The people in the animal welfare movement are good, well-intentioned people. But welfare is still fundamentally a wrongheaded approach.
It’s taken me a while to really see this; my aim has little or nothing to do with getting people to feel good (or bad) about themselves, and everything to do with advocating for animal liberation. I don’t particularly care, ultimately, what humans think about themselves, because everyone is going to justify whatever they’re already doing, most of the time.
The problem, as I see it, is this:
The animal welfare movement has had, say, 200 years to change the culture and influence thinking, and globally we’re killing and eating more animals now than ever before. To the degree that the animal torture industries adopt any ”humane” regulation they do so when it’s in their commercial interest. The situation isn’t made any better by exchanging one kind of crate for another, or slapping a “humane” or “organic” sticker on dead animal flesh.
My effort is to get people to see, and to get people to adopt a vegan, abolitionist mindset; again, if we don’t stand, uncompromisingly for at least some things, the AR movement doesn’t really mean anything. I believe that animal welfare is well-intentioned. It’s also not really accomplishing anything. Granted, neither is the animal rights movement, right now, but that’s a question of numbers. When we reach a tipping point and the number of actual vegans (instead of fish-eating, beef-only-on-Sundays “vegetarians”) becomes significant, then the AR movement will have real impact.
But we won’t get there if we water down the message and tell people that welfarist “interim goals” that largely benefit the torture industries are accomplishing something good. In so many ways the animal welfare movement is a band-aid on a larger problem. The deeper problem is that we’re spending all of our time putting different colored band-aids ON that problem instead of really saying, “you know, if I stop slicing my hand open with that kitchen knife…”
I would agree that we might be more effective if we animal rights and animal welfare advocates could work together, the animal welfare movement simply wishes to be told that using animals is ethically justifiable, when, of course, it isn’t. There’s a largely unbridgeable chasm between the rights and welfare mindsets, that starts with saying “animals are acceptable to use for human purposes.” I’m just not going to do that. It’s not about intellectual superiority or moral purity. It’s about the numbers. The welfare movement has had oodles of time, and heavens knows how many millions upon millions of dollars heaped upon it, and precious precious little in the way of actual results to show for it.
It’s time we recognized that it just isn’t working, and did something else.
It’s fine that folks do animal rescue; but rescuing a few pigs, cows or chickens, here and there, while eating ice cream or cheese is so profoundly morally schizophrenic that it’s almost not worth commenting on (I know more than a handful of non-vegan, pseudo-vegetarian “animal rescue workers” with a vested financial interest, given that they work in farm animal rescue with attaching themselves to the animal rights movement; they still eat non-flesh animal products. Trying to point out the disconnect in this line of thinking tends to be a waste of time).
Telling ourselves that rescuing a few animals, here and there, is what we need to do to discharge our moral obligation to animals is worse than useless: it promotes a false sense of accomplishment. Yes, for the individual animals saved, it’s something, but in the larger scope of things, because we’re too afraid of being seen as “too confrontational” and we’re constantly willing to water down our advocacy for things like, yes, veganism, it’s not materially accomplishing anything.
We need to reach a tipping point where there are enough vegans to actually commercially affect these industries. Until we get there, not a bit of it will mean much on either side of the fence. But we won’t get there advocating half-measures and essentially the status quo.