Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Misrepresenting the Abolitionist Approach, Part I: Some Context

First There Was the Finger Pointing About Finger Pointing

Several weeks ago, James McWilliams wrote an article ("Vegan Feud") for the mainstream news and pop culture site Slate that created a slight bit of a stir in online animal advocacy social networking circles. In it, McWilliams criticizes the abolitionist animal rights dismissal of animal welfare regulationism as ineffective, and he uses this to frame what was essentially a high-fiving defense of the past and current work of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Rather than recognize the intrinsic and considerable differences between abolitionist animal rights and welfarism as reflecting two altogether different movements, McWilliams appears to make the same error that all too many welfarists make when responding to abolitionist criticism by lumping both in together under one heading, deeming them two "in-fighting" factions of "the [same] cause". In the face of their quite fundamentally different philosophical stances and advocacy practices, he chooses to finger abolitionists for refusing to compromise on their own most basic underlying rejection of animal use and of their promotion of veganism as the moral baseline -- as the starting point for any serious animal advocacy.

Abolitionists Are Right?

It's not that McWilliams doesn't get that the process involved by groups like HSUS to regulate animal use does in fact differ from what abolitionist animal rights activists endorse and promote. He even seems to acknowledge that it falls short. He writes in his piece:
Nevertheless, as the abolitionists correctly point out, there’s nothing especially revolutionary about HSUS’s approach to improving the lives of farm animals. HSUS works closely with Big Agriculture, never calls for animal liberation, and never explicitly endorses the habit that most efficiently prevents animals from being killed: veganism. 
Confusingly, even while lumping a group like HSUS in with abolitionists as somehow being a part of the same "cause", McWilliams does acknowledge that what abolitionists point out in their critique of HSUS isn't incorrect. The facts are what they are and HSUS has made it clear again and again that it's not in the business of seeking to bring about an end to animal use.  So what's the problem?

Abolitionists Are Wrong?

McWilliams at one point sums up what are fundamental differences in advocacy as a mere "rift" that needs to be healed -- notwithstanding that HSUS rejects each of the six principles of the abolitionist approach to animal rights -- by having abolitionists 'fess up that HSUS "is doing something right" and to also admit that focusing on educating people about going vegan and about why it is that they shouldn't treat other animals as things just isn't going to work. He writes:
Francione’s logic is hard-hitting, but his extreme message is unlikely to resonate widely in a population that’s only 1.4 percent vegan. According to social psychologist and longtime vegan Melanie Joy, the abolitionist approach could attract a lot more supporters if it acknowledged, as HSUS does, that most people are going to embrace veganism on their own—you can’t strong-arm them into it. 
McWilliams continues by paraphrasing Joy's assertion that going vegan requires a "profound shift in consciousness" and that people are just going to do it when they're ready to do it. As for me, I smell straw.

On How Not Talking to People About Veganism Is the Best Way to Promote Veganism

There are two essentially wrongheaded things to address in the previous quote. The first is that loose thing called an argument that animal advocates (too often ones like Jonathan Safran Foer who are themselves non-vegan) use to defend promoting vegetarianism -- i.e. the consumption of some, but not all types, of animal products -- as somehow being ethically meaningful. They insist that veganism is extreme -- a final step in a long journey where every little bit counts and should be applauded. They insist that the general public isn't ready to hear about why it is that it's wrong to torture and slaughter other sentient beings. They insist that "only 1.4% of Americans are vegan" and that this is somehow indicative of how few people could possibly "get it". Not only does this downplay that (if one trusts Google's citing US population as being 311, 591, 917 as of July 2011) over 4 million Americans are vegan, but it's also insulting to those who aren't, simply infantilizing them and suggesting that they're either too stupid or rigid to be offered -- and to understand -- a clear unequivocal message.

Furthermore, according to Joy (or McWilliams' take on Joy), it seems that merely offering up to anyone that clear and unequivocal message that other animals aren't ours to use is tantamount to "strong-arm[ing]" them. McWilliams writes that abolitionists should just follow Joy's lead -- and apparently HSUS' -- and accept and endorse the notion that people are just going to "embrace veganism on their own". Considering Joy's focus in her work on meat-eating's being more morally problematic than other animal use, and given the lengths to which HSUS has gone to assert that it is not a vegan organization and has no wish to bring an end to animal use, doesn't it sound -- if you'll pardon the academic vernacular -- downright kooky to suggest that abolitionists should adopt Joy and HSUS' attitudes towards the (non) promotion of veganism? And that this will be more effective in bringing people 'round to veganism?

As someone who was an on-again, off-again vegetarian of different stripes for years before hearing my first Vegan Freak Radio podcast in which Gary L. Francione's abolitionist approach theory was explained, all I can say is that I'm grateful that someone didn't balk at expressing quite clearly that not using them is the very least we owe other animals. I only wish that someone had talked to me about it sooner. It surely wasn't going to be Melanie Joy or HSUS, since ever after years of my not going vegan, they would likely have thought that I'd somehow maybe figure it out on my own -- possibly after enjoying warm fuzzies following the purchase of one of Joy's books and mailing off a quick donation to HSUS. The truth is that it took that plain old honest and earnest message for me to "get it". I'm still grateful to the Torres' for the advocacy work they once-upon-a-time did -- their voices are missed in more ways than one -- and for their promotion of Francione's abolitionist approach to animal rights.

If the message wasn't too overwhelming for me, someone who'd been raised in a small town and in a working class "meat and potatoes" home, surrounded by animal agriculture and hunters, why should it be for someone else? And if Melanie Joy and HSUS (and James McWilliams) won't talk to others about going vegan, then who will? And why on earth would anyone purporting to take the rights of other animals seriously suggest to abolitionists that we shouldn't? There are billions of other animals killed for human consumption each and every year. Are we really expected to sit around and hope that someone decides to go vegan without ever having had someone tell them why they should go vegan, y'know, lest they be overwhelmed by it or feel "strong-armed" into it?

Podcast, Yes? Podcast, No.

As a follow-up to this article, Francione extended an invitation to McWilliams -- in good faith -- to participate in a podcast discussion with him to go over issues raised by McWilliams in the Slate article. Presumably, the invitation was also extended to clarify some of the misrepresentations of abolitionist approach advocacy the article contained. McWilliams first accepted and then declined, more or less stating that he didn't want to participate because debating the issues — i.e. defending his public promotion of welfarism and critique (and seeming dismissal) of abolitionism — would purportedly be destructive to “the cause of animal advocacy”. It seems that McWilliams himself must have felt, in choosing to write his original article in Slate, that this discussion is indeed an important one to be had. Otherwise, why would he have brought it up publicly on such a widely-read and mainstream site (whose readers, incidentally, mostly don’t give a bean about the difference between either the regulation or the abolition of animal use)?

In his blog piece explaining his choosing to decline to do the podcast, McWilliams insisted that his arguments’ substance wasn't a concern, but that he saw participating in the podcast as nothing but engaging in a sparring contest where sparring skills might trump substance. He went on to more or less compare an intellectual debate in which he would be given the opportunity to elucidate and to substantiate his attack on the abolitionist approach (and where Francione would be given an equal opportunity to correct and clarify and to defend his work and that of those who subscribe to the abolitionist approach) as ending up as nothing more than the bumping together of two egos.

Good Faith/Bad Faith

McWilliams seemed to present himself as wanting to do the humble and noble thing and to focus on advancing “the cause” without taking this opportunity to provide those (who may or may not read Slate) who are actually interested in animal advocacy a well-thought out rational explanation for how it is that he thinks wefarism is in any way benefiting other animals and that the abolitionist approach fails to do so. That seemed like such a passive-aggressive dodge to me and it left me more disappointed in McWilliams as an advocate than I was when he wrote that wrongheaded Slate article in the first place. His refusal seemed quite disingenuous and sympathy-seeking and I would have expected more from a passionate and earnest advocate, and most certainly from a tenured academic. One would think that, having deemed discussing his critique of abolitionist advocacy with Francione as potentially harmful to the movement and with his concern over supposed "in-fighting" that McWilliams might have chosen to indeed step away from the issue to focus on other things. Part II of this lengthy blog commentary will examine how, sadly but unsurprisingly, this wasn't the case.

Stay tuned for more!


Elizabeth Collins said...

Neither James McWililam's article nor the new Melanie Joy article have anything to say. Nothing. They don't one single time address any of the points raised in Gary Francione's work over the decades, about WHY animal welfare is immoral and also utterly useless. instead, they just say that we should stop criticising, yet neither of them will have a discussion or debate about it. They have not read one single book written by Gary Francione, they have no idea what they are talking about when they pretend to "challenge" the abolitionist theory, and it shows.

Team Earthling said...

Interesting post. I look forward to reading part II!

Greg Laviolette said...

Thanks for this. You made a great point in that there are two separate movements. Without abolitionists, there really is no genuine AR movement.

James said...

Francione's entire position is based on assumptions that are an absurd simplification of reality: either you're an abolitionist, or you're a welfarist; either animals are suffering greatly, or they're not being used at all; either veganism is promoted in toto, or it's not promoted at all. Combining this with his attacks on straw Peter Singers and Jeremy Benthams (has he read The Ethics of What we Eat where Singer is critical of the very position Francione accuses him of supporting? Does he know anything at all about classical utilitarianism?) makes me not think at all highly of the man, which is a shame given I agree with much of his conclusions otherwise.

The criticism directed at him is not 'don't promote the abolition of animal agriculture combined with veganism', it's 'don't attack those who promote animal issues from a different direction with different tactics'. How you or he fail to understand this is beyond me.

David said...

I agree completely with this post, Face on Fire.

I too was struck by McWilliams' post declining the debate. He engaged in an unfair attack on Francione's position in the Slate article and then, when criticised, he so very selflessly decided that it was "best for the animals" to run away and refuse to discuss his attack with Francione.

What's really telling is that McWilliams was offered the opportunity to have a written discussion with Francione and he declined that as well. As far as I am concerned, this behaviour proves rather clearly that McWilliams' concerns about the debate, which were not legitimate anyway, were wholly dishonest.

In response to 'James' on this thread, are you James McWilliams or are you just someone who is as confused and ignorant as he is and just happens to have the same first name?

About 60% of your comment is incoherent and it would be interesting to know why you think calling Francione's views an 'oversimplification of reality' in any way addresses his arguments. I think you're making a category mistake there.

You say Singer does not say what Francione attributes to him. Francione quotes everything he attributes to Singer and the book you refer to has an entire section on 'conscientious omnivores'. There's also the section in that book on how Singer and Mason spend a day as turkey inseminators. There's also the section in that book in which they tell everyone that they don't have to be 'fanatical'. You seem as familiar with Singer as you do Francione.

M said...

Elizabeth, I do tend to agree with you that rather than seriously challenge Francione's work, McWilliams and Joy (see her recent piece posted on his website) just seem bent on criticizing that he's criticizing wefarism/ regulationism. Basically, they're using a lot of words to make him sound as if he--and anyone who supports and promotes his work--as being "divisive" when the thing is that there really are two different movements.

It's like when people say that veganism is a sort of vegetarianism. It's not. Vegetarianism involves perpetuating animal use; veganism does not. Welfarism/regulationism (especially when someone like HSUS is involved) involves perpetuating--and applauding!--continued animal use; taking an abolitionist stance does not. Yet, just as some who choose to continue to eat and otherwise use animal products try to co-opt the term vegan and scold those vegans who remind them that veganism is about the rejection of animal use and not just the rejection of animal-based food, now we have McWilliams calling for a "rift" to be closed and Melanie Joy claiming that anyone can self-identify as an abolitionist, even if they support measures that don't work towards ending animal use and which leave the general public feeling more comfortable with its continued use of animals.

So we're extremists for saying that other animals deserve more. We're divisive for not embracing welfarism and for pointing out that it doesn't work and that it just enables the continuation of speciesism. We're simply awful for suggesting that the best way to change the status quo is to get others to stop thinking of nonhuman animals as things existing for human use. Bad us.

gfrancione said...


As usual, you have written a fine essay.

As you pointed out, it is most bewildering that James did not think it problematic for "the cause of animal advocacy" to write about the abolition vs. regulation debate in Slate and to attack the abolitionist position in the first place, but did think it problematic for "the cause of animal advocacy" to be called to respond to a challenge to his attack, which was clearly uninformed.

It is also interesting that James is continuing to make and to post attacks on abolition, and misrepresentations of my view, on his blog. Indeed, in one of his essays, he mischaracterized my position on the matter of the economic cost of animal welfare, and, in good faith, I posted a substantive reply on his blog and pointed out a portion of my most recent book directly on point that he apparently just happened to overlook (although he tells me that he read that book). So, again, James must have decided that it would hurt "the cause of animal advocacy" to respond. It appears as though the only thing that hurts "the cause of animal advocacy" is for James to be challenged.

I also want to point out that both Columbia University Press and I suggested to James that we could do a *written* discussion. James declined. So his claim that this was a matter of verbal sparring skills rings hollow. I should add that James is a tenured professor and makes his living talking and making arguments. It's a sad comment that he feels unable to engage in a discussion, particularly with someone whose views he has publicly criticized. But he did turn down an opportunity for a written discussion. That speaks volumes.

In any event, for anyone interested in the debate and in the regulationist/welfarist position, the leading spokesperson for that view is Professor Robert Garner, who has been defending that position for many years now. Garner is the co-author with me on The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, published in 2010 by Columbia University Press. I also did a podcast discussion with Professor Garner that is available on my website, www.AbolitionistApproach.com.

It is now clear beyond doubt that James McWilliams has nothing of substance to add to this discussion. It is also clear that he saw an opportunity to ingratiate himself with certain folks and he took it. Some years ago, when James was defending the meat industry and large agribusiness, it was pointed out by Tom Philpott, who now writes for Mother Jones:

"Whatever his reasoning, this moralistic vegan must live with the fact that the net effect of his public-intellectual work has been to serve the interests of an industry that treats live animals as industrial inputs, ruthlessly exploiting them while trashing land, water, and public health in the process. McWilliams’ career may be benefiting from this strategy, but his stature as a defender of animal welfare is nil."

source: http://grist.org/article/food-2010-12-08-james-mcwilliams-meat-industry-defender-and-aggrieved-vegan/

So maybe James' latest incarnation is an attempt to embrace animal welfare to make up for his earlier defense of factory farming. But whatever is going on here, I am sad to say that James' stature as a thinker on matters of animal ethics is, to echo Tom Philpott, nil.


Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

James said...

James is one of the most common names in the western world: why you people assume that I am James McWilliams is another thing that truly is beyond me.

Now, I'll elaborate on what I said: Francione position relies on at least these three assumptions:

1. Working to improve the welfare of animals being exploited is mutually exclusive with working to stop them being exploited.

2. There is little to no benefit that can come to non-human animals except for us stopping the use of them altogether.

3. Promoting diet and lifestyle changes other than veganism that benefit non-human animals is mutually exclusive with promoting veganism.

If all of these assumptions are correct, then Francione's position that we should do no less that promote veganism and the abolition of animal agriculture is sound. If any or all of these assumptions are false, then Francione's position is unsound because it implies that there are other things we can do to help non-human animals. This does not in anyway imply that veganism and the abolition of animal agriculture should not be supported, merely that they are not the only things that should be supported.

1. & 3. are obviously false: even assuming that individual people and groups can't promote promote more than one of these things (which is false), there's more than one person and more than one group promoting animal issues. If each group was to promote a progressively more extreme version of the previous, then we would have a nice gentle slope for people to follow, rather than a vertical wall with veganism at the top.

2. seems false too: if, for example, everybody was simply to consume half the amount of animal products they do today, then half the number of non-human animals would be tortured and killed. Moreover, if regulations on their living conditions were imposed in order to improve their lives greatly also, then half the number of non-human animals would be killed and few to none would be tortured. Clearly there's a great benefit that come come to non-human animals from things other than everybody being vegan and animals not being exploited at all.

Francione then tries to argue that these things aren't at all helpful or that regulations that improve the lot of animals significantly are impossible. Could he be correct? Yes. Can we know if he is correct? No, it's simply unprovable (and undisprovable) conjecture. There's not much I can say against it except for refuting specific examples and providing my own counter examples but there's not much point in doing this because it amounts to storytelling at best.

I can recall two of the quotes Francione uses to slander Peter Singer. One goes something like "I think that the 'conscientious omnivore' position is defensible" which simply means he thinks it's able to be defended (as opposed to a, say, blatantly speciesist position), not that he agrees with it ("it's not my position"). The other is along the lines of "I think that a world where everybody eats mostly vegan but occasionally consumes animal products would be just as good as one in which everyone is vegan all the time" which is exactly what an act utilitarian would say: if you asked if he thought whether his perfect world would have no murder or rape he'd say no too - he'd never categorically rule out anything. And yes, he is critical of the 'conscientious omnivore' position in his book. Not critical as in 'violently attacking it' (a la Francione), critical as in 'it's good but you could do better'.

Elizabeth Collins said...

This comment is for James - may I ask if you have read any of Gary Francione's books? If so, which ones please? I ask because just like in the articles by James McWilliams and Melanie Joy, in your comments here I see not one substantive response to any of the work in Gary Francione's books written over the last two decades. What I just see the usual uninformed reactionary comments that I see over and over again. So I am assuming that you have not read any of his books, but I am asking you out of courtesy so as not to jump to any conclusions.

I am so curious as to whether people like yourself, who make comments such as the one you just made, actually think that we are being contrary just for the sake of being contrary. That would be an astonishing claim, however nothing surprises me anymore. Don't you think people like me who support abolition and *reject* and *oppose* welfare advocacy and single issue campaigns, do so just for the hell of it? Because we want to be different? Because we want to be "divisive" just because? It really makes no sense to think that. If you have not read Gary Francione's BOOKS, I really really recommend doing so, immediately. All of them. Read all of them. Thanks

David said...

James, no one *assumed* that you were James McWilliams. I asked *whether* you were he "or are you just someone who is as confused and ignorant as he is and just happens to have the same first name?"

There is a difference between an assumption and a question. I do, however, note that you don't answer the question but it's neither here nor there.

Elisabeth Collins is correct in observing that you do not appear to have read anything Francione has written.

As for Singer, you do not seem to know his work either as he quite clearly thinks that there is a moral difference between humans and animals and he would not, for example, say that 'humane' rape is 'morally defensible'.

I concur in Elisabeth's recommendation that you read Francione. You should also read Singer. It is a good idea to inform yourself before you speak and you are clearly uninformed.

gfrancione said...


It is very frustrating that a constant theme of the attacks on my position are made by uninformed people who think that I am arguing that we should ignore all of the wonderful benefits of welfare reform in favor of letting animals continue to suffer. They seem to miss the point that welfare reform simply does not provide any significant benefits and, indeed, is counterproductive in different and serious respects. They also do not understand that welfare reforms are generally limited to things that increase production efficiency.

I also find the "we can't make moral judgments" position that is typical of many of my critics to be bewildering. If we cannot make moral judgments, then we can't say that things like rape, genocide, and child molestation are morally objectionable. If we can say that those things are morally objectionable but that the morality of animal exploitation is just a matter of opinion or preference, and cannot be the subject of a moral judgment, then we're being speciesist.


Gary L. Francione
Professor Rutgers University

Spencer said...


I think the strategy debate is an important and necessary one to have, but I see merit in Melanie Joy’s point that the “welfarist” label, used to identify people who want abolition in the end, is unnecessarily divisive: in particular, because people waste time arguing about who is or is not “abolitionist,” as opposed to discussing which strategy is best, most appropriate, etc. When people fight passionately over mere labels (Me: “abolitionist”; you: “new-welfarist”!), as opposed to the underlying issues, then the conversation can’t move forward.

I’ll add that I’m not opposed to all labels, because some do productively track real substantive differences.

M said...

I don't think that people are just simply fighting passionately over labels and even if they were, the terms "welfarist" and "abolitionist" aren't interchangeable and do indeed track real and substantive differences (contrary to what Melanie Joy would have us think). In fact, I'll stand by what I've been saying and reassert that they're names used to describe advocates in two altogether different movements. Because of this, I think that they're crucial descriptors.

Spencer said...

Hi Mylene,

In a general sense, what is an "abolitionist" (of anything) except someone who holds as an end goal that some practice or institution should be abolished? The term is neutral with respect to strategy and moral theory, at least on an ordinary understanding. Hence, so long as animal advocates believe all animal exploitation should end, they're animal abolitionists.

Of course, differences in strategy are often real and substantive (I don't deny this), but what I'm suggesting is that those differences don't track the "abolitionist" and "new-welfarist" divide: because both groups *are* abolitionists in the ordinary sense of the term explained above. So why not concede that both groups are abolitionists - so long as they share the same end goal - but hold that among abolitonists, there are nevertheless deep and important differences of strategy? This way, everyone can focus on the actual real differences as opposed to the "abolitionist" and "new-welfarist" labels, which are unnecessarily divisive precisely because they generate a fight about mere labels.

Elizabeth Collins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth Collins said...

If people have a problem with the term "welfarist" then they should stop promoting welfare. If they believe so much that welfare is a good thing, why do they object to the term? It's not derogatory - it is a simple, apt description. I have no objection to the term abolitionist as it is an apt description. If you have a problem with "welfarist" or "new welfarist" (still equals the same advocacy) then stop doing it. You are the ones getting all upset about words. We are the ones getting upset about tactics and advocacy and *actions*. You are the one hung up on words, not us.

Spencer said...

Hi Elizabeth,

I agree that robust debate about strategy is necessary and important, because sharp conflicting approaches do exist--I’m a fan of more (civil) debate, not less. My point only focused on Melanie Joy’s divisive labeling charge. The problem stems from there being two very different definitions of “abolitionist” floating around: the ordinary definition and Professor Francione’s technical, idiosyncratic definition. The latter is tied to a specific view about strategy and moral theory, whereas the former is not, and Francione’s departure from the linguistic norm invites the question: *why* should the term be defined so narrowly, to refer *only* to a very specific strategy as well as end goal? On the ordinary understanding, one can be an abolitionist about X and have very terrible (even morally repugnant) ideas about how to abolish X. So why depart from the linguistic norm when doing so achieves nothing except create unnecessary hostility over mere labels?

Put another way, abiding by the linguistic norm doesn’t require any concession about strategic (or moral) differences. In other words, if Professor Francione (and others) were to stop calling people he identifies as “new welfarists” by that label, and conceded their “abolitionist” status based on the ordinary definition of “abolitionist,” I don’t see what substantive ground you would lose from your pov. The *real* debate over strategy and moral theory would remain.

Elizabeth Collins said...

As I said: if welfarists don't like it they shouldn't do it. They shouldn't do it because it is immoral and also detrimental and hurts animals, which is probably why deep down they don't like it. So if you don't like the apt, completely applicable and non-derogatory just solely truthful accurate description of welfarist or new welfarist, then stop promoting "welfare". Up to you

Spencer said...

Hi Elizabeth,

To suggest, as you appear to do, that “welfarists” dislike the label because “deep down” they believe welfare reforms are “immoral” and “detrimental” to animals is wholly uncharitable, and strikes me as the kind of rhetoric that generates the hostility and personal acrimony often present in the welfare reform debate. By linking the term “welfarists” to “people who promote welfare but deep down know they shouldn’t,” I hope you can see the irony in claiming that the label is “non-derogatory.” Melanie Joy’s point about divisive labeling seems all the more astute given your comments.

Again, let me reiterate that my intent isn’t to suggest that among people who favor the abolition of animal exploitation as an end goal, there aren’t very real differences (both moral and pragmatic) between those who support welfare reforms and those who do not. My suggestion is simply that rigid adherence to mere labels--when *nothing* of importance hangs on them, and are inaccurate as a matter of linguistic convention--is an unnecessary and undesirable barrier to fruitful dialogue. I hope you would consider my comments in the charitable spirit that I intended them to have.

gfrancione said...

Elizabeth and Mylène:

In the late 1908s and 1990s, the people I referred to as new-welfarists, who claimed to want to end (or significantly reduce) animal exploitation but to promote welfare reform as a means to that end, complained that they could be "animal rightists" as well and that it was only an "idiosyncratic" or "elitist," or "fundamentalist" understanding of animal rights that rejected welfare reform.

We are just seeing a new group trying to do the same thing with "abolition." There is not an iota of difference.

The reality is that there is no nomenclature that would make these people happy. Their interest is is denying that there are different substantive positions, or in claiming that any difference is a matter of strategy. That is precisely what Joy argued in the essay that McWilliams posted.

Further, as I said in my most recent blog post:

"To say that the differences are only matters of strategy assumes that the means do not have to be consistent with the ends and may even be inconsistent. So it’s fine to advocate “happy” animal use to get to (supposedly) no use; it’s fine to advocate war to get to peace.

I suggest that, putting aside the matter of whether “happy” use will get to no use or whether war will really lead to peace, to dismiss these differences as mere matters of strategy ignores the fundamental differences involved.

World leaders who wage war always claim to want to achieve lasting peace. I am quite certain that many of these leaders, if not most, really do want peace in the end. But to say that we cannot distinguish Stalin from Gandhi is, I think, wrong."

Finally, I visited the "carnism" website. It states:

"Carnism is a system of victimization that exploits non-vegans and vegans alike, and pits us against one another. We believe that non-vegans and vegans must unite in order to transform the system."

So those who consume animal products are victimized or exploited by their belief that it is morally acceptable to consume animal products? Really? Forgive me but that is just plain nonsense.

And what does it mean to say: "non-vegans and vegans must unite in order to transform the system"? How are those who think it's okay to consume animals and those who think it's not okay going to "unite"? Answer: by doing what the welfarists advocate and seeking bigger cages and supporting "happy" exploitation. You can't "unite" over the fundamental moral question of use with those who think that use is morally acceptable, at least under some circumstances.

I apologize but I think that the "carnism" position is intellectually vacuous and is merely welfare reform combined with psychobabble.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

David said...

Spencer says "Hence, so long as animal advocates believe all animal exploitation should end, they're animal abolitionists."

Sorry but that's bollox for the reasons that Prof. Francione argues in his blog post excerpted above and that Spencer does not seem to comprehend.

I read Francione's "Rain without Thunder" and in it, he warned that if we did not make a distinction between rights and welfare, the rights movement would collapse into being a "happy" exploitation movement. He wrote that book in 1996 and what he predicted was exactly what has happened.

It's sad that people don't read books anymore. If they did, they'd realise that what's happening now is what happened then.

Spencer said...

Elizabeth and Mylène:

Professor Francione believes that the notion that carnism exploits vegans and non-vegans alike is “plain nonsense,” akin to saying that racism exploits racists. But is it nonsense? On the contrary: I believe the underlying idea is simply that carnism harms everyone, in a similar way that racism harms everyone--*both* victims and perpetrators. This idea is amply supported in the academic literature. For example, from “Do Racists Attitudes Harm the Community Health Including Both the Victims and Perpetrators? A Multi-Level Analysis”:

“While racism unquestionably harms the health of victims, our findings suggest that it impacts the health of those who hold racist beliefs, as well as the broader communities within which they have or had lived. We also find a significant interaction effect between racist a
ttitudes and community level poverty.”.

Similarly with carnism, *everyone* is harmed (Joy’s website): “the trillions of farmed animals who remain out of sight and therefore conveniently out of public consciousness; the increasingly degraded environment; the exploited and often brutalized meat packers and slaughterhouse workers; and the human consumers who are at increased risk for some of the most serious diseases of the industrialized world and who have been conditioned to disconnect, psychologically and emotionally, from the truth of their experience when it comes to eating animals.”

Rather than “nonsense,” the insight that Professor Francione fails to see is simply profound and powerful.

Professor Francione asks: what does it mean to say: "non-vegans and vegans must unite in order to transform the system"? He attributes the following answer to Joy: “by doing what the welfarists advocate and seeking bigger cages and supporting "happy" exploitation.” But is this *really* what she means by “unite?” It would be helpful if Professor Francione could indicate the exact quote from which he derived his understanding. The question is akin to asking: “how can racists and non-racists unite to transform the system of racism?” The answer is undoubtedly complex, but something along the lines of “working together towards greater awareness and mutual understanding, improving communication, etc” is not at all implausible.

gfrancione said...

I just posted this on my Facebook site:

"Cruel Foods

And what are the alternatives that are promoted? For the most part, the author recommends "happy" alternatives. For eggs, she says:

"Organic is a must for anything chicken-related, since poultry feed can have all kinds of bad
stuff in it, from antidepressants to arsenic. Cage-free is nice, too, since those eggs don't come from chickens that are trapped in battery cages all the time. But the best option? Seek out eggs with the "certified humane raised and handled label," which means that your eggs underwent a voluntary, thorough inspection by an independent animal-welfare group."

The notion that the "happy" exploitation movement is not encouraging people to continue to consume animal products is beyond absurd.


I should note that the "Certified Humane Raised and Handled" label is provided (for a fee) from Humane Farm Animal Care. HSUS is one of HFC's partners on the label and HSUS folks sit on HFC's board.

But we can all "unite"? Any distinction is a "myth"? We're all "animal abolitionists"?

That's just crazy.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

Ellie said...

Hi Mylene,

I'm glad to read your critique of Melanie Joy's "Our Voices, Our Movement....", as I too disagree with her article.

I also think Ms.Joy's criticism of abolition misses an important lesson in the history of ending several forms of injustice: Like animal exploitation -- human slavery, child labor, and capital punishment have also been regulated to supposedly make them more "humane" -- thus, more acceptable -- and importantly, the abolition of these injustices *required advocates to reject these regulations.

Clearly, as Professor Francione, Humane Myth, Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, and Friends of Animals have demonstrated, these reforms do not make a significant difference in the lives of animals. Rather, they are marketing tools for "humane" products that consumers eat with a clear conscience. So-called "humane" farming has encouraged animal consumption, to the extent that numerous vegetarians and vegans have resumed eating happy meat.

But in my experience, "welfare" activists refuse to believe it; and for a long time, I asked myself why, until eventually I came to the conclusion that if they allowed themselves to believe it, they'd have to admit they are part of the problem. They won't believe it because they're protecting their investment in "welfare" activism -- i.e., their sense of importance based on making animal use "vastly more humane"; their uplifting celebrations of so-called "victories"; their association with and acceptance by others of like mind.

Did they forget, or did they never understand that animal advocacy is not about them?

Ellie Maldonado

Spencer said...

Professor Francione appears concerned with preserving real, substantive distinctions that divide people who share the end goal of abolishing animal exploitation. I agree that those distinctions matter, but preserving them doesn’t require jettisoning linguistic norms when that only serves to create passionate fights over mere labels (*in addition* to passionate fights about substance).

About strategy, my view is that strategic differences can be ideological (here I disagree with Joy), in addition to being merely pragmatic. An example is someone who favors ending animal exploitation by blowing up the planet. Strategic difference? Yes. Ideological/moral difference? Most definitely. So some strategies work towards abolition and others do not, and among the strategies that do work, some are wholly immoral – but I still count them all as “strategic differences” to avoid conceptual confusion. For me, the issue is whether a particular strategy is effective *and* morally acceptable, and I bet everyone concerned about strategy would agree.

When Melanie Joy said strategic differences are not ideological, she meant (I think) that the differences at issue are merely pragmatic ones. What’s the difference between a strategic difference that is resisted on merely pragmatic grounds and one that is resisted on moral grounds? I suggest the following test. Imagine there is legislation L on the table that, if passed, would ban gestation crates, and suppose it would: (a) *meaningfully* reduce overall suffering in the short-term, (b) have a positive influence on the long-term objective of ending abolition, and (c) L is currently the best, *available* means of achieving (a) and (b). If you’re against L *even if* (a), (b) and (c) would obtain, then I suggest that you’re against L on ideological/moral grounds. But if you’re against L *because* you don’t think (a), (b) and/or (c) would obtain, then I suggest that you’re against L merely on pragmatic grounds. (I welcome anyone’s thoughts on this analysis).

Now, Joy is probably under the impression that most strategic differences about legislation like L are purely pragmatic differences, in the sense that *if* everyone could agree on their effectiveness, then everyone would be on board. She’s probably encountered many people for whom this is true: intense disagreement about whether or not to support L solely due to different *factual* understandings, but because it is “hidden” by ideological language, the disagreement often appears deeper than it really is. I suspect this is probably the case for many (not all). Empirical disagreements, even if intense and protracted, aren’t “fundamental disagreements” IMO, even though they can *seem* like them. So I think more clarity is on order on which strategic differences are pragmatic and which are truly fundamental.

Unknown said...

I previously submitted this comment to James McWillams's site:

Part 1:
Melanie Joy has magnanimously deigned to talk about the welfarist-abolitionist debate, not because she believes the debate itself has any merit – indeed, according to her, the debate is a mere “Myth” – and not for the sake of the billions of exploited animals who are depending on us to think seriously about the important issues involved in the debate, but because she appears to believe that vegans who have been exposed to the debate, or specifically, the abolitionist critique of welfarism, are so emotionally traumatized that they are in need of her psychological analysis and advice. She bizarrely equates lack of debate and social cohesion amongst animal advocates with what’s best for “our movement”, and therefore the animals. Dialogue involving difference of opinion is deemed acceptable, but only if it never develops to a level of substantive disagreement that threatens to fracture “our movement”.

Three problems immediately arise from this stance:

Firstly, consensus and social cohesion, while arguably more pleasant and harmonious than disagreement and lack of cohesion, in no way guarantee intelligent thinking, sound decision-making or effective strategy in animal ethics, or indeed on any matter of morality. There is no reason to assume that what’s most comfortable and congenial for us as human advocates is best for the non-human animals for whom we are advocating. As a social psychologist, Joy should be well aware of the folly of “groupthink”, a concept regarding group decision-making developed by Irving Janis (1972) and well documented as being implicated in a number of political fiascos. It refers to human social behavior in which maintaining group cohesiveness and solidarity is felt as more important than considering the facts in a realistic manner. Janis gave the following definition of groupthink:

“A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action”.

I believe our first duty as animal advocates is to the animals. That is, to think carefully and critically about the moral and strategic issues involved in being the most effective advocates we can be in abolishing animal exploitation. If that means that we find ourselves in the position of being in serious disagreement with other animal advocates about these issues, so be it. If this disagreement means that we feel compelled to speak out against, and yes, debate positions regarding animals that are immoral and counterproductive to the abolition of their exploitation, then this is our responsibility. And if this leads to us being labeled as “divisive” then that is something we should accept as a price worth paying for honoring our commitment to ending non-human slavery. After all, animal advocacy is about them, not about us. This is something that Joy seems not to understand. Her overriding concern seems to be the psychological health and wellbeing of individual advocates, and the collective cohesion and unified front of what she refers to as “our movement”. From this she assumes the best outcome for the animals will automatically flow.

Unknown said...

Part 2:
Secondly, Joy’s assumption that debate and substantive disagreement amongst vegans necessarily leads to traumatic states like “profound anger, confusion, guilt, weariness, and despair” and a “non-liberatory consciousness” devoid of empathy, compassion and justice has no basis in reality. It’s perfectly possible to engage in discussion and debate with those whose views are at odds with our own while remaining civil, empathetic, just and respectful, acknowledging that they are sincere in their beliefs, even though we don’t agree with them. For one example of this, read The Animal Rights Debate involving Gary Francione and Robert Garner, and listen to their podcast discussion. Far from “yelling at each other” their interaction is utterly civilized, respectful and even affable. Francione’s podcast discussions are generally of this nature. The abolitionist approach is founded on the principle of ahimsa, so non-violence and respect towards humans as well as non-humans, including verbal non-violence, is a key value. It’s regrettable that Joy has not seen fit to follow her own advice on the need for dialogue and open exchange of perspectives in that she has declined to accept Francione’s invitation of a podcast discussion in 2010, as has McWilliams.

In addition, it’s reasonable to think that suppressing dissent and disagreement and avoiding debate could be as damaging, or more damaging to mental health than engaging in them. (It’s certainly damaging for the plight of the animals). Joy rather histrionically chooses to focus on the supposed mental health cost to vegans of expressing their irreconcilable theoretical differences because it suits her agenda of wanting to silence serious dissent from the welfarist position of the mainstream, corporatized animal organizations.

Thirdly, Joy is addressing a non-existent problem. This is something in which she appears to specialize. Just as there is no such thing as the “invisibility” of the ideology of animal exploitation, there is no such thing as “our movement”. Abolitionism and welfarism have always been and always will be two quite distinct and separate movements with distinct and separate moral and strategic approaches. Divisiveness is only possible if there is one thing to be divided. This is not the case in the arena of animal advocacy.

To imagine that we could have a magical syncretism of welfarism and abolitionism, or some kind of hybrid where abolitionism has presumably been eviscerated of any substance that makes it inconsistent with welfarism; where serious disagreement and debate about the critically important differences between the two approaches are strenuously avoided, does not suggest a “liberatory consciousness”. What it suggests is a consciousness of profound ignorance and denial about why it is that abolitionists so strongly reject welfarism, based on its moral inadequacy, its total failure over more than 200 years to have any impact towards ending animal use and its taking the cause of animal rights backwards by promoting “happy” animal products and more deeply entrenching the property status of animals. One could legitimately ask: “Liberatory for whom?” Certainly not for the billions of enslaved animals and all those yet to be bred into slavery, who are dependent on us to maintain their liberation as our priority.

Joy’s focus on non-existent problems serves only to distract from the real problems we are facing in ending animal exploitation and those are the persistence of speciesim, and welfarism as the dominant paradigm.

Spencer said...

Hi Linda,

I believe your criticisms of Joy’s recent essay rest on several misunderstandings.

First, it’s inaccurate to suggest that Joy’s essay was not written for the “for the sake of the billions of exploited animals,” for as she makes clear, her purpose is to help make “our lives are more peaceful *and* our activism is more effective.” Trying to improve the effectiveness of activism demonstrates quite clearly, IMO, that she most definitely has the “the billions of exploited animals” in mind. Her concern is quite explicit: the encouragement she urges for productive dialogue is so help to “stop the tide of horrific brutality toward nonhuman beings.”

Second, it’s inaccurate to suggest that Joy’s encouragement to move away from “debate” in favor of “dialogue” involves the abandonment of careful and critical thinking about “moral and strategic issues.” The opposite of “debate” isn’t the lack of careful or critical thinking, but the lack of a certain attitude that one brings to the conversation: an ego-driven mindset, the overriding desire to “win” an argument for the sake of winning, or to demonstrate that a position is wrong largely because it is *mine* or one I've closely identified with. “Dialogue,” on the other hand, *involves* putting forth arguments, counter-arguments, pointing out fallacies, rigorous scrutiny, etc, but it isn’t *about* those things. If any of this sounds like painfully obvious wisdom, consider the fact that, in practice, “dialogue” (as Joy is recommending) is actually extremely hard--just look at our current politics.

“Debate” can be very ego-empowering, especially when one is good at it, but then it can also make it difficult to distinguish between one’s ego-driven motivations from one’s more “enlightened” motivations for “mere rational discussion.” I say this as someone quite experienced in “debates,” where it can be very intellectually rewarding to demonstrate that some argument is fallacious or unsound, or to advance a position and establish its immunity from various attacks. Joy uses the example of a soccer match, but I prefer to think of “debate” as a chess game. The “opponent” makes a move, I counter; she employs a certain "strategy," I employ one to circumvent hers; she cleverly attacks, I defend; she thinks several moves ahead to anticipate what I might do, I in turn try to anticipate her moves; and she considers how best to “protect” her positions, I consider how best to protect mine. When you think about the process of “debate,” it can become very easy to get attached to the process itself, conflating it with the goal. I believe this is the point that Joy was trying to make--“dialogue” involves a completely different mindset from “debate,” even though it utilizes the various tools of “debate.” How many us are *truly* capable of regularly engaging in rigorous “dialogue,” especially on passionate issues? I suggest that most people reading this, if they engage in a little critical self-reflection, would conclude: “very few” (I’m no exception).

Third, it’s inaccurate to suggest that “Joy seems not to understand” that critical discussion about conflicting positions pertaining to the abolition of animal exploitation is necessary. As she makes clear, “[q]uestioning how to most effectively and expediently bring about change for nonhuman animals is *vital* to our mission.” She acknowledges that there are “valid questions” about “whether, for instance, welfare reforms that raise awareness about farmed animal exploitation yet provide another justification for such exploitation.” Her suggestion is simply that to address those “valid questions,” the “debate model” should be abandoned in favor of the “dialogue model.” Her call is not to end “disagreements,” but to encourage a different way--via a different mindset--to “relate to them.” Hence her encouragement is to “discuss” (not “debate”) the various “differences openly.”

Spencer said...

Part II

Fourth, related to the third, it’s inaccurate to suggest that Joy’s “agenda” is to “silence serious dissent” about anything--on the contrary (as explained above). Hence you give the impression that Joy is operating under a sinister motive. Throughout your response, you employ unnecessarily provocative terms and phrases like “agenda,” “suppressing dissent,” “historically chooses,” “wanting to silence serious dissent,” and “magnanimously deigned.” I suggest that none of them reflect an accurate or charitable understanding of Joy’s essay, and they serve only to generate the kind of “profound anger,” “shaming,” “vitriol,” and “aggression” that it was intended to address--the lack of empathy and compassion in how we communicate *about* differences.

Fifth, it’s inaccurate to suggest that Joy’s assumption is that “debate and substantive disagreement amongst vegans *necessarily leads to*…‘profound anger, confusion, guilt, weariness, and despair” and a “non-liberatory consciousness.’” When Joy criticized “debate,” she initially qualified her remarks with “In general, when we debate,” which should have indicated that her concern was with how debate is commonly practiced (“debate”). Thus nothing in Joy’s essay requires attributing to her the wildly implausible assumption that “debate and substantive disagreement” “necessarily leads to” the problems she was trying to address. Indeed, it is “perfectly possible” on her view--and perfectly desirable--to engage in rigorous critical discussion about differences while “remaining civil, empathetic, just and respectful,” and “acknowledging that” people with contrary viewpoints “are sincere in their beliefs.”

The problem is: that rarely seems to happen. To suggest, as some people have, that Joy has an “agenda” to want to “silence serious dissent” is neither “empathetic, “just” nor “respectful,” but wholly uncivil and uncharitable IMO, constituting an obvious failure to *acknowledge* the sincerity and compassionate concerns motivating Joy’s decision to write her essay. I suggest that too often in “debates,” the principle of ahimsa which you and many abolitionists adhere is not adequately applied.

Sixth, related to the previous points, it’s inaccurate to suggest that “Joy is addressing a non-existent problem.” Joy’s primary concern is to encourage a different mode of communication (“dialogue), given her recent observations of “the profound anger, confusion, guilt, weariness, and despair” that the “welfare-abolition debate” has triggered “in vegans.” Given the “profound anger,” “confusion,” “guilt,” weariness,” “and “despair” present in many people concerned with the issue, it seems plainly obvious to me that there is an existing problem – specifically with communication, or the lack of “dialogue” and too much “debate.” To deny this, one would have to deny the accuracy of Joy’s recent observations, but that IMO would not be “empathetic,” “just” or “respectful.”

Spencer said...

Part III

Seventh, I’ll end by acknowledging partial agreement with one of your criticisms, in which you point out that according to Joy, the “welfarist-abolitionist debate” is a “Myth.” I say “partial agreement” because it is inaccurate to suggest that Joy thinks no debate exists, or that there isn’t any “merit” to the conflicting viewpoints (in particular, the view that welfare reforms are counterproductive). In fact, she acknowledges “it is entirely possible that the small, vocal minority have developed a cohesive group identity because they have felt that their valid and pressing concerns have not been taken seriously by the broader vegan culture.” Her recognition that some abolitionists have “valid and pressing concerns” is a clear indication that she *does* think they have “merit.”

Where I partially disagree with Joy is in her distinction between “mere strategy” and ideology. To avoid conceptual confusion, it may be better to think of all “means” as strategy, and then decide which strategies under consideration are effective or ineffective, morally acceptable or morally unacceptable. This way, some differences over strategy *can* be differences over competing ideologies (or fundamental moral beliefs). The strategy of blowing up the planet to achieve abolition would be an example, because regardless of its effectiveness, I would strongly object to it on fundamental moral grounds.

But this means that some strategic differences are disagreements about effectiveness (pragmatic), whereas other strategic differences are disagreements about fundamental moral matters (ideological)--intractable “debate” can often make it difficult to tell the two apart. If two people vehemently disagree about whether to support legislation L, it could be that they have different factual understandings about what L could accomplish, such that they would agree to support or not support L *if* they could agree on the relevant facts, or it could be that they have different understandings about morality, such that disagreement about L would remain even if total factual agreement were achieved. Joy is probably under the impression that “strategic disputes” are *really* pragmatic disputes rather than fundamental disputes about morality, and I suspect she is probably right in most cases but not all. Her point is that by employing “ideological” language pragmatic disagreements about strategy tend to be conflated with fundamental moral disagreements about strategy. So I suggest more clarity is in order on which strategic differences are pragmatic and which are truly fundamental.

Spencer said...

Let me add a bullet-point summary of what I take to be Joy’s central points.

(1) Participants in the “welfare-abolition debate” have experienced “profound anger, confusion, guilt, weariness, and despair” about the issue, which is a problem stemming from undesirable modes of communication—-how participants to relate to their differences.

(2) Participants should abandon the “debate” model of communication in favor of the “dialogue” model of communication. The latter does not require sacrificing intellectual rigor, but involves a “liberatory consciousness”: namely, interacting with compassion and empathy for those with whom we disagree. “A liberatory consciousness reflects compassion – an open heart – rather than judgment, shaming, and bullying.”

(3) To engage in better “dialogue,” divisive labels should be dropped in favor of “terms that are more inclusive and accurate.” For instance, “abolitionist” should retain its ordinary (neutral) definition to mean someone who favors the abolition of a practice or an institution—-in this case, the abolition of animal exploitation.

(4) Most differences over strategy, which are very real, have been conflated with deep ideological differences. That is, differences about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of strategy are not *fundamental* differences about morality, but differences about pragmatics. There are many “valid questions that require ongoing dialogue.”

(5) Related to (4), theory has been conflated with fact and fact conflated with theory. It is theory, not fact (based on reliable data), that one particular strategy is ultimately more effective than another. It is fact (based on reliable data), not theory, that there are certain “motivational and behavioral factors influencing individual and social change.” (“Nick Cooney’s Change of Heart, a 220-page compilation of psychosocial studies, has at times been treated as though it were mere conjecture.”)

(6) Related to (4), there is no Great Debate (although there are plenty of disagreements), such that vegans, by virtue of being vegans, are not “automatically on one side or the other.” The “vast majority of vegans do not see themselves on a ‘side’ of the ‘debate’ because they are not identified with a particular position.” [An example of a true Great Debate would pro-choice v. pro-life: one position is diametrically opposed to the other. But a vegan or “abolitionist” in the *ordinary sense* isn’t necessarily committed to any particular position in the “welfare-abolitionist debate.”]

(7) Related to (6), there is no Great Divide (although there are plenty of disagreements and diversity). “[I]t is important for us to remember that we are no less diverse than non-vegans, and we don’t have to – nor should we – share all the same values and beliefs and approaches. … [W]e can be, and are, both similar and different.” [Part of the problem is with defining the contours of “a movement” when, like *any social movement,* the group of people to be considered are a diverse bunch. The relevant question is: does it make more sense to describe animal advocates as being all in a single (albeit highly diverse) movement or in separate movements which nevertheless share *some* common goals *central* to each? The question seems largely a verbal one to me.]

Elizabeth Collins said...

Please excuse me all I have been using an incorrect terminology. I have been confusing the term "derogatory" with the term "ad hominem". Allow me to rectify that:

The term welfarist is not *ad hominem* - which is what I meant to address - that seems to be the insinuation by many welfarists when refuting the term, and I disagree. It is simply an apt description of someone who takes a certain course of action i.e. welfare advocacy. Welfarists do welfare. Abolitionists do abolition. Activists do activism. Etc. The other objection is that they are not actually welfarists—i.e they recognise the negative implications of that and don't want to associate themselves with it—but rather that they are actually abolitionists who do welfare, which is like saying they are hole diggers who are actually climbing trees or some other such oxymoron.

The term welfarist certainly does have a negative meaning as far as I am concerned, and the term abolitionist—to me—has a very positive meaning (just as it does in regards to the history of human slavery, apart from the fact that some abolitionists promoted violence which I also disagree with on moral and practical grounds but for now that is beside the point).

I have never meant to hide or deny the negativity of welfarism. It is a very negative thing. It is, in essence, speciesist - another apt description which may be complained about as derogatory but which is nevertheless an accurate description of an action i.e. speciesism —such as perpetuating the notion that animals are things for us to use and that it is not *that* we use them but *how* we use them—which is what welfare advocacy does. Which is immoral. A point that no welfare advocate I have ever seen has ever addressed thus far.

I see them go on and on about statistics and scientific studies showing "huge payoffs" or "vast improvements" or supposed great results that "reduce a *huge* amount of suffering" and other grandiose claims (and these to describe the situation of victims who are literally systematically tortured and slaughtered!!)

I personally am very open about the fact that I think welfarism is immoral and therefore obviously very negative, and I am opposed to it on those grounds.

I have no intention of helping welfarists to feel any better about doing welfare than I do of helping non-vegans feel better about not being vegan (I leave that up to the welfarists)

Elizabeth Collins said...

Final note from me on this matter at present: to me the term non-vegan is a very negative thing, as not being vegan is obviously a very negative thing and also is immoral, but I do not use the term non-vegan as a deliberate—nor inadvertent—ad hominem. It describes someone who is not vegan. It is negative yes. But it is true, they are non vegans.

Non vegans do not get all upset about the term—yet—probably because they are not vegan precisely for the reason that they do not recognise that it is immoral to be not vegan, so I have yet to see protests from them about the term non-vegan.

This is what mystifies me about welfarists, They absolutely do do welfare. They advocate and promote and engage in welfare advocacy. Yet many seem to hate the term welfarist and welfarism, and would rather be called abolitionists. It is just so strange. I can only reiterate that if one don't like what one is doing then stop doing it. If you are so convinced that welfare is a good thing, then why object to the term? I have no objection to being called abolitionist (nor do I have any objection to being called a Francionist for that matter) because as far as I am concerned it aptly describes my position.

Plenty of people use the term abolitionist in a derogatory way as to them it has negative implications (as does the term Francionist to some who use it in a vain attempt to insult which I find amusing) but to me these terms have positive implications, as I support abolition and I support Francione and have learned from his theory and completely agree with it. Therefore I don't get upset when called abolitionist or Francionist, despite it being to the caller a negative or derogatory thing.

Well I have spent about as much time as I am willing to spend on this at present, I thank you Mylène for another great essay as usual, and I will go bake cupcakes and get ready for my abolitionist street stall that I am going to do this coming Saturday - with a new potential abolitionist advocate in fact! Not surprisingly they are a new vegan (beginning of the year) and as they were presented with the abolitionist approach very early, before being sucked into the welfarist ideology, they are very turned on to the idea of abolition. This is happening more and more, as we knew it would. I love our movement. Onwards and upwards!! :D

David said...

The McWilliams crowd assumes that if two people are vegans and want to see everyone else become a vegan, and differ on whether to advocate veganism as a moral baseline or to pursue welfare changes, then it's all simply an empirical question as to what tactic or strategy works.

As Francione has pointed out, when the means are inconsistent with the end, it's not simply a matter of tactics. For instance, if slavery is viewed as inherently immoral and something that should never be supported, promoting 'compassionate' slavery as the way to achieve abolition involves much more than a matter of tactic or strategy.

Also, the McWilliams people don't recognise that not all those who promote welfare changes are vegans or want abolition even as a long-term matter. Many don't. Are we all still on the same side? Is any division with those who promote the same welfare changes but don't want abolition just a 'myth'? What if some people in the organisation are vegan but the org is itself not a vegan or abolitionist org? Is there a division or is it all just a 'myth'?

The McWilliams position, particularly bolstered by Joy, is nothing more than a clear attempt to support welfare reform. McWilliams and Joy are trying desperately to become the intellectual voices of new welfarism. Good luck to them. They do a great job is showing that new welfarism is intellectually vacuous.

David said...

I am told by a friend who knows him that Spencer Lo is not even a vegan. For some reason, that comes as no surprise.

M said...

Ah, so you and Spencer perhaps run in the same circles?