The cult of the New Welfarist

Abolitionist vegans who read the works of Gary Francione are often accused of having a “cult” mentality. We are told that Francione is our “leader” and that we just “regurgitate” his words mindlessly.

This makes me laugh.

Gary Francione has spent over 30 years writing about animal rights and veganism. He pioneered the Abolitionist approach to animal rights theory. He is considered an “expert” in that field. Don’t people usually look to experts for information about important topics? I mean, don’t we rely on “experts” to tell us about climate change? Or are we all just in the climate change cult?

If you are ill, you go see your doctor because you rely on his or her expertise, right? That doesn’t mean you are in some doctor worshipping cult.

If I “regurgitate” Francione’s words, it is for this reason: the man writes eloquently and puts forth ideas in such a straightforward manner that it’s hard NOT to use his words. Why spend hours and hours rewriting something that was written well the first time? My quoting him and sourcing him in my posts or anywhere else is not an indication that I am a mindless follower of some cult figure. It’s an indication that what Francione says makes sense and resonates with me, and I think more people should hear what he has to say because it’s well thought out, rational and intelligent discourse on a very important topic.

If, at any time, Francione says something I disagree with, then I disagree. That has not really happened yet, not with what he writes about animal rights theory. I’m sure that if I knew him personally, I’d disagree with him on something—probably lots of things. But so far, in regard to his theory, I can’t find anything to criticize. He’s right. And that just annoys some people.

I don’t just mindlessly buy in to anything that comes out of his mouth, and it’s pretty ignorant of others to think that, but then I guess it’s pretty easy to judge someone you don’t actually know. It’s easy to just make all sorts of wild assumptions about people we have never met in person. It’s wrong, but it’s easy, and that’s why everyone keeps doing it.

Abolitionist vegans aren’t in a “cult”. In fact, many of them have formed reading groups in which they have intelligent discussions and, I am sure, critique ideas. I have not yet joined one myself but would like to after hearing of the many great discussions participants have had.

Gary Francione encourages and welcomes independent thought and rational discussions. If you have a valid argument against the Abolitionist animal rights theory, he is more than happy to hear it. However, no one has yet been able to challenge the theory in any reasoned way. Some have tried, but they always end up repeating the welfarist mantras.

Talk about a cult!

The New Welfarists have formed a cult in which no one is allowed to think or question. “Baby steps”, “personal journey”, “doing something is better than doing nothing” and “humane exploitation” all come to us courtesy of the New Welfarist cult.

New Welfarists cannot argue effectively because they are wrong and they know it. But they keep trying to defend their indefensible position, repeating the same inane arguments about helping animals now and reducing suffering (even though they do neither).

Even when faced with solid arguments that show that their approach is ineffective at best and harmful at worst, New Welfarists just repeat their mantras and stick their heads in the sand. These are folks who are scared of engaging in any kind of critical thought because they know their arguments won’t hold up under scrutiny.

New Welfarist organizations are not concerned about abolishing animal use. If they actually did that, they’d all be out of jobs, and money is their bottom line. They are fundraising machines that dole out absolution to their donor base in exchange for money: “Just donate to us, and you’ve done your part for animals!” It’s a lie, but it takes advantage of the fact that while people may want to “help” animals, they don’t actually want to change anything about their lives or inconvenience themselves in any way to do so. Just write a cheque, and you’ve done your bit. Keep eating animals, but eat the ones that we, the New Welfarist organizations, have deemed “humane”.

It’s sickening how these organizations have reduced critical thought to mere slogans and “donate” buttons. Their campaign of brainwashing has been incredibly successful.

And it’s equally sickening that people cannot see that, and instead accuse Abolitionist vegans of being in a “cult”.

It’s too bad the New Welfarists are so busy defending their cult and its leaders that they are unable to see the tremendous damage they are doing to the animal rights movement. If this movement ever succeeds, it will be in spite of the New Welfarists and not because of them.

9 comments on “The cult of the New Welfarist

  1. Please read this thoughtfully and do not think it’s just a false criticism of Francione. Here goes.

    I can kind of credit Francione for introducing me to veganism and animal liberation. When I decided to commit to veganism after bouncing back & fourth between vegetarianism, omnivorism, rawfoodism, etc I asked for my brother (who became a vegan after my first PETA inspired attempts when we were in high school) for some resources. He sent me Rain Without Thunder. I really thought that Gary Francione hit the nail on the head. Being a law professor he is a fantastic debater and his arguments made sense. I also joined his now defunked message board. I started noticing some things that were off. For instance he’d verbally attack anyone who disagreed with him about anything. He thought you could only really be vegan if you adopted a nonhuman animal. When I became vegan I had an alcohol problem, I was legitimately struggling to take proper care of myself & my child, how could I add an animal to the mix? He also criticized people who had children “breeders” and “welfarist” on his message board. When it became defunct I followed him on Facebook & Twitter, I reposted a lot of his stuff and was one of his biggest supporters. He posted a picture saying something to the effect of “Real Feminist Must Be Vegan” classic Francione, insisting people must be something with no consideration towards why they might find veganism challenging or how feminism & veganism are seperate issues that do occasionally on overlap. He responded to my criticism by claiming that I was being sexist towards men & transphobic. I was not out as being trans at that point but I never said men couldn’t be feminist. He blocked me from Facebook & Twitter. Later on I found out he had the nerve to criticize Carol J. Adams & take credit for her work.

    Before I was blocked I took what Francione said as like the end all be all of veganism. I defended his usege of sexist & ablist language, his use of the term abolitionist which is appropriating the term from black history. I agreed with his non- violent stance and condemnation of welfarist.

    Now, looking back I realize that I was drawn in by this cultish figure to ignore my own feelings of right and wrong, to ignore people who called me out on being offensive or divisive. Francione has never supported a single other vegan or animal rights group. Not all of them are welfarist either. Mercy for Animals investigates farms that are “humane certified” to erase welfarist myths, the Vegan Society promotes animal liberation, there are tons of amazing people doing amazing work from farm sanctuaries to writing about veganism in an articulate & intelligent, convincing way. I now find more inspiration in Melanie Joy (who he criticized for using the term carnism, which is actually quite different than speciesism), Carol J. Adams, Harper Breeze and others. I also found my OWN voice as opposed to relying on Francione’s arguments.

    I think someday you will become disillusioned with him as I and many others have. I just hope it does not change your opinions on animal rights completely.

  2. Oh, my. He has never said that you can only be vegan if you adopt a nonhuman animal. He says that it’s a very important thing to do if you are vegan but he does not indicate that being vegan in contingent upon adopting a nonhuman animal.

    He, like many people, doesn’t think that it’s a great idea for people to have children. Overpopulation is a significant problem for our planet, and it’s something many people are aware of and feel strongly that they don’t wish to contribute to the problem by having children. I agree that calling people who have children “breeders” is disrespectful. I have no idea why he’d call people who have children “welfarist” and I think you might have taken that out of context.

    In regard to “feminists must be vegan”, I agree with him. Feminism is about the objectification and exploitation of the female body, and it makes no sense to fight for the autonomy of female human bodies but ignore the way nonhuman female bodies are used and abused. Feminism and veganism go hand in hand, and I always find it unnerving to hear feminists talk about eating cheeseburgers and milkshakes without ever once thinking about how female bodies are violated to bring them such trivial pleasures. Francione is not wrong in this, however much that may rankle some people. I did not see his comments to you, but I do know that many people do not understand his comments and misinterpret what he is saying. I also know that he has never taken credit for Carol Adams’ writing. He has criticized it as being “too academic” and I agree with him. It’s tough to slug through her writing because it reads like a textbook at times. Why are you so angry that he had “the nerve” to criticize someone else’s work? There is nothing wrong with that. We need to criticize in order to understand and see flaws–that is how we come up with a coherent and comprehensive theory.

    Francione does not use sexist language. He is not sexist. I am a woman, and a feminist, and I haven’t seen evidence of sexism. Your not liking something he says does not make him a “sexist”.

    Using the word “abolitionist” is NOT appropriation. It’s the same word being used for the same concept–just as black people were seen and used as property by white people, nonhuman animals are seen and used as property by humans. No one is “appropriating” anything. Words mean things, and “abolitionist” is the correct word to use.

    He does support another vegan group (The International Vegan Association), as much as he will support any “group”. If you actually read what he writes, he indicates that he does not support groups because his view is that veganism is a grassroots movement, and what has messed up the animal rights (not “animal liberation”) movement in a big way is the big welfarist organizations that have focused on fundraising and donations and not on the one thing that will actually HELP animals–veganism. You should really read his words more carefully and critically, because you are actually quite wrong about his position. The fact that you use the words “animal liberation” are indicative of your lack of understanding of the issues. Are you a member or supporter of Direct Action Everywhere?

    Mercy for Animals is a welfarist organization that takes money from donors and does not ask people to go vegan. In order to do anything useful for animals, we should START by being vegan. We don’t need more “undercover” footage–and by the way, the people who do this “undercover” stuff participate in brutalizing animals. They do the very things they are complaining about, and it’s sick.

    The “Vegan” Society does not encourage people to be vegan. One of their recent ad “campaigns” was “You don’t have to be vegan to…” Francione had a well reasoned argument for why this is a sell-out. I agree with him, not because I am some mindless cult follower, but because after looking at what The “Vegan” Society said in defense of its actions, I feel that they are misguided and wrong in what they are doing. I am capable of independent thought, believe it or not, and I agree with Francione for the simple reason that he is right. If I believe some other expert in a different field, am I a cult follower? No. Calling people who agree with Francione’s ideas “cult followers” is just ignorant.

    I also agree with him about Melanie Joy. “Carnism” only addresses meat eating, but that is not the only form of animal exploitation. The problem is not “carnism”; it is speciesism. That is, the belief that human beings are superior to nonhuman sentient beings and that somehow allows us to do awful, unnecessary things to them is the problem that underlies ALL animal use. There is nothing “invisible” about animal exploitation–it’s right out there for all to see. We are not innocent victims of brainwashing, anymore than people who are racist or homophobic are. The “carnism” thing just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. That doesn’t make Francione a villain.

    I will never be disillusioned with Francione, because it’s NOT ABOUT HIM. It’s about animal rights, and his words are the only ones that make any sense. The welfarist nonsense that is overshadowing the animal rights movement is stopping any forward progress and actually causing us to regress–the “humane meat” movement has been disastrous for animals. Thanks, welfarists.

    I imagine you follow Corey Wrenn, too. I know she hates Francione because he’s a white man who dares to open his mouth about feminism. I think Wrenn is wrong on many points, and I came to those conclusions on my own.

    Anyhow, it seems like you are a bit misguided and caring about not coming across as somehow offensive or divisive, when that shouldn’t be our primary concern. Our main concern is to tell people why veganism is the very least we can do for animals.

    Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. Editing to add that when I say “his words are the only ones that make sense”, I am referring to the over-arching theories and ideas. People like Phillp Wollen also use words that make sense to me–I’m not implying that Francione is the only one who can speak about animal rights, but he is the one who solidified the theory that is the only one that makes sense to me.

  4. Maybe not related directly to this subject, but do you agree that there also may be speciest vegans? There seems to be quite alot vegans who cares to campaign a whole lot more for animals culturally cherished in western (North American/European) culture.

    Example one: The fact that people eats dogs in China, South Korea and Vietnam. This is among the most common animal rights campaigns on the internet, and yes, many of the campaigners are vegans even if most are probably not. When I ask these vegans why they campaign for dogs in Southeast Asia, they say it is purely because of how the dogs are treated. But then why are the dogs the target of the campaign? Why no campaigns about how pigs, chickens, cows and sheep are treated in China? Why does someone who is a vegan choose to campaign specifically for an animal that is cherished in western culture? Can’t just be random. There has never been any international protests against Chinese pig slaughter and Chinese pig eating festivals, or South Korean beef eating culture. Not even by vegans.

    Example two. The ongoing herding, hunting and slaughter of pilot whales and dolphins in the Faroe Islands. This upsets millions of people because of an extremely speciest idea that animals that may possibly be closer to humans in social relations and intelligence are somehow above animals that are less similar to humans in such terms. Again humans are put in the center of everything, animals that may possibly be similar to humans are the boss. Most people who are in these campaigns are most likely hypocritical meat eaters, but what bothers me is that there are plenty of vegans as well. Why do these vegans choose to campaign for pilot whales and dolphins in another country? Why not putting the same energy on what people do to farm animals and wildlife in their own country? And while they are focusing on the Faroe Islands, why are there no international protests by these vegan allegedly “animal rights activists” against the herding and slaughter of sheep in the Faroe Islands? And thats a whole lot more common than the herding and slaughter of pilot whales.

    • Yes, I do agree that there are speciesist vegans. They are the welfarists, the ones who push single-issue campaigns for animals like dolphins and whales or dogs in China, as you mention. There are a lot of confused “vegans” out there, and these are the same ones who say that Ricky Gervais is “doing something” for animal rights. I think that this is all the result of the New Welfarist movement, which tells us that it’s treatment, not use, that matters and that some animals matter more than others. It’s all BS. That’s why I am speaking out against welfarism on this blog. It’s damaging the animal rights movement.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  5. Another thing that makes me deeply worried about welfarism is the extreme amount of xenophobia and racial hatred, sometimes at levels that would make the KKK look weak in comparison. This makes animal rights activists and philosophers look violent and hateful.

    A very extremely common outcome about campaigns against dog meat or dolphin or whale slaughter is that the specific ethnic group or country that is involved in the practise is singled out as somehow alot more evil than other meat eating, animal killing, animal abusing cultures and countries. Take a look at the official page of the Prime Minister of Japan. Every single day, you see comments of racism, xenophobia and hate in relation to the Taiji dolphin slaughter where Japanese are singled out as an “evil race” that should be nuked to extinction and praisings of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Japanese are in this social media environment singled out as “evil people that will eat anything that breathes”. And then we have racists and hatemongers like Morrisey (the singer) who says the Chinese are a “subhuman race” cause they eat dogs, and thereby enables his fans and followers to act racist cause he approves of it. There is alot of racism in the animal welfare movement masquerading as animal rights. Maybe its because specism is so closley related to racism on all levels?

    And regarding the hypocrite and animal abuser Ricky Gervais, here are 7 animals he won’t care if you kill:


    • Yep. I think I posted on that previously. You are absolutely right–the xenophobia and racism that comes out of some of these single issue campaigns is flabbergasting, considering that all the people saying those things are, themselves, non-vegans who contribute to the torture and suffering of animals multiple times each day. It’s sad, and that is why welfarism and single issue campaigns need to go, and Abolitionist vegan advocacy needs to be to be embraced by all “animal people” everywhere. Anything less is ineffective and often outright hypocritical.

  6. I was Googling about Francione and found your blog. I agree pretty much with most everything I’ve seen Gary Francione articulate. It’s a good thing I’m about the animals, because otherwise I have to overlook a lot of stuff about the man that I don’t like. For one, he’s a jerk and comes across like a snotty asshole. I came to his Facebook page asking questions and he and his supporters pretty much interacted with me as humorless and lacking personality or compassionl- when it comes to other humans, that is (me for example.) He himself treated me like crap for raising more questions about the recommendations I was given. He pretty much insulted me and told me I didn’t know what I was talking about (and I’ve been vegan and into animal rights for a decade.) I don’t like how everything he posts on Facebook and Instagram, he has to make sure EVERY quote and meme has his name on it. Why is that so important, if he isn’t full of himself ? So tell me again how the man isn’t full of himself and leading a cult ? I don’t believe it. FOR THE ANIMALS I listen to what he says and writes and I agree with the principles. But I can’t stomach the openly elitist, everybody-else-is-doing-it-wrong attitude that is rife in what he preaches. Sure, everyone else is wrong, the new welfarists, etc. BUT it DOES NOT HELP to rub people’s noses in it like dogs who have pissed on the floor and a cruel master shoves dog’s face in it to teach a lesson. Francione seriously needs to readjust his public persona and approach to the HUMANS he NEEDS in the grassroots movement if he even dares to think his strongly branded version of “abolitionism” needs to vanquish all others’ efforts and be the only path to salvation.

    • If you have read what he’s written then you must understand how devastating the welfare movement has been for animals. It is a deep betrayal. You want to talk egos? Maybe Francione has one, I dunno…..I agree sometimes he’s a bit much. But then again, for over 30 years he has been arguing against welfarism with crystal clear logic and getting slammed for it.

      Maybe that would turn me into a bit of a jerk too. In fact, being confronted with welfarist stupidity, day after day after day, and their incredible unwillingness to see how damaging their actions are, I KNOW I’d be a jerk.

      So say what you want about him, but he’s definitely NOT a cult leader. If you are implying I am some cult follower, you are wrong. The reason I read Francione’s work is that he is right. Whatever you think of the man himself, he is right. There is no logical, coherent argument against what he is saying. And if you read his words/listen to him, you know he gives zero shits what you think of him because he is also doing this FOR THE ANIMALS.

      Maybe he wants to ensure his name is on everything because he is sick and tired of others taking his credit for his words. Some groups use his work, without citing it, and sometimes they don’t use it in the way Francione intended it. That would piss me off in a major way too.

      Is he perfect? Hell no. Does he have flaws? Yup, most definitely.

      Who gives a shit?

      Does his message make sense? Yes. Does it make a fuckton more sense than welfarism? Yup. So who gives an actual shit about Francione himself or his tone or his attitude, when it’s his words we need to read, learn and share? I don’t care if he’s a sweet, humble man or an egomaniac–it’s not HIM I care about. It’s animals. And his writings/teachings make perfect sense. I often quote him because I can’t think of a better way to say something than he has already come up with.

      You say you’ve been vegan and animal rights for a decade–is that true, or have you been a welfarist for a decade? I am not being “snotty”–I am honestly asking. Because he has zero tolerance for welfarist drivel. He has tried to converse with welfarists, and like talking to religious folks, it’s like banging your head against a wall. I don’t know what your words were to him, and maybe he was just being a jerk, but I also know that people come at him with an attitude, or think they know more than him, or throw stupid welfarist arguments at him, and he doesn’t respond well.

      Also, if you know anything about him at all, you’d know he’s against “branded version of ‘abolitionism'”–whatever that means as there is only one “version” of abolitionism–and he encourages others to think for themselves, reject welfarist brainwashing, and instead of joining some big group or following some leader, just do grass roots abolitionist vegan activism.

      And how is he supposed to help people wade through all the confusing rhetoric the welfarists are spewing and help them arrive at abolitionist veganism without yelling over top of the stupid welfarists? He HAS to point out that they are wrong. We ALL have to. Otherwise, how the hell are people supposed to understand that? It’s not about rubbing noses in anything; it’s about the fact that welfarist thought has dominated the discourse for two centuries and has proven itself to be utterly useless in terms of helping animals. So abolitionists have to push back HARD.

      If that makes us cultish assholes in your eyes, then whatever I guess. Think whatever you want. But this welfare bullshit NEEDS TO STOP. You want to talk about people serving their OWN EGOS? Look no further than HSUS, PETA, “Vegan” Outreach, COK, MFA, etc etc etc. Now THERE are some MASSIVE egos!!!!!!

      Edited to add: For anyone who might try to use this argument in favour of Gary Y, no. Gary Francione may not be the most lovable dude evah and may come across as abrasive, but he is NEVER VIOLENT. Ever. People don’t like Gary Francione because he’s uncompromising in his abolitionist veganism. He sticks to his principles. He may come across as rude, or abrupt, or abrasive, or whatever, but he is NOT a violent person.

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