Thursday, 13 May 2010

Welfarism and Vegetarianism: a Vicious Circle

The idea that we must promote vegetarianism and welfarism instead of veganism and abolitionism is pernicious nonsense promoted by corporate welfarist organizations which profit thereby and endorsed by advocates who have been lead astray by the seduction of "leaders" - Singer, Pacelle, Friedrich, Newkirk, and so on - into false beliefs about why veganism is perceived by the public as "extreme" and even "fanatical."

It is perceived in these pejorative terms precisely because these "leaders" have not sought to make veganism the normal, default position of anyone who takes animals seriously (Francione). On the contrary: they have knowingly and deliberately made welfarism and "happy" meat the baseline position while maligning veganism as an eccentric ethic for saints and heroes.

But these "leaders" claim with shameless impudence that we must promote welfarism and "happy" meat because the public is unreceptive to veganism when in fact, it is their welfarism and "happy" meat campaigns which causes that unreceptivity. The upshot of this is that they decadently make a means of self-confirmation out of a problem that they themselves define and create. The effect of this decadence is to create a vicious circle whereby unreceptivity to veganism supposedly justifies welfarism which in turn reinforces (as opposed to weakens or erodes) unreceptivity to veganism - and so ad infinitum.

Accordingly, the welfarist movement is designed to feed on itself forever - and will do so unless we recognize that animal rights imperatively compels us to reject welfarism and instead to make veganism the moral baseline, the minimum standard of decency, for animal rights advocacy

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Poor President Priscilla

Priscilla Feral, the president of the corporate organization Friend's of Animals (FoA), was recently interviewed by MikeyPod on Meat Free Radio. This interview was as intellectually threadbare as its personal attacks were densely woven, with Feral's resorting to cavilling against abolitionism and - what is worse and different in kind - defamatory ad hominem attacks against Francione himself - attacks which were facilitated by MikeyPod, who eschewed the responsibilities of serious interviewing. I will say more about MikeyPod's contribution later.

Now ad hominem attacks present one with a problem, not by the magnitude of their message, which by definition is entirely absent, but by dignifying them with a response one inevitably gives those who resort to them, like Feral, a veneer of wholly unmerited respectability – a risk I hope to parry by stating that what Feral said is not worth addressing in and of itself, but only because it represents a prevalent way of trying to discredit Francione's abolitionist theory.

To begin with, Feral and MikeyPod set up a straw man by characterizing abolitionism in ways - as, for example, an "all or nothing approach" which is "defeatist" - which do not even resemble Francione's theory in the way that is implied by the idea of an ordinary caricature (which must contain at least some element of truth). Indeed, in lieu of a rebuttal of Francione's critique of FoA's single issue campaigns, Feral alleged - dishonestly, of course - that Francione resents FoA because he had been unable to become FoA's president. Emboldened perhaps by MikePod's lassie faire attitude to such defamatory nonsense, Feral went on to masquerade FoA's opportunism as honest opposition to what other corporate welfarists refer to as Francione's alleged ivory tower intellectualism and what Feral herself referred to as his "large salary" that is paid for "by the taxpayer," implying, among other things, that Francione's critique of single issue campaigns is based on a lack of understanding of what it is like to be "in the trenches" of animal advocacy. Furthermore, Feral alleged that Francione wanted everyone to "march to his drum."

Now these allegations and others like them, repeated ad nauseum by corporate welfarists, are so weak that they may as well be written in the sand by the wind. Behind all of them lies rancour against the very thing that Francione actually stands for, namely: a grass roots abolitionist movement guided by theory as opposed to a corporate welfarist movement masked as progressiveness but which actually is externally motivated by its own financial self-interest and long-term survival.

The claim that Francione does not know what it is like "on the ground," once divested of its coarse stupidity and brazen dishonesty by a cursory inspection of Francione's long and varied biography as an animal rights advocate, can be seen for what it really is, namely an attempt to discredit abolitionism without going to the trouble of actually addressing it.

Unfortunately, for Feral, referring to Francione's alleged "large salary" which is paid for "by the taxpayer" was an especially inept diversionary tactic, because whereas Francione makes no money at all from animal advocacy and gives all the royalties from his books to animal causes, Feral, by contrast, pockets over $100,000 annually in animal money, a remarkable sum for someone who claims to be an advocate for justice and not the CEO of a self-serving corporation, a distinction that seems to elude or is cynically elided by her and other corporate welfarists generally.

Feral claimed that single issue campaigns are successful and necessary. But the only people/groups which pretend to take seriously the paradoxical "success" of campaigns which miseducate the public (embarrassingly, it was left up to Weir to point out the incoherence of campaigning against fur without also openly opposing leather) and impose an opportunity cost on social justice (by diverting time and resources away from vegan education) are the corporate welfarist groups themselves which profit thereby and animal industry, which tactically portrays welfarism as the "enemy" to help fuel its campaign against veganism, the latter being the real enemy of animal use.

I will mention one further point only to get it out of the way. Feral claimed that Francione "worked for" PeTA, even though Francione actually worked with PeTA; never for pay.

Feral's personal attacks on Francione were not addressed by MikeyPod, who instead blathered obliquely about abolitionism, or what he imagines it to be.

In conclusion: let us be clear above all about this: Francione and other abolitionist enrage the "leaders" of the corporate movement because they tell them what they must jettison: single issue campaigns and welfarism – the very things that keep the corporate movement running safely efficiently, and profitably. But since corporate welfarists have nothing of substance to say, they shift the discussion from abolitionist theory, which they cannot address, to irrelevant personal issues, which they can address by means of personal attacks.

But we as abolitionists must reject in principle as well as practice the ad hominem discourse in which the corporate welfarists want the abolitionism / welfarism debate to be cast. Instead, we must keep on indomitably arguing, in the teeth of the corporate welfarists' ad hominem attacks, for the conclusions that we know by reason and evidence to be right: single issue campaigns do not work, welfarism does not work, and the corporate movement, with its self-appointed "leaders" some of whom earn six figure salaries, does not work.

Conversely, we must, as continuously as possible, and by every appropriate means, promote veganism. We owe animals nothing less.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Demagogue's Corner a.k.a Thomas Paine's Corner

Steve Best's latest essay over at Thomas Paine's Corner is titled "The Loss of a Halo: Francione and the Mask of Jainism." Reading it was an experience that moved me to nothing but derision. In fact, it is difficult to imagine someone being so hard up for something to do as to write such an insipidly verbose screed devoid of sense and decency. It is a screed that exemplifies Best's predilection for theatricality, which is aided by his tin ear. The latter prevents him from being able to check his unpardonable rhetorical excess, ranging from self-indulgent prolixity and self-important self fanfare, often soaring (albeit unintentionally) to the heights of comical absurdity, to his bewildering profusion of absurd images and corny metaphors, and finally to his deadly ridiculous accounts of situations in which he himself is involved (or imagines himself to be), no matter how marginally or peripherally, and of his perceived enemies, especially Gary Francione.

The whole essay is a purely invented melodrama, indeed a comedy of persecution, in which Best wallows perversely in fulmination against Francione. It begins with Best's setting the stage on which he craves to appear. For in the spirit of rendering a difficult, but obligatory public service, he says that there is a "war" going on. This "war," however, is not the "war" against animal industry, but the "Best-Francione wars," in which the protagonists "locked horns...and traded a number of blows," in which Francione has "put on some brass knuckles [and] dangerously escalated the conflict" because he "apparently grew restless in the calm of the détente," and so "escalated it in a provocative and dangerous way." All of this merely prompts the question: how has such melodramatic nonsense become possible in the animal rights movement?

Next, his heart overflowing with the desire to set the record straight, with tender concern for the truth of every word he writes, Best depicts Francione as a veritably satanic figure, the devil with scorched wings, that is, as "arrogant, controlling, insulting, duplicitous, conniving, aggressive, and verbally abusive...a pseudo-pacifist who thrives on conflict and hostility" and is "filled by toxic hated [sic] and violent emotions." Moreover, according to Best, Francione's "accusations are...insidious, dangerous, and destructive" and his "tactics [are] designed to demonize and destroy individuals and unleash forces of repression and fear," because he is "thirst[y] for revenge." And finally, Best proclaims, with half-witted triumphalism, that he has exposed Francione as "a Machiavellian wrestling in the mud," an image which - when I first read it - caused me to burst out laughing.

By contrast, when Best talks about himself and his role in this "war" in particular, he does so with tender solicitude, at times even lapsing into sentimentality - a cantingly pious self-characterization, indeed, which is prefaced by him with the incredible claim that it has nothing to do with his "ego." For example, he says that he is "relatively satisfied" with his confused jumble of impotent thoughts - sorry, I mean his "critical work"; is "Never one to hide [his] commitments and beliefs"; engages in "philosophical justification" as opposed to "wild and reckless accusations"; is not an "irrational chest pounding demagogue"; and was "motivated by a grave concern" over the fact that Machiavelli is wrestling in the mud. Indeed, he says that, "after careful study," he came out against the muddied wrestler and in favor of the ALF, or something like that.

Next, he uses his "war" with Francione as an excuse to give us an abridged version of his intellectual biography ("In 2004, I published...") as well as to regale us with the melodrama of another one of his battles, this time with David Martosko who in the presence of "powerful politicians" and "top FBI brass" described Best as "the ALF Kingpin, the Bossman, the Capo, the Mack Daddy," even though he was just "a lone critical voice on campus." It brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it?

The problem here is that it's not an easy task for Best to maintain that he is just "doing philosophy," or providing "philosophical justification," when his writing exemplifies exactly those characteristics from which philosophical writing should be free. Indeed, anyone could be forgiven for thinking that he is doing anything but philosophy. His rhetorical style, for example, goes beyond the limit of prudent sanity in that it is marked, on the one hand, by its disturbingly shrill tone and hyperbolic language, and, on the other, by its opaque academic jargon and intellectual affectations; the former is designed to stir up people's emotions and prejudices while the latter is supposed to be a sign of his intellectual authority, but is, in fact, a meretricious substitute for it.

I mean, what is one to do in the face of Best's critique of Francione's abolitionist theory as homogenising the "contextualist and pluralist" multi-dimensionality of the "dialectical both/and" into the "iron cage" of the "a priori" "either/or"? What is one to do, that is, other than to shrug one's shoulders with bemused condescension?

But this does not mean that Best's writings are unpopular. Satirists like them.

Concluding his screed, Best announces with much cheap ceremony that he is "throwing down the gauntlet" to his nemesis. Throwing down my own gauntlet, I challenge anyone to provide a single shred of evidence that Best is an "irrational chest pounding demagogue" who takes refuge in an histrionic style characterized by jargon and alliteration, by melodramatic fulmination against "adversaries," and by fanciful interpretations of reality: "Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis."

Monday, 18 January 2010

Newspaper Article by Victor Schonfeld

I would like to draw attention to a great newspaper article by Victor Schonfeld on the faliure of the animal rights corporations to achieve progressive change on behalf of animals. The article, which is called Five Fatal Flaws of Animal Activism and was published in the Guardian, can be found here

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Friday, 4 September 2009

In Support of Non-Violence

Since the abolitionist approach was developed in the writings of Gary Francione, it has been marginalized by those who represent what abolitionists refer to, and criticize as, new welfarism. For as long a time, there have been attacks against Francione from the very same side, which are openly directed against his integrity as a scholar and animal rights advocate. While his opponents have been unprepared to address any of Francione's arguments in a substantial way, they have shown no hesitation to denounce and disparage him by means of whatever inflammatory rhetoric has to offer.

The efforts to defeat abolitionist ideas, in particular the idea that the animal rights movement should be a movement of peace and non-violence, by trying to discredit Gary Francione, has reached a new, unprecedented quality in blog posts and other online writings targeting him in ways which go beyond the limits of tolerability, according to standards which should apply to a social justice movement. A few examples, a small selection, of what has been spread on the internet lately in this regard are mentioned in Francione's blog announcement concerning his decision to leave the social networking site Facebook.

Anyone who is seriously concerned about the substantive points at issue should reject this way of dealing with them as illegitimate in itself, counterproductive in terms of fostering constructive dialogue, and, most importantly, as cultivating the idea that one can be an animal rights advocate while supporting violence which is only suited to turn the public off the cause and to provide an excuse for dismissing a serious moral issue.

We agree, with Gary Francione and other abolitionists, on veganism and non-violence as the non-negotiable baseline of the animal rights movement and on creative, non-violent vegan education as the only way to achieve the abolition of animal exploitation.

By Karin Hilpisch and James Crump

Other statements and comments in support of nonviolence have been posted by:

Vincent Guihan: An open letter to Gary Francione

Randy W. Sandberg: On Regulation and Breaking Laws

Dan Cudahy: On Militant Direct Action

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Postscript to my previous blog entry

Critics of new welfarism are often confronted with the objection that they deny that other activists want the abolition of animal exploitation. That is not the case.

Since we don't have the ability to read minds, we don't know if what others purport to want is what they really want. But we can make valid predications about whether someone’s actions are logically and credibly consistent with what they claim to pursue. Furthermore, we can make valid predications about the structural conditions under which someone acts and the relevance of these conditions to what they can possibly pursue.

As a general matter, an organization whose running costs are paid for by membership fees and donations cannot act independently of the interests and goals of its members and donors. In order to continue to exist (and to grow), the organization has inevitably to act in accordance with the interests of those whose money forms its financial base.

This means in the context of animal advocacy:

In a society in which 99% of the population uses animals, mainly by consuming animal products, and consider this just as necessary or at least as unproblematic as breathing air and drinking water, the majority of the members and donors of an organization which appears to act on behalf of animals is formed by animal users, unless the orgainzation would do nothing but promote veganism, or the acceptability of members, donors, and sponsors would be linked to their being vegan.

Where this is not the case, the organization will, in order to persist, inevitably act on behalf of those who use animals and who, not being educated why it is wrong to use animals, wish to continue to do so. In other words, for reasons of self-preservation, the goal to abolish animal exploitation CANNOT seriously be pursued by this organization. The possibility of its existence is principally incompatible with that goal. And an institution which economically sustains functionaries and employees cannot be conceived as one which is intended to become ''superfluous'' by eliminating what makes it allegedly necessary. Accordingly, the institution's policy will be one which results in making animal exploitation appear more morally acceptable to make people feel more comfortable about it.

By Karin Hilpisch

Thursday, 2 July 2009

The Happy Meat * Movement and the Animal Welfare / Animal Industry Partnership, by Karin Hilpisch and James Crump

*meat here represents all animal products

Animal welfare legitimises animal use

In his books, articles, and blog essays, Gary L. Francione has analysed comprehensively and in detail the status of nonhuman animals as property which is embedded in laws that regulate animal use and is reinforced by welfare reform.

Jeff Perz puts it this way on an Internet forum: ''One of the reasons why abolitionism inevitably involves a critique of animal welfare is that, every time a new animal welfare law gets passed, the property status of other animals is that much more codified and entrenched'' (1)

And Dan Cudahy notes on his blog: ''More and more regulations add a regulating structure to animal exploitation supported eventually by more bureaucracy, more inspector jobs, and more ‘legitimacy’ to the entire enterprise, entrenching animals ever deeper into property and commodity status.'' (2)

This is inevitably so because animal welfare reform aims at improving the treatment of nonhumans but does not challenge their being used by humans. In fact, ''[c]ampaigns for welfare reform make sense only if the use of animals is morally acceptable and the issue is only how we treat the animals we use.'' Francione, Context Makes All the Difference.

It is self-evident that the legitimization of animal use and, thereby, the reinforcement of the property status is diametrically at odds with the abolition of animal exploitation.

On his blog, Francione writes: ''In much of my writing, I have argued that the promotion of the ‘happy meat’ approach has led not only to making the public more comfortable about consuming animal products but it has resulted in the creation of a disturbing partnership between animal advocates and institutionalized exploiters.''

The regressive and counter-productive ''happy meat'' movement is also the subject matter of Francione's blog essay, ''Happy Meat'': Making Humans Feel Better About Eating Animals which refers to other entries dealing with this issue.

Animal welfare and animal industry: good business and mutual interests

An example, as illustrative as it is disturbing, of the partnership between animal advocates and animal industry is the agreement between People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) about the gassing of chickens, the so-called controlled atmosphere killing, an agreement in which there were ''no differences of opinion about how animals should be treated,''and in which a welfare organization performed as an ''unpaid public relations firm'' of a company that sells death and as a free advisor to animal industry about how they can increase their profits. But PETA got its money's worth as well: proclaiming an “enormous victory,” a “historic victory,'' the organization ('‘half of our members are vegetarian and half think it’s a good idea’') can be sure of an constant stream of donations.

But it would be unfair to single out PETA in this regard without mentioning that the Humane Society of the United States – the largest and most powerful welfare corporation in America – also acts as a marketing division of, and as an economic advisor to, industry, the former by promoting “humane” animal products, and the latter by producing economic analyses detailing the higher profitability of (for example) group housing for sows as compared to the gestation crate. See A ''Triumph'' of Animal Welfare? Moreover, PETA and HSUS both make millions of dollars in donations by systematically misrepresenting the nature of welfarist regulation. Even though welfarist reforms are invariably based on increased exploitative efficiency and would be implemented by industry on economic grounds anyway, they are nevertheless portrayed by PETA and HSUS as great victories and successes for the animals.

But the collaboration between welfare and industry thrives not only on the other side of the pond.

The ''happy meat'' movement in Austria: a case study

In 2008, a programmatic essay, entitled, ''Abolitionism versus Reformism or which type of campaign will lead to abolition eventually?''(3) in English and German (4), authored by the president of the Austrian Association Against Animal Factories [Verein gegen Tierfabriken] Martin Balluch, was spread on the Internet (and critically commented on by Francione: A ''Very New Approach'' Or Just More New Welfarism?). Therein, the author sets out his view that while there is a philosophical gulf between animal welfare and animal rights, there also is a political and psychological continuum, i.e., a continual development of society and the individual from regulated animal exploitation to abolition, i.e., from animal welfare to animal rights.

Balluch conceives this development as one in which welfare has a psychologically and politically indispensable role to play and, therefore, cannot be 'skipped'. Consistently, he thinks that vegan education, thought as the only way to abolition, ''cannot but fail''. This view becomes manifest in the association's policy of a massive promotion at all levels of ''humane'' exploitative practices and products:


— ''Straw makes happy'': a campaign which conveys to consumers of pig flesh the advantages of keeping pigs on straw rather than on slatted floors. (5)

— advertising of barn and free-range husbandry of chickens and rabbits (6)

— advertising of ''cage-free'' eggs which are being contrasted with battery eggs as an ethical alternative to a ''product for which sentient living beings are being relentlessly exploited as egg-laying machines.'' (7) (They 'forgot' to mention here that sentient living beings are also relentlessly exploited for ''cage-free'' eggs.)

— an initiative recommending that Austrian ''companies which have rendered outstanding services in changing from battery eggs to cage-free eggs'' were given a ''Good Egg Award'' (8)

In the USA, PETA and other welfare groups are publicly praising a retailer for selling the corpses of ‘‘humanely’’ raised and slaughtered animals. (9) See '''Happy'' Meat / Animal Products: A Step in the Right Direction or ''An Easier Access Point Back' to Eating Animals''

The VGT's demand for ''incentive systems'' rewarding the use of abattoirs which are closest to the farm (9) matches perfectly PETA's giving its ''Proggy Award'' to a ''visionary'' slaughterhouse-designer. See '''Happy'' Meat.


The VGT markets animal products which have been produced in compliance with guidelines for ''animal- appropriateness'' by means of an official body / auditing agency which was founded in 1995 by three welfare associations in Austria, ''as a neutral and independent organization for inspection''. The job of this institution is the ''control, certification and monitoring of producers and suppliers with regard to compliance with the guidelines'' according to ''criteria concerning species-appropriate chicken husbandry that have been developed by experts''. Products gained from such husbandry are certified ''animal welfare tested,'' a registered trade mark. (10)

Trademarks which certify the ''humane'' treatment of animals and are being promoted by welfare groups encourage the public to consume animal products which results in increased demand and, thereby, increased profits for suppliers.

When last year Balluch, along with nine other animal activists, was arrested and spent three months in prison, a number of open letters were written in support of the detainees. In one of them, Toni Hubmann, an ''organic'' egg farmer, lauds the teamwork between him, Balluch and two other welfarists that has been practised at the institution mentioned above since 2002. Hubmann writes: ''Any improvement or change in husbandry has been accepted by said gentlemen and implemented in agreement with the concerned farmers and merchants. This has led to said gentlemen's having had a significant role in the high acceptance of cage-free and fee-range systems in Austria. (…) Not only could the animal welfare organizations gain successes for the further development of national and international animal welfare but, with their commitment, they have helped sustain numerous small farming businesses.'' (11)[our emphasis]

In line with the VGT's bizarre view of animal rights animal products which have been ''animal welfare tested'' are promoted in a ''shopping guide for products from species-appropriate animal husbandry'': ''The VGT which for more than five years now has been engaged resolutely against cruel factory farming and the negative excesses of modern agribusiness, has, on the other hand, always been the first privately organized contact address in the search for alternative animal products.'' ''More and more people are striving towards a cultural progress in dealing with farm animal and wish to provide them, as reward for their ''services'', at least with a bearable life before death.'' (12) Occasionally, products ''from species-appropriate animal husbandry'' are not only advertised but also distributed to passers-by. (13)

Changing the system but not people's minds?

Balluch argues against spreading veganism in society on the grounds that ''[m]any people, who did turn vegan, fall back to consuming animal products.'' For this there is, indeed, more than one example. And that this is so has mainly to do with the societal impact of those who, like Balluch, publicly declare that being vegan is extremely difficult and requires great energy expenditure. But as long as organizations and individuals who are perceived as animal advocates send a message to the public that consuming products from ''species-appropriate'' or ''animal-appropriate'' farming is morally acceptable, and that we can discharge our moral obligations towards animals by making exploitation more ''humane,'' most will not even consider going vegan.

According to Balluch, the animal rights movement's job is not to change the way people think about animals but to change ''the system'': ''The opinion of the majority or single people in society is of secondary importance.'' With this view, the VGT's policy is completely in line. It does not change people's minds but reinforces the notion that we can effectively protect animals and use them at the same time. But without changing people's attitude towards nonhuman animals, the ''system,'' which consists of people, will never change.

Struggling for animal rights or battling for market shares? The ''enemy'' is a partner

In his programmatic essay, Balluch claims that

— the struggle for animal rights is carried out between the animal rights movement and the animal industries, ''the only enemy in the political conflict to achieve animal rights,'' in which each tries to pull the public, which ''stands indifferent at the start,'' on its side;
— it must be the primary aim of the animal rights movement to produce political pressure to achieve incremental reforms which weaken and damage the animal industries.

In the light of what has been said above, however, it is difficult to see in what way the VGT's activities are possibly suited to weaken and damage animal industry. When two parties are inextricably entangled, as is evident with the animal welfare movement and animal industry, this relationship can hardly be characterised as a "conflict" but rather as symbiotic, representing two sides of one exploitative system, with the result that to the animals, it does not matter much whose side the public takes. Temple Grandin, the ''visionary'' slaughterhouse designer, put it best when she said that ''proper handling of animals that are to be slaughtered 'keep[s] the meat industry running safely, efficiently and profitably.''' (14)

Obviously, the organic sector of animal agriculture is not referred to as the ''only enemy in the political conflict to achieve animal rights.'' But it is, more than anything else, the partnership between animal welfare and animal industry that is the stumbling block to abolition because in it, both sides figure as animal exploiters. There is no morally relevant difference between a battery egg and a ''cage-free'' egg, or between the flesh of a pig that has been kept on slatted floor and the flesh of a pig that has been kept on straw. The one who furthers the demand for animal products is no less an exploiter than the one who supplies it. Producing and consuming animal products are rights violations; so is promoting animal products: it treats nonhuman rightholders as much like commodities as producers and consumers do. It is just as immoral. An immoral institution – animal industry – cannot be fought by another immoral institution – animal welfare.

Organizations like the VGT are the most powerful societal force against veganism and animal rights, i.e., nonhumans' right to full membership in the moral community, their right to be recognized as persons and to be no one's property.


(1) quote Jeff Perz,
(This forum us available only to registered members of the board.)

(2) quote Dan Cudahy

(3) Abolitionism versus Reformism

(4) Abschaffung versus Reform

(5) ''Straw makes happy''

(6) free-range chickens

free-range rabbits

(7) ethical alternative

( 8) Good Egg Award

(9) "Dear John,*

The undersigned animal welfare, animal protection and animal rights organizations would like to express their appreciation and support for the pioneering initiative being taken by Whole Foods Market in setting Farm Animal Compassionate Standards. We hope and expect that these standards will improve the lives of millions of animals."

* John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market

(10) incentive systems

(11) official body / auditing agency

(12) open letter

(13) shopping guide

(14) ''In addition, leaflets and 'Toni's free-range Easter eggs' ['Toni's Freiland-Ostereier'] in a 4-pack are distributed to passers-by.''

(15) ''According to Grandin, proper handling of animals that are to be slaughtered 'keep[s] the meat industry running safely, efficiently and profitably.'''
Gary L. Francione, Abolition of Animal Exploitation: The Journey Will Not Begin While We Are Walking Backwards

Monday, 23 February 2009

Doesn 't Every Little Help?

I would like to make a few points with regard to the claim that animal welfare is a "step in the right direction" because it convinces people to go vegan.

First, the sentimental "every little helps" approach is the expression of a model of animal advocacy whose central idea is that we should support any welfarist measure that will reduce animal suffering. But it would be difficult if not impossible to make incremental progress toward abolition using this blunt (utilitarian) instrument. After all, if we subscribed to this model of animal advocacy, all industry would need to do to stymie the progress of the animal rights movement indefinitely would be to intermittently offer excruciatingly modest concessions which we would be obliged to support because of our uselessly reductive conception of how to effect social change.

Second, people do not go vegan because of campaigns that merely call for the regulation of animal slavery: they go vegan in spite of them.

Third, let's assume for the sake of the argument that welfarism is conducive to veganism. Now imagine this scenario: every day I stand on my head and recite the alphabet backwards. One day a lunatic walks past and, as a result of my strange behavior, decides to go vegan. Prejudiced by the Singerian notion that, with respect to the problem of animal exploitation, "every little helps," many activists now claim that, on pain of not caring about the animals, we are obliged to support any person or group of people who stand on their heads while reciting the alphabet backwards, as doing so may be conducive to getting lunatics to go vegan.

Now, I do not think that the attitude expressed by the activists in this hypothetical is too far removed from the attitude of many activists to PeTA. I often hear people say things like, "I cannot but support PeTA's 'I'd-rather-go-naked-and-play-suggestively-with-vegetables-than-wear-fur/eat animal products' campaigns as they have convinced some people to go vegan." But just as we obviously should not infer, from the fact that standing on one's head while reciting the alphabet backwards might be conducive to getting lunatics to go vegan, that we should encourage people actually to do this, so we also should not infer, from the fact that some people may go vegan as a result of seeing PeTA activists undressing while playing suggestively with vegetables, that we are obliged to support PeTA. Why not? Among other things, it is because undressing while playing suggestively with vegetables - or standing on one's head while reciting the alphabet backwards - does not (it goes without saying) represent a maximally effective use of time and resources. Indeed, the point can - and should - be put more strongly: how many people have PeTA, with its fethishization of sexist campaigns, and also with its attempt to rebrand KFC as "humane," prevented from going vegan?

Accordingly, the claim that we should support PeTA because it has convinced some people to go vegan is really nothing but a veiled rationalization for a less than maximally effective strategy. More strongly, I offer my scenario with the "activist" who convinces someone to go vegan by standing on his head while reciting the alphabet backwards as a reduction to absurdity of the claim that we should support everything that is claimed to be "conducive to veganism," an idea which is an expression of the "every little helps" approach to animal advocacy, which in its turn is one of the main (ideological) causes of the modern "animal protection" movement's profligate wastefulness. Following Gary Francione and other abolitionists, I suggest that we should support (financially and ideologically) only that form of advocacy which is maximally conducive to veganism, by which I mean clear, unequivocal, and creative vegan advocacy.

One counterargument to the claim that vegan advocacy is maximally conducive to veganism goes something like this: granted, welfarism cannot lead to abolition; but how do you know that vegan advocacy can? But this is like asking: why should we promote a clear, coherent, and unequivocal (vegan) message as opposed to an unclear, incoherent, and equivocal (welfarist) message? Furthermore, imagine all of the animal movement's institutional resources had been spent not on welfarist reform and "happy" meat campaigns, but instead on clear and unequivocal vegan education. Does anyone seriously think that had the animal movement done this there would be fewer vegans today?

Someone who is undeterred by my rhetorical questions, who thinks, that is, that it may be preferable to present an unclear and incoherent welfarist message as opposed to a clear and coherent vegan message, will probably fall back on some version of the "if you ask for 100%, then you get nothing" defence. But as Gary Francione points out, what reason do we have to believe that if we promote veganism we will get nothing? For if people are concerned about the animal issue, then, even if they don't go vegan, they will do something; and if they are so unconcerned about this issue that they would do nothing when presented with a vegan message, then what reason is there to believe that they would do something (89%?) if presented with a "happy" meat message? Moreover, as Francione points out, if we present people with a vegan message, then, even if they don't feel ready to go vegan straightaway, we will at least give them something to which they can aspire. But if we tell them that they can be "conscientious omnivores", that they can discharge their moral obligations to animals by eating "happy" meat and "cage-free" eggs, then that is all they will do.

Thus, in opposition to the vacuous mantra: "If you ask for 100%, then you get nothing", I would say: "If you do nothing, then you get nothing". In other words, if we do not campaign for abolition - if we do not clearly, lucidly, and uncompromisingly advocate it to the public - we will never get abolition.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

New Animal Rights Website: Animal Rights Violations

I'd like to draw attention to a great new animal rights website created by the abolitionist Roger Yates. The site is called Animal Rights Violations.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Abolitionist Outreach Materials

The abolitionist community has produced some excellent outreach materials which can be viewed and/or downloaded at the following sites:

Pamphlet by Gary Francione and Anna Charlton. This pamphlet has been translated into several different languages, including French, German and Spanish.

Pamphlet by the Boston Vegan Association.

Pamphlet by Joanne and Vincent (The Starting Point Is Veganism blog).

Poster by Nathan Schneider. This poster has also been translated into German and Spanish.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Conference - Trade Opportunities from Animal Welfare

Several prominent welfarist organizations, including Compassion in World Farming and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, are organizing a conference the aim of which is to promote the benefits of animal welfare -- not to animals, but, on the contrary, to animal industry; in the words of Adolfo Sansolini, trade policy advisor for RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming, Eurogroup for Animals and WSPA: "Farmers, retailers and governments have got a lot to gain by working together on animal welfare...Animal welfare is no longer only a just cause [sic], but also a trade opportunity that should not be missed." Indeed, according to the welfarist organizers of this conference, the link between animal welfare, on the one hand, and increased exploiter profits and increased consumption (of animal products), on the other, "is increasingly being recognised by institutions such as the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation."

This begs the question: why is the official animal rights movement still clinging with corrupt fidelity to welfarism?

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

An Abolitionist Pamphlet

Gary Francione and Anna Charlton have produced an abolitionist pamphlet that "presents the abolitionist approach in an accessible way," and that they hope will facilitate people's efforts to educate their families, friends, and communities about veganism in a nonviolent and creative way (to paraphrase Francione).

Please download the pamphlet and distribute it far and wide!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

CAK, Welfarism, Militancy

I wrote a long forum post recently which I thought I'd reproduce here:

PeTA's own report on CAK clearly states that CAK will increase production efficiency for animal industry. Therefore, how can the welfare movement seriously claim that CAK represents incremental progress toward abolition -- in other words, that it is a step on the road to emptying the cages?

Animal industry will survive for as long as animals remain economically viable commodities. And animals will remain economically viable commodities for as long as industry can make profit from them. Therefore, if we are to eradicate animal exploitation, we must abolish animals' commodity status.

Now the abolition of animals' commodity status can be achieved either directly through the imposition of constraints on what exploiters can do to animals in the recognition that animals have inherent value, or indirectly through mitigating cultural speciesism through vegan education. And of course these things are not mutually exclusive but are, rather, two sides of the same coin - that coin being animal liberation.

Yet CAK cannot seriously be claimed to erode animals' commodity status either directly or indirectly.

First, CAK will reduce the cost of exploiting chickens and, correspondingly, increase their commodity value. This, of course, is in direct opposition to the aim of abolishing animals' commodity status.

Second, the increased profits that will come from the increased production efficiency will be cyclically invested by industry in more animal exploitation. This means that CAK, promoted by welfarists, will be a causal factor in the expansion and growth of animal industry.

Third, the decreased production costs probably will cause a decrease in the price of chicken. This in turn will cause an increase in demand, as people who couldn't afford these products pre-CAK will now buy them and people who could afford them will probably buy more of them. This increase in demand, driven by an increase in exploitative efficiency, will in turn cause a net increase in animal suffering because more chickens will be being exploited.

Fourth, PeTA's CAK campaign represents free advertising for KFC. PeTA have publicly announced that they have called off their KFC campaign - something that is suited to make people feel better about consuming chicken at KFC in particular, and to increase social acceptance of animal use in general. For if even a self-proclaimed animal rights organization no longer sees the need to oppose KFC, then what reason could the public have for opposing it? Moreover and deplorably, these statements by a self-proclaimed animal rights organization will be taken to have generalizing authority, in that they will be taken to apply to other forms of animal use.

The self-inflicted unimaginativeness involved in the reply that we should support any welfarist measure that is thought to reduce suffering is astonishing. If the idea here is that welfarism is a precondition of abolition, then I would reply: if you think that regulations which militate for industry's efficiency and profitability are a precondition of abolition, then you are in the kind of error (at least on issue of the abolition of animals' commodity status) that makes meaningful discussion impossible.

Second, these regulations would exist anyway, that is, independently of the welfare movement and of welfare campaigns, since, as I said, they protect only institutional animal interests, interests that relate to animals use as economic property. Only if they represented a recognition that animals had inherent value would it make any sense to be concerned about their being repealed.

Third, if the idea is that people have to find it intelligible that they should be kind to animals in order to find it intelligible that they have rights-type obligations, and that this means we should continue to promote welfarism, then I would reply with the following. Even though people generally accept the welfarist idea that they should be kind to animals, this has not, as an empirical matter, translated into welfarist regulation that reflects inherent valuation of animal interests. If welfarism is empirically unable to erode animals' property status, then welfarism has no abolitionistic function -- and so should rejected by the abolitionist movement.

Fourth, if the claim is that welfarism sustains a certain attitude in people's minds, namely, that people should be kind to animals, and that this is why the welfare corporations should promote it, then this is refuted by the fact that veganism can also sustain in people's mind the idea that animals are members of the moral community. Moreover, if the welfarist corps just promoted veganism, then this would not just have the same effect: it would have a qualitatively better effect. The problem, therefore, does not lie with the abolitionist approach, in particular with its rejection of welfarism, but rather with new welfarist corps which refuse to make vegan outreach their primary mode of campaigning.

Fifth, not all animal welfare scientists are even prepared to say that CAK will reduce suffering. Also, there are other ways to reduce net animal suffering in the short term, ways which do not our illogically undermine our ideals and long term goals in the very act of announcing themselves, and also our capacity to reduce animal suffering in the future. Vegan education, for example, can reduce net animal suffering (by reducing demand) while also militating for long term abolition (by building up the constituency of vegans). But this obscures the most important point in the fight for justice for animals, which is that neither PeTA, nor anyone else, can morally justify promoting, or engaging in, any form of animal use.

Thus to call welfarism an opportunity cost would be to radically underdescribe its pointlessness to the abolitionist movement.

If the empirical effects of vegan education seem minimal to people, then this would only undermine the abolitionist approach if vegan outreach were the animal movement's primary mode of campaigning. But it isn’t. On the contrary, welfarism is. Ironically, therefore, the empirical evidence that is supposed to undermine abolitionism – that people are unreceptive to veganism; that it has had a minimal impact; etc. – and to recommend welfarism in fact undermines welfarism and leaves abolitionism untouched. For it strongly suggests, not that vegan education won’t work (how could any empirical evidence show that vegan education won’t work when, as an empirical matter, vegan education has never been made the animal movement’s primary mode of campaigning?), but rather that it won’t work while the animal movement concurrently promotes welfarist measures (“happy” animal products, welfare regulation etc.) that provide people with an almost endless number of elitist excuses to continue exploiting animals.

If the idea is that vegan advocacy will take too long to abolish animal use -- that the former needs to be supplemented with other forms of advocacy in order to expedite the latter, then this is refuted by (at least) two considerations. First, it relies on the idea that vegan education is not maximally conducive to abolition. Yet vegan education is the only thing that directly causes abolition, for it is the only thing that directly targets the source of animal oppression (as opposed to welfarism which merely aims to mitigate the worst exploitative practices), which is demand; and it is the most effective use of our limited time and resources (why talk to someone about eating "humane" animal products when you can talk to them about eating no animal products?). In any event, it is difficult to see how something could be more conducive to veganism than direct and unequivocal vegan education. Accordingly, it is difficult to understand what could seriously be meant by saying that we need a “plurality” of approaches, or a “multi-pronged” approach, when the other approaches, or “prongs,” are less conducive to abolition than vegan education

Moreover, the success of vegan advocacy is a precondition of the intelligible success of the other main advocacy option, namely, prohibiting animal use through legislation. A cultural paradigm shift is a precondition of a legal paradigm shift. Indeed, in the absence of politically and economically powerful constituency of vegans, there is no reason why the government should ban animal use.

Regarding militancy, the repressive anti-AR legislation, precipitated by and pretexted on militancy, and the public attitude toward AR "terrorists," is strong empirical evidence that militancy is incompatible with the form of advocacy that is maximally effective at militating for a reduction in demand in the short term and total animal liberation in the long term, namely, the ongoing attempts to normalize veganism through vegan education. If someone replies that the public reaction to militancy doesn't matter, that all that matters is that animals are liberated, then I would agree. All that matters is total animal liberation. But this will never happen -- it is no intelligible that it could happen -- without broad public support. No one who rejects militancy is selling animals short. They are simply thinking of what is a maximally effective strategy for all animals, including those animals who will be disadvantaged in the future if we focus on militancy and welfarism as opposed to potentially culturally transformative vegan education.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

"Humane" Animal Products

Some animal advocates claim that people are probably always going to eat animal products (at least for the foreseeable future) so it is better that they at least eat "humane" animal products, which we should promote. That is, if people are going to do terrible things then we should spend our time and resources promoting slightly less terrible things (even though they are economically efficient and profitable for exploiters and even though they are still so terrible that they make nonsense of the idea that it is justified to do them because they are the lesser of two evils) so that (some of) the people who do terrible things do slightly less terrible things.

Compellingly plausible, isn't it?

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

What If Welfarism Were Conducive to Abolition?

A constitutive part of welfarist ideology is the claim that welfarism is conducive (a "step on the road") to abolition in that it supposedly fosters conditions of kindness toward animals, which in turn dispose people to take animals seriously. However, it doesn't follow, from the fact that something may be conducive to abolition, that we should therefore promote it. For example, someone once told me that, prior to going vegan, she had a nightmare about factory farming, a nightmare that played some part in convincing her to go vegan. In a sense, then, this nightmare was conducive to her going vegan. But someone could only jokingly say that the animal rights movement should spend its time and resources trying to induce nightmares about factory farming in people because they might in some peripheral sense be conducive to veganism.

Moreover, there are things that can be conducive to abolition, but which we should never support because they are positively anti-animal rights. For example, some people go vegan after visiting slaughterhouses [1]. But clearly, only a crank could claim that we should support slaughterhouses because visits to them can be conducive to getting people to go vegan.

The general point is that, even if it were true, the claim that welfarism is (or can be) conducive to abolition is too thin to do the work that welfarists wish of it -- it cannot, of itself, justify support for welfarism. We need further criteria to enable use to responsibly decide whether we should support something that is claimed to be a "step on the road" to animals rights. More specifically, we need to determine how conducive to abolition our various advocacy options are, or are likely to be. Then, after we have determined how conducive to abolition they are, it makes rational sense to engage in those forms of advocacy that are maximally conducive to abolition. At least it is difficult to understand what could seriously be meant by saying that we should support welfarist initiatives because they are conducive to abolition, even though they are less conducive to abolition than other forms of advocacy. And what is maximally conducive to abolition? Abolitionist vegan advocacy.

[1] This example is taken from a comment made by Vincent J. Guihan on the Vegan Freak forum.

Monday, 17 December 2007

PeTA Petition - take two

It has been pointed out that some people may not have access to the first petition which requires registration. Roger Yates has therefore come up with a second PeTA petition designed to replace the first. The petition can be found here:

Can those who signed the first please sign this one too. Thanks.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

PeTA Petition

The abolitionist Roger Yates has started an online petition to send to PeTA concerning their claims about Peter Singer's Animal Liberation. Despite the fact that Singer himself has clarified on several occasions that he is a utilitarian animal welfarist and not an animal rights theorist, PeTA nonetheless promote him as a rights theorist and his work as an -- indeed the -- animal rights philosophy. For example:

Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. Referred to as the animal rights 'bible,' this book includes in-depth examinations of factory farming, animal experimentation, vegetarianism, and animal rights philosophy. If you read only one animal rights book, it has to be this one. 204 pages, paperback."

It is important that the public is not exposed to misleading information about what animal rights is and who stands for it. (Roger has written a more extensive rationale for the petition.) If you agree that this is not a trivial matter in terms of the evolution of the animal movement, then please visit the petition blog and sign your name, using the "comments" feature. Thank you.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Excellent New Abolitionist Blog

I'd like to draw attention to an excellent new abolitionist blog by Dan Cudahy called Unpopular Vegan Essays

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

A Commentary on Gary Francione's Blog Entry entitled "A Comment on Violence", by Karin Hilpisch

Gary Francione: "Violence treats others as means to ends rather than as ends in themselves. When we engage in violence against others -- whether they are human or nonhuman -- we ignore their inherent value. We treat them only as things that have no value except that which we decide to give them. This is what leads people to engage in crimes of violence against people of color, women, and gays and lesbians."

Homophobia is that manifestation of morally unjustifiable discrimination which is regularly omitted in the antispeciesist discourse, as far as I know, in the German and in the English one. The fact that Gary explicitly and constantly considers homophobia as on the same level as sexism and racism cannot be esteemed highly enough in a societal context which is not only entirely entrenched in speciesism but in which even many of those who claim to be opposed to the latter see -- or are inclined to see -- heterosexism as different from other forms of discrimination, that is as not being one at all. Gary has recently examined this variation of moral schizophrenia more closely: "Is Heterosexism Different?"

Gary Francione: "Anyone who has ever used violence claims to regret having to resort to it, but argues that some desirable goal supposedly justified its use. The problem is that this facilitates an endless cycle of violence where anyone who feels strongly about something can embrace violence toward others as a means to achieving the greater good and those who are the targets of that violence may find a justification for their violent response. So on and on it goes. This is consequentialist moral thinking and it is destroying the world..." [...]

[F]or those who advocate violence, exactly against whom is this violence to be directed? The farmer raises animals because the overwhelming number of humans demand to eat meat and animal products. The farmer raises those animals in intensive conditions because consumers want meat and animal products to be as inexpensive as possible. But is the farmer the only culprit here? Or is the responsibility shared by the rest of us who eat animal products, including all of those conscientious omnivores, the non-vegan 'animal people' who consume 'cage-free eggs' and 'happy' meat, who create the demand but for which the farmer would be doing something else with her life? I suppose that it is easier to characterize farmers as the 'enemy,' but that ignores the reality of the situation.[...]

In other words, in a world in which eating animal products is considered by most people as 'natural or 'normal' as drinking water or breathing air, violence is quite likely to be seen as nothing more than an act of lunacy and will do nothing to further progressive thinking about the issue of animal exploitation." ("A Comment on Violence," see above)

The keyword "violence" stands in the centre of a highly controversially considered subject which is part of the welfarism vs abolitionism debate and, therefore, allegedly about strategy whereas in fact conditioned by a deep ideological division, the unbridgeable gap between consequentialist and deontological thinking.

The controversy about violence starts off with the question what violence is resp. what it is not; a vast area which requires far more consideration than I'm prepared to spend on it, at least in this post. Just one note: as far as violence, by whichever actions constituted, is linked with violating the law, and doing so in a significant manner to which the legislative response is the Animal Rights Terrorism Act, this response is certainly suited to achieve one thing: to impede or to complicate legal activism, the most effective form of which is abolitionist education.

I used to see animal rights activism in more than metaphorical terms of being at war -- with everyone taking part in the killing of animals, primarily in the slaughterhouse. This concept of warfare led me to sympathize with most of those actions which are the subject matter of the AETA but also to regard acts of violence in an uncontroversial sense of causing physical harm as a morally -- if not strategically -- perfectly sound way of fighting animal exploitation, and any objection on moral grounds against this activism on the side of supposed allies as expressing a serious lack of moral judgement, of solidarity with the nonhuman victims of the oppressors; as a poverty of ambition in any case.

It was by learning more about the ideological division mentioned above that I realized how deeply rooted in consequentialist thinking and, therefore, ethically unsound the approval of a kind of action is which appears as legitimate only under conditions where moral standards are suspended: war. This suspension of moral standards -- of what goes beyond the Old Testament's an eye for an eye ethics -- is the fertile ground on which war never ends. Simply realizing the ideological nature of what I considered sound moral intuitions made me question them, since I'd like to think of myself as being opposed to consequentialism.

What among other things caught me on this ideological redefinition of myself was a section of the debate between Gary and Erik Marcus where the latter quotes the retired president of the United Egg Producers as commenting on the detrimental impact the HSUS’s anti-battery/pro cage-free egg campaign allegedly has on the egg inustry’s profits, resulting in the statement: "We are at war." Whereas Marcus seeks to use this quote as proof of the effectiveness of cage-free egg campaigns in terms of a significant decrease of the demand for eggs, Gary points out to him and the listeners the fact that such proclamations are to be seen rather as a well-considered part of public relations than as a critical evaluation of the situation. [1]

A situation which pro animal activists tend to frame exactly the same way as does the head of one of the exploiting industries: "We are at war." Why do animal exploiters obviously like the idea of being at war with animal liberators? Because if this IS a war, given the common mindset of the opponents and the extremely disproportional distribution of resources, it can never be won for the animals.

The only thing that can be won for the animals is a revolution, a revolution ot the mind, against war, by shifting the paradigm to the idea of the abolition of animal exploitation. However long it will take this idea to prevail, there is no other way to go.

[1] See the transcript on (The Unofficial Gary Francione Website in whole is a great source), drawn up by two volunteers; thanks to them for the fabulous job they did.

An inspiring article,"Exclusive Non-Violent Action: Its Absolute Necessity for Building a Genuine Animal Rights Movement" by Jeff Perz is to be found here:

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Moral Schizophrenia and Complicity, by Karin Hilpisch

If there is anything to get things moving concerning speciesism, it is pointing out the bizarre division between animals who are institutionally used as companions and therefore granted a higher value in being kept alive than in being killed, and those whose value is realized in their being transformed into what is considered food as quickly as possible. A division which Gary Francione has defined as moral schizophrenia. The emotional surplus value that dogs and cats are accorded -- in the Western world -- causes them to be made objects of anitcruelty laws and protected from being used in ways which are regarded as illegitimate and morally reprehensible by the majority of society: dogfighting, for example.

What this form of animal exploitation has in common with bullfighting, hunting, fur-farming, circuses, and zoos, as well as with vivisection, is that it is practiced by relatively small groups in society, and that the number of animals affected amount to a fraction of those exploited by 99 percent of the population who consume meat, dairy, eggs.

Activism on behalf of animals that focuses on any issue other than food derived from animals IN GENERAL -- not on special prducts, supposedly produced more cruelly than others (foie gras, crated veal) -- serves political purposes (see Gary L. Francione. Introduction to Animal Rights, 2000: 163/164) and a collective psychological function that is inherent to speciesism: to give oneself an alibi, an indulgence for participating in the prevailing form of animal exploitation by diverting the attention to not generally accepted forms of it; to ease one's conscience about what is unjustifiable but pervasive by condemning, campaigning against, and banning what is not any more wrong but practiced by relatively few people. The latter stabilizes the former; by doing something "for the animals" -- who are not the subject matter of one’s own interests -- killing others by consuming their bodies and bodily secretions makes oneself feel much less uncomfortable.

Focusing on any issue other than food derived from animals helps to sustain moral schizophrenia -- the pschological basis of speciesism -- instead of challenging it; campaigning against animal fighting (as in the case of Michael Vick) is a meat eater's cause, furthered by vegans who engage in it -- who thereby become accomplices to the slaughterhouse.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Why Can't Animal Welfare Lead to Animal Rights?

Why is the history of animal welfare an incessant procession of incalculable defeats? Why does every welfarist "victory" demonstrate nothing but impotence? Why, even though we recognized that we have direct moral obligations to animals two hundred years ago, are nonhumans held captive in spaces so small that they cannot move? Why, after 200 hundreds of years of welfarism (the first welfare law was enacted in 1641, and welfarists have been trying to implement their ideology for the past couple of hundred years), is humans' hegemony over other animals still absolute? Why do we have gestation crates and battery cages; drug addiction and burn experiments? In short, why has animal welfare not negated institutionalized animal exploitation at all?

In Animals, Property, and the Law and Rain Without Thunder, Gary Francione provides the answer. Because of the way the human-nonhuman conflict is conceptualized in Anglo-US legal systems, animal welfare is inherently biased against animal interests -- "structurally defective," as Francione puts it. Humans are legal persons who have rights. Animals, on the other hand, are property; they have only extrinsic or conditional value. Animals therefore are completely rightless beings (i.e., they are entitled to nothing).

Now a presupposition of Anglo-American legal systems is that rights have special normative force. Rights are (to use Ronald Dworkin’s metaphor) "trumps": "they give [powerful] reasons to treat their holders in certain ways or permit them to act in certain ways, even if some social aim would be served by doing otherwise." That is, rights invariably trump competing (non-right) considerations.

The implications of conceptualizing the human-nonhuman conflict in this way are clear. Animal interests are protected by welfare laws; whereas exploiters' property interests are protected by rights. Thus, when human and animal interests conflict we have a pseudo-conflict between a right and a non-right consideration -- between exploiters' property interests in animals and animals' interest in not being used as property. The entailment here is obvious:

Exploiters' right-protected property interests always prevail over animals' welfare-law/non-right protected welfare interests.

This pseudo-balancing process ensures that any welfare law that sought to accord animals protection that impinged on exploiters' property rights -- a law, that is, that was in the best interests of animals but wasn't also in the economic interests of exploiters -- would invariably be rejected outright by the framework of the system. As such, the framework of oppression of animals' property status/exploiters' property rights ensures that the system of welfare reform serves no more than the interests of property owners/animal exploiters to maximally exploit their animal property -- instituting reforms that militate for, and rejecting those that militate against, exploiters' efficiency and profitability.

Paradoxically, then, animal welfare protects the interests exploiters have in animals rather than the interests of animals (Francione) -- in other words, it protects exploiters not animals.

Francione's property analysis refutes the idea that there is a causal relationship between animal welfare in the short term and animal rights in the long term. The argument can be summarized as follows:

Argument 1:

1) Exploiters' property interests in animals are protected by right. Animals' welfare interests are protected by welfare laws (a non-right consideration)
2) In Anglo-US legal systems, rights "trump" non-right considerations

Conclusion: exploiters' property interests in animals always trump animals’ welfare interests.

Argument 2:

(1) A welfare law could theoretically be in the interests of animals but not also in the interests of the exploiters
(2) Exploiters' property interests in animals always trump animals' welfare interests (the conclusion of argument 1)

Conclusion: a welfare law that was in the interests of animals but wasn't also in the interests of the exploiters would be rejected outright by the framework of the system.

Overall conclusion: animal welfare serves no more than the right of exploiters to maximally exploit their animal property. Because animal welfare is a non-right consideration that is automatically trumped by exploiters' property rights, any welfare law that was in the interests of animals but wasn't also in the interests of the exploiters would be trumped by the latter's property rights. Therefore, animal welfare does not -- it cannot -- challenge or incrementally abolish animal exploitation. Rather it serves the framework of oppression of animals' property status/exploiters' property rights in animals.

The contradiction between the property rights exploiters have in animals and the societal desire to afford animals some measure of protection is resolved by having welfare laws that protect only institutional animal interests -- a minimalistic form of "protection" that is necessary to ensure that animals are exploited in a maximally (economically) efficient way. For example, there are welfare regulations which stipulate that animals imprisoned in vivisection laboratories must be given food and water; but that is only because if they weren't given food and water they would die and so wouldn't yield (what is taken to be) valid data for vivisectors. Again, because animals are legally regarded exclusively as means to human ends, the welfare regulations protect the interests the vivisection industry has in animals rather than the interests of the animals.

Accordingly, welfare laws and regulations do not represent a partial negation of animals' property status or legal "thinghood" and a corresponding concession that they have nonextrinsic, nonconditional value and morally significant interests. Rather, because welfare laws afford animals only institutional protection, they merely represent a codification of animals' property status.

In short: animal welfare laws are slave laws.

The special normative force of property rights within Anglo-American legal systems leads to a system of animal welfare that is virulently anti-animal: in order to protect exploiters’ property rights, it allows animals to be treated in the most horrendous ways imaginable (gestation crates, veal crates, battery-cages) so long as this treatment is economically efficient. This means that animals' property status and animal suffering are inextricably enmeshed; the latter cannot be reduced without eroding the former. Specifically, animals' property status prevents animals from receiving non-consequential protection -- protection irrespective of the (economic) consequences of doing so -- and instead entails that they receive only consequential protection -- protection only in so far as some third party (i.e. property owners/exploiters) benefits from the protection. On the other hand, in order for animals to receive non-consequential protection (from being treated as property), their property status must be eroded, which entails putting limits on what exploiters may do to them, in explicit recognition of their inherent value. But because the system of welfare reform is constrained by the legal assumption that animals are property, it can reduce animal suffering only if the framework of oppression of animals' property status/exploiters' property rights is not thereby infringed.

In short: animal welfare serves the oppressive framework under which nonhumans are enslaved.

A first principle of the abolitionist movement, then, must be the rejection of animal welfare and the recognition that, to effect a paradigm shift in attitudes toward the human-nonhuman relationship, we must use qualitatively different means from the (welfare) means utilized by what has hitherto passed as the animal rights movement. We must recognize that radicalism mediated through reactionary institutions is a contradiction in terms; the former is nullified by the latter. We must reject industries that seek to neutralize radicalism with meretricious and illusory offers of progress. We must recognize that animal welfare leads to cooptation; it harmonizes advocates with the status quo and reconciles them to animal exploitation. We must reject hypocrisy and inconsistency.

Instead, we must make veganism a nonnegotiable baseline and engage directly with the real locus of abolition -- people themselves -- since abolition means: abolishing exploitation in our own lives -- and going vegan