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.