Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement
Published in Social Anarchism #25, 2000
This book is an argument supporting the radical 'wing' of the animal rights movement. In this review I will lay out the skeleton of the author's argument, and follow this with a few summary remarks. I will be brief. The alternative would be a full-scale -- and necessarily lengthy -- treatment, and I have decided not to get into this. I limit myself to discharging only the reviewer's first and basic responsibility, to inform potential readers (and buyers) in such fashion that they can make informed decisions to read and/or purchase, eschewing the expanded form of the review essay.
The logic of Francione's argument is as follows:
Francione then sets out to prove that neither of what he takes to be the two most important theoretical claims of the new welfarists -- (1) that amelioration of the plight of animals can lead to abolition of exploitation, and (2) that animal rights cannot provide a theory of incremental reform leading to abolition -- can be defended.
(a) He rejects the first of these on both empirical and theoretical grounds. Empirically, he argues -- although without systematic analysis, it must be said -- that reformers are forced to become 'insiders,' and so end up taking positions scarcely different from those of the exploiters. Theoretically, he argues that reformism in its nature presupposes the legitimacy of the property status of animals, an inherent denial of elemental physical security which exploiters will never relinquish through the avenues of normal pluralist politics.
(b) Regarding the second, he argues that the animal rights movement differs from almost all other movements (at least in democratic polities: Francione is not entirely clear on this point) excepting the movement to abolish slavery. The common element of property implies that, unlike other movements (in democratic polities) the goal must necessarily be the complete abolition of property status. The movement therefore has special requirements for action that set it off from all other movements. (i.e; reform movements). He proposes a chapter-length set of criteria for movement actions that -- formally, at least -- would exclude all actions not consistent with the movement goal of abolishing the property status of animals.
Rain Without Thunder is basically an exercise in moral philosophy and the limits and possibilities of action. Although it incorporates a good deal of historical fact, it is only secondarily a work of social science. I think that most readers will find it powerfully argued and convincing. Those with some knowledge of the workings of other movements, will find illuminating parallels, even though Francione eschews such discussions entirely. While it is only fair to keep in mind that he is a legal scholar and not a social scientist, it should also be said that his political analysis could have benefitted from an infusion of some up-to-date political and social movement theory.
Although Francione is clearly no anarchist, and despite the limitations of his political analysis, I think readers of SA would find much here that is stimulating and informative.
Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement by Gary Francione. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1996. $19.95 paper.
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