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.