time. But let’s be clear Francione doesn’t seem to object to the use of violence, he is not a pacifist.
DISCLAIMER: The views in the article are the views of the author only and do not necessarily represent the views of any other member/supporter of Animal Rights Cambridge or the group as a whole.