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Is it REALLY a “purist” abolitionism that’s harming animal rights?

The growing adoption of abolitionism within the animal rights movement is causing considerable friction with the existing welfare/”neo”-welfare movement.
The problem here really is one of a fundamental difference, not just in tactics but in general outlook. If you can defend “welfare in the meantime” you’re really not objecting to welfare in any sense at all. I understand that this may be a difficult message to really hear, for some people (it was for me); it remains, however, somewhat inescapable. This isn’t to say that you must object to welfare, just that you shouldn’t claim that you do, if you do not, in fact, object to it. Just as a non-vegan cannot meaningfully claim to be vegan, a non-abolitionist is only muddying the waters if he or she claims to support abolition and welfare at the same time. They’re contradictory positions.
Imagine trying to resolve any two other pairs of contradictory ethical positions: I’m opposed to rape, but I think regulating the rape of women is an ethically good thing, since we can’t absolutely prevent rape in all cases.
I’m opposed to sexually abusing children, but since a future that’s free of any and all instances of sexual abuse is a long way off, I advocate a “realistic” approach that regulates some sexual exploitation of children “in the meantime.”
Where abolitionist animal rights and the welfare movement are concerned, the conflicting ideas are as follows:
  • I do not support ANY exploitation of animals for human ends – regulated or otherwise
  • I support/allow for the use of some animal exploitation, provided that it’s ‘well regulated

These are not resolvable positions.

People may claim that advocating for welfare is preparing the ground for a future adoption of an animal rights consciousness. This is absurd. Advocating for “humane” use of animals does not in any way argue that no use of animals is morally justifiable.
This is akin to saying, “rape is bad, but if you must rape, don’t beat the woman up afterward.” Sure, it’s “less” suffering for the rape victim if she is not also physically assaulted, but it makes no sense to claim that a “regulatory” approach to rape will somehow eliminate it. This fundamentally misses the point: there is no necessity to rape, period. There is nonecessity to eat animals. Accepting that welfarism is in any sense an acceptable strategy is to concede a flawed assumption at the outset. How does this make vegan advocacy easier? All I’ve ever heard, so far, as justification for this is a hope that at some unspecified future point society may have grown up a little. Maybe. That’s exactly the same future hope I have that society will change. So long as this rests solely on the speculated future outcome of each of our approaches, there’s nothing being offered here that really argues against abolitionist advocacy, or any of the welfare critiques that have been offered by the emerging abolitionist movement so far. The claims of “reduced suffering” of the welfare movement do not hold up to any real scrutiny.
It’s important to be unequivocal here: welfare advocacy is not in any sense aiding the animal rights cause, and in some very important respects that welfare advocacy makes it needlessly more difficult to actually advocate a rights-based position. Nobody has really addressed why animal rights advocates should be supporting the animal welfare movement. If we’re critical of the alphabet soup of welfare organizations, there is inevitably no shortage of welfare apologists who muddy the waters by claiming that we’re “bashing other activists.” We’re disagreeing with them. If you think that disagreement is unwarranted, please tell me why I should be doing what you’re doing, instead.
I’ve recently gotten into two separate discussions in which welfare apologists have argued that there’s “no good evidence” that either approach (neo-welfare and abolitionism) is more effective than the other.
I disagree, but I’ll accept the premise for a moment: fine. Assuming that’s the case, why should I agree with the welfare position in this that welfare advocacy is making anything any easier, particularly if I have direct experience – which, people probably won’t count as legitimate evidence of anything, but some folks are already on record saying there IS no good evidence either way – that it’s doing exactly the opposite?

The abolitionist approach is doing “nothing?”

Will my fellow animal rights advocates over on the “interim welfare” side of the fence please stop claiming that abolitionism means “doing nothing?”


If this is your claim, you’re either misrepresenting, or misunderstanding, the abolitionist approach. It’s hardly “do nothing.” If what I’m doing is nothing, this is a hell of a lot of work for that “nothing.” 
An abolitionist position says, “support things that actually eliminate – not meaninglessly ‘regulate’ – animal use, suffering and consumption.”

Right now, that means PRIMARILY educating people about veganism, advocating it as the moral baseline of the animal rights movement (you can’t rationally claim to support animal rights and eat cheese pizza), and – this is the kicker -rebutting the exaggerated claims of the animal welfare movement with facts, and a rigorous critical response that makes a clear, and unequivocal case that animal use is the fundamental problem, instead of animal treatment.

Welfarism has had the better part of two centuries to lead to the reduction and elimination of animal consumption, as welfare-to-rights AR folks claim they’re doing. These folks are good, well-intentioned people, but they’re misguided. They aren’t looking at the facts.

Animal welfare as a means of achieving animal RIGHTS is a dead end.

So long as the animal welfare movement keeps sending the mixed message that some animals (the “kindly treated” ones) are acceptable to eat, wear, or in other ways use for human ends, the animal rights movement MUST be willing to present a clear case that this is a flawed approach; it’s morally flawed, and it’s practically flawed.

There’s no empirical evidence – none at all – that animal welfarism has accomplished anything but the most minor reductions in animal suffering. It has not eliminated animal use in any way at all. 
We MUST attack this on both fronts – vegan education and outreach, and countering the welfare movement’s false claims of “victory for animals” – in the near term before we can *ever* hope of accomplishing the larger goal in the long term: a systematic reappraisal of the moral and legal status of animals as nonhuman rights holders instead of human chattel property.

This is not “doing nothing,” by a long shot.