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Animal Welfare Vs. Animal Rights Abolitionism: Is Compromise Possible?

Peruse the trade literature of the meat industry and you’ll find that of all the forces currently arrayed against the livestock industry none evokes as much vitriol as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Flipping through Pork magazine, Feedstuffs, or Meatingplace, it becomes clear that, as one Cassandra of carnivorism put it, “no activist group is more loathed by the agricultural community than the Humane Society of the United States.” Pork has described HSUS as “a well-oiled, well-funded lobbying presence with a finely tuned message machine” and has quoted a consultant as saying, “HSUS is sophisticated and relentless in their dedication to defeat animal agriculture practices.”

Such assessments are music to the ears of Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection at HSUS. Shapiro spends his days lobbying for costly reforms that would eliminate inhumane methods of animal confinement. As Shapiro sees it, industry blowback is to be expected and, in a way, even welcomed as an affirmation of his advocacy. It’s always nice to know when your arrow hits the intended target.

Less expected is the barrage of criticism that comes from the “abolitionist” wing of the animal rights movement, which views HSUS welfare reforms as craven capitulation to industrial agriculture. The rift dividing HSUS from this vocal wing of the animal rights movement might seem insignificant, but it’s not. In fact, it requires that animal advocates confront a challenging question: Does HSUS, in its ceaseless quest to improve living conditions for animals within factory farms, justify and perpetuate the ongoing existence of those farms? In other words, does it perpetuate the harms that it also reforms?

There is little doubt that HSUS is doing something right. A complete citation of their recent accomplishments would be too long to list here, but consider that HSUS has worked to eliminate cages that confine pregnant pigs so tightly they cannot turn around. In banning this torture device from their supply chains, these companies joined industry kingpins McDonald’s and Smithfield Foods in yielding to Shapiro’s ceaseless nagging on behalf of a barnyard proletariat numbering in the billions. This is just one example of the kind of improvements HSUS routinely initiates and sees through to completion.

Nevertheless, as the abolitionists correctly point out, there’s nothing especially revolutionary about HSUS’s approach to improving the lives of farm animals. HSUS works closely with Big Agriculture, never explicitly calls for animal liberation, and does not aggressively endorse the most effective solution to the suffering of farm animals: veganism. This reticence infuriates abolitionists, who seek the eradication of not only animal agriculture but also all animal ownership and exploitation through ethical veganism.

No writer makes the abolitionist case more doggedly than Rutgers philosopher Gary Francione. In his books Animals as Persons and Rain Without Thunder, Francione, who is also a lawyer, argues that the only ethically consistent stance for humans vis-a-vis animals is the complete elimination of all animal ownership. This position leads him to bash HSUS at every turn. When HSUS agreed to work with United Egg Producers to legislate larger cages for chickens, Francione responded:

That is just plain silly. “Enriched” cages involve torturing hens. Period. The torture may be slightly “better,” just as padded water boards may be slightly “better.” But let’s be clear: the hens will continue to be tortured. And they will continue to end up in a slaughterhouse. 

Francione has a point, but his extreme take on the issue is unlikely to resonate widely in a population that’s only 1.4 percent vegan (and a population in which there are more ex-vegans than vegans). According to social psychologist and longtime vegan Melanie Joy, the abolitionist approach could attract a lot more supporters if it acknowledged, as HSUS does, that most people are going to embrace veganism on their own—you can’t strong-arm them into it.

Joy, author of Why We Eat Pigs, Love Dogs, and Wear Cows, believes that social change—in this case, honoring the intrinsic worth of animals by not eating them—is a complex process requiring both an awakening to the hidden reality of exploitation and the individual will to act upon that awareness. Asking people to stop eating animals, as Joy sees it, is more than asking for a change in behavior; it’s asking for a profound shift in consciousness that people make only when they’re personally ready to do so.

Nick Cooney, the author of Change of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Social Change, agrees. Noting that 80 percent of vegans became vegan gradually, he believes that seemingly minor improvements—say, larger cages—ultimately create pivotal “shifts in self-identity” for both producers and consumers. Individuals who start seeking products from more “humane” producers or participating in “meatless Mondays” are consumers who are on the path toward veganism.

Similarly, institutions that embrace (however reluctantly at first) improvements for animals are institutions that, in eventually owning that improvement, come to identify with and become open to even more productive changes for animals. This process, according to Cooney’s research, is exactly how reform plays out on the ground, here in the land known as reality.

Abolitionists don’t buy a word of this. Their reality is different.  For them, tolerance for incremental change from the status quo empowers the meat industry, and any empowerment of industry is, ipso facto, counterproductive to the spirit of animal advocacy. Consider what Ellie Maldonado, an animal rights activist and former employee of animal advocacy group Friends of Animals, has to say about approaches that tolerate even a modicum of animal exploitation:

Advocacy that supports “improvements” in animal exploitation is neither “gradualist” nor a “vegan” approach—it is a dead end that will never lead to the end of animal exploitation. … At best and in the unlikely case they are adhered to, so-called “gradualist improvements” only address a fraction of the animals’ experience but do nothing to abate the heinous cruelty they are still subjected to.

Hence the strife rages on: An organization such as HSUS lobbies, the meat industry kvetches, and the abolitionists howl at them all for unconscionable ethical waffling.

Meanwhile, billions of animals continue to suffer the indignities of industrial animal agriculture. As has so often been the case with reform movements in the United States, infighting between those who seek evolution and those who seek revolution fosters more stagnation than progress.

The motivation for animal advocates to compromise should be strong. And compromise is quite possible: There’s no doubt that HSUS reforms have improved the lives of farm animals, but there’s also no reason why the organization couldn’t bolster its small victories with more aggressive campaigns involving the v-word, or at least some overt message that it wants to end animal agriculture as we know it. Similarly, the abolitionists certainly make a compelling case for ending all animal exploitation, but there’s also no reason why they couldn’t tolerate a more personalized approach to change, one premised on the idea that we all live in a world of inherited values and we all come to Jesus in our own unique little ways. “It is better,” Joy often says, “to be effective than to be right.”

In any case, if the movement figures out how to meld these competing approaches to animal advocacy, the meat industry would really have something to complain about. For now, though, as I read the trade literature, it’s hard not to see the industrial producers of animal products as little more than petulant whiners who have no inkling of the real pressure they would face if animal advocates in the United States managed to pull themselves together and grow up.

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33 Comments on Animal Welfare Vs. Animal Rights Abolitionism: Is Compromise Possible?

  1. Gary Francione and his abolitionist approach was my “aha!” moment to becoming Vegan. I could hear him loud and clear. For years I supported many of the animal welfare groups in their single issue campaign efforts and I will continue to be supportive of these efforts IF the bottom line message is clearly advocating veganism. I simply do not see how one can be a sincere animal welfare supporter without also embracing a vegan lifestyle. I hope the two factors (abolition/welfare) can become less divisive for the sake of the animals.

  2. Catherine Case // February 12, 2015 at 1:45 pm // Reply

    What about an overall strategy involving coexistence of different approaches to be most effective? It’s my impression that there are billions of non-vegans who, if exposed to the justice-based abolitionist approach, would discontinue their part in the exploitation immediately–it’s just a matter of exposure. Others, who I presume would fit the profile of a typical HSUS donor, are more likely to require the kind of soft but systematic, incremental process that I presume HSUS has found most likely to result in continued support of their work. Though the mixed message is troubling to me personally because I see it as a right/wrong justice/moral issue, reasons that other people hang on to the status quo are surprizingly complex.

  3. Teresa Wagner // February 12, 2015 at 1:55 pm // Reply

    My own heart shares the vision of abolitionists, but I am also a realist. Sweeping cultural change happens one step at a time. And dedicated activists are needed to keep on working and educating and petitioning every single day. As an activist, I celebrate the “welfare” improvements even as I fight for complete freedom. My favorite line: “In any case, if the movement figures out how to meld these competing approaches to animal advocacy, the meat industry would really have something to complain about.” Once again, thank you James.

  4. Jeri O'Donnell // February 12, 2015 at 2:01 pm // Reply

    My take on this split between HSUS and the purist animal advocates is that it stems from HSUS’s need to eschew veganism and keep it out of all discussions with agribusiness. I don’t know how many times I’ve read angry comments from meat-eaters on Facebook and other websites about how HSUS and other well-known advocacy groups are trying to make everyone into, gulp, VEGANS!! HSUS can’t possibly expect to work with big-ag on improvements for animals destined for slaughter and people’s plates if big-ag knows that veganism is one of HSUS’s goals. In other words, HSUS is being political in dealing with those who profit from animal exploitation — that’s the only way to achieve its successes for the animals. I recently stopped supporting HSUS financially because it participated in some venue that involved an animal-killing ranch that provided burgers made of lots of different types of animals for attendees. That went over a line for me, and pushed me further into the no-exploitation advocates group. I appreciate your article; once again, you’ve pinpointed an issue of importance and dissected it for me, clarifying what IS. Thanks. I’ll be rethinking now.

  5. So much to say on this topic, animal welfare vs. animal rights. It is fascinating to watch the debate. Everyone comes at this issue from unique angles. Psychologists. Journalists. Attorneys. Philosophers. Farmers. If we cut through the ad hominen stuff, we will realize that for all his vitriol, Francione is correct in everything he says. This does make him likable or even tolerable, just right. (He may in fact be likable, but that is not the point). If animals deserve any moral consideration at all, and we all agree that they do, then we can not justify using them for any means not necessary for our survival.
    I think it is wrong for HSUS, PETA, Farm Sanctuary and the like to not actively promote veganism as a moral baseline. You can not say you care about animals in one sentence and then justify “humanely” exploiting them in the next sentence. PETA gives an award to Temple Grandin!? Are you kidding me? Does anyone other than me think “humane slaughter” is one of the most blatant oxymorons ever created?
    My recommendation to anyone who questions their current position on animal ethics is to read anything you can get your hands on. Pollan, Joy, Foer, Francione, Singer, Baur, Eisnitz, Scully and many more. Read them all and then make your own decision. I am enjoying the Pitchfork and the reporting contained therein. Whether someone agrees or not, shining a light on issues always provides great value. Illumination only works if the someone is willing to open their eyes lest they remain in the dark.

  6. Brilliant article James, particularly loved this one. I’m surrounded by abolitionists, and while I indentify as one myself in the privacy of my own heart, I refuse to involve myself with their movement because I dislike the in-fighting. Veganism, to me is about kindness and few of us ever become vegan overnight so I prefer a more warm a welcoming approach to those who are transitioning slowly towards veganism. And while I can’t quite bring myself to sign welfarist petitions because it seems inconsistent with my personal values, I’m glad there are plenty who will and that this movement exists. I would love to see a united front and kindness within the movement. We all care. We’re just doing it in different ways.

  7. Despite all the back-slapping/high-fiving/fist-bumping/endless parties and award ceremonies/and the‘ victories’ that have been declared in recent years, the “animal movement” seems to, yes, be characterized far more by stagnation than progress.

    “HSUS works closely with Big Agriculture, never explicitly calls for animal liberation, and does not aggressively endorse the most effective solution to the suffering of farm animals: veganism.”

    Agreed, but even more important is the giant elephant in the room that seldom gets talked about except among abolitionists: HSUS has also unequivocally joined forces with Small Agriculture and unashamedly promotes the oxymoron of “humane animal products”. Besides having a pig farmer on staff as a VP, and being involved with despicable events such as “Hoofin It” and “Meatopia” and featuring farmed animal breeders/killers as speakers at its TAFA conferences, here is a random sampling of quotes provided by the HSUS animal product sales division, better known as the Farmer’s Outreach page: [ https://www.facebook.com/HSUSFarmerOutreach ]

    Feb 2014: “Featured farmers! Meet Dan and Jeanne Carver from Imperial Ranch, and learn how they found and secured new markets for their value-added, high-welfare products, at prices that created a profit.”

    March 2014, advertising a ‘Your Path from Farm To Fork’ seminar: “North Carolinians, join us for a seminar on locally-sourced foods from farmers who adhere to high animal welfare standards! You’ll learn how to eat with a conscience, and for those of you looking for higher animal welfare products, you will meet the farmers and retailers who can answer your questions about where to find these products!”

    March 2014: “Attention Nebraska and Iowa farmers! Join us in Omaha on March 29th for a producer meeting where individuals representing various pork companies will discuss opportunities to raise hogs under the Global Animal Partnership 5-Step program.”

    May 2014: “Fantastic national news coverage on the rise in consumer demand for humanely raised pork and a traditional family farmer who is leading the way forward! Check it out and SHARE!”

    Jan 2015: HSUS generously supplied a coupon for discounted bacon; accompanying a photo of packaged Applegate pig flesh was this: “Print this coupon to get $1.00 off crate-free bacon from Applegate! Breakfast just got tastier.”

    Jan 2015: [Superbowl party suggestions]: “Make a difference by supporting humane, sustainable farmers at your own tailgate with these tips from Slow Food USA!”

    Feb. 2015: “It’s not about animal rights, but rather it’s about our human responsibility to our animal relatives… Farmers should be leaders in fulfilling our basic human responsibility to the animals who give up their lives that we may eat. -Wayne Pacelle, The HSUS”

    Additionally, a couple of recent quotes from Paul Shapiro:

    From a Nov 2014 Global Animal Partnership newsletter, under the title “Going Humane for Thanksgiving”: “When asked, Paul Shapiro, vice president for farm-animal protection for the Humane Society of the United States what labels the Humane Society considers rigorous, he pointed me to Global Animal Project’s 5-Step rating system as a model standard for supermarket meat.” -Tom Philpott of MotherJones.com

    From a Jan 2015 Guardian article “Can Foie Gras Ever Be Ethical?”: “Food law expert Baylen Linnekin, himself a defender of foie gras, quotes the Humane Society campaigner Paul Shapiro’s claim that: “Force-feeding is not an ‘ingredient’ of foie gras, since foie gras can be produced without resorting to such cruel methods.”

    The welfarist/regulationist groups are not interested in “melding” with abolitionists and vice versa. The former have already melded with industry to varying degrees. It’s much more lucrative for fundraising purposes for the public to be told by the self-proclaimed “pragmatic realists” that they can have their cakes (i.e., animal products) and eat them too. What omnivore who claims to “love animals” wouldn’t love to hear that message? And fund raise these groups do, ad nauseam. The ‘donate’ buttons they display seem to grow larger and appear more frequently with every passing week.

  8. As Karen Davis stated so perfectly in a recent essay: “When people are told they don’t have to do much, most will do even less. The part of the person that wants to act SIGNIFICANTLY is undercut by the part that wants to rest easy. The “experts” are telling you to relax, it’s okay.”

    http://www.upc-online.org/alerts/150111_disappearing_hens_stopping_short_of_what_needs_to_be_said.html

    • James McWilliams // February 12, 2015 at 6:29 pm // Reply

      And when people are told they have to do a lot, they do NOTHING, which is worse than less.

      • Given how prominent vegan products are becoming, with more and more entering the mainstream market all the time, it shouldn’t be seen as burdensome or ‘a lot’ to promote veganism. It seems to me it’s the least that the “animal movement” can and should do. If not other vegans, who is going to, as you so aptly put it, “endorse the most effective solution to the suffering of farm animals: veganism.” There seems to be a terribly misplaced lack of urgency, or as Karen said, a “relax, it’s okay” attitude coming out of so many groups who are obviously heavily influenced by HSUS.

        The HSUS “celebration” (their term) of so-called traditional farmers is downright irresponsible, especially given how unsustainable and elitist the “end products” are. Never mind all the other short comings of this particular brand of animal exploitation, where is all the land for all these “happy farms” going to come from, and what happens to all the wildlife who are displaced by these pasture-based ventures?

        Having an HSUS (& Friends) humane stamp of approval associated with animal products or corporations that engage in what is basically “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” is, IMO, the worst of the worst. It sends a blatantly misleading message to the public. These groups claim to be protecting farmed animals, yet by focusing on treatment rather than use, they are in fact promoting farmed animals as mere objects to be regulated. Wayne Pacelle made it clear in his quote from earlier this week that in HSUS’ thinking, farmed animals are here to be used and consumed by humans; they in fact “give up their lives so that we may eat”. With friends like that….

      • What is your evidence for this assertion? Which “people”? Maybe the way the message is sometimes or often presented is part of the problem rather than, per se, matching what need to be done with the animal suffering being endured and perpetrated.

        • “And when people are told they have to do a lot, they do NOTHING, which is worse than less.”

          My comment of a minute ago was directed at this assertion. Sorry for the confusion. I didn’t mean to suggest that many or most vegan advocates present their – our – message poorly! I only meant that if the above assertion is accurate, maybe it’s sometimes the “medium” rather than the message that thwarts the vegan objective. In addition, I ask: where is the substantive, definitive evidence that animal groups telling the public that the horrors being revealed about what animals are being put through for food create more vegans than do groups with a strong, well-crafted affirmative vegan, animal rights message? I don’t have a definitive answer but it is wounding each time I encounter an animal advocate shirking an opportunity to make a strong declaration for the animals. For me, this is a betrayal of the opportunity, the public, and the animals.

          Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns celebrating 25 years of dedicated activism for chickens and other domestic fowl. http://www.upc-online.org/thinking

          • Clarification of yesterday’s comment. I meant to ask: where is the evidence that telling the public that the horrors revealed about what animals are put through for food need not evoke a compassionate vegan response – where is the evidence that this approach creates more vegans than does a strong, well-crafted affirmative vegan, animal rights message?

  9. For anyone who isn’t familiar with what has “gone down” during the past decade or so, here is an excellent source of in-depth essays which spell out so clearly why regulationists and abolitionists can never be expected to meld together into one force.

    http://www.humanemyth.org/advancedadvocacy.htm

  10. Lisa LeBlanc // February 12, 2015 at 7:20 pm // Reply

    Any movement looses credibility when it leads to zealotry.
    Forward momentum must evolve; it must be earned. We witness every day the effects of ‘telling’ or ‘demanding’ a broad-scale change Right Now.
    For myself, I had no epiphany. One day I was a meat eater, the next, I wasn’t. Despite viewing many hours of graphic horror, reams and reams of articles and reports, when my change finally occurred it came with a whisper and not a hurricane.
    Battering with an agenda – even one of noble intent – often pushes away the very people you hope to recruit. I don’t have a solution, only an opinion. But infighting and character assassination also serve to push people away. If these divergent organizations have issues with one another, fine. But be adult enough to keep your sh*t to yourself. Support and solutions for the issues is more important than who comes out on top, isn’t it?

    • James McWilliams // February 12, 2015 at 7:40 pm // Reply

      But don’t you think zealots set a benchmark that’s important?

      • Lisa LeBlanc // February 13, 2015 at 4:13 am // Reply

        I think there’s a distinct difference between a belief system and mania. And I think zealots tend to lean heavily on inciting the worst in humanity.
        It may be naïve (and I’ve used this before, so I apologize if I’m repeating myself) but I’m reminded of one of Aesop’s fables, about the Sun and the Wind wagering on who could get the traveler to take off his jacket first.
        The Wind blew hard then harder, succeeding only in making the traveler hold his jacket to himself tighter.
        The Sun, on the other hand, began shining gently, increasing it’s heat gradually until at last the traveler took his jacket off.
        Persuasion works better than force.

  11. I don’t understand why people are confused about abolitionists. I don’t know any who are as judgmental towards non-vegans some describe. What abolitionists speak out against are groups/people who do not make it clear what veganism is and confuse the public. They are not saying to the masses you must be vegan today or you are damned to hell. They are talking about clarity of what it is to be vegan, whether you are there or not.When I became involved with animal issues and was a vegan-wanna-be, I knew people who were welfarists and abolitionists. I am grateful that the abolitionists spoke out against welfare reforms and I was able to see that what the welfarists were doing was not going to help end animal exploitation. This is not about in-fighting, this is about speaking up about what one believes whether it’s popular or not to do so.

  12. I think zealots are vital. They are often ahead of their time, courageously paving the way for the rest of us. What seems zealous now will seem like common sense in another 50 years time (hopefully sooner). We need zealots and conservatives, to make a balanced world. Many voices.

  13. I agree with the last two commenters. I don’t consider myself a “zealot” but I do appreciate their passion, focus and unyielding nature. However, I do draw the line with violence and hate speech and aggression. I think we have to make our message known in a variety of ways and if zealotry is one way that gives people a way to express themselves I am OK with that. For my own personal way I take a lighter approach by trying to eat ethically, political action and expressing my views when I can.

  14. With friends like Wayne Pacelle and HSUS who needs enemies.

  15. Jonathan tolan // February 14, 2015 at 4:15 am // Reply

    I agree with some of this. When I first went vegan I was frustrated by how divided the vegan community is. However, this piece is not at all balanced. It is clearly pro-welfare and is advocating speceisism. The author has not at all addressed the actual complaints that francione has with HSUS and does not question that the organisation has actually helped animals when this is precisely what the abolitionists claim. Hsus is a huge and powerful organisation with tons of resources and there are very legitimate concerns about its effectiveness and overall objectives. I agree that there are too many ‘sides’ in the vegan community when essentially everyone wants the same thing but the reason those sides exist is because we are passionate and desperate to change the situation for animals. I think it can be healthy as long as the people who disagree can respect each other and discuss. This article does not do that, unfortunately.

  16. Kevin Watkinson // February 14, 2015 at 9:25 am // Reply

    I think it depends on how you define the HSUS approach. Even though there is collaboration between the animal industry and HSUS, it is not a partnership made in heaven, as those that exploit animals would rather get on with their business without the pressure they get from HSUS, other animal groups, and also that from abolitionists, who call on people to reject animal exploitation. If you take the definition from the Centre for Consumer Freedom, you would see that HSUS is a radical animal rights organisation. Which they certainly are not, HSUS are middle of the road welfarists, who do not challenge the paradigm of exploitation, in fact they activley support certain forms of exploitation. So let’s be clear, there are substantial differences between welfarism (animal exploitation) and abolition (animal liberation), so whilst the industry might be upset by both welfarists and abolitionists, one works with industry, and the other seeks to end it.

  17. Vegans aren’t zealots. That’s the important message that we should be conveying. We’re doing the only logical thing.

  18. Jean Engstrand // February 14, 2015 at 5:13 pm // Reply

    I have been wanting to be part of this discussion for quite awhile, and I thank Mr. McWilliams bringing it up once again. There are many thoughtful comments here – one of my favorites is “for all his vitriol, Francione is correct in everything he says. This does make him likable or even tolerable, just right.” I happen to like Francione, but I’m sure it is partly because I agree with him. But I do wish he would state his case more calmly. Same words, less vitriol.

    It seems we have to make a distinction between clearly stating our case for abolitionism and insisting that everyone become vegan overnight. While we would all love to see it, no one, Francione included, has ever believed that is possible. But while we are patient with non-vegans in their journey, we don’t have to hold hands with the animal exploiting industry. My patience does not extend that far.

    I have never supported HSUS for the same reason that Francione criticizes them – I have no idea what they stand for. They have no clear message. If they do, the message I am hearing is one I can’t support. (Read Barb’s list of bizarre quotes from HSUS staffers. Thanks for putting this together, Barb.) I wonder where we would be now if abolitionists fighting for human rights had been as cozy with the slaveowners, praising them for restricting the sale of children until they were 5 years old, or promising to only beat a slave until he/she passes out but not unto death.

    I had hoped that HSUS, et al, would finally step forward to make veganism their moral baseline, and not equivocate from that message. Then there could be respectful debate among us about the means, not the ends. But even though many of the staffers in these organizations are themselves vegan, they are apparently not too concerned about the morality of animal exploitation on the whole. If I am wrong, they will have to convince me, and backtrack on their past record. Until then, as someone who wants to keep the peace, I simply will not engage with them. I find my ethical home among the Francione’s of the world.

  19. Jeri O'Donnell // February 14, 2015 at 7:15 pm // Reply

    Ms. Vanilla Rose: I agree. To stop the enormous amount of animal suffering and murder in the name of food for people to eat, veganism is the only logical, reasonable thing to do. Otherwise it’s like saying it would have been enough to give the Jews in Nazi Germany a somewhat comfortable train ride to the death camps. We’re not zealots. It just makes people who eat meat feel better to say we are.

    • “We’re not zealots. It just makes people who eat meat feel better to say we are.”

      Yes, it makes it very convenient for both the producers and consumers of animal products to paint abolitionists as zealots in an attempt to justify the continuing consumption/use of animals. Even more disturbing, however, is the fact that the national welfarist groups – including but not limited by any means to HSUS – have also stooped to labeling those who stay the course in promoting veganism (without resorting to sending out a hodge-podge of mixed and often warped messages) as unreasonable zealots. This mischaracterization has worked very well for these groups for years, making themselves — as they sell out the animals — appear so gosh darn “realistic”, so gee whiz “pragmatic”, unlike those poor “deluded, divisive, idealistic purists”.

      Given that the high-profile people making these worn out accusations for so long are the same individuals who control most of the positions of power and most of the purse-strings within the “animal movement”, it’s not surprising that the abolitionist position has been marginalized. Thanks, however, to the steady perseverance of a number of individuals — the most notable being Gary Francione — in conveying a consistent abolitionist vegan message, more and more of the public is catching on, and the number of animal advocates willing to speak out for abolition is growing.

    • flexible vegan // April 14, 2015 at 10:07 pm // Reply

      “To stop the enormous amount of animal suffering and murder in the name of food for people to eat, veganism is the only logical, reasonable thing to do.”

      Staggering numbers of wild animals suffer and die due to environmental degradation, habitat destruction, resource extraction, plant agriculture, and transportation. What I find disturbing about abolitionists is that they almost never address indirect death, cruelty, or exploitation. Its almost as if the deaths of animals only matter when they impact personal vegan purity.

  20. tobias leenaert // February 16, 2015 at 7:03 am // Reply

    I appreciate the article. Myself being very much a pragmatist, I have little patience with the “abolitionists”. I use scare quotes because I think Francione has been intellectually very dishonest in appropriating this term for himself and his little movement, while saying it is not applicable to most other mainstream animal rights (yes, rights) organisations. It’s intellectually dishonest because we know that those organisations want the end of animal use. Do you think Paul Shapiro, a vegan who is giving his entire life to the animals, is not an abolitionist?
    It’s a matter of tactics and politics, but mostly, the objectives are the same. Let’s be honest about that.

  21. I’m a little late commenting here, but I’m curious to hear James’ take on some of Francione’s other points about welfarism – that the living conditions would change anyway because they benefit industry by being cost-effective; or that welfare campaigns use tremendous time and resources that could be spent on vegan education; that they’re often ineffective and not enforced; that, as in the case of Prop 2 in California, they can result in tremendous additional suffering (millions of egg-laying hens are being gassed so that their cages can be “enriched”).

    I’m very conflicted about where I stand on these issues, and I agree with Tobias that this is a matter of tactics and politics, not so much about objectives. At the same time, I think we need to be weary of betraying our core ethics for the sake of being tactical, though Joy makes a great point that it’s more important to be effective than right.

    On a related note, there’s an important difference between supporting and celebrating incremental change and supporting welfare reform. The fact that the world isn’t going to go vegan overnight is often used to support welfare campaigns, but this logic doesn’t work for me. For me it might lead to supporting gradual steps toward shifting the paradigm and eliminating animal use, like Meatless Mondays or Meatouts, or closing zoos/aquariums, or anti-vivisection laws, etc. But campaigning for more “humane” exploitation seems like a completely different issue. I’d like to see a clearer distinction made by animal advocates between welfarism and supporting the gradual abolition of animal use. There’s a clear difference between gradually eliminating the use of animals and instituting and promoting less awful forms of exploitation while calling them “humane” or “compassionate.”

  22. Is it the Vegans’ plan to turn the whole planet to Veganism ? How about the humans who live in regions where no vegetables, fruits, legumes grow ? Should we dispatch Vegan Reps to teach them compassion toward the animals they kill to survive or should we encourage them to leave their lands behind and move where the green grass grows ?

  23. Probably way too late for this conversation but it seems to have fallen into a rut that those here feel most “comfortable” dwelling in. The abolitionist vs welfarist battle has been clearly laid out and dealt with. What has not, and probably because it involves facing a deep fatal flaw in human nature, is the psychology underlying cognitive dissonance. Joy may not have solved the riddle but at least she has taken a significant stab at it. Her views on animal welfare are besides the point. Its a shame that there is so much jabbering about her incorrect stance and so little attention to her message on the psychological factors involved.

  24. False equivalence.

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