Why The Mainstream “Animal Movement” Promotes Peter Singer
Corporate welfarism is a problem. The various groups and “animal advocates” of the mainstream movement have spent the last four decades or so forming partnerships with institutional animal exploiters and – increasingly over the last two decades – have spent their time and resources slapping stamps of “humane” approval on the backs of animal corpses and secretions. Animal welfare is a business. It does nothing in the way of helping animals (on account of the limitations imposed by their property status) and actually increases the publics acceptance of animal exploitation by making people feel more comfortable about using animals as resources. It perpetuates the cycle of exploitation through promotion of that exploitation as a normative matter.
One thing that these groups and “advocates” have in common is their reliance on Peter Singer for ideological grounding. The mainstream “animal movement,” by and large, endorses Singer and holds him in high-regard as the so called “father” of their movement (more on this here). The reason a lot of animal welfare organisations get angry when you point out their moral inconsistencies, their speciesism and their promotion of animal exploitation, is that adherence to Singer’s moral theory is what enables them to function as a business enterprise. As abolitionists, we reject Singer’s position on the basis that it is overtly speciesist in denying the inherent value of all sentient beings, their desire for continued existence, and the fact that Singer embraces utilitarian moral reasoning and rejects fundamental rights. His position, understood correctly, is nothing but a licence to continue using and killing animals in “compassionate” ways.
His work is focused on a highly ambiguous notion that can be interpreted in countless different ways depending on the preferences and sensibilities of who you are talking to; the idea that we simply need to “reduce animal suffering.” Its ambiguity is what makes it easy to shape and market for the purpose of selling campaigns. Its lack of derivative meaning is what makes it appealing to non-vegans who wish to feel like they are “doing something” for animals without actually having to do anything.
Singer’s work is, in many ways, the machine that the mainstream movement uses to print money. They focus their campaigns and fundraising efforts on obscure forms of animal exploitation in order to garner the support of those who actively engage in animal exploitation themselves, and they justify this on the basis that they are attempting to “reduce suffering.” Rational discourse and discussion is strictly prohibited and if you attempt to point out the flaws in their reasoning you are labelled as divisive or as some form of oppressor for daring to question the actions of those who are “doing something.”
From a business perspective, this is a very clever tactic. Not only are they able to function and grow through the promotion of speciesism, they insulate themselves from criticism by labelling all who speak out against them as oppressors. We care about animals suffering right now and you don’t, so the story goes. The reality is they simply do not like the theory that fuels their entire enterprise being criticised. Without the ability to sell campaigns seeking to “reduce suffering,” they have no business.
Their paternal embrace of Peter Singer also allows them to justify promoting veganism not as a moral imperative, but merely as a way of “reducing suffering,” no different to consuming “cage free eggs” or “humanely raised” animal flesh. The sole purpose of Singer’s moral theory with respect to animals is to apply the principle of equal consideration to their interests in not suffering; he can envisage a world in which we still raise and kill animals for human consumption but where their interest in not suffering is given equal weight. This is possible for Singer given that he does not believe we are harming sentient beings by killing them. He considers sentient beings to be “vessels” of pleasure and pain, and – because as a partly hedonistic utilitarian the maximisation of utility involves bringing about the most “happiness” in the world – so long as the animal (or “vessel”) is replaced with another animal upon being killed, no wrong has been committed to the deceased. In Singer’s mind the deceased did not possess the desire for continuing to live, and utility remains maximised through the birth of a new animal to take the place of the previous “vessel.”
So for Singer – and subsequently the “movement” he drops off at school at 8 o’clock every morning – veganism is not an essential component of fulfilling our moral obligations to animals. This has become an incredibly lucrative idea for many animal welfare businesses. In effect, they can market and sell various levels of morality where – as a business strategy – there are explicitly no moral baselines. And there never will be. If they promoted veganism as a moral baseline, they’d cutting off a vast portion of their donor base who want to continue feeling that they are “doing something” whilst doing absolutely nothing. These groups continue taking money from these people whilst simultaneously promoting animal exploitation in the form of single-issue campaigns, petitions and welfare reform campaigns.
Peter Singer adores these measures because he sees them as being aligned with his desire to “reduce suffering.” The reality is that – like the theory that ostensibly supports them – they fail on both moral and practical grounds. This is why the mainstream “animal movement” unanimously promotes Singer; his work quite literally gives them a moral pass to promote animal exploitation and make a great deal of money doing it.
Join our abolitionist countermovement and become an advocate for the recognition of animal value and the abolishment of animal property status. On the individual level, that necessarily means going vegan. As a practical matter it means educating others to do the same.
Photo from Ave Maria Radio