It has been published HERE by Animal Rights Zone, and HERE by VegFestUK.
This blog entry is to clarify why I wrote it. It is not part of a "personal vendetta" against Gary Francione, as someone suggested, but to put both of these abolitionist theorists into historical context. I do not regard this piece as attacking Francione at all. I am interested in social movement theory, and the history of social movements.
What really did it for me was "meeting" someone on FB who apparently knew nothing about Tom Regan, the author of The Case for Animal Rights in 1983 other than the controversial "lifeboat scenario" in which Regan says, in given circumstances, one million dogs should be thrown out of a crowded vessel to save a single human being.
The part of The Case where the lifeboat scenario is under discussion is when Regan is explaining how his "rights view" differs from both utilitarianism (Singer's) and a "perfectionist theory of justice." And he does indeed say that one million dogs may be thrown overboard. However, he makes it clear that this is based on assessments of pairs of individuals, one human and the dog, then a second human and the dog, and so on.
Regan does not spell it out clearly, but it's clear that the reverse but less likely circumstance may prevail with, as it were, a "normal" dog and human candidates who's situation means that they will be harmed less if they were killed rather than the dog.
Exactly why Regan remained somewhat unclear on this I don't know. However, in the article linked to above, when talking about Regan's subject-of-a-life criteria, I mentioned that Regan wrote in the early 1980s in a rather conservative way because the message of animal rights was so new and so very radical back then. To the extent that anyone reading this is faced by people suggesting that animal rights is "pie-in-the-sky," imagine what it was like to advance a rights-based animal rights position in the 1980s.
However, only two years later, 1985, Regan did clarify his position on the lifeboat in the New York Review of Books (April 1985). Regan writes
- It would not be wrong to cast a million dogs overboard to save the four human survivors, assuming the lifeboat case were otherwise the same. But neither would it be wrong to cast a million humans overboard to save a canine survivor, if the harm death would be for the humans was, in each case, less than the harm death would be for the dog (emphasis added).
There are indeed some problems and issues with Regan's work - but fairness, respect, and knowledge of the history of the animal advocacy movement demands that Tom Regan is known for more than the lifeboat scenario, especially when critics seem to have forgotten that he would cast the humans overboard as much as the dogs in given circumstances.
Regan was a pioneer in establishing the rights-based animal rights position and we should never forget that and the debt we owe him. Here's some videos of Tom Regan, pioneer animal rights advocate.