Saturday, July 11, 2009

HSUS' Paul Shapiro Reaches Out to Meat Industry

HSUS has been keeping busy trying to reassure farmers who raise animals for their products or for slaughter that HSUS is no threat to them. Back on July 1, I wrote about an AgriTalk radio interview with HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle, where Pacelle seemed to engage in a lot of damage control to assure the meat industry that HSUS wholly supports the continuation of animal agriculture. Yesterday, Lancaster Farmer (a trade publication of sorts based in Philadelphia) published an interview with Paul Shapiro, Senior Director of the HSUS' Factory Farming Campaign, that seemed to do more of the same sort of damage control. The former founder of welfarist organization Compassion Over Killing emphasizes throughout this interview that HSUS' concern is on making the animals comfortable--as they're raised for human consumption. For instance:

LF: What do you think is the most serious threat to animal welfare posed by agriculture?
PS: (Extreme confinement) is not the only threat, but it’s among the most serious. The top three (examples) are veal crates, battery cages for laying hens and gestation crates for pigs.
He elaborates upon HSUS' goals with regards to animal agriculture by stating that
[they] are supportive of raising the bar on farm animal welfare. That means working with farmers who want to help their industries move away from some of the most extreme forms of confinement.
And just in case anyone still thinks that HSUS is comprised of a bunch of wacky fringe-dwelling animal rights activists seeking to end the enslavement and slaughter of all animals, Shapiro makes it crystal clear just who and what they are:
Just think about it — we’re the largest animal welfare charity not only in the country, but in the world. Do you think that an organization that didn’t take mainstream views would be so influential? Just about two-thirds of Californians voted for the proposal we put on the ballot ... If you look at the breakdown of the vote, we won the majority of virtually every demographic ... even some of the largest ag counties.
So what does the "largest animal welfare charity in the world" do with all of those contributions that well-meaning folks fork over, thinking that they're helping them fight the good fight on behalf of animals? Well, it seems it's mostly spent on getting retailers to buy animal products. Shapiro says:
By working with retailers to drive demand away from the more inhumane practices and toward better practices. For example, take eggs. Just four years ago, only 2 percent of eggs sold in the country were cage-free. Now, that’s about 6 percent, and a lot of that has to do with our work moving retailers to cage free producers.
Ask the folks over at Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary what sort of victory a 4 percent increase in cafe-free eggs really means to the chickens. They'll show you if you're willing to handle the truth. Is this really and truly what HSUS views as being in the best interest of an animal's welfare? It certainly does nothing to defend or protect their rights. In fact, crunching numbers seems to be what's important. The rest of the interview is spent discussing various issues, such as regulationism in general and the profitability for egg farmers to go cage-free. For instance, Shapiro states that
Of course, the profit margins on cage-free eggs tend to be greater than on cage-raised eggs, so you’d imagine (it does help the farmer). [...] The egg industry’s own economic analysis demonstrates that it costs producers less than a penny per egg more to convert to and produce cage free eggs.
When asked about his own dietary preferences, Shapiro states that he's a vegetarian, but tempers it by stating his reasons for being vegetarian, as well as how HSUS manages to appeal to both those who choose to consume animals and to those who eschew their consumption:
Animal welfare is one of them. Personal health is another. Concern about global warming is another. I think that one of the important aspects of our campaign, (though), is it’s attractive to both vegetarians and meat-eaters. Whether we eat meat or not, all of us can agree that animals who are raised for food should be able to turn around and extend their limbs.
Is this really raising the bar for animals, though? For those of you who refrain from consuming animals or their products, are this organization's ideals the sort of lowest common denominator at which you feel comfortable throwing your financial support? Or behind which you'll throw your vocal support? Shouldn't the non-usage of animals be the starting point? Shouldn't veganism, as abolitionist blogger Dan Cudahy put it, be your minimum standard of decency? It's certainly not HSUS'.

As Professor Gary L. Francione states, veganism should be the
"moral baseline of an animal rights movement"--no exceptions. Anything else just endorses the perpetuation of their consideration and usage as property--as things. If this is the sort of "mainstream" stance that Paul Shapiro and the people at HSUS are embracing, then I think that vegans and animal rights activists supporting or sitting on the fence about HSUS need to do some serious re-thinking of their own positions.


Unknown said...

I think it's great HSUS works to abolish battery cages, gestation crates, and veal crates. Whether we like it or not, there are 10 billion animals raised in horrific factory farms and suffer painful slaughter every year. We can't ignore the plight of these animals who we know for certain are going to suffer.

While HSUS rightfully encourages consumers to reduce their consumption of animal products, it also does the meaningful and difficult work in taking on agribusiness by launching successful campaigns to eliminate the worst abuses in farming. What surprises me is hearing an animal advocate who isn't thrilled that laws are being enacted making it a criminal offense to confine hens in battery cages, pigs in gestation crates, and calves in veal crates. I think it's important to also remember that every trade organization within animal agribusiness is opposed to HSUS's campaigns including the United Egg Producers, National Pork Producers Council, National Chicken Council, and the American Veal Association. If you're an animal advocate, do you really want to stand side by side with these organizations in their effort to allow factory farming practices to remain legal?

Unknown said...

It’s saddening to read such a hateful blog about someone who devotes every day of his life to helping animals. Of course Shapiro wants Prop 2-like campaigns to appeal to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike – who do think is going to vote in the election? Mainly meat-eaters, and some vegetarians. Shapiro promotes vegetarian eating while at the same time working with anyone (farmers or otherwise) who want to ban battery cages, etc. What’s the problem with that?

Unknown said...

Why do you allege he’s “tempering” his vegetarianism for him to say he’s a vegetarian for animals, the earth, and health? Seems like three pretty good reasons to be vegetarian to me. You may want to spend your time attacking factory farming (like Shapiro does) rather than attacking other animal advocates who are actually getting things done.

Bruce Friedrich said...

Why take the time to vilify an animal advocate for trying to ban certain factory farming practices?

Aren’t there more important targets for you to attack (like the meat industry)? I agree with you that cage-free isn’t cruelty-free, but who could honestly argue that birds aren’t better off when not confined in battery cages?

It’s not ideal, but it’s better than leaving birds immobilized in wire cages that frustrate every natural desire they have.

Are there any large groups that you support? I feel pretty sure that if HSUS followed the advice you're giving, their membership would become tiny and they'd be able to do a tiny fraction of the good that they're doing now.

Anyway, why not reserve your wrath for the abusers?

M said...

Josh: HSUS is making it more palatable for people to continue consuming animals. If you take the time to check out the Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary link in my post, you'll see how cage-free chickens don't fare any better than caged chickens. Also, the industry is savvy enough to know that (as was pointed out in my post when I quoted Shapiro) there's actually more money to be made in changing the confinement practices that have been status quo.

It's fairly meaningless that any industry types are opposed to the HSUS campaign, anyway, since from this interview with Shapiro (and the previous interview Wayne Pacelle did with AgriTalk), it's clear that HSUS is out to reassure these trade organizations that, in fact, they've nothing to fear whatsoever.

Michelle: How is it helping animals to make it more acceptable for those animals to be enslaved and raised specifically with the end goal of being killed and ending up on a human's plate? That's like praising someone who intervenes in human trafficking by passing legislation to ensure that those who are kidnapped and sold on the black market have, at the very least, three square meals a day and a comfortable bed to sleep on at night. You think taking issue with this is saddening? I think that it drills down to the root of the problem. If we want to help animals, we should educate people to stop eating them--not make them feel less guilty about it.

Steve: I wrote that he tempered his statement because he followed up by watering down any possibility of there being sound ethical considerations concerning animal rights when it comes to the issue of whether or not to treat animals as things and raise them for slaughter.

I do support animal advocates wholeheartedly. I just have a hard time supporting those who purport to be animal advocates who choose to bed down with the people who treat animals the most heinously. I also can't support those who ignore the most simple and commonsensical option with regards to lessening animal suffering: educating people to stop consuming them altogether.

Fredrik said...

Josh and Michelle, you are missing the point.
1. You assume that industrial free range farming is somehow better than "traditional" factory farms.
2. From the mouth of Pacelle, Shapiro and other HSUS'ers, we hear again-and-again how "humate" farming is more profitable than factory farming. If this is true.... this means that HSUS actually helps making animal exploitation more profitable. Thus, donations to HSUS will end up in the wallets of the meat industry, hardly what the donors expect and are told.
3. The abolition of animal exploitation will only take place when enough people stop viewing animals as a means to an end. If organizations aim for abolition, as many do (although HSUS openly says they don't), their campaigns must be designed to attach the property status of animals.
By not attacking animal use, per se, the welfarist campaigns actually strengthen the view of animals as property. It makes people FEEL GOOD about eating animals. Welfare organization often makes the claim that better animal treatment will lead to abolition, yet have NOTHING to back up this statement. The "improvement" you Americans are fighting for are already in practice in Europe, yet Europe is nowhere nearer abolition than the US. In fact, as most European vegan knows, most of their meat eating friends/colleagues will gladly defend their murderous habits by referring to the higher welfare standards in Europe.
4. Many of the "successful" campaigns end up never being enforced. Given the generous transition periods, there is always plenty of time for the industry to fight against unprofitable regulations.
"HSUS 2006 Accomplishment" - Smithfield Gestation agrees to phase out gestation crates
"HSUS 2009 failure" - Smithfield delays phasing out the gestation crates

And this example demonstrates is a KEY point, and why welfarism never will lead to abolition. As long as the meat industry is making a profit, they may "accept" minor regulations, but as soon as profit wanes they will fight regulation with all their power. Again, as long as people see animals as food (and the majority does), there will never be any significant improvements for the animals, both from a welfarist and an abolitionist perspective. Until we attack the problem at it's root, we will never see true progress.

Steve: If ethics is his concern, why isn't Shapiro vegan? The dairy industry can NEVER be ethical.

gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

I am sincerely sorry that some of you appear to interpret Mylène’s essay as a personal attack on Paul Shapiro or as some sort of irrational rejection of reforms that will significantly benefit animals. I do not read it that way; I understand it as the expression of a fundamental moral and strategic disagreement. Unfortunately, some welfare defenders appear unable to tolerate any sort of disagreement without reverting to pejorative characterizations that, I fear, serve only to distract us from a rational discussion of important issues.

I respectfully request that you consider five points.

First, some of you seem to think that the reforms promoted by HSUS and other welfarist groups will significantly reduce the torture of animals. There are very good reasons to believe that that is simply not the case.

Second, intensive agriculture is a phenomenon that developed in the mid-20th century. The economic inefficiencies of intensive agriculture are only now becoming clear as agricultural economists come to see that certain practices, such as the gestation crate, veal crate, etc. are economically inefficient. Most of the welfare reforms promoted by HSUS and other welfare groups are directed at economically inefficient practices that will be replaced eventually anyway. Indeed, many welfare reforms actually increase production efficiency.

Third, there is mounting evidence that these supposed reforms, when coupled with all the hyperbole that such reforms will "eliminate the worst abuses in farming," actually make people more comfortable about continuing to consume animal products.

Fourth, Mylène’s essay expresses a fundamental philosophical disagreement with the welfarists: if one maintains that it is morally wrong to use and kill animals--however "humanely"--then one ought to say that and not present being a "conscientious omnivore" as a morally defensible position. There can be no doubt that the modern welfarist movement sends precisely that message--indeed, Peter Singer articulates it explicitly.

Fifth, those of you who maintain that it's either HSUS welfare reform or abandonment of the animals are not only begging the question by assuming that these reforms provide significant welfare benefits for animals, but you are ignoring that it's a zero-sum game. Every dollar of animal money and every second of labor invested in welfare reform is a dollar and second that could be invested in shifting the paradigm in favor of abolishing animal exploitation. You can either spend your time trying to convince people to eat "cage-free" eggs or you can spend your time educating people about why they should not eat eggs or how they can and should phase eggs out of their lives. There is a legitimate debate about what would be a more effective way to proceed particularly given the fact that the considerable resources invested to date in animal welfare have resulted in an arguably poor return.

There are real differences here. They ought to be debated.

I know Paul Shapiro, Mike Markarian, Wayne Pacelle, and Peter Singer. I am sure that they believe sincerely in the positions that they promote. That is not the point and it does not help to characterize any criticism of their positions as some sort of personal attack or as a betrayal of the animals. That merely delays any real discussion of the important issues at stake.

Thank you for your consideration of my comments.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

Elizabeth Collins said...

I feel like the point of the article is missed when comments are left accusing the author of attacking someone who is helping non human animals. The point being made by the author is that the person who was written about is not helping non human animals, and she makes specific references as to her reasons for saying so.
As someone who is trying to promote veganism, it is an unfortunate part of my activism when trying to reach the consumers of animal products (who, as we know, are the problem, the REASON for the production of the products in the first place), to constantly deal with such counterproductive activity. Activity that is perpetuating their consumption, and in fact encouraging the consumption of animal products that are in NO WAY "humane". None whatsoever.
We want to attack ALL animal farming by promoting veganism, therefore we object, and rightly so, when someone who claims to be helping farmed animals is quoted saying things like "all of us can agree that animals who are raised for food should be able to turn around and extend their limbs."
What he neglects to point out, is that the problem is the animals are being raised for food, that is the problem, not how they are being raised. So I for one, do not agree with the premise of his statement, which implicitly implies that non humans should continue to be raised for food. I will never perpetuate that belief, as I want to help the non human animals, by ending the exploitation of them.
The "abusers" are the unwitting consumers of the animal products, who are being told that animal "advocates" give them permission to continue to buy the products (of course, whichever products are endorsed by said animal advocates, and please don't forget to donate). The animal farmers are simply capitalists, responding to demand. Who is an "animal abuser"? Why are we not confronting the real issue, united and one voice telling the truth; that veganism is the only way to end all of this suffering? Why are these "animal advocates" not promoting the consumer choice they themselves supposedly have made, as ethical consumers? Yes, if everyone goes vegan, that will also be the end of big organizations such as HSUS. I would certainly hope, this is not part of their motive for not promoting veganism. I would hope, that as an organization who cares so much about non human animals, they would wish for nothing less than the END of the suffering. I am sure they would be able to find other careers. I for one, would prefer to live in a world in which we did not need animal rights activists - even if it was my paid job. said...

Excellent essay, casting bright light on the problem. Given the quotes from Pacelle and Shapiro, I'm at a loss to understand how anyone who is thinking about the issue can be in doubt about what HSUS is all about.

Pacelle himself puts it clearly enough: ''Do you think that an organization that didn’t take mainstream views would be so influential?'' The mainstream views are the views of people who use animals and who, as long as they are not educated why it is morally wrong to use animals, will continue to do so – and wish to feel comfortable about it. Animal welfare is providing them with a clear conscience.

In defence of the welfare policy of his organization and of others in Austria, the president of the Association Against Factory Farming (German: Verein gegen Tierfabriken / VGT), Martin Balluch, argues:
''Running campaigns to achieve realistic animal laws has produced a number of very large animal welfare and animal rights societies, which became powerful and politically influential. The larger such a society, the more mainstream and tame it will be. In Austria, though, there is a clear move of large societies to become more radical and pro vegetarian.
All those groups together earn 30 million euro per year in Austria in donations alone... Some of those societies actually explicitly promote veganism in their literature. If all animal groups would have to change to purely abolitionist campaigning, they would drastically shrink to the size of vegan societies and would lose all their influence and ability to promote veganism too.'' (''Abolitionism versus Reformism or which type of campaigns will lead to animal rights eventually?'')
To put what he is saying another way, we need to focus on campaigns which are inimical to abolition in order to get the money a tiny fraction of which can be spent on vegan education. We need to foster speciesism and engage in reinforcing animals' property status at all levels, so that we have some resources left to use for fighting speciesism and the commodification of nonhumans.

Balluch claims that welfarist campaigns ''will serve to build fertile grounds for animal rights.'' Which human rights advocate would argue that promoting human rights violations ''will serve to build fertile grounds for human rights,'' and could hope to be taken seriously and not to be considered crazy at best?

The VGT's policy proves this organization to be the European equivalent of HSUS, and the fact that statements like Baluch's are taken to have programmatic worth in the animal movement proves the latter to be the most powerful societal force against veganism and animal rights.

Anonymous said...

Really? If HSUS isn't helping animals on factory farms, why are industries that profit off factory farming--many of whom the first comment listed-- fighting HSUS's work tooth and nail, dumping millions of dollars into efforts to oppose their work for farm animals? They call HSUS's work the biggest threat facing animal agriculture over and over, in trade publications and mainstream press. They're scared.

Over the past few years, its been amazing to see how HSUS is using its muscle and mainstream appeal to actually more things forward for farm animals. And I hope to hear even more complaints from the animal ag shills in the future.

Unknown said...

Shapiro is vegan and has been so for about 19 years.

Mylène said:
Steve: If ethics is his concern, why isn't Shapiro vegan? The dairy industry can NEVER be ethical.

gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

I had not seen the posting by Bruce before I sent my own comment. I would like to respond to Bruce's remarks as I believe that they illustrate well some of the problems that I have sought to identify in my posting as well as in my other writing on the topic of rights vs. welfare.

Bruce states: "Why take the time to vilify an animal advocate for trying to ban certain factory farming practices?"

"Vilify"? I do not believe that Mylène’s comment maligns or defames Paul, or is in any way ad hominem. She is expressing disagreement concerning basic theoretical and practical issues. She is giving reasons for her disagreement. She is making a logical argument.

In any event, Bruce's comment illustrates the point that when welfarist orthodoxy is criticized, the response is often to ignore the substance of the argument and claim that the critic has engaged in a purely personal attack. This is not helpful to a useful discussion.

Bruce states next: "Aren’t there more important targets for you to attack (like the meat industry)? I agree with you that cage-free isn’t cruelty-free, but who could honestly argue that birds aren’t better off when not confined in battery cages?"

Well, having seen cage-free facilities, I would say that the question that Bruce poses is analogous to asking whether, if someone is strapped into a chair and is being tortured with electrical shocks, is she better off on a padded chair rather than a hard chair? Perhaps. But that question in the human context really does miss the point, does it not? The problem is that many of us believe that it misses the point in the nonhuman context as well.

According to Bruce: "It’s not ideal, but it’s better than leaving birds immobilized in wire cages that frustrate every natural desire they have."

Battery-cage confinement certainly results in what we would regard as torture if humans were involved. But then, so does cage-free confinement. In my view, it really does understate the matter to say that cage-free confinement is "not ideal." It goes well beyond being "not ideal." It is torture. And it is torture that is being promoted explicitly (by HSUS) as "socially responsible" (a direct quote) and as representing the achievement of a significant welfare benefit.

Bruce continues: "Are there any large groups that you support? I feel pretty sure that if HSUS followed the advice you're giving, their membership would become tiny and they'd be able to do a tiny fraction of the good that they're doing now."

I find this remark to be somewhat disconcerting. It seems to suggest that in order for large groups to stay large, they have to promote these sorts of welfare reforms. That is analogous to saying that if a large civil rights group wants to remain large, it must tolerate and even encourage "humane" racism. Surely, that cannot be right.

In any event, although donations might drop if HSUS adopted an unequivocal vegan baseline and stopped promoting padded chairs for victims of electric shock torture, I have no doubt that if we united with one non-violent vegan voice, we could effect great change through our educational and advocacy efforts. This approach would do more as a practical matter to reduce suffering in the short term as well as the long term, as well as respect the fundamental moral principle that animal use--however "humane"--cannot be justified morally.

Finally, Bruce states: "Anyway, why not reserve your wrath for the abusers?"

Putting aside that Mylène does not express any "wrath," we must ask: who is the "abuser[]"? Is it the farmer who is just satisfying a demand, or is it the consumer who loves her dog or cat but eats meat or other animal product and donates to the large organization so that they can make it all "humane" and she can feel better about her animal consumption?

I appreciate your consideration of my remarks.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

Sandy said...

No more support for HSUS. They may as well open a slaughter house to really assure the animal agriculture industry that they won't be disturbed.

Jon Camp said...

I have spent the overwhelming majority of my last five years leafleting college students on veganism and animal product reduction. In this time, I have personally interacted with close to a million students -- perhaps the most receptive demographic to veganism. While I do think that I should be spending my limited time trying to decrease the number of animals raised and killed, I am grateful that Mr. Shapiro and others are working on campaigns that will ban some of the worst confinement practices in the US.

If we think that all we need to do is simply inform the general public about the vegan option and that we're going to see some huge groundswell of change, we are fooling ourselves. At the present moment, based on what I have seen, there is a finite number of individuals who are going to choose veganism, even if given a compelling case.

Of course, we need to continue with vegan and meat reduction advocacy to reach the individuals who would change if they were given a compelling case for this. Currently, there are tens of thousands of individuals who would change, but have not been reached. But for the majority who are not going to change their eating habits in the here and now, it does make sense to do what we can to help minimize the suffering of the animals whose flesh they will eat.

In the interactions I have had with close to one million students on a person to person level, I have not seen, in any meaningful way, welfare reforms playing any role in pushing individuals away from considering a vegan diet. Those who have expressed a favorable attitude towards Prop 2 have displayed, if anything, a decent openness towards reducing meat consumption and going vegan. For those who claim that this is not the case, where is your data? Perhaps I am just missing some great, hard empirical evidence, but it is definitely not smacking me in the face.

Those who favor only vegan advocacy have a great opportunity awaiting them: test this approach, really do it in earnest (vegan advocacy with the general public, not anti-welfare advocacy to a finite numbers of animal advocates), and report back to us in, say, 5 or 10 years, and let us know what the end result is for animals. I have done this on meat reduction and vegan advocacy, have thrown myself into it. And while I am still purposefully spending my time and resources on this, I am not convinced that it can’t be coupled with campaigns aimed at reducing some of the worst abuses of industrial animal agriculture. Ultimately, the argument that is the most convincing will win; we all want to do our best to optimally reduce the amount of misery that animals endure. Those who favor only vegan advocacy can strengthen their argument by really diving into the field and reporting back with positive results. Thank you for your time and consideration.

gfrancione said...

Dear Elizabeth:

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. You ask:

"If HSUS isn't helping animals on factory farms, why are industries that profit off factory farming--many of whom the first comment listed-- fighting HSUS's work tooth and nail, dumping millions of dollars into efforts to oppose their work for farm animals? They call HSUS's work the biggest threat facing animal agriculture over and over, in trade publications and mainstream press. They're scared."

There are (at least!) two responses to your question.

First, it is very common (there is a sociological literature on this) for producers (or certain producers) to fight reforms even if they are not concerned about losing the particular battle. Producers must impose an opportunity cost on any and all challengers. Industry interests usually regard even minor reforms as what Professor Garner (a defender of protectionist reform) calls "the thin end of the wedge." A minor reform now that may actually be cost-effective for producers may set a precedent for more major reforms that are not cost-effective in the future. The statements in the trade publications and mainstream press are all part of an orchestrated dance that always occurs in these situations.

I remember once being told by someone at the National Institutes of Health that the research establishment was publicly opposing the 1985 amendments to the U.S. federal Animal Welfare Act, which, among other things, proposed the establishment of animal care committees, even though researchers were not concerned about these committees and saw them as helping to take the steam out of the antivivisection movement, which, in the 1980s, was gaining strength. But the research community was concerned that if they did not oppose these amendments, the antivivisection movement might propose reforms that the researchers would find threatening and objectionable. The amendments passed and the creation of animal care committees not only helped to weaken the antivisection movement by giving researchers a mechanism to assure the public that supposedly thorough ethical reviews of research were being conducted, but effectively resulted in a shutdown of information about research because members of animal care committees were threatened with criminal prosecution for revealing anything that might have a proprietary value to researchers or their institutions.

In any event, the agricultural literature is quite clear that things like gestation crates and veal crates are not cost-effective and welfare reforms actually increase production efficiency. The relevant studies are cited in HSUS position papers, which are available through HSUS and are available on my website. And it is also clear that the marginal cost of cage-free egg production is de minimis and given the inelasticity of demand for eggs (demand is not particularly sensitive to price increase), does not in any way adversely affect producers. On the contrary, producers benefit.

It should be noted that the amount of money spent by industry to fight Proposition 2 was pocket change given that animal agriculture is an enormous industry. Moreover, many producers supported Proposition 2.

Second, there are different interests within the agricultural community. A producer who is starting a chicken slaughter plant today would be crazy not to use CAK as it is clearly a cost-effective method relative to electrical stunning. A producer who already has a stunning operation would incur the capital cost of a change to CAK equipment, and this might provide a disincentive to producers in that situation (although the studies done in the U.K. indicate that these costs can be recovered fairly quickly).

A producer starting an egg operation today would be irrational not to choose cage-free production because of the cost-benefit analysis. A producer who already has a conventional battery operation will incur a capital cost and that may be an important disincentive to particular producers.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

gfrancione said...

Dear Jon:

My experience has been very different from yours. I find that people are very receptive to the vegan message if it is presently clearly.

On the other hand, it is clear that if you tell people that they can satisfy their moral obligations to animals by eating cage-free eggs or "happy" meat or whatever, you may rest assured that the overwhelming portion of people will do no more than that.

When Peter Singer--the so-called "father of animal rights" states that "if you really were thorough-going in eating only animals that had had good lives, that could be a defensible ethical position," that sends a message that being vegan is not a moral obligation.

In any event, it is simply not accurate to say that the vegan message has ever been presented by the animal movement in any clear and consistent way. Quite the contrary.

Thank you for your consideration of my comments.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

Unknown said...

It's a myth that banning battery cages wouldn't help hens. I'm a vegan and I'm perfectly willing to accept that that cage-free is better than caged, although of course it's still abusive. The animals can at least walk, spread their wings, lay their eggs in nests, etc. Perhaps you're not familiar with just how bad life in a battery cage actually is.

I don't see why you find it so hard to swallow that someone like Paul would reach out to the few farmers who do want to end battery cages and try to work with them to do just that. As Paul notes in that interview, even if they disagree on other points (like whether we should be vegans), they can agree on this one way to help animals. What's so bad about that?

gfrancione said...

Dear Erica:

First of all, I have seen cage-free facilities in both the U.S. and Europe. Are they better than conventional batteries? Yes, in the same way that a padded chair is better than a hard chair to sit on while you are being tortured with electrical prods. Cage-free eggs still involve torture. To say, as Bruce did, that they are "not ideal" grotesquely understates the situation.

HSUS and other welfare groups are promoting cage-free eggs not merely as involving slightly less torture, but as being the "socially responsible" thing to do as part of the "conscientious omnivore" approach to animal ethics. That is, they are presenting this as a way of satisfying our moral obligations to nonhumans. That is a very problematic message to be conveying.

Thank you for your comment and for your consideration of mine.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

Lucas said...

Hi Jon,

You seem to think that vegan education in and of itself is ineffective advocacy. You want empirical proof that vegan advocacy is effective. Well, I'd like to turn the tables and ask you where is the proof (any proof at all) that advocating for animal welfare reforms is actually reducing net suffering of other animals?
You are aware that more and more nonhuman animals are exploited each year in the US (where I live) and around the world, are you not? Given that the mainstream approach to animal advocacy is to reform animal exploitation, and that's where the majority of the money is going and how the majority of campaigns are framed, isn't it safe to say that that kind of tactic is not working and is even counterproductive?
Where is your proof that your tactics, and the tactics of welfare organizations, like HSUS, are effective in that they actually are reducing animal suffering? Where is your proof that your, and HSUS's (and the like) strategies are leading any closer to the end of institutionalized animal exploitation? Remember that more and more nonhuman animals are suffering each year.. That seems like sufficient proof that animal welfare campaigns are not working to me.

Also you say "At the present moment, based on what I have seen, there is a finite number of individuals who are going to choose veganism, even if given a compelling case." Have you ever thought that perhaps this is because the mainstream animal advocacy organizations constantly undermine the vegan message by telling their potential donors (the people - who consume other animals - that keep them afloat) that they can, fulfill their moral obligations to other animals by still consuming other animals? Veganism is therefore portrayed as extreme, and even unnecessary, if one actually cares about the plight of nonhuman animals. The public receives this message and, coupled with a flood of messages telling them it's ok to consume animals if they have an animal advocacy organization's stamp of approval on their treatment, they will not choose veganism. Also, I want to add that I chose veganism when it was presented to me in a clear coherent manner and I know several others who have too. But, hey, we can all present anecdotal evidence all day long, can't we?

These organizations need to start portraying veganism as the normal, rational goal of anyone who care about other animals, not undermine the ideal so that they can prey on the complacency of their donors so that the dough keeps rolling in. That's what it all seems to boil down to.

Roger Yates said...

I think I may be able to provide some sociological insights that Professor Francione alludes to in relation to the movement-countermovement relationship Elizabeth mentioned.

First, I think we need to accept that this is a complex issue about social change. Generally speaking, individuals and collectives resist change for all sorts of reasons, and not necessarily for reasons that appear logical at the time of resistance or even later on down the line.

Few workers, especially those who see themselves as specialists and the 'experts' about a given issue, like to be told what to do by perceived outsiders. And they certainly do not like to ~be seen~ to be told what to do. Coal miners and printers (of the newspaper press) in the 1970s, 80s and 90s in Britain are standout cases in this regard. For a whole host of reasons they, and factions within them, fought against production changes. Those who raise nonhuman animals for exploitation can be expected to react in similar ways to change proposals. Sure, they - or some of them - may spend some of their money opposing change, this is what their members expect and demand, especially those in the riskiest positions and those least likely to be able to adapt to change. However, the sums they spend on these campaigns are likely to be dwarfed by their everyday advertising budgets. On the other hand, some within the industry will see benefit in change and adopt and advocate it sooner rather than later. But even these will not want to seem to have back down to pressure.

Once things 'settle' - and they can be seen to be responding to change proposals on their own terms, say, to work by people like Temple Grandin and Ian Duncan - then they may well eventually adopt that which they fought against. People have their identities and their professional credentials bound up in these complicated and often contradictory processes of change. There is a struggle within groups as well as between opposing camps.

This is precisely why getting involved in the regulation of atrocities is such a hard, hit-and-miss, thing to do. After long years of campaigning, some 'victory' is apparent, but there is often a long delay in terms of implementing reform. During this phase, definitional work is done - as in, for example, what constitutes the meaning of "free range" or "cage-free" and, suddenly, we find that the goalposts have moved.

Where once we thought we were talking about intensive and extensive systems of use in a fairly straightforward way, we now are faced with differentiations of 'barren' and 'enriched' caging. At the end of all this, there is still the problem of ~monitoring~ the new use systems. In Britain, despite having millions of pounds, the RSPCA acknowledge that they cannot oversee the "Freedom Foods" systems they promote (often falsely) as "humane." Because they cannot monitor, units that may meet their requirements one year may not the next.

I can guarantee that the groups working to bring in this or that new system of exploitation will be exposing them years later. Of course, this is done in the name of pragmatics.

Regulating atrocities is a nightmare and, personally, I am less sure than others that I can identify "better" systems of use, not least because the nonhuman animals in question are still left at the mercy of speciesists who wish to exploit and kill them for profit.

Jon Camp said...


I'm sorry for any confusion. I think that vegan advocacy is absolutely vital and is because of this that I spend my waking hours on it. I'm always hearing from those who have been changed by receiving a booklet. But the hard fact is that there are a lot who are not swayed by this, and will not be swayed regardless of how clear our message is and regardless of what HSUS's position is. For those who will be swayed by vegan advocacy, we need vegan advocacy. For those who will not be swayed by it, I'm glad that welfare campaigns exist to minimize the suffering of the animals living in the here and now. I'm going to have to sign out of this conversation, but appreciate the opportunity to state my thoughts.

Jon said...

Jon said: ''Currently, there are tens of thousands of individuals who would change, but have not been reached.''

This is exactly right. And the more animal advocates put their time and money into abolitionist vegan education instead of welfare campaigns, the more people who could be reached will be reached. Given that supporting ''humane'' exploitation (or single-issue activism like anti-meat campaigns) on the one hand, and educating people about why we should not exploit animals at all, on the other, are antithetical, it follows as a matter of logic, beyond empirical evidence, that the one cannot be done without inhibiting the other.

Erica said: ''It's a myth that banning battery cages wouldn't help hens.''

In a magazine article featuring slaughterhouse designer Temple Grandin (see '''Happy Meat': Making Humans Feel Better About Eating Animals'' on Gary Francione's blog) it says: ''When Grandin began her work in the early 1970s, she did it from the cow’s perspective...''
In a short video about ''happy egg'' production that Roger Yates links to on Elizabeth Collins' blog (see episode 29), the farmer says: ''You must think like a chicken'' and ''I feel the joy of the chickens''. The way he says this leaves no doubt that he really believes it.

Animals' property status ''acts as a blinder that effectively blocks even our perception of their interests as similar to ours'' (Francione, Animals as Persons, 2008, p. 161); it prevents us from realizing that what is considered ''humane'' treatment still qualifies as torture. Only the negation of animals' property status, which welfarism reinforces, through abolitionist vegan education opens people's eyes to the fact that animal use can never be ''humane'' and is morally unjustifiable, no matter what the treatment.

Lucas said...

Again, Jon, you seem to be assuming that animal welfare reforms actually work in reducing the suffering of other animals. If you realy have not "signed out" I'd like to know where is your proof, any proof, that animal welfare reforms "minimize" the suffering of other animals?

gfrancione said...

Dear Lucas:

This is a common problem. Welfare defenders claim not only that welfare reforms decrease animal suffering in significant ways (a matter of very considerable doubt) but they claim that these reforms "minimize" suffering, which is very clearly not true.

These claims lead the public to believe that animals are being treated much better and that it is, therefore, justifiable morally to consume animals. It is a real problem, which is compounded by the unfortunate unwillingness of welfarists to enter into serious discussion once challenged on these issues.

Thanks for considering my remarks.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

wchanley said...

If welfare worked, it would be another matter entirely; it is not "helping" animals if animals are kept in slightly different conditions from the industry standard.

Not using animals for ANY of these purposes is *helping*. Using animals who may have only been treated very slightly differently from other animals *does not help those animals*.

It only serves to make humans feel like using animals is somehow morally defensible.

The animal rights cause is not helped - and is, in fact, actively HINDERED, given the above - by wasting our time with welfare advocacy.

unpopular vegan essays said...

I think everyone should carefully read what Mylene actually wrote. She is simply presenting the facts and putting them into proper perspective.

When there is slavery or a holocaust going on, we don't believe that it needs to be regulated or carried on humanely. We believe that it needs to end. As a moral matter, it is speciesist and prejudice to believe differently regarding sentient nonhumans. As a practical matter, regulation simply cannot work, and we have 200 years of empirical evidence that it cannot work, not to mention failed attempts to regulate human chattel slavery in antebellum America, which remained viciously cruel up to its end.

HSUS, as Wayne Pacelle has said (see Mylene's post of last week), has NO intention to end animal agriculture. HSUS merely wants to help industry regulate the perpetual holocaust. HSUS's attitudes and actions are deplorable.

Adam Kochanowicz said...

et me make some general observations from the article's contents and comments.

HSUS, like most animal welfare agencies, takes a position against cruel animal confinement and conditions which make the enslavement of animals (more) unpleasant.

Watch a few YouTube videos on subjects like "battery cages" and "gestation crates" and you'll no doubt agree these conditions are deplorable. The intuitive conclusion would be that chickens not in battery cages is better than chickens in battery cages and so on.

Let me make a point to stop here and state the abolitionist and the welfarist agrees on this generality but there's more.

For those in disagreement over this article, let me acknowledge the position taken by the abolitionist may appear counterintuitive on the surface. If someone suggests we should not legislate against battery cages, not support large animal welfare charities who state they are working to sway public opinion, and instead use those resources toward completely abolishing animal use, an advocate may feel they would be turning his or her back on the animals, that a response is not being made to the suffering of animals.

I understand this feeling but I submit the confusion is a matter of appearance versus reality. Gary Francione has already made a number of points to show the reality of such reforms in the previous comments so here is a gist:

1. "Welfare reforms at least reduce the suffering of animals, if not completely abolish it"

In welfarism, attention is paid to the isolated fact that an animal is taken out of a cage, gestation crate etcetera. Their reduction in suffering is the appearance. The reality is that these reforms are often very misleading. The lauded reforms of Cali. Prop 2 had an entire list of exceptions which allowed producers to completely ignore Prop 2 when the animal was pregnant, being transported, given "vet" care, an so on. They also only account for negligible reform of the plight of animals. This is why Prof. Francione uses the metaphor of a hard electric chair versus a padded one.

At this point, you may be saying "well at least it's something! Better than nothing" which accounts for appearance #2.

Adam Kochanowicz said...

2. "At least animal reform is better than nothing" Reality: These reforms account for funds, resources, and time given by supporters of welfarism. It costs money to pay administrative fees, hire lawyers, create propaganda, google ads, whatever. These resources could otherwise be used to promote vegan education. More vegans in the world equates to fewer animals being put in the circumstance where their suffering needs attention. More importantly, vegan education creates a cultural shift where society gradually understands our usage of animals as property and the fact their suffering is a consequence of their being used as property.

So if you want to talk about suffering, abolitionism with vegan education reduces the number of animals even being brought into the world as commodities while creating a society more fertile for the abolition of animal use altogether (our common goal, no?) Welfarism uses the wealth of donated money, time, time and resources at their disposal to create reforms which reduce suffering so negligibly that suffering is not really reduced at all. To this you may be thinking "That's not true, welfarism does make meaningful changes and actually sends the message to the public about animal cruelty" This is appearance #3.

Adam Kochanowicz said...

3. "Welfarist regulation sends a positive message to the public about the plight of animals on factory farms"

Unfortunately, the message of animal industry regulation is an ironic one. If you look at the list of reforms made by HSUS and PETA to the conditions of animals on farms, they are all conditions which are not necessary to make the product in the first place (e.g. slaughter is required for meat, a gestation crate is not) This is probably why welfarists call these reforms the "low-hanging fruit" but it also shows the limitation of welfarism. The protection we can offer to animals is limited by our need to use them as property.

You can make slaughterhouses shinier, conveyor belts softer, but as long as there is meat, there is slaughter, as long as there is a demand for animal products, there will be confinement. As long as animals are property, there will be at least suffering necessary to use animals as property. You'll also find many of these reforms are not actually thought up by the HSUS, but the animal industry itself! Controlled-atmosphere killing (CAK), larger gestation crates, the move to battery barns from battery cages, these are all new and improved methods for increasing the efficiency of producers to create the suffering welfarists are trying to stop. Welfarist regulation allows producers to exploit animals more efficiently.

Is this made up for by the fact the public is being educated about the suffering of animals on factory farms? The public is not being educated whatsoever by welfarism that animal exploitation necessarily leads to suffering. The public is not being shown or untrained from thinking of animals as objects of possession which exist for our use. The public is not being told it is wrong to cause any harm to an animal unless it is unnecessary to force them to create meat, milk, eggs, jackets, entertainment, labor, chemicals, research, etc.

Instead, consumers are now picking up packages of sausages, cartons of eggs, jugs of milk which proudly declare to them the methods used are ethical, fair, and humane. Welfarism causes the public to feel better about exploiting animals. Meanwhile, the chickens of those eggs still endure immediate death by suffocation if male (male chicks do not lay eggs obv.), debeaking, and still cruel confinement minus the cage. If nothing else, cage-free eggs--all eggs for that matter are stolen property. In natural settings, eggs are eaten by the birds who lay them.

These facts also exist for other animals like dairy cows. How could the production of milk ever be humane or ethical if repeated and forced pregnancy is necessary for a cow to lactate? What will the "humane" dairy farmer do with those herds of calves born from their dairy cows? Will they pass up on selling them as veal calves in place of paying for their care for the rest of their lives?

The only welfare welfarism provides is that of the human consumers. Humans are being treated with sunny red barn logos and stamps of approval from "the largest animal welfare" charities assuring them they may continue, nay increase their animal consumption without any guilt.

It is for these reasons we must look beyond what is immediately intuitive and what is taught to us by 6-figure salaried figures like Wayne Pacelle of the multi-million dollar Humane Society of the United States whose existence depends on public support and the donations thereof rather than any success in addressing the exploitation of animals.

Ginny Messina said...

I'm a long time abolitionist and animal rights activist and I support and engage in vegan education as the most important approach to achieving animal liberation. I also support the efforts of the HSUS.

I have read the works of those who don’t support HSUS and I think their arguments are thoughtful and compelling. But as someone who has worked for decades as a public health educator-—ie, in the area of behavior change—-I don’t think those arguments allow for the complex processes and interactions and environmental factors that underlie changes in beliefs and behavior. They assume a certain logic that may or may not be there.

I’m convinced that the work of the HSUS helps to create an environment that will make vegan education easier over time. It allows huge numbers of people to learn about factory farming and animal suffering—-and many of these are people who are not prepared in any way to even “hear” the word vegan. And they don’t just learn about animal suffering on factory farms--they buy into the fact that it matters, as we saw in California.

Is it not possible that these social and environmental changes will allow people to start thinking in new ways about animals, to experience a shift in their perspective and beliefs—-some underlying paradigm—-that will make them ready to hear about veganism and animal rights?

Or will they just go on eating happy meat, as a feel-good alternative to veganism, with a strengthened perception of animals as commodities?

We really don’t know. And the reason we don’t know is because we have no studies to show which outcome is more likely over an extended period of time. (Uncontrolled observations aren’t reliable data). While I recognize that there are reasonable arguments on both sides, my own experience as an educator has me convinced that HSUS is making an important contribution to the goal of animal liberation—whether that is their intention or not. The way that people think, learn, and change their beliefs is just not as predictable as we want to think.

Finally, I strongly object to the use of the term “welfarist” to describe positions like mine. Whether intentional or not, it is insulting. There is a world of difference between welfare measures as tactic and as goal. I support them as tactic. And I’m an abolitionist animal rights activist.

Unknown said...

Great post. It's not surprising that regulationists love agribusinesses, although it's disappointing to read the comments of anonymous apologists trying to silence you with hand-waving arguments. Anonymity of this kind is deleterious and undermines a sincere discussion of what we owe nonhuman animals.

But back to your post. The relationship between industry and regulators is win-win all around. Air traffic control regulation did nothing to hurt the airline industry in the 1970s, and I wonder why anyone who knows anything about economics believes it will hurt agribusiness in any meaningful way. It won't.

In fact, by creating an opponent in the public's mind with HSUS, the animal ag lobbyists create a straw man to lobby for greater subsidies. In many industrialized countries, the subsidies to animal ag are considerable, and in part, this is why the regulationist strategy of proposing measures that will supposedly raise costs is as misguided (and contradictory) as their strategy of proposing measures that will supposedly lower costs, which is doubly misguided when you consider that many regulationist groups propose both raising and lower industry costs as the way to liberate nonhuman animals from slavery. You'd think they'd pick one misguided set of tactics and stick to them, but I fear even that requires too much consistency.

Regardless, regulation is almost always a win for industry per se. In fact, regulation is often a way to preserve an industry the is economically unsuccessful (c.f., the recent efforts by the US government to further regulate the auto business). Even if it may harm smaller, individual producers, it helps consolidate resources with larger, more competitive suppliers. That's not helpful in any way to nonhuman animals. At best, HSUS helps animal ag (and vice versa) to set the public mind to believe that HSUS is doing something to help nonhuman animals and to hurt industry. This is not just irrational; it's contrafactual.

gfrancione said...

Dear Virgina Messina:

We have had different experiences as educators. In my experience, people are very open to veganism if it is explained clearly.

In any event, I would suggest that we already have enough evidence to reject the hypothesis that a program of welfare reform will facilitate veganism. We have had animal welfare campaigns for a good long time now. It was actually a very strong movement in the 20th century in both the U.K. and U.S. I suggest that, as an empirical matter, it resulted in more animal exploitation and not less precisely because it made people feel better about exploitation. In this regard, it is interesting to note that vivisection in the U.K. increased in the 19th century immediately after legislation was passed to supposedly ensure that animal use in experiments was made "humane."

The rights/abolition position rests on the notion that animal use--however "humane"--is not morally justifiable. This position accepts that animals have an interest in continued existence and not just an interest in not suffering. The welfarist position, from Bentham right down to Singer, is very clear that use per se is not morally problematic, and that treatment is the concern. Bentham, Mill, Singer, and most other welfarists deny that animals have an interest in continued existence because they are not self-aware in the same way humans are. In any event, these are very different approaches and there is no historical evidence that one leads to the other.

Finally, I generally use the term "new welfarist" to describe the position of those who maintain that they want to see the end of animal use and that there is a causal relationship between abolition and reform. As I have argued in my writing on the subject, there is not a strand of historical evidence to support that notion. Professor Robert Garner, who has a position similar to yours, uses "protectionism" to describe this view. We have a book coming out this fall (from Columbia University Press) called "The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?" It is clear however, that someone who advocates welfare reform as a tactic or goal is different from someone who rejects welfare reform for either purpose.

Thank you for your consideration of my comments.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

wchanley said...

"I’m convinced that the work of the HSUS helps to create an environment that will make vegan education easier over time."

In what way does welfare advocacy make the case that we ought not consume ANY animal products any easier? The message of the welfare movement, to the degree that it bothers to consider veganism and animal rights *at all* is simply, "Well, we can't expect the whole world to go vegan overnight, so we ought to be telling people to be eating *some* animals which have been treated "better" than some other animals."

The changes in animal treatment at hand do not do anything to better the lives of the animals in question, and wasting our time - if we're actually vegan advocates and abolitionists - with the claim that "some" animals are acceptable to eat, raised under certain conditions of "care" does not do anything to encourage people to stop eating animals. This is akin to suggesting that people shouldn't murder ANY humans, but if you absolutely MUST murder, kill *these* people, instead of *those* people.

If we say we're vegan and abolition advocates, this is the absolute worst sort of mixed message. It simply doesn't make any sense.

I'm more than aware that omnivores don't view animals as deserving of much (or any) moral consideration. That doesn't mean I'm going to get *anywhere* by advocating for "better animal welfare" in the meantime.

Ginny Messina said...

Gary, there are huge segments of the population out there that are not open to ideas like veganism, well-explained or not. I would truly love to tag around with you while you explained veganism to some of the people I've worked with over the years!

And the kinds of "proof" you cite that welfarism doesn't work are exactly the types of uncontrolled observations I referred to. These are observations that should always be interpreted with some caution. Furthermore, I'm not talking about letting welfarism just do its work. I'm not suggesting for one minute that this would achieve our goals for animals. We will be nowhere if we don't include vegan education as part of the process. Will vegan education work better or worse in a world that is shaped to some extent by welfare measures? We have no data on that one way or the other.

And Babble, I am not saying that welfare advocacy "makes the case that we ought not to consume animals." I'm saying it makes a contribution to a shift in paradigm regarding animals. It's subtle, and those subtleties matter a lot in behavior change. The world is not so black and white as people want to think. The way that people change and why they change is hugely complex and dependent on many factors--and I think that a lot of animal rights activists don't realize this.

wchanley said...

"And Babble, I am not saying that welfare advocacy "makes the case that we ought not to consume animals." I'm saying it makes a contribution to a shift in paradigm regarding animals. It's subtle, and those subtleties matter a lot in behavior change. The world is not so black and white as people want to think."


The problem is that it's really NOT subtle. Decades of welfare advocacy haven't done a thing to reduce animal consumption in the least - which is hardly surprising, since a reduction in the consumption of animals is not the goal of animal welfare. Regulating that consumption is the goal.

The issue is that regulating that consumption is the wrong approach - not just in principle but in *practice*. In what way have decades of welfare activism and millions and millions of dollars donated to that advocacy reduced animal suffering in anything but the most utterly meaningless, miniscule ways? Those campaigns have arguably been wildly successful *for the animal welfare movement.* What have they done *for animals?*

If you want me to admit that vegan education is a slow process, sure, I agree. Welfare advocacy isn't helping that process. It's actively hindering it.

Are you honestly proposing that CAK is a "victory" for chickens? Are you honestly proposing that gestation crates a couple of inches larger cause sows to suffer "less?"

In what way is animal welfare advocacy ACTUALLY communicating ANY message other than, "eat *these* animals, but not *those* animals?"

wchanley said...

The problem is that welfare advocates who may advocate veganism alongside their welfare promotion may choose to see that as a pair of differing, but nevertheless co-existing messages. The problem is that it just doesn't work that way out in the real world. The mixed message isn't a pair of equally weighted positions that one may consider rationally.

Given the social acceptance of animal exploitation, absent an unequivocal message, all people hear is whatever they choose to hear. The vast majority of persons *may* hear a message that "happy meat" is morally acceptable to eat, and a very tiny minority of THOSE persons may actually switch to eating THAT flesh - but most will not.

Sure, absolutely, I agree: most people won't go vegan *either*. But given that, how in the world does it accomplish ANYthing for me to put my own personal advocacy efforts, or my contribute my money to the effort to eat more happy meat? Given that only a small number of persons will even bother to switch to the happy meat, why in the world should I waste my time with ANY of it? I agree that only a very small number of people will be receptive to any given vegan advocacy. But it's simply not reasonable to expect the animal *rights* movement to aid the animal *welfare* movement in the promotion of animal consumption. That consumption doesn't actually need any help in that regard.

unpopular vegan essays said...


Quite frankly, I strongly object to you calling yourself an abolitionist. If you want to call yourself a protectionist or a liberationist, fine. But you are not even in the same ballpark as an abolitionist.

In your comment, you commit a common fallacy of non-abolitionists. You mistake correlation with causation. It's true that welfare concern in a society correlates with veganism. That is, the more welfare concern there is, the more vegans there are. But it is a fallacy to attribute causation where ever there is correlation.

The causal relationship works only one way: vegan education causes concern over welfare regulation since part of vegan education is showing the hell that nonhumans endure. The reverse is not causal: welfare regulation (or the promotion of "happy meat") NEVER causes people to go vegan. In fact, the opposite is the case: welfare regulation causes people to feel better about animal exploitation and causes people to go from less animal product consumption to more. It's a brilliant long term strategy for industry, despite their resistance (which has to do with the infringement on their property rights).

Going from non-abolitionism to the abolitionist approach is like going from being a non-vegan to being a vegan. The abolitionist approach is the public manefestation of an individual commitment to veganism.

The welfare reform movement needs no help. It is going as strong as ever to nowhere but greater exploitation in number and severity, following as it has for 200 years now. The abolitionist movement is only 2.5 years old and needs your support if you are a vegan and are opposed to animal exploitation. Go vegan. Go abolitionist.

M said...

Well said, Dan!

gfrancione said...

Dear Ginny:

You are welcome to attend any of my talks! Anna and I are teaching human rights/animal rights this semester at Rutgers. Stop in and have a listen. I think you would be quite surprised to see the sort of reaction we get and the sorts of discussions we have. I do not doubt that there are many people who are not open to veganism but I believe that there are many who are receptive whom we are not reaching because we continue to promote welfarist reform instead.

I apologize but I am stunned that you would say that we have only uncontrolled observations about whether welfare reform has gotten us anywhere. As an empirical fact, there is a great deal of animal exploitation and no proof that welfare reform has ever led to the abolition of any form of institutional exploitation. The usual response I get to observations like this is that it might have been worse without animal welfare. I do not think it could be much worse because that would require very economically irrational conduct by animal property owners. And I fail to see any shift in paradigm--subtle or not subtle--that results from welfare reform.

I appreciate that you regard vegan education as vital. Unfortunately, Paul and others characterize veganism as just one of many ways to reduce suffering. This is what allows them to equate promoting veganism with promoting cage-free eggs, etc. In any event, I would suggest that the message that is being sent by these various new welfarist/protectionist groups is confusing at best and I see that confusion as unhelpful.

Finally, I am perplexed that you think that measures like Proposition 2 are worth the paper they're written on. Proposition 2 will not even come into effect (if at all) until 2015. The welfare benefits are questionable at best and you simply cannot ignore that these measures most certainly reassure people that animals are being treated more "humanely." Proposition 2 was explicitly promoted as ensuring more "humane" conduct and elimination of the worst abuses. To call that hyperbole is to denigrate the fine art of exaggeration!

But I suppose we will have to agree to disagree. Please do understand that I am not questioning the sincerity of those who have a different approach. As I mentioned earlier, I know many of the folks who are leading the new welfarist/protectionist movement and I am sure that they believe sincerely in their position. But the abolitionist position and the new welfarist position are very different because, as I mentioned earlier, the former focuses primarily on use and the latter focuses primarily on treatment.

Thanks for your thoughts and for considering mine. And do stop in at Rutgers and say hi.


Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

cal said...

This discussion is highly saddening. Paul and the rest of the factory farming campaign are some of the most tireless animal advocates on the planet, and their work could not be more important or meaningful. To ignore the fact that animals suffer in extreme confinement before their slaughter is selfish and purist, and does the actual animals no service. On the other hand, working to pass legislation that actually regulates their treatment and ensures some basic standards makes a quantifiable positive difference in their lives. I could not agree more strongly with Bruce that animal advocates need to focus on making actual change for animals instead of becoming embroiled in this type of squabbling.

wchanley said...

No abolitionist anywhere *ignores* that suffering. To claim otherwise is the worst sort of strawmanning. We're not saying that the suffering of animals on factory farms is unimportant. We're saying that spending our time working on welfare reform isn't doing anything to meaningfully reduce that suffering, despite repeated claims from welfare advocates that "great success" has been made "for the animals."

Do you have any evidence that the case we're *actually* making is untrue?

Honestly, whether or not any given welfare advocates think we're just in this to be "mean" or something is irrelevant.

What the welfare movement is arguing for isn't just something I and others *disagree* with. It's something that is *actively hindering* the work I'm trying to do. Social acceptance for welfare reform - as exaggerated as its claims may be - *actively hinders the case for animal rights.* If it was simply a matter of disagreement in principle, I think most of us wouldn't spend any time debating it with welfare defenders.

I, and others, will continue to speak out about that because it isn't just about "agreeing to disagree" about conflicting ideologies in an abstract sense.

M said...

Elizabeth: With all due respect, have you even actually been reading any of the comments to this post? Nobody is ignoring "the fact that animals suffer in extreme confinement".

"[W]orking to pass legislation that actually regulates their treatment and ensures some basic standards [that] makes a quantifiable positive difference in their lives" may seem like an admirable goal for you. There are some of us, however, who would like to see their lives spared altogether. That shouldn't make us your enemies.

What's been going on is a long-overdue and frank discussion of the inherent differences between animal welfarism and the abolitionst approach to animal rights. You find this saddening, yet I find it invigorating. If anything is "sad", it's that you should perceive this dialogue as no better than "squabbling".

wchanley said...

It occurs to me that some of the HSUS defenders in this may think that the other side of this debate doesn't really understand the welfare movement.

I think it's safe to say that MOST of us who are presently advocating for an abolitionist position didn't start out that way. I certainly didn't. I didn't come to animal rights as an abolitionist. I *became* one after years of "neo-welfare" welfarism-as-a-stepping stone sorts of advocacy.

It's not that I don't understand the welfarist argument in this; experience has demanded that I reject it.

Fredrik said...

I think another erroneous assumption by the New Welfarists, is that there would be no regulation if they didn't advocate it.

First, there are already organizations that are 100% focused on welfare regulation, yet have no intention to end animal exploitation, whatsoever. Compassion in World Farming is one, to name an example. I would suspect that most of their supporters are self-proclaimed animal lovers who want to feel less guilty about their diets. I also suspect that these people vastly outnumber the vegans in the movement. Even if all vegans would walk out from activism today, we would still see a strong movement for regulation.

Second, you underestimate the flexibility of the meat (and dairy/egg) industry. They have plenty of full-time staff doing surveys, reading articles, checking statistics, etc etc, and if they would see a reduction in animal consumption (=less profits), due to people becoming more aware of animal rights issues, they would immediately respond. One of these responses would be to improve their welfare standards, slap a label on it, and then brag about it in advertisements. I am sure that wherever you live on this Earth, you will have local companies that have done exactly this, and that these "improvements" came about without any outside activism. The companies simply sense in which direction the trend is blowing, and respond correspondingly. This is basic capitalism!

Thus, if animal rights activists devote all their attention to true vegan outreach, the welfare reforms you are fighting for now would most likely be implemented anyway.

Cavall de Quer said...

Have a look at this body:

for another example of naked "welfarism" - high quality academics are involved in these expensive research projects, but never a word of abolition........

Unknown said...

I echo Babble's recent comment. Before the notion of animal use abolition was postulated, I supported welfare reforms wholeheartedly. Having been raised an omnivore, I thought it was simply a case of, "treat the animals better". Ignorantly, I embraced Welfarism as the only avenue by which the lot of animals could ever hope to be improved. I figured, "we have to work to change the laws". Then slowly I started reading and seeing evidence of the evolution of so-called "humane agri-business", the profit driven attempt to corner the growing affluent compassionate niche market. I began to feel uncomfortable with so-called Animal "Rights" (read that as Welfare) organizations promoting campaigns to "end the cruelty" of battery cages for example but without any mention of the poor birds still being roasted, fried, boiled, what have you. I wondered, "Are these Animal "Rights" organizations playing a political game here? Is it like, first we get the companies to treat the animals better, then we start persuading them to stop killing the animals?" And then it started to hit me. I'd seen a doc called "The Corporation". It made perfect sense that companies and even individual farmers could be persuaded to treat their animals "better" if it improved the bottom line... if it was 'efficient', as I later heard Professor Francione refer to it.

But how does an Animal "Rights" organization persuade a company to stop doing what they do?!!! And then my eyes were opened. I was primed to receive the Abolitionist Approach. No matter how highly placed we think of ourselves, especially in Western industrialized nations, we are simply cogs that turn the wheels of commerce. So given the acknowledged reality that Veganism is the greatest direct action one can practice for the benefit of ALL animals, then it follows that the spread of Veganism through education initiatives would have the greatest net impact on REMOVING THE DEMAND that keeps all those companies killing!

Why then, would anyone want to spend money and effort fighting for "less cruelty" when that same money and effort could achieve elimination of cruelty... truly a transitioning of societies worldwide and the restoration of complete, natural freedoms for ALL animals.

Roger Yates said...

Elizabeth wrote: "To ignore the fact that animals suffer in extreme confinement before their slaughter is selfish and purist, and does the actual animals no service. On the other hand, working to pass legislation that actually regulates their treatment and ensures some basic standards makes a quantifiable positive difference in their lives."

This is a most insulting comment, Elizabeth. I do not know a single animal advocate who ignores their suffering but I do know there are growing numbers who recognise that nothing can do more for animals than a growth in the number of ethical vegans in society.

I think this notion of a 'quantifiable difference' can be questioned. I get the impression that many advocates are so horrified, for example, by battery cages that there is an assumption that anything not-this-is-better.

However, we are seeing the reality - and there is an irony here, for, the more successful the cage-free movement is, the bigger the cage-free facilities will have to be to meet the demand for the 'humane' eggs. In these circumstances, welfare will suffer as it always does. As I suggested in my previous post, regulating atrocities is extremely tricky and I really do not understand your apparent confidence that these improvements are in the making. Who is going to check, and check week by week, year by year?

It seems this confidence is based on hope and assumption.

Finally, I have met lots of tireless animal advocates: there are a few in Dublin right now (from where I write). You may not know ~their~ names and you will certainly not be getting appeals from them for donations to cover their wages.

MSart said...

I realize this may be a bit hypocritical since I am posting a message myself, but its a shame that all these people (including the author) choose to devote this much energy to bashing other activists rather than helping animals. I'd rather take 20 minutes and go hand out copies of "Why Vegan" or write to some company and ask them to switch to cage-free eggs (yes, I am abolitionist AND welfarist) than argue over tactics with other activists. Geez.

c-la said...

Mathhew said:
yes, I am abolitionist AND welfarist

I'm just sincerely curious... how is this possible? Is this not an oxymoron?

wchanley said...

It's an oxymoron. You can't effectively advocate *simultaneously* for regulating animal exploitation and *ending* animal exploitation; it's also a mistake to automatically assume that commenting on this one blog post is all *anyone* is doing. 

If we're not allowed to debate tactics *ever*, we'll never - ever - get to an abolitionist future. All we'll have is ever more useless welfare. The claim that we shouldn't be discussing this is just an attempt to deflect from legitimate criticism of the welfare movement's exaggerated claims of "success." 

I'm more than aware that people defending HSUS in this - like committed "conscientious omnivores" - are unlikely to change. The welfare movement has already provided them plenty of feedback that what they're doing is making "great strides" for animals. 

But I changed my mind. I didn't do it on my own. I did it because people were willing to speak on these issues and try and break through that social conditioning that (falsely) claimed that "all we can do" is advocate for welfare. 

If it's inappropriate make a case for abolitionism with the people who claim to share our values, we'll never be able to make that case with the people who don't.

If someone says they're a vegetarian, but they eat chicken or fish, I'm *never* supposed to comment on that? Why not? Sure, I won't waste time commenting on it in *most* contexts, but if that person goes out of their way to come into a discussion of vegetarianism with OTHER folks *actually* eating a vegetarian diet, it's *still* not appropriate to say to that person, "um. You may say you're a vegetarian, but you're not. You're just not. Saying that you are without actually eliminating the consumption of animals doesn't mean anything."

Saying that one supports "animal rights" while simultaneously supporting welfare organizations *which do not in any way support animal rights* is a claim that people are going to make, but it just makes no sense. We're never - ever - supposed to comment on that? Why not?

M said...

Matthew, you seem to be making some rather unfair assumptions in your comment about the abolitionists who've posted thus far in this discussion. Most of those who've written do indeed engage in educational vegan outreach activities with their podcasts, blogs and publishing books and their involvement in various animal rights groups. Furthermore, insisting that those doing X (i.e. participating in this discussion) would be better off doing Y is beside the point. How would one preclude the other?

There is no "bashing" going on. We're engaging in discussion and debate--both absolutely necessary things to have happen for anything to move forward. Part of discussion involves taking the time to listen to what the other participants are saying. From your advocating writing to companies to encourage them to switch to cage-free eggs, for instance, I'm guessing that you haven't read what's already been written in this discussion about the absolute meaninglessness of the term "cage-free" and the pointlessness of wasting time and energy to encourage companies to make what what are essentially token gestures. I'd rather continue spending my time educating people about the reasons not to eat eggs at all.

M said...

Matthew: I also suggest that you reread the comments that have been left which explicitly clarify the significant distinctions between welfarism and taking an abolitionist approach to animal rights. You'll see why it's illogical to assert that you hold both views.

Ginny Messina said...

Dan, thanks for your comments.
First—I’m in favor of the abolition of all animal use by humans so—call me crazy—I think that makes me an abolitionist. But if there is some official movement-inspired definition that I don’t adhere to, I’m going to be respectful of that. I’m happy to be a plain old animal rights activist, which is what I’ve always been.

Second, when I was working for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine back in the early 1990s, I can remember sitting around the office debating all of these points (minus a few contemporary details) AND discussing whether the HSUS would ever come on board with animal rights. I kind of get the feeling that there are people here who think they’ve stumbled on some new idea. That’s not true; nearly every single argument about this issue has been discussed before, over a period of many years.

Also, my background is in public health, the realm of the epidemiologic study. I may not know everything, but I really do have a firm grasp on the distinction between “causation” and “correlation.”

What I am really arguing against are statements like: “Welfare regulation causes people to feel better about animal exploitation and causes people to go from less animal product consumption to more.” As logical as this statement sounds, it’s simplistic. It ignores all the complexity of human behavior and thought processes. There are lots of good arguments on both sides of this debate. It’s just so important that we think outside the box and examine all of the issues in a critical, creative and sophisticated way. When I hear people say, "an animal rights activist can't support welfare reforms," --I'm sorry, that just doesn't sound like critical thinking to me.

And Gary, I grew up in New Jersey and it doesn’t surprise me at all that your talks are well-received at Rutgers. I think there are many other parts of the country where they wouldn’t be as well-received. You have to understand that I started my work as a nutritionist in an environment where it was a big triumph if I could talk a young mom out of putting Kool Aid in her 6-month-old baby’s bottle. So I’m not quite ready to buy into the idea that convincing the world to go vegan is easy.

That’s not to argue against vegan education; vegan education is my life and my purpose. It’s just to say that I think we have a long way to go, and I want to take advantage of anything that will make the going easier. We disagree, obviously on what will help and what won’t.

This is a fun and interesting discussion, but I’ve got to get to work, so I’ll leave it to others to debate.

gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

c-la writes:

"Mathhew said: yes, I am abolitionist AND welfarist

I'm just sincerely curious... how is this possible? Is this not an oxymoron?"

Good question, c-la!

During the 1990s, when the animal rights movement was emerging and distinguishing itself from the animal welfare movement, those who continued to favor welfare reform, but saw it (with no supporting evidence by the way) as leading causally to rights starting saying that they were for rights and welfare and there was no inconsistency in labeling oneself as a rightist when one supported welfare reform.

That is what I termed "new welfarist" in my 1996 book, "Rain Without Thunder." This apparently upset some of these people (something I did not intend, by the way) because they thought that they were "animal rightists" even though they promoted welfare.

What is the good of language if it increases confusion? The point is that there is a difference between someone who says: "I recognize the inherent value of nnonhuman animals and I do not see welfare reform as morally consistent or as a pragmatic strategy for recognizing that inherent value" and someone who says: "I recognize the inherent value of nnonhuman animals and I support welfare reform as morally consistent and pragmatically useful for recognizing that inherent value." So use whatever labels you want, but there are two separate concepts here.

The same thing is going on with "abolition." As I developed that position over the past 15 years or so, its fundamental premises are the explicit rejection of regulation, the recognition of veganism as the unequivocal moral baseline, and nonviolent vegan education. And now, advocates are claiming that they really want abolition in the long term but they support welfare reform now and are "flexible" vegans or "conscientious omnis" or whatever.

Again, what concerns me here is that there are two separate concepts and some people want to blur the distinction. Why?

Put this in another context: X says: "I believe in nonviolence and world peace and will not engage in or support any violence, including a defensive war." Y says: "I am favor of world peace but I believe in using violence, including preemptive wars and all sorts of violence to achieve world peace and non violence.

Is it accurate to say that X and Y both believe in world peace and non-violence? Yes, in one sense. But in another sense, attempting to claim that these two positions are the same and not wildly contradictory is nothing short of lunacy.

It is not clear that many of the new welfarists want to abolish exploitation even in the long term. For example, Singer explicitly states that if we raised animals in a reasonably pleasant way and killed them in a relatively painless way, it would be acceptable to eat such animals. As I mentioned earlier in this discussion, many new welfarists do not object to animal use per se; they object to way that animals are treated. So it is not clear that abolitionists and all new welfarists seek the same long-term goal.

But, in any event, it is clear that the abolitionist approach is very different from the new welfarist or protectionist approach. I should note that Professor Garner of Leicester, U.K., with whom I am writing a book on abolition vs. regulation, claims to want at least some abolition in the long term, but he supports welfare reform. He regards himself as a "protectionist" to avoid any confusion.

Unfortunately, some advocates want to foster confusion. It happened in the 1990s with "animal rights;" it's happening now with "abolition." It is to be expected.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

wchanley said...

"When I hear people say, "an animal rights activist can't support welfare reforms," --I'm sorry, that just doesn't sound like critical thinking to me. "


You're right, it's not a nuanced critical position, but it isn't intended to be. Just as we need to break through years of social conditioning just to get people to listen to vegan education (when we're doing it out in the world) we ALSO need to break through years and years of received wisdom that the animal welfare movement is making "great improvements" that "minimize" suffering. No, they're not. We have to get people to start thinking about that, before any of this can really move forward. Some of that involves holding folks' feet to the fire and asking, "Okay, you support animal rights. Great! So do I. What are your donations to HSUS and your defense of welfare-to-rights REALLY communicating, though?" 

"So I’m not quite ready to buy into the idea that convincing the world to go vegan is easy. "

No one is saying that it's easy. We're saying that "humane use" advocacy on the part of the organized, well-funded welfare movement makes it inordinately *more difficult than it would be otherwise.* Again, I'm not just saying this abstractly. I'm saying this is borne out of DIRECT experience of making this EXACT case to the general public when I'm tabling or leafletting. I have direct - anecdotal, but direct - experience that if folks are presented with a mixed message, they'll ignore the "vegan half" of that message, and instead tell themselves that eating happy meat - once in a while - is doing something important.

Yes, fine: most folks will ignore a "vegan only" message, *too*, but that's not an endorsement of the welfare-to-rights strategy, which I think is just transparently flawed. I say this not to be uselessly critical of it, but *as someone who's spent an awful lot of time doing it.*

gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

Elizabeth says:

"To ignore the fact that animals suffer in extreme confinement before their slaughter is selfish and purist, and does the actual animals no service."

Elizabeth, are you reading this discussion? First of all, no one is ignoring anything. We (or some of us) are discussing whether welfare reform is effective and whether there are other strategies that are both more effective and more consistent with the recognition of the moral personhood of animals. Second, you really should refrain from claiming that those who disagree with you are "selfish" and "purist." We just disagree.

You continue:

"On the other hand, working to pass legislation that actually regulates their treatment and ensures some basic standards makes a quantifiable positive difference in their lives."

Again, have you been reading this discussion? That is a central issue: does welfare reform provide significant welfare benefits? Does welfare reform encourage continued animal consumption by making people feel better about consumption? These are legitimate questions and you cannot make them disappear by claiming that those who have these concerns are "purist."

You state:

"I could not agree more strongly with Bruce that animal advocates need to focus on making actual change for animals instead of becoming embroiled in this type of squabbling."

"Squabbling?" I do not regard debate over fundamental issues such as these as "squabbling." You are simply begging the question by promoting the fantasy that there is just one "movement" and we are arguing about the details. That is not true. There are several different "movements." It is clear that you think that there is one movement--the one led by groups such as HSUS. I respectfully disagree.

Thanks for your consideration of my comments.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

unpopular vegan essays said...


First, I won’t call you crazy, but I will call you very confused when you call yourself an abolitionist. Being an abolitionist, by definition, excludes supporting, engaging, or promoting welfare reform or any promotion of any animal products, just like veganism, by definition, excludes the use of animal products. It is like a non-vegan saying, I eat seitan, tofu, and everything a vegan eats, so I’m a vegan, even though I also consume animal products. I’ll be glad to call you only a non-abolitionist, but if you continue to call yourself an abolitionist while supporting welfarism, then I will be glad to also call you a welfarist.

Second, I’m well aware of how long these debates have been going on. I’m also well aware that Gary published Rain Without Thunder in 1996 in response to these debates (which was practically censored by the animal “movement”). I’m also aware that these debates will never end until we live in a predominately vegan society, so non-abolitionists should get used to hearing them ad nauseam for however many years or decades it takes to achieve a vegan society.

Third, I’m glad you have a grasp on the distinction between correlation and causation. Perhaps you should learn other areas to which you can apply it.

Fourth, wherever I hear people claiming that a straightforward approach and line of thought like abolitionism is too ‘simplistic’ for a ‘complex’ issue like animal exploitation and that we need to ‘think critically’ and ‘out of the box’, I get the strong sense that a hell of a lot of smoke is being blown. I’m sorry, but I’ve dealt with highly complex issues and dilemmas many times. Abolitionism versus new welfarism is not complex. Welfarists, traditional and new, like to manufacture complexity because there is a lot of NPO donation money and salaries to be made from non-vegans (and duped vegans), but it really is straightforward.

Fifth, I’ve lived in a mostly rural, ranch and rodeo part of Colorado for 15 years now. Some of my clients and acquaintances are part time ranchers (although my work and acquaintance with them has nothing to do with their ranching). They are probably the least receptive to vegan education of anyone in the country; however, they know I’m a vegan and they know why. While they will not be going vegan anytime soon, they do understand and respect where I’m coming from. If they can understand where I’m coming from, many urbanites and suburbanites should be surprisingly receptive to calm, rational, and well-planned presentations in vegan education. It’s just that when these urban and suburban dwellers see PETA and HSUS endorsing welfarism, they see that as the minimum standard, not veganism. If PETA and HSUS calmly and rationally promoted vegan living far more than they do instead of taking on industry where industry is strongest, we would be way ahead of where we are and where we’ll be in 10 years.

gfrancione said...

Dear Matthew:

You write:

[I]ts a shame that all these people (including the author) choose to devote this much energy to bashing other activists rather than helping animals."

"Bashing" is a term that has been used by new welfarists for about 20 years now. It is translated as "I cannot tolerate disagreement and I have nothing to say in response to arguments that welfare reform is useless at best and probably counterproductive so I will play the victim." It's really rather transparent.

You say:

"I'd rather take 20 minutes and go hand out copies of "Why Vegan" or write to some company and ask them to switch to cage-free eggs..."

And I would rather take 20 minutes and debate with people about why they should be vegan. How are you "helping the animals" any more than I am?

That's a rhetorical question.

Thanks for considering my comments.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

unpopular vegan essays said...

All of this talk about ‘helping’ animals instead of ‘wasting time’ debating the merits of welfarism is really just another way for non-abolitionists to attempt to silence dissent, discussion, and abolitionist education.

The truth is that abolitionists and non-abolitionists are engaged in fundamentally different causes with fundamentally different philosophies. It is far from “squabbling”, as Elizabeth and other non-abolitionists would have us believe. Abolitionists are opposed to animal exploitation, whether or not it is regulated; welfarist groups like HSUS support regulated animal exploitation. It’s really that simple. This debate will not end until we live in a predominately vegan society.

wchanley said...

The problem here really is one of a fundamental difference, not just in tactics but in general outlook. If you can defend "welfare in the meantime" you're really not objecting to welfare in any sense at all. I understand that this may be a difficult message to really hear, for some people (it was for me); it remains, however, somewhat inescapable. This isn't to say that you MUST object to welfare, just that you shouldn't CLAIM that you do, if you do not, in fact, object to it. Just as a non-vegan cannot meaningfully claim to be vegan, a non-abolitionist is ONLY muddying the waters if he or she claims to support abolition and welfare at the same time. They're contradictory positions. "I do not support ANY exploitation of animals for human ends - regulated or ortherwise" and "I support/allow for the use of some animal exploitation, provided that it's 'well regulated' " are not resolvable positions.

This is akin to saying, "rape is bad, but if you MUST rape, don't beat the woman up afterward." This fundamentally MISSES the point: there is no necessity to rape, period. There is no NECESSITY to eat animals. Accepting that welfarism is in any sense an acceptable strategy is to *concede a flawed assumption at the outset.* HOW does this make vegan advocacy easier? All I'm hearing you say, so far, is that you hope that at some unspecified future point society may have grown up a little. Maybe. That's EXACTLY the same future hope *I* have that society will change. So long as this rests SOLELY on the speculated future outcome of each of our approaches, there's nothing being offered here that really argues against abolitionist advocacy, or any of the welfare critiques that have been offered so far. The claims of "reduced suffering" of the welfare movement *do not hold up* to any real scrutiny.

Earlier, Ginny said:

"That’s not to argue against vegan education; vegan education is my life and my purpose. It’s just to say that I think we have a long way to go, and I want to take advantage of anything that will make the going easier. We disagree, obviously on what will help and what won’t. "

Several of us have made the case that the going is not *made any easier* and in some very important respects is made *needlessly more difficult* by throwing in our lot with the animal welfare movement. Nobody has really addressed *WHY* we should be doing this. Several people have just muddied the waters by claiming that we're "bashing other activists." We're *disagreeing with them.* If you think that disagreement is unwarranted, *please* tell me why I should be doing what you're doing, instead.

Ginny *herself* earlier in the discussion allowed that (in her view - and I don't want to put words in her mouth, here, so I trust she'll correct me if I paraphrase incorrectly) that there's "no good evidence" that either approach (neo-welfare and abolitionism) is *more* effective.

I disagree, but I'll accept the premise for a moment: fine. Assuming that's the case, why should I agree with the welfare position in this that welfare advocacy is making anything any easier, particularly if I have direct experience - which, again, people probably won't count as evidence of anything, but some folks are already on record saying there IS no evidence either way - that it's doing exactly the opposite?

gfrancione said...

Babble asks:

"[W]hy should I agree with the welfare position in this that welfare advocacy is making anything any easier, particularly if I have direct experience - which, again, people probably won't count as evidence of anything, but some folks are already on record saying there IS no evidence either way - that it's doing exactly the opposite?"

WHY? You ask WHY?

Isn't the answer plain? If you do not agree with welfare form, you are "selfish" and a "purist," you are not "helping animals," you are "hateful" and full of "wrath," you "ignore" animal suffering, and you are a "basher." You "vilify" because you disagree.

And those are just the reasons that we can find in this particular discussion.

That's why.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

wchanley said...

Hey Prof. Francione,

Hehe. Given that I'm going to get that criticism from many nonvegans *anyway* when I'm speaking on these issues, I think I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. said...

Concerning welfarist organizations allegedly being a ''threat'' to animal industry and their work being fought ''tooth and nail'' by it, Gary has most aptly called this an orchestrated dance. One could perhaps also call it a cynical ''party game'' the rules of which are that the participants act to a mutually beneficial effect. On the basis of agreements in which ''there are no differences of opinion about how animals should be treated'' (, animal industry says to animal welfare corporations: If you promote our ''humane'' exploitation / products, we'll acknowledge publicly that you are a ''threat'' to us – and vice versa, so that the public recognizes ''victories'' for the animals, which boosts donations, while producers benefit from more effective exploitation methods and increased demand: the perfect deal.

Matthew said: ''I am abolitionist AND welfarist''

c-la said:''I'm just sincerely curious... how is this possible?''

Why not? You can be a creationist and still believe in evolution, can't you?:- ) Recently, I came across this remarkable statement: ''I don't support free-range, but I think it's a step in the right direction:'' A typical product of the new welfarist way of thinking that gives confusion a bad name.

Virginia Messina said: ''I'm a long time abolitionist and animal rights activist''
''I also support the efforts of the HSUS.''

Animal rightists hold that nonhuman animals are rightsholders, and that the production and consumption of animal products are rights violations which only abolition will end. Promoting ANY form of exploitation or ANY animal product is supporting rights violations. How can supporting rights violations possibly lead to the end of rights violations? No-one would subscribe to this with regard to human rights, so why would anyone do so with regard to animal rights?

wchanley said...

Hey Karen,

"c-la said:''I'm just sincerely curious... how is this possible?''

Why not? You can be a creationist and still believe in evolution, can't you?:- ) "

I don't think it's a problem if folks choose to believe in them both *as a personal matter*, but the whole issue (I'm sure you get this; I'm just using your post as a jumping-off point, soz. hehe) is that it goes beyond issues of personal belief, here.

If someone says, "I believe in creationism and evolution simultaneously" that's really neither here nor there. If that person says, "I believe in both of these things, *and I think they should both be taught as science* that's a whole different ball of soy-based wax.

If folks are going to stake a claim that welfare-to-rights is helping, it's not beyond the pale to ask, "well, how, precisely?"

If folks are going to claim that they hold what I find are mutually contradictory views, and that *I should support them doing so*, it's not beyond the pale to ask, "Well, *why*, precisely?" I can't change the fact that you make the initial claim to hold both views, but could you please stop telling me how much you and I have in common if you do? Can you please stop telling me that I'm harming "the movement" if I'm critical of welfare? I'm not in the welfare movement. You and I aren't *in the same movement*.

Nathan Schneider said...

The aversion to discussions of theory displayed by many new welfarists is quite unfortunate. Society's extreme speciesism, which manifests as countless forms of nonhuman exploitation, is an almost unimaginably massive problem. Tackling it will take many decades or centuries. I lament the willingness of any activist to brusquely dismiss critiques of the paradigm, welfarist ideology and tactics, which has predominated for over 200 years and coincided with nonhuman exploitation becoming progressively more horrendous in both extent and nature.

With minor problems, like cleaning up the kitchen floor, I can understand bypassing in-depth discussions about the best methods, and just jumping right in. But speciesism is anything but minor, and the success (or lack thereof) of our approach obviously has implications that are astoundingly more profound.

If we have time to do anything, surely we have time to step back and evaluate welfarism's long history of failure, as well as investigate the extraordinarily well-founded abolitionist alternative. Developing a program to address the injustice of speciesism without careful consideration of theory is irresponsible. As it has been said, "theory without practice is empty, and practice without theory is blind".

None of us can escape theory. All of us must confront the fact that our actions as activists are reflective of certain underlying ideas. The new welfarist movement is, in large part, informed by the ideas of utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer. The dismissal of discussion by new welfarists is actually informed, at least in part, by a particular interpretation of utilitarian logic. New welfarists are generally willing to accept almost *any* tactic, because almost *any* tactic can be argued to "reduce suffering", which is the modus operandi of utilitarianism. When pretty much all imaginable tactics are legitimate, there is little point of discussion.

For further illustration of this point, take the suggestion of handing out Vegan Outreach's "Why Vegan". That pamphlet is not in any sense "neutral", but is the product of new welfarist ideology. First of all, it distorts the very meaning of veganism by never even mentioning any forms of exploitation outside of food. This is not an accident, but one result of applying utilitarian logic to the fact that more nonhumans are used for food than any other purpose. (Abolitionists, on the other hand, view this fact as helping demonstrate the weakness of many single-issue efforts, and why veganism must be the movement's baseline) Secondly, it does not make rights-based claims about *using* nonhumans, but focuses on "cruelty" and treatment (which accords with utilitarianism's focus on suffering, and disdain for rights). There is much more that could be said about just this pamphlet, but I hope these quick points can spark further consideration of the role theory plays in shaping what activists do.

The abolitionist approach, which draws upon rights based philosophy, implores us, among other things, to understand why welfarist activities are at best ineffective, and at worst inimical to securing justice for nonhumans. As a general matter, I would say reading, coupled with critical thinking and discussion, are crucial aspects of building an effective movement.

gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

I was thinking: you could be a creationist and an evolutionist if you believed that a creator god created life in some really basic form and that it evolved. That is, I am not sure that evolution necessarily entails that life could not have been created rather than itself having evolved from non-life.

I am, however, absolutely certain that a rights position is logically inconsistent with a welfare position just a children's rights position is inconsistent with a "humane pedophilia" position.

I have to give more thought to this creation/evolution issue....

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

American Senior Cats said...

It does not follow that, if donations were reduced to Humane Society of the United States, donations would rise correspondingly for some other, specific organization.

Usually, a nonprofit donor sends funds to a variety of organizations, advocating a variety of positions, not necessarily animal-related.

Therefore reduction of HSUS donations, and increase of other organizations' donations, are two different issues.

I consistently support both HSUS and Peta, although I do not necessarily agree with all their positions. The overall tenor and goals of the organizations conform so closely to my own, that I support them nonetheless.

Usually, it would be difficult to dissuade individuals to reduce their donations to an organization, because it is hard to invoke positive reinforcement. The reward for reducing or ceasing donations is unclear.

It is easier to develop positive reinforcements and rewards for increasing donations to the organizations that an individual does wish to bolster.

Within the above blog, no organization whatever is endorsed. The discussion is therefore highly abstract, and goals difficult to implement. If increased veganism is the goal sought, it is left to the readers to surmise that, for example, they ought to knock on doors and speak to people and families about the advantages of vegan lifestyles, and perhaps offer vegan snacks and recipes.

Veganism in general suffers from one devastating weakness: there are no vegan fast-food megachains. If a vegan restaurant chain could take a bite out of the market share for McDonald's or Burger King, the profits for these firms and their shareholders might well reel from the impact.

wchanley said...

Speaking solely for myself, here, having donated to the ENTIRE alphabet soup for longer than I care to think about these days, I'm *done* with groups. Absolutely, utterly, completely *done*. It's absolutely a mistake to think we need a group to get anything done. For all the vaunted "hard work" the groups are supposedly doing "for animals" I have yet to see any real evidence that *any* of my money was anything other than wasted on completely irrelevant fluff.

I'm doing just as much advocacy (if not more) out in the "real world" now as when I was a regular donor to the organized welfare groups. We cede far too much of our own effectiveness as advocates to a ridiculous notion that we can't do this ourselves, and we need an ethically-compromised welfare group to speak for us.

No, we don't. We really, REALLY don't.

The LGBT movement didn't wait around for the HRC to form before they started advocating for social and legal equality for my fellow queer folks. The civil rights movement didn't wait around for the formation of the NAACP. The women's movement didn't wait for the formation of the NOW.

All of those things are a *response* to activism and advocacy that was already happening at the grassroots level. It's only in the AR movement (it seems) that we seem to think we can't do grassroots advocacy, and we need to throw money at national welfare organizations instead.

The Veganic Way said...

Let’s put this in the perspective of the fact that we are living in the 11th hour.

Though it's true that welfarists are not helping to further the rights of animals, welfare organizations are not the root cause of institutionalized speciesism, much less the protracted cause of property status of animals. Welfarism is not the main obstacle that lies in the way of abolition. PETA and HSUS simply have evolved into the type of “animal organizations” (i.e., non-profits that act like for-profits) that thrive best within the current economic structure. They are by-products (or even symptoms) of the system, not the original agents of animal exploitation.

A holistic approach and perspective toward the ails of oppression is necessary to really begin to delve into the cause of all this sickness. It’s too simplistic to point fingers at symptoms – those parasites (welfarist organizations) that happen to thrive in an environment of greedy big business at the cost of so many animals’ lives. To me, focusing on eradicating the welfarist agenda is like taking antibiotics to permanently cure an infection when the cause of the disease is still present – the infection will continue to return so long as the cause is not pinpointed and dealt with.

So who is the true agent of the disease? Those with the real power and money behind big business. Those who keep the lies flowing and will do absolutely anything to retain what they possess. Ingrid Newkirk, Paul Shapiro – these people are incredibly low on the chain of command (their influence in comparison is negligible, even if they hobnob with the industry execs). There is a much bigger, more formidable force to contend with, and they are not so visible, which makes it seem like their existence is only in the imagination of a mentally disturbed conspiracy theorist. But they are real. And they are controlling the world as much as they possibly can – through the lies that they disseminate through every possible outlet – media, television, advertisements, etc. The evidence of their crimes is ubiquitous. Ingrid and Paul may be complicit as subordinate minor-league cogs in the corporate machine (and are accountable for their counterproductive actions in achieving abolition), but they are not even remotely the root cause.

The time has come for a comprehensive review of all oppression and planetary destruction in light of the currently reigning socio-economic model that is to be the doom of us all.

The big business model has shaped current Western culture as we know it today. Corporate royalty has dictated and deeply permeated all areas of our lives. Its effects have spread like deadly wildfire all over the planet through global expansion facilitated by all the base principles inherent in capitalism. And it is killing the planet (as we know it). Egregiously oppressing its animals (both human and non-human) and rapidly destroying nature to the point of inhabitability. It’s happening faster than we can see it coming, and it’s past the tipping point as they say. There are some scientists already saying it’s all over and your best bet at this point is to run to the hills, because natural disaster and mass suffering is inescapably imminent. If there is a grain of truth in this, are welfarists the ones we will be pointing our bony fingers at while we (all animals) are starving, thirsting, and dying off? As you languish, propped up against a dead tree, trying to drink the last drop of dew off the last wilting leaf, will you be saying, “Those damn welfarists!”? Because, if not, maybe, at this 11th hour, when we are at the crux of survival where the decisions we make now will make or break us, we might want to start holding accountable those criminals who are directly and ultimately responsible for our (all animals’) demise.

wchanley said...

The organized welfare movement may *not* be a cause of institutionalized, systemic speciesism but making that point is somewhat irrelevant. Those same organized welfare bodies spend an awful lot of its time, money and effort patting themselves on the back for all of their nonexistent "victories" for animals in order to keep the flow of donations moving.

But it's inappropriate to be even slightly critical of that, since it's not really HSUS' *fault* that things are what they are today? You're right in that HSUS and PETA and the lot didn't invent factory farming, but they're profiteering from it, all the same.

How is this anything other than the previous "Don't criticize this group I like; I don't like criticism of this group I like, you mean old poopooheads!" dressed up in a different shirt?

Again, just as we have to break through years and years of social conditioning which say that animals exist for our use, we *also* have to break through years and years of received wisdom that says that the welfare movement is doing very many "good things for animals."

That won't happen if we stand around telling people that speciesism is a sickness of capitalism and that HSUS isn't the root cause of all the evil in the world.

It *may happen* if we point out that HSUS *and every other welfare organization* vastly exaggerates its claims of "success" and that continuing to eat eggs and cheese isn't excused by the fact that you may have given up some kinds of animal flesh.

gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

I wrote the following this morning as a sort of response to this discussion.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

The Veganic Way asks:

"So who is the true agent of the disease?"

Her/his answer:

"Those with the real power and money behind big business."

I respectfully disagree. Yes, of course, the masters of the universe play a big role, but it is too easy to put the blame on them. They may help to perpetuate lies; they may help to create desires in us that generate demand for more material things. But we are the ones who choose to stay ignorant; we are the ones who give in to the desires and create the demand. We are the ones who ultimately cannot live without all the crap that clutters our lives.

The Veganic Way states:

"Welfarism is not the main obstacle that lies in the way of abolition."

True. The main obstacle is human selfishness, ego, and greed. But welfarism plays an important role in enabling those unfortunate tendencies because it makes people feel more comfortable about continued animal use. I reiterate: we have the cognitive ability to see through and reject the fantasy that welfare reform makes it better and okay. We don't because precisely because we are selfish and we want to continue to use animals and welfarism gives us a "pass." So although it is not the main obstacle, it helps to facilitate our selfishness, which is the primary cause of the problem.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University said...

Babble said:''If someone says, 'I believe in creationism and evolution simultaneously' that's really neither here nor there. If that person says, 'I believe in both of these things, and I think they should both be taught as science', that's a whole different ball of soy-based wax.''

Good point. The issue we are discussing here is not, as you said above the quote, one of personal belief. Besides, evolution is not a matter of belief or disbelief either but one of scientific standards that are recognized or rejected.

Dave said: ''I consistently support both HSUS and PETA.''
''Veganism in general suffers from one devastating weakness: there are no vegan fast-food megachains. If a vegan restaurant chain could take a bite out of the market share for McDonald's or Burger King, the profits for these firms and their shareholders might well reel from the impact.''
''The discussion is .. highly abstract... ''

As long as the majority of those who want to help animals support organizations like HSUS and PETA, fast food mega-chains like McDonald's and Burger King won't have to face any vegan competition because their business is sustained by corporate welfarism which in turn is kept running safely, efficiently and profitably by its members, donors, sponsors, and by ideological support.

Every animal advocate who stops supporting corporate welfarism furthers thereby abolition because, as Babble aptly put it, ''HSUS and PETA and the lot didn't invent factory farming, but they're profiteering from it, all the same.''

That is precisely why this discussion is anything but ''abstract''.

unpopular vegan essays said...

Very well said, Gary, both here and in your blog response today. I highly recommend everyone take the time to read Gary’s blog response – it is worth every second of your time.

In addition to and in connection with what Gary said, it’s true that HSUS and PETA are not politically or financially powerful in comparison with, say, animal agriculture (in fact, they’re exceptionally weak in comparison), but this is even more reason why HSUS and PETA should not attempt to take on industry in politics (legislation) and reform where industry is extremely powerful.

Pathetically, people look to groups like HSUS and PETA as experts in animal ethics. This is where the power of HSUS and PETA exists – in public confidence, NOT in financial wealth or political power. But HSUS and PETA betray that confidence by, as Gary said in his response, selling compassion as a commodity. Also, as Gary said in his blog entry, sending a check to these organizations, in effect, buys “shares” (or, in medieval Catholic terms, indulgences) of compassion that does not translate into helping the innocent victims of torture and killing at all.

In fact, as Nathan was pointing out above the utilitarian nature of HSUS and PETA, donations to HSUS and PETA are like buying the equivalent of “carbon credits” to aid in the utilitarian calculus of a perceived (but unreal) “reduction of suffering”, making the consumer’s selfishness a little more palatable to him or her.

Imagine taking that cold, calculating utilitarian line of thought and applying it to human chattel slavery or child exploitation. Imagine contributing to (buying compassion shares in) welfare organizations dedicated to fighting “the worst abuses” in human slavery, so that we can be comfortable (falsely) believing that the slaves will only be whipped 3 times a day instead of 5 time a day. Imagine contributing to (buying compassion shares in) welfare organizations dedicated to fighting “the worst abuses” in child sweatshops, so that we can be comfortable (falsely) believing that the children will only be forced to work 13 hours a day, seven days a week instead of 15 hours a day, seven days a week. Imagine a pedophile justifying his behavior buy contributing to organizations dedicated to psychological therapy for abused children. That’s applied utilitarianism in the real world. That’s HSUS and PETA in the real world.

Megan Anne said...

As for the greed factor: one of the most frightening things human beings face is confronting our own weaknesses. We are a culture of distractions and addictions. We stay ridiculously preoccupied in order to avoid dealing with out own "stuff." If I had a penny for every time someone I know covered their ears and begged me not to tell them why I am a vegan... We all want to stay in our comfort zones. We want to hold onto our attachments to this material world, our quick-fixes, even if it means hanging onto habits that contribute to the suffering on this planet. I am no fan of Michael Vick, let me say that up front. However, I find it odd that so many people are still talking about him like he is the devil wile they eat meat, dairy, eggs, etc. Your average person doesn't go to dogfights or know people who do. So average Joe associates dogfighting with a certain type of person... ie. a person unlike themselves, from a city they aren't from, etc. Yet society will twist itself into pretzels justifying and finding ways to make more common behavior palatable, even if it is equally cruel. People want to avoid the truth: the buck stops with each of us, not with a person outside of ourselves, an animal abuser in the news, someone who lives a life we cannot relate to. Looking in the mirror is what we are all trying to avoid with our various compulsions and distractions. Sadly, the animals pay the ultimate price for our cowardice and refusal to live in reality and begin with the only thing we will ever have any real power to control: ourselves.

American Senior Cats said...

If anything, the objections to human exploitation of animals are understated. American consumers by and large don't really regard meat as animals, or animal carcasses.

Veganism remains quite rare. I know of two vegans, who described themselves as such, and who volunteer at an animal rescue league; and one other individual who is vegetarian and possibly vegan.

Substantial growth in veganism is unlikely to be seen in America during the lifetime of anyone now living, absent the introduction of some strategy or tactic not yet utilized.

Altering behavior is a maddening experience. During behavioral modification, every incremental improvement is positively rewarded, even if the individual remains a train wreck overall. Indeed, every individual is presumed a train wreck. The desired behaviors are finally adopted only when individuals sense that they serve self-interest.

The world is full of people who would truly love to modify their eating behaviors. They're called "dieters." Though they are convinced of their own sincerity, at a fundamental level, they are not really sold.

Judging by experience, the only way to sharply accelerate acceptance in veganism would be to impose an immense sin tax on meat or animal products, akin to cigarette taxes, and perhaps use the proceeds for reinforcing public education.

The concepts debated among insider vegans might be completely different from an agenda that would be presented to the casual public. To ridicule opponents of dogfighting would simply confuse most listeners, who would be liable to conclude that the animal exploitation issue is less urgent altogether, since anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

If the abolition of slavery is the analog to the abolition of animal slavery, a century or more of furious advocacy might be required. Abolitionists had appeared around the time of the American Revolution, but Jim Crow laws were not beaten back until the 1960's, two centuries later. Widespread veganism advocacy did not appear until the 1950s or later.

Abolitionists rocked the entire culture with the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin, but what book has ever wielded such stupendous influence since? Even Animal Liberation never whipped pro and anti camps into such a frenzy.

Some factors are beyond control. A vegan edition of the The Joy of Cooking would be highly influential, but how would that come about? I suspect The Joy of Cooking is already in decline itself subsequent to the advent of the Internet. A vegan mail order meal program akin to diet programs might be effective, but it would represent a tiny fraction of the market. A vegan school cafeteria would mold the consumer habits of entire generations of children, but parents are lucky just to persuade a school board to ban pizza and Coke.

At a shopping mall food court, a few people might line up at a salad vendor or an Indian food vendor, but the line at the McDonald's dwarfs every other competitor, even though half-a-dozen cashiers might be furiously serving its customers. Even McDonald's litter blowing across the landscape outproduces all the other trash.

I have never seen a vegan restaurant in a food court. I've seen a display table for a vegan restaurant from Washington, D.C., at an farm animal sanctuary fundraiser, but I've never seen a vegan restaurant in the Maryland suburbs. There are Indian restaurants where an extensive vegan menu is available, but they also serve meat.

Apparently there are substantial vegan resources accessible via Google, but I was more than a little surprised to discover them. It is an entire alternate universe of which I was unaware. ("McVegan"?)

wchanley said...

"Substantial growth in veganism is unlikely to be seen in America during the lifetime of anyone now living, absent the introduction of some strategy or tactic not yet utilized."

No one is pretending otherwise.

That doesn't change the fact that we a) don't need large groups to be effective advocates or b) that advocating for animal welfare in the meantime is a useless approach.

Animal welfare groups have been arguing for better treatment of farmed animals for decades, and the result has been not ever-increasing welfare, but ever-*decreasing* welfare. There are more animals being killed on factory farms now than ever before. This is hardly a ringing endorsement of the idea ceding grassroots advocacy to large organizations is a useful way forward.

Nobody is pretending that change is going to happen overnight. The case we're making here is that throwing our lot in with the animal welfare movement is a virtual guarantee that the changes *we* are seeking, as animal RIGHTS advocates are unlikely to *ever* happen.

You're still making what sounds like a case that grassroots advocacy is wholly ineffective at promoting veganism, because Myélene didn't recommend a laundry list of "approved" national abolitionist organizations to which you may write a check.

If you don't *want* to do grassroots advocacy, that's your business.

But given that the organized welfare movement has, in my view, utterly failed, I don't see trying to emulate that model as a way to achieve what we're seeking.

wchanley said...

Further, have you been to your local bookstore? Vegan cookbooks are readily available.

If you're looking for the equivalent of a vegan "Uncle Tom's Cabin," Prof. Francione has written several books exhaustively making a case for abolitionist animal rights.

What exactly are you really proposing here? We haven't invaded your local food court yet? That's hardly important yet, given that by your own example, we're ridiculously small in numbers right now.

unpopular vegan essays said...


Long-term changes in phenomena like the weather and human social changes are well-described by (but not predicted by) chaos theory, which is to say, they are completely unpredictable. We may have an equal chance of destroying ourselves with our ever increasing development and proliferation of WMDs (in a world of more demand and scarcer resources) as we do of achieving widespread veganism. But nobody knows.

One thing we do know beyond a doubt, however, is that the correlation between welfare concern and veganism has a one-direction-only causal relationship from vegan education to welfare concern. So, we may or may not make it to widespread veganism before 100 years, but one thing is absolutely certain: if we do make it, it will be because society’s moral paradigm regarding animals has shifted from seeing animals as commodities to “treat humanely” and “regulate the use of” (the HSUS/PETA paradigm) to seeing sentient nonhumans as beings with certain important interests in their lives that ought to be protected by basic rights.

Abolitionists are working to shift the paradigm to see sentient nonhumans as right holders. HSUS and PETA are working to keep the paradigm to see “animals” as regulated commodities. Abolitionists are moving things forward. HSUS and PETA are keeping things moving backward as industry moves into Asia to triple production from 50 billion killed annually worldwide to 150 billion killed worldwide.

The Veganic Way said...

I also wrote something as "sort of" a response to this.

unpopular vegan essays said...

The Veganic Way,

I read your blog entry. I did not use the comparative forms of oppression as “shock fodder”. I used those comparative forms because I am not a speciesist. You may find this “shocking”, but I don’t see any significant difference in the forms of oppression I provided and non-human exploitation, and I think it is a good sign of the irrational prejudice of speciesism if one does see some big difference.

You say the executives of Smithfield Foods hide and you imply that it’s hard to find their names. A 5-second search on Google (using the words: Smithfield foods executives) turned up everybody who is somebody at Smithfield (see the link below). Go ahead, expose them. They don’t care, and neither do 95% of Americans care. Granted, if you try to set up a meeting in the conference room, they’re going to ignore you. But they would also ignore someone who wanted to rave to them in person about how great their products are.

We need to shift the paradigm of the general public as I said in my most recent comment. Until we do that, we will get nowhere. The Joseph Luters (chief of Smithfield) of the world are beholden to customer demand. Yes, they push it on people also via marketing, but ultimately, the customer is right all the time. Ask any business person who wants to make a huge pile of money.

unpopular vegan essays said...

In my previous comment, I said:

"You may find this “shocking”, but I don’t see any significant difference in the forms of oppression I provided and non-human exploitation, and I think it is a good sign of the irrational prejudice of speciesism if one does see some big difference."

I should add that it's either a sign of prejudice, or a sign that one doesn't really know what happens to these beings who endure cage-free, free-range, etc, exploitation as commodities, or a combination of both.

wchanley said...

"Go ahead, expose them. They don’t care, and neither do 95% of Americans..."

This is why it's absolutely useless to think that welfare reforms are EVER going to accomplish anything significant. We may *claim* to care about animal suffering, but beyond the suffering of our pets - which a great many pet owners consider as disposable as toasters, anyway - we're simply *claiming* to care about better animal welfare.

How long has the industry been touting happy meat? How long have the "humane" associations been helping them promote it? Since the 1960s?

What are the rates of consumption for those flesh products vs. the total number of vegans over the same period of time? (I'm asking semi-rhetorically, but if anyone has good figures, I'll be happy to look at them. I'm confident, however, that rates of "happy meat" consumption are just as low, if not lower, than any given estimate for the number of vegans over the last four decades.)

wchanley said...

...I should add to that: how many of those happy meat consumers could we have converted to vegans if they'd been given a clear, unequivocal vegan message from the existing welfare movement *instead* of being told that "well treated" animals were acceptable to eat?

wchanley said...

Babble’s quote: "Nobody is pretending that change is going to happen overnight.”

At this point, in relation to the time line of earth’s history, change DOES need to happen overnight. The problem is that most of the world is sleeping. We need to wake up.

If I could wave a wand and make everybody see, I'd do it, without question. I cannot, however, do this. What I *can* do is unequivocally advocate for veganism and abolitionism with the clear-eyed understanding that the world will change slowly, if at all. I don't *like* the fact that humans are selfish and resistant to change, but that's neither here nor there.

wchanley said...

The approach of focusing one’s efforts on attacking PETA and HSUS in order to create abolition...
I'd wager that the sum total of zero of us are doing anything that could actually, legitimately be called an attack on either PETA or HSUS. I'm just not donating to either of them any more, because I'm convinced that my money is wasted in that effort. If you choose to see THAT as an attack, well. You're being silly.

If being *critical of welfarism* is only ever going to be spun as an attack on the organized welfare movement, well, here again, you're not actually listening to what we're saying.

If you have facts - ANYTHING, really - that the welfare movement has actually *done ANYTHING* to actually reduce consumption, I'll look at it. If you have ANY evidence that any organized welfare group has EVER done anything that's meaninfully reduced suffering, again, I'll look at it.

This isn't an attack. I'm asking you - please, please for the love of God, PLEASE: if you think I should do something different, *tell me why.* I'm telling you why I think supporting the welfare movement is a waste of time. If you think that criticism is unwarranted, telling me that I'm attacking your favorite groups *is not a response.* It's just a complaint.

I was a PETA supporter for a long, LONG time. Again, I'm not saying any of this as an anti-PETA curmudgeon just for the sake of being an anti-PETA curmudgeon.

t’s time to get busy with investigative reporting and attempting to pull the curtain back on the people (not just the companies) behind them.

Look, Veganic, you're arguing from an ideal case. If you could just find the right magic bullet, *everything would change overnight.*

Yes, if we *could* get the world to change swiftly, it would make absolutely no sense to do anything else. We cannot do this. If you think producing a hard-hitting expose of conditions on factory farms will cause the masses to rise up and make the scales fall from their eyes as one and go vegan tomorrow, there's absolutely NOTHING stopping you from doing that.

Earthlings has been available since, what, 2007? This has been done. (I mean no disrespect to the folks who produced Earthlings; I only bring it up to say...) It hasn't caused things to change overnight. If you think you've got a better shot, feel free to give it a try.

Have at it. Make a documentary. Get a distributor. Good luck. (I'm not being snarky. Good luck.)

I say this having spent lots of actual time with actual humans handing out copies of "Meet your Meat" and other similar videos and trying like hell to be respectful and peaceful and to get people to listen. Again, if you think that any ONE of us limits our advocacy to commenting on this one blog post,'re just mistaken.

MOST of the people I ended up encountering gave me a passing glance, and a FEW of them talked about the "humanely raised" animal products they were so proud of buying. Mired in speciesism, the general public *does not care.* It's a comforting fantasy to think that there are quick fixes in this. There aren't any.

The Veganic Way said...

Dan, I never said that one can't find the names of Smithfield execs. If you actually went to the link that I provided in my blog entry, you would have seen all the names (with their phone numbers) listed right there. What I did say was, "Try to find out more information about the heads of this corporation – go ahead – and you’ll be led to a dead end pretty quickly. Why? Because they hide, and with good reason." Can you find much about them online beyond this scanty amount of info? How they conduct their companies? Are there loads of articles on them and their actions, like there are regarding Ingrid Newkirk and Paul Shapiro? Sure, I could call them -- and what? You think they are going to reveal all their dirty deeds to me?

You wrote:

"You may find this “shocking”, but I don’t see any significant difference in the forms of oppression I provided and non-human exploitation, and I think it is a good sign of the irrational prejudice of speciesism if one does see some big difference...I should add that it's either a sign of prejudice, or a sign that one doesn't really know what happens to these beings who endure cage-free, free-range, etc, exploitation as commodities, or a combination of both."

I called it shock fodder because you were listing atrocities committed toward human animals as shocking examples to prove (rightfully so) that animal exploitation is just as shocking. I only referred to the list of offenses in your analogy as a way of saying that these shocking atrocities DO exist in the world right now - human slavery is not just something that took place in the 19th c. It's happening now. As well as child exploitation, labor violations, racism, sexism, etc. (in many cases, in the same food industry facilities where animal exploitation is taking place). And I tried to point out that there is a root cause between all this oppression (INCLUDING, and equally so, animal exploitation).

I see all forms of oppression as egregious and wrong, that is why I want to get to the root of the matter instead of futzing around flinging boogers at welfarists.

I know enough about what goes on in factory farms (and humane "happy meat" farms and organic farms - which is why I am attempting to grow some of my food veganically). I find this irrelevant to the debate at hand.

In any case, I'm also aware of other forms of oppression that happen in big business agriculture. I will not be so presumptuous as to say you do not, but if you don't, you might want to look into it. But if that is of no concern to you, perhaps you might reflect upon the need to view oppression through a single myopic lens.

Babble, I will state AGAIN that I am NOT for welfarist reform or regulation. I believe in vegan education. But I also believe that criminals of wide-spread oppression should be held accountable. And I do believe that bringing them to the fore of the public eye can only influence more people to become vegans, as well as help to take down the structure that is looming over us. Anyone who really believes that these corporate killers have no problem with their dirty deeds being aired out in the open might consider going back to the drawing board to refresh their memory of the corporate politics that have occurred in the last eight years (and then some).

I will respectfully leave you all to the rest of the discussion...please forgive me if I do not comment/respond further, as I wished not to hijack this thread with a tangential discussion.

wchanley said...

But I also believe that criminals of wide-spread oppression should be held accountable.

The problem is that you believe this will be effective without a single SHRED of evidence to support it. What you're talking about HAS BEEN DONE. It has not worked the way you seem to think it will.

Has it worked on a few people? Yes, that's likely. Has it caused the masses to go vegan? It's plainly evident that that's not the case.

wchanley said...

Exactly what boogers are being flung? No one in any leadership position from HSUS is likely to read any of this, and *even if they do*, they're under absolutely no obligation to change anything (not, I think, that anyone is under any particular illusions that this is the case).

But if this discussion can make a few people rethink spending their money on fluff, that's not a wasted effort.

The Veganic Way said...

One last thing, after reading some of the comments...

I'm wondering if it's difficult for some abolitionists to grasp the existence of someone who is adamantly anti-welfarist saying that we shouldn't focus on criticizing welfarism. I have said before on other blogs in the past that some fine work (blogs, essays, etc.) have been written by abolitionists who invest considerable time focusing on this topic to expose the welfarist industry for what it is. And that's valuable and admirable. But I have never been a proponent of the idea that we should all be directing our attention on this kind of action in our approach. If the subject arises and it deems discussion, such as when someone sincerely asks, "What's wrong with milk? Or eggs? Or 'humane' meat?", I explain to them why consuming these "foods" are equally as morally wrong as consuming meat. And if someone asks about PETA, I am happy to set the record straight about their morally inconsistent message and their complicity with the corporate killers at the cost of many animals' lives (I am well versed in the ills of welfarism - how they have helped to create a more efficient and productive and lucrative system of factory-farmed assembly-line killing, etc. I know all about Temple Grandin, blah, blah, blah). However, I have not and will not bother expending my energy trying to "bust the welfarist paradigm," when in essence, welfarist organizations are simply facilitated by the reigning principles of big business capitalism. Because these "non-profits" act very similiar to their capitalist counterparts with whom they do business (KFC, etc.), they are able to thrive within the system that currently exists. Not the other way around!

Babble, I just read your last posts. What I propose has no evidence that it is effective? Here we go again...the pointless "evidence loop" debate so prevalent among animal activists. It's not worth addressing. What you say is incredibly insulting to independent investigative reporters and journalists around the world that are putting their lives on the line RIGHT NOW in effort to make you more informed so that you can make better decisions.

That's all I have to say.

unpopular vegan essays said...

The Veganic Way,

thanks for clarifying.

I'm a diligent student of oppression and I know slavery, starvation, and all kinds of nasty stuff still goes on and affects millions of victims. But none of it compares in magnitude to the torture and intentional slaughter of 50 billion animals a year. Most people have absolutely no concept of 50 billion. (Which is why my latest blog entry was about the number 10 billion.)

anyway, unless a welfarist shows up again, my work here is finished. this was a classic debate.

wchanley said...


The problem is demand. Unless we meaningfully address the issue of demand - through ongoing vegan education and outreach - we can play at "holding the oppressors" feet to the fire all we may like, and not a damn thing will change. You're welcome to try. I'm beyond convinced it won't work in the way you think it will -- that's not to say that it won't work *at all*. But your standard of success in this is rapid, widespread cultural change. There is a mountain of evidence that suggests that if this is your expectation and standard of success, you're likely to be disappointed.

There are no easy solutions in this. Complaining because vegan and abolitionist education works "too slowly" is completely pointless. EVERYTHING works too slowly. Some things work not at all. The reason so much of the present abolitionist argument is focused on dissecting the claims made by the welfare movement is because there's a serious need for it. There's widespread default acceptance for the claims made by the decades-and-decades old welfare movement, and that will not simply go away because you wish folks would focus on YOUR priorities instead.

It would be nice if people would. They will not, as a practical matter, actually do so. They won't focus on mine, EITHER, but I'm not making a claim that what I'm doing is going to produce overnight change.

Sure, fine, most people will ignore any and all vegan education; I've said so, several times. It ALL works too slowly. But there are no magic solutions. Pretending otherwise is completely counterproductive.

But, honestly, don't take my word for it. Go make a documentary. Go fund investigative reportage. Get it out in the culture. Go do it. I'm not telling you not to *do* it. I'm telling you you shouldn't have unrealistic expectations about its impact. But, ultimately, whatever expectations you have are your own business.

gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

While we are involved a discussion about "helping the animals," can one of you enlighten me as to how this sort of thing is "helping the animals"?

Thank you.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

M said...

Treating women like things while pretending to attempt to teach people to stop viewing animals as things... It seems like the perpetuation of a mindset more than anything. Not only does that not help nonhumans, but it harms women.

wchanley said...

Sigh. Good to know all those donations I sent in ages ago are still being put to good use. ::headdesk::

Really, isn't this kind of a version of the "I'm a welfarist and an abolitionist" meme in action? If commodification is commodification, and *some* commodity treatment of beings is acceptable or somehow tolerable ("in the meantime"), is it especially surprising that we'll end up using women as commodity objects, too?

gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

What is somewhat mind boggling to me is that some of the welfarists deny that this is sexism; they actually claim that there is nothing wrong with these campaigns because the women involved participate willingly and that it is an expression of feminism to go naked "for the animals."

That is as ridiculous as saying that the African-American actors who perpetuated racist stereotypes in blackface comedies in the 1920s and 1930s were striking a blow for racial equality. The fact that this exploitation is "victim approved" does not mean it is not exploitation. It just means that sexism is so pervasive in our society that many women are blinded to it. That should come as no surprise.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

wchanley said...

I'm on the fence about it; telling women that they can't wear bikinis *because they're women* smacks of a kind of provincialism that I'm not sure I'm comfortable with (not that anyone *here* is doing that, necessarily).

I don't think it's a great leap forward for feminism, any more than a sissy in a 30's screwball comedy is a leap forward for queer people...but some queer people *are sissies in the classic sense.* I am. There needs to be room for non-masculine, non-heteronormative queer people in the larger scheme of things without automatically assuming that it's affect or that my mere existence is "harming" all queer people, everywhere.

Women who choose to wear lettuce bikinis in public aren't *harming feminism*. They're allowing themselves to be objectified, but feminism (and women) are more resilient than that. It's troubling because it a) plays into existing stereotypes that "this is what women are for" and b) it doesn't actually communicate anything for animal rights.

Just as we needed the butch clones of the 70's in the queer scene to communicate to the larger hetero culture that gay people weren't *just* one sort of person, it's entirely appropriate for women (and men) to say, "hey, wait a second: playboy models? Really? This is the best we can do?"

It's fine that the individual women choose to *do* it; women can do whatever they want. But that choice isn't limited to those individuals, unfortunately (at least, not in the way that it would be if a man did the same thing - a man in a lettuce bikini says that that *individual* man is being silly). It does - for better or worse - still end up reinforcing some ideas about *all women in general.*

It's also problematic for me in the way that PETA stunts tend to be: from PETA's perspective, any attention paid to *PETA*, good or bad, is attention paid to animal rights. Given that, ANYTHING PETA does that gets PETA mentioned in the mainstream media, as often as possible, is justifiable.

Of course, I completely disagree with that approach; just that given that this is where PETA's head is at, it's not at all surprising.

Megan Anne said...

To me anyway, the problem is not what the women are doing, the problem is that PeTA is using the women to promote PeTA. It is PeTA as exploiter that rattles me. When I see things like this it doesn't surprise me that many non-AR types say that we AR-types like animals better than people. PeTA is using these women to promote itself, b/c there is no way this stunt teaches people ANYTHING about what animals are dealing with. This is a HUGE problem in AR. So many of the big organizations are just so narcissistic, they forget why they started in the first place. As long as people are looking at them, they feel it is a victory. It is soooo reflective of the media-obsessed time in which we are living, but it does not have to be this way.

gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

I am not saying that women should not be free to choose. That is not the point I am making. Rather than restate matters, I would ask those interested to read my essay at:

Also, there is a link in that to the PETA State of the Nation Union Undress. Please watch that (if you are able to stomach it and are over 18). If you think that such things do anything for animals--or women--then I most respectfully but vehemently disagree.


Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

wchanley said...

Hey Prof. Francione,

I wasn't trying to make any specific claims about your specific objection, really. I'm sorry if it came across that way. Again, I don't think anyone *here* is actually saying women aren't free to choose to do *anything at all*.

I'm just saying I'm on the fence about the general critique of this sort of thing, pro or con. I can see arguments on both sides. I have friends who rankle at what they tend to see as an odious, "typical" feminist read on these things. My friend Jen says that telling women what they can and cannot do because they are women - including wearing lettuce bikinis to "promote" animal rights - is ITSELF sexist, and I have to admit, in some ways she has a point.

I also understand that none of this exists in a vacuum, and that this particular choice, for better or worse, cannot really be divorced from the larger context of sexism. If they were *men* nobody would read it as a comment about men in general. It's unfortunate, but in some ways unavoidable in the present culture, that because they are women, that's not also true for them.

gfrancione said...

Dear Babble:

You state:

"My friend Jen says that telling women what they can and cannot do because they are women - including wearing lettuce bikinis to "promote" animal rights - is ITSELF sexist."

I am NOT NOT NOT saying that anyone should tell anyone what to do. I NOT saying that. PLEASE take my word for that. I am making a point about whether the exploitation of group 1 should be used as a means to achieve the "liberation" of group 2.

Women should do whatever they choose to do. But that does not mean that their actions cannot be assessed with respect to their social significance and cultural meaning, particularly within a patriarchal hetero culture.

The bottom line is really quite simple: does "going naked" do ANYTHING--and I mean ANYTHING--to shift the paradigm away from the property status of animals?

I think that the answer to that question is an astoundingly simple "no." But others may disagree.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

wchanley said...

Hey Prof. Francione,

At the risk of running this right off the rails, I know you're not. I'm REALLY not trying to make any specific claims about anybody's specific objections in this.

I just think that the general read on this: it's *automatically* sexist, or it's *automatically* an issue of personal choice misses the target in both cases. It's more complicated than either of those positions.

Like you, I wholeheartedly AGREE that it doesn't do anything for animal rights. Making PETA the issue - and ONLY PETA, as these campaigns do - is a dumb, dumb idea. I don't mean to drag it off into a whole OTHER discussion of feminism or identity politics.

gfrancione said...

Dear Babble:

Yes, this is a whole other discussion that I think should occur on some forum at some time because I think it's very important. There are some women who choose to become involved in conduct that is culturally constructed as "degradation." Do I think women should be free to choose to engage in these activities? Yes, as long as they do not directly harm others. Do I think that we can, consistent with being feminists, critique the eroticization of degradation? You bet I do.

But I think we agree that these sorts of actions for purposes of animal exploitation are not useful and may be counterproductive.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

Unknown said...

it's interesting to hear HSUS accused by other animal protectionists of being a bunch of welfarists, while the animal abusers loudly proclaim "It’s no longer a secret that the Humane Society of the United States is dedicated to their main agenda of abolishing food animal agriculture in this country."


American Senior Cats said...

I think the objections are in the context of animal exploitation abolition, which is sort of a descendent of anti-vivisection. These are not trifling advocates.

I find the objections perfectly plausible and comprehensible. It expresses a longstanding tension that has existed, for example, with the American Humane Association, when they have diluted and compromised initiatives that were originally forceful and unambiguous.

It does remind me of the anxiety I have whether some advocates are deflected from their mission too easily. For example (and I'm more or less making this up, or don't remember precisely), Peta might congratulate McDonald's for requiring its suppliers to increase the size of its chicken cages. Then, for awhile, McDonald's might reasonably be granted a pass for this particular issue. However, I do wonder whether the animal advocate remembers to circle back and strike again at a later date; to demand additional concessions, or new concessions. Since the timelines in such confrontations are prone to stretch or contract, it's difficult to measure whether the animal advocate is, as the saying goes, selling out.

However, that's just my own impression, or characterization, and I don't speak for anyone else.

M said...

Steve: Have you actually taken some time to read the post, itself? Have you read any of the comments pertaining to it, or my previous post about Wayne Pacelle also stating overtly that HSUS has absolutely no intention of doing anything other than regulating how animals will continue to be raised for human consumption? You're just parroting the same sort of scaremongering misinformation about HSUS that is being spread around to make them appear to have any true concern about animal rights. Pacelle and Shapiro themselves have stated that this is not the case and HSUS' history has proven over and over again that they're a welfarist organization.

Bea Elliott said...

Being late on the scene, I have the benefit of all the arguments from those who have posted before me. It's odd that the discussion would wind down with peta and lettuce bikinis. Carol Adams addressed the problems regarding this issue of women as "meat" brilliantly in "The Pornography of Meat". Unfortunately the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence does not recognize this analogy either:

But I did want to state my view on the damage that is done by "welfare" measures in citing The "Humane" Slaughter Act. A hundred or so years ago, technology responded to the concerns of consumers "sensibilities", who questioned the primitive killing practices when butchering animals. Every generation perfects a more "efficient" killing tool. To the point that now, there are "systems" created by the likes of Grandin. These measures for "humane" slaughter have provided people with the ultimate excuse for continuing to consume animals. According to this "welfare" mockery the animals don't suffer with a "stun-gun", "captive-bolt gun", gassing method, etc. And so everyone eats heartily in "good conscience". I wonder sometimes how many more vegans there would be today, if there was no "Humane" Slaughter Act?

Another mention about this "kind" killing that we do --- just like regulation of "free range" or "cage free" commodities, no one oversees or monitors that actual laws are enforced. With animal slaughter this means unimaginable suffering. Will the lines stop to ensure that cow #10489 isn't dismembered while aware and "alive"? Of course not... the line stops for no one! Likewise chicken #10489 won't be regarded in any respectful way either; in or out of a cage.

This or that "nice" or "better" treatment to "food" animals, is a sham. And it's a tragic waste of funds to push for such legislation, that may (or may not) ever be enforced. I like that some welfare organizations have open rescue and expose the horrors of animal agriculture for what it is. But their message is incomplete and flawed if their solution is "improved" use of animals as opposed to the elimination of the use of animals all together. And well... if it was - they'd be abolitionists.

One final note based on a personal experience, wherein I "shared" a story on a welfarist's facebook "wall"... It was about the young vegan who created the NZ Dairy Cruelty website and podcast. I was thrilled - an effective teen animal rights activist! For me... for animals... (and I thought for everyone) - this would be welcome news! Well, I was quickly admonished for doing such... The reason? It was about an "abolitionist". While we as rights advocates, are asked to be supportive of *any* incremental, minor change, gotten at the loss of millions of dollars... A hopeful story about a young activist was scorned. If I ever saw the true colors of welfarism... I saw it then.

gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

Several of you have sent me a blog entry from Mary Martin concerning the use of "abolitionist" and "new welfarist."

It is at:

You have asked for my comments.

Let me say that I know and like Mary Martin. So please do not interpret my comments as critical of her personally.

With that said, I have the following general reaction.

I do not think that Mary understands the political issues involved in the appropriation of language and how this appropriation is used quite deliberately to frustrate or even censor discussion. For example, the term "animal rights" emerged originally to identify a concept that was different from animal welfare. Welfarists (what I called "new welfarists" in my 1996 book "Rain Without Thunder") then tried to blur the distinction between concepts that are quite clear in a very deliberate attempt to stop debate and discussion. They took the position that welfare reform was an appropriate strategy to pursue despite the rights critique because there was no real difference between the rights and welfare approaches and that these approaches were compatible.

The same is happening now with the use of "abolitionist." This is to be expected. I discuss this phenomenon in the book that I have just finished (with Professor Garner).

In any event, Mary's analysis suggests that meaning is simply a matter of use. I respectfully submit that this approach neglects a more complicated issue of politics, moral theory, and the sociology of large groups.

I will probably write a blog essay about this issue at some point.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

wchanley said...

I tried - really futilely - to make a case that if we can't make room to discuss concepts that are really different, and in several ways contradictory, we're not going to get anywhere. I'm really not at all sure Mary was really responding to *me* so much as whatever else she disagreed with in prior interactions with other folks (which is fine; humans are complicated, and these things happen).

That being said, I have to say, I just completely disagree with Mary's take on this.

Yes, the majority will out in the end, and the conventional definition of what "animal rights" means may end up meaning something completely different than I think of when I use the term *today*.

But making that claim, at *this* point doesn't really mean anything, I think.

The whole movement is a small minority compared to the larger culture. The *actual* majority - the rest of the culture - doesn't have a firm grasp on ANY of this yet. Making a claim that neo-welfare is what a "majority" of the animal rights movement means when they say "animal rights" may be true, but it doesn't really mean much at this point.

So long as the culture at large largely equates "animal welfare" and "animal rights" in most cases (HSUS is ITSELF routinely called an "animal rights" organization by its detractors in industry) it really doesn't mean anything one way or the other what the majority of the minority means when it says "animal rights." (If, indeed, Mary's case is correct, which I'm not especially sure of.)

The opportunity here is still *wide* open. Mary Martin seems to be making a case that this is a settled issue and we're just going to have to suck it up an deal.

It's not settled, at all.

Farmer Sam said...

I am a farmer who is trying to understand different points of view. I have had the privledge of meeting several vegans in my travels and I have nothing but respect for their personal choices. What I do not understand is trying to force those choices and opinions on others. The biggest moral delima I have recognized is that the vegans I have met support constitutional rights for animals while also believeing that abortion is a constitutional right. Please explain this moral delima to me.

wchanley said...

I've never met a fellow vegan who claims "constitutional rights" for nonhumans. I certainly don't. You may need to further explain what you mean by that.

What *I* mean when I say "animal rights" is the following:

- We generally agree that all humans are due some basic moral consideration. We don't think it's morally acceptable to eat humans. We don't think it's acceptable to experiment on nonconsenting humans. We don't think it's acceptable to enslave other humans, or otherwise exploit them for commerce.

- The animal rights case is that there's no *reasonable* argument for excluding nonhuman animals from the *same* consideration. Nonhuman animals do not possess any less capacity for suffering, or their own happiness than humans do.

That animals are unable to understand abstract concepts like "rights" or "freedom" is similarly irrelevant. We afford basic moral consideration to all sorts of *humans* who lack the capacity to understand those concepts (again, we don't consider it moral to eat infants, regardless of the fact that infants cannot conceptualize freedom).

As for "forcing our beliefs" on other people: we can't force anyone to change their behavior. We can only advocate for what we think is important.

What you choose to do in response to that advocacy is up to you.

But this issue is important to many of us because we see the moral status of animals very differently than the rest of society. We consider nonhumans to be *morally equivalent* to humans (please note: this doesn't mean we're saying they're *intellectually* equivalent). Due to that, many of us are exceedingly motivated to try and change what we see as a deeply immoral system of exploitation and abuse that our culture has devised to torture and kill animals for no purpose beyond the trivial purpose of eating them, or using them for human ends.

Elizabeth Collins said...

I would like to say just from my own point of a non-phd, non professorship, non-qualified-or-educated-philosopher point of view, that it seems to be to so basic as to be sadly obvious. It is like the fish in the ocean who swims up to the other fish and says "excuse me, can you tell me where to find the ocean?"
Abolition means exactly that. Abolition. There is no moral compromise. But it is not being unreasonable, though! Think about it! Where are the humane rape organizations saying "oh no I am against rape but we have to make incremental steps"? Ditto child molestation, ditto human rights representatives, ditto anti-human-slavery representatives against human trafficking etc. It is not about the language - the group of letters put together to make a sound. It is about the fundamental, philosophical, baseline and meaning wrapped up in that word (because that is how we humans communicate).

If you want to abolish the slavery and exploitation of a sentient being, that is what you campaign to do, or you do not believe enough in it! I am sorry! You must believe unequivocally that they have the right, the RIGHT, to not be the property, the slave of the other, that is it. That is it. If that is what you believe, you say it. You represent it in everything that you say and do. PLEASE!

If you are campaigning for welfare, you are not campaigning for rights. Please please please let us all, unequivocally, consistently and adamantly, campaign for rights. And that includes you Farmer Sam.

American Senior Cats said...

I think the suggestion that all vegans are pro-choice is too broad to rely on without statistical proof.

Among animal shelter and rescue advocates, there is a complete hodge-podge of assorted views as to abortion, even to the point of debating whether the common veterinary practice of spaying pregnant cats is proper.

It might be that vegans who actively disseminate vegan concepts are prone to being pro-choice; it may also be that women are heavily represented among vegans, many of whom might recoil from the pro-life agenda; and it may be that the developed world populations overall are trending pro-choice; but all such notions would require stringent statistical proof.

There is no compulsion for any group of advocates to align their views on abortion.

If I had to select one constitutional right to award animals, I think it would be the right to bite people. People would benefit from more biting, I think.

unpopular vegan essays said...

Farmer Sam,

I’d like to address two issues you brought up: 1) why vegans try to force choices and opinions on others, and 2) your implicit claim that killing animals for food and other preferences is (even remotely) related to the abortion issue.

First, at this point in history, vegans cannot force anyone to be vegan at all. Yet non-vegans literally do force animals in the most violent and terrible ways to enslavement and early death. So to use the word “force” referring to vegans attempting to persuade others to live peacefully regarding all beings these days, human and nonhuman is blatantly absurd. As for vegans desiring laws to force people to be vegans, just ask yourself why people want laws to prevent murder or genocide. Granted, some people just want themselves protected without regard for others. However, most people also want to protect others from intentional killing, so they, just like vegans, desire laws to protect others (obviously including nonhuman beings) from intentional killing.

Second, veganism and abortion are mutually independent topics. Just as virtually everyone who has an opinion on abortion (pro-life or pro-choice) opposes human slavery and murder, so all abolitionist vegans who have an opinion on abortion (pro-life or pro-choice) oppose nonhuman slavery and murder. An incompatible view would be to have pro-choice view for the fetuses, etc, of one species (human or nonhuman) and a pro-life view for the fetuses, etc, of another species.

c-la said...

The whole idea of outreach and advocacy is "a deliberate process of speaking out on issues of concern in order to exert some influence on behalf of ideas or persons".

In my opinion, this isn't forcing anything on anyone, this is the sharing of ideas in hopes of creating change. If you haven't become vegan, then you obviously haven't been forced into a vegan lifestyle.

as to the abortion issue... i agree that there are vegans on both sides of the issue.

For me, being pro-choice is just that, being given a choice. And if you want to related that to animal's rights, that privilege of choice is not awarded animals who are slaughtered and eaten and tested upon and worn. They are stripped of choice throughout their entire short lives and that is why I feel that my pro-choice stance falls right in line with a vegan lifestyle.

gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

The issue of abortion and its relationship with animal rights theory present complicated issues.

I think that abortion is a form of violence and I find it morally problematic as I find all violence morally problematic.

But I also think that we must take into consideration that we live in a patriarchal world in which men control women primarily through controlling their reproductive processes. Prohibiting abortion as a legal matter is, in my view, a serious threat to the equality of women.

I should add that I am troubled by the opposition to abortion that is expressed by people who otherwise support violence and the killing of human beings in certain circumstances (i.e., capital punishment, war). Remember, that abortion can happen at any age! Indeed, it is precisely this sort of selective opposition to violence and killing that makes me think that at least many in the pro-life movement are motivated more by a fear of a challenge to patriarchy than they are by a concern for life.

I know that this is a tough issue and it was not my intention to offend anyone.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

Jose Valle said...

Dear Gary,

you said:

"I think that abortion is a form of violence and I find it morally problematic as I find all violence morally problematic."

I think violence can only be forced on sentient beings, since only they, as capable of feeling and having experiences can be the victims of it -nonsentient organisms and objects can't be victims. Abortion can take place when the fetus isn't yet sentient since it hasn't developed it's nervous system, so that organism would not feel anything and it makes no difference. Most of the abortions are carried out before the fetus is sentient, so even as a general statement, I think we can't properly say that abortion is violence.

I just wanted to make a point on this without entering into the debate about if violence can be justified under certain circumstances or not.

Thanks for your time.

Jose Valle said...

Regarding the use of the term "pro-life": I think it's very confusing and logically wrong since those who claim to support that position aren't really pro-life (all types of life) or biocentrists as the term suggests. Most of them eat nonhuman babies and certainly don't care (in fact, they financially support them) about the abortions that take place in farms as a consequence of the reproductive exploitation of pigs, cows and other nonhumans... A couple of days ago I've filmed inside some farms where several pig mothers who had abortions were confined with their dead fetuses next to them.

They are only against human abortions, maybe a better term could be anti-human abortions.

American Senior Cats said...

The abortion issue is often interjected into forums as a tactic to disrupt discussions.

Lee Hall, the director of Friends of Animals, recently wrote What Are Animal Rights? The Vegan Peace Declaration, stating, "Seen in its strongest and best light, the animal-rights proposal does not present a list of demands, but cultivates an attitude of respect."

gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

Dave says:

"The abortion issue is often interjected into forums as a tactic to disrupt discussions."

I respectfully disagree. I think it's quite appropriate for people to inquire into these sorts of issues because we learn the meaning of moral principles by determining how they are applied in various contexts.

As for the notion that "the animal-rights proposal does not present a list of demands, but cultivates an attitude of respect," I would, again, express disagreement. That sounds very close to moral relativism. Does the animal rights position require veganism as a moral baseline? I would say so. If someone said that they consumed animals respectfully, consistent with some "ethic of care," and that their acceptance of animal rights did not require in any way that they be vegan, I would respectfully disagree.

Thanks for your consideration of my views.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

gfrancione said...

Dear Jose Valle:

You say:

"I think violence can only be forced on sentient beings, since only they, as capable of feeling and having experiences can be the victims of it -nonsentient organisms and objects can't be victims."

Yes, I am well aware of this position as I have been articulating it for about 20 years now! There is, however, controversy about when sentience develops. There is also controversy about whether it is a form of violence to extinguish a human life, even if it is not sentient.

My point is that given the controversy about sentience and given the notion that to take any human life is a form of violence, we can concede that abortion raises some complicated moral issues but that these must be understood in the context of women's rights in a patriarchal society.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

Brandon Becker said...

The rights position demands humans respect the basic interests of other animals.

We must stop eating their flesh and bodily secretions, wearing their skin and hair, vivisecting them in laboratories, making them "perform" tricks in circuses, confining them in zoos, breeding them for "pets," or using them for any other exploitative purpose.

Veganism is a moral obligation - societal transformation is required. Justice demands abolition!

Farmer Sam said...

I have considered the responses to my post. They varied from honest compelling answers to accusations of trying to "disrupt" discussion. For those who are interested in other points of view, let me sum up what I have observed. A woman in California can walk into an abortion clinic in the childs third trimester whe he/she can survive outside the womb and have that childs life taken with a modified vaccum cleaner and she is just exercising her right as a woman. That same woman can leave the clinic and grab a chicken sandwhich on the way home and she is a heartless murderer. Please explain this to me.

M said...

Farmer Sam, less than 1.5% of abortions in the US occur after 20 weeks. According to NARAL "California's post-viability restriction provides that an abortion may be performed on a viable fetus only if in the good faith medical judgment of the physician, the continuation of the pregnancy poses a risk to the life or health of the pregnant woman."

I think that the comments to your previous post pretty much cover everything else that needs to be said. The animal rights and abortion issues are two completely different issues and, for the record, you're oversimplifying the abortion issue terribly.

Farmer Sam said...


I trust your statistics. I believe an even smaller percentage of farm animals ever face abuse. I beleive these two are very related. It says something about a society's moral values when they want to afford more rights to an animal than a child.

Farmer Sam said...


After rereading all of your posts, I had another question for you all.
Since none of these animals are born in the wild, they would never exhist if it were not for animal agriculture. That being the case, are you making a moral judgement that the animals would prefer having never been born rather than experiencing life on a farm even if it is only temporary. Please remember that I am not here to attack any of you or your choice to be vegan. I respect your decision and I will gladly grow anything you wish to eat. My only issue with your ideas is that many of you want to "abolish" meat consumption which is most definitely forcing your views on a majority of the population.

M said...

I believe an even smaller percentage of farm animals ever face abuse.

The truth is that there's overwhelming evidence that proves otherwise. Most of the billions of animals enslaved and slaughtered for food each year in the United States alone suffer tremendously.

"I beleive these two are very related. It says something about a society's moral values when they want to afford more rights to an animal than a child."

We're all animals and nobody is suggesting that nonhumans should be afforded more rights than humans. Abolitionists just don't view one species' interests as trumping another's. The abortion issue is complicated and you're equating embryos or fetuses with actual sentient humans and ignoring the fact that a woman's right to determine what happens with her own body has any significance.

Farmer Sam said...

You through around the word "truth" recklessly. The truth is I spend four hours a day in the barn with these animals and they are quite happy. If they were not, then I would not have a job. How many livestock farms have u been on? Don't be an elitest, just seek the truth and make your points. If you truly believe that a chicken is morally superior to an unborn human child, then I am afraid there is nothing I can learn from you.

Bea Elliott said...

Farmer Sam you said: "It says something about a society's moral values when they want to afford more rights to an animal than a child."

You are saying "child" - But more accurately, abortion involves removing a fertilized egg... in some stage of it's development. It's still a collection of cells. This is not by any reasonable definition a "child".

However, in my mind - a sentient being ought to have the right to experience the life they own. They are not a collection of "cells" - but rather a body with a mind that is aware.

One thing concerns me though... that some would ask a woman to "sacrifice" her life to the burdens of an unwanted, child. Yet, those same people find it inconceivable to make (easy) adjustments to their dietitary habits. Most say, they are not willing to make the "sacrifice"... regardless of the violations done to countless innocent beings.

This position does not seem consistent or just to me... perhaps you can explain your view?

Unknown said...

Hi Sam,

Make no mistake, we absolutely want society to change. It's not about separating ourselves into a tiny vegan minority and patting ourselves on the back while the rest of society keeps on torturing and killing animals.

If you choose to see that as me forcing my views on you, fine: that's how you see it.

So what?

Why is that more important than the fundamental issue: humans have no ethical justification for eating animals. None at all.

Worrying about this "forcing of views" critique is just an attempt to dodge around *that* fundamental issue.

Similarly, bringing up abortion, over and over again, in this context is just a dodge.

You're opposed to abortion. Fine. So are some AR people. Some aren't. It's a side issue. We aren't advocating for the rights of humans to keep or terminate pregnancies. Humans are perfectly capable of sorting that issue out for themselves.

We're advocating for animals who *have no voice*. No one else is speaking for them, so *we're* speaking for them.

Dodging around the actual issue is not really going to make for a productive discussion with you.

But ask yourself: if you're pro-life, if you're *really* pro-life, doesn't it just make more sense to go vegan? If you care about the suffering of innocent life, doesn't it make more sense to eat that that life which experiences no suffering at all?

American Senior Cats said...

Re: * You through around the word "truth" recklessly. The truth is I spend four hours a day in the barn with these animals and they are quite happy. If they were not, then I would not have a job. How many livestock farms have u been on? Don't be an elitest, just seek the truth and make your points. If you truly believe that a chicken is morally superior to an unborn human child, then I am afraid there is nothing I can learn from you. *

Obviously, the contributor wishes merely to harass other participants, making frivolous, personal accusations; that a contributor is an "elitist," that a contributor has somewhere claimed that a chicken is morally superior to a human child (a "straw man" logical fallacy).

Such characterizations serve not to dissuade me, but to persuade me of the validity of the abolitionist agenda.

It is well documented that most roaster chickens, on the Maryland Eastern Shore for example, live short, cruel lives jammed into minuscule cages, crouching on hard wire mesh and waiting hopelessly for death.

If such confrontational contempt for consumers is meant to characterize the opinions of the livestock farming sector, I think it would be worth my trouble to research the names of the boards of directors of supermarkets - Whole Foods Market, for example - and send them letters denouncing the sale of animal flesh. Even if they do not eliminate meat and dairy, they may reduce the floorspace for these products during future remodeling projects.

Giant Food, in the Nation's Capital, has sharply decreased its cooler space for fresh meat, although it has increased its frozen, packaged meats. Giant is indifferent to any motive other than profit, but profit motive alone sufficed to drastically slash the availability of fresh poultry and beef, while slightly increasing fresh pork. Giant used the freed floorspace for produce, packaged salads, and bulk nuts and candy.

Certainly, the abolitionist perspectives have been underrepresented, and of course continually disrespected. It's no trouble to me to advance and strengthen the abolitionists' agenda, and vigorously present it in multiple forums.

The moral character required to make caustic, distorted attacks against complete strangers is not high, but low. Even Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot possessed as morality as that much.

gfrancione said...

Dear Sam:

You state:

"Since none of these animals are born in the wild, they would never exhist if it were not for animal agriculture. That being the case, are you making a moral judgement that the animals would prefer having never been born rather than experiencing life on a farm even if it is only temporary."

The same argument could be said about one's child--s/he would not have otherwise existed but for human breeding behaviors. So is it okay to treat her/him as my slave or as a forced organ donor? Of course not.

One we bring into the world beings with interests, moral obligations kick in that cannot be addressed or dismissed in the way that you suggest.

I appreciate your participation.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University