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