As an Abolitionist vegan, I advocate for an end to the use of sentient, non-human animals as resources. I am part of a movement that is spreading a clear, coherent message that it is wrong to use animals for our convenience, pleasure or entertainment (which makes up 99.99% of our use of animals) and that the very least we can do for animals is be vegan.
Unfortunately, this message is being constantly undermined by welfarists.
Welfarists are people who don’t care that we use animals; they only care how we use animals. They don’t advocate for an end to the use of animals as resources; rather, they advocate for more “humane” use of animals. They see veganism as a “personal journey”, as an end rather than a starting point. And they advocate taking “baby steps” on that journey because anything else is just too hard and might put people off. They say it’s better to “humanely” exploit animals than do nothing at all, as if those are our only two options.
They play on our emotions. They bombard us with images of animal suffering and footage from “undercover investigations” and then tell us that we must “do something” to “help” animals. And by “do something”, of course they mean DONATE. They never talk about the necessity of going vegan. In fact, on most welfarist websites you have to search long and hard to even find the word “vegan”, if it’s there at all. It’s certainly not something they strongly encourage.
Welfarists do not have the same end goal as Abolitionists (ending all animal exploitation), but for some reason, they keep insisting that they do. Welfarists partner with animal exploiting industries to more efficiently exploit animals while telling their donor base to keep on eating “happy” meat, eggs and dairy.** By not asking people to go vegan and not addressing the right of animals to not be used as resources, welfarist groups do not risk alienating either their donor base or the industries they partner with to exploit animals. Welfarists betray the animals they are supposed to be advocating for (and the ones who work for the big welfare organizations get paid to do it), but then they have the audacity to say that Abolitionists are “divisive” and “harming the animal movement”. Bah!
Welfarism is about reducing suffering, not abolishing the idea that animals are resources that are here for us to use as we see fit. And according to welfarists, any reduction in animal suffering is a “victory”, something to be celebrated even though animals are still being exploited needlessly.
Ringling Circus recently made the decision to remove elephants from the Ringling Circus in three years, and welfarists have announced that this is some sort of “victory”. It isn’t. Animal groups claim the elephants have been “freed”. They have not been freed. After three more years of suffering in the circus, the elephants will be moved to a research facility where they will be exploited in different ways than they were in the circus ring. They will continue to suffer, just not in the public eye. And they will be replaced by camels.
How the hell is this any kind of “victory”? And how was the idea that animals are mere resources for us to use challenged in any way? It wasn’t. This is not a victory; it’s a betrayal. The elephants will continue to be exploited; now camels will be brought in to be exploited; and what about all the animals being tortured, killed and served up to circus-goers in the form of ice cream, cheese, meat, etc.? The elephant campaign took 35 years and millions of dollars—imagine if that time and money had gone into vegan advocacy.
The primary beneficiaries of a welfarist campaign are the groups promoting it. Welfare reform campaigns (including single-issue campaigns) are nothing but business opportunities for large welfarist groups. They do nothing but promote animal exploitation by characterizing one type of exploitation as somehow worse than another.
If you want more information on single-issue campaigns and welfarist groups and how they are damaging the animal rights movement, please read the essays linked below and all the other essays on Gary Francione’s Abolitionist Approach website.
**“ALL of the major ‘animal advocacy’ organizations gave their public blessing to the Whole Foods Animal Compassionate standards that became the GAP 5-Step happy exploitation program”.
a non-profit alliance of producers, retailers, animal advocates and scientists dedicated to improving farm animal welfare through the 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating Program. We facilitate continuous improvement in animal agriculture across the USA, Canada, and Australia through our 5-Step animal welfare standards and third-party certification. We are committed to informing and empowering consumers and recognizing and rewarding farmers and ranchers for raising their animals in a welfare-friendly way.
PETA, HSUS, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, and Compassion Over Killing all approved the “pioneering” program of happy exploitation that resulted in the 5-Step program. These groups are NOT working for animals!
From Gary Francione’s essays on www.abolitionistapproach.com