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Welfarist vegans sound a lot like non-vegans when talking to Abolitionists

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In our short time converting to an unapologetic vegan blog, we’ve noticed that some vegans don’t like the abolitionist approach we lean towards. In fact, talking to welfarist vegans (those who advocate for the treatment of animals and not necessarily the use) sometimes feels reminiscent of talking to non-vegans. Check out some common arguments in action below, and tell us if you can see the parallels between a non-vegan argument and a welfarist one.

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Non-Vegan: Just because I eat animals doesn’t mean I don’t love them. I always campaign for dogs and cats!

Vegan: All animals suffer and don’t want to die, it would be absurd to not want to harm some animals while continuing to eat others. Veganism is the only solution.

Welfarist: I’m campaigning against Sea World, it’s so bad what happens to the orcas.

Abolitionists: All animals suffer, it would be speciesist to promote protecting some animals and not all animals, we should campaign for people to go vegan. Veganism is the only solution.

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Non-Vegan: I care about animals, I donate to animal groups all the time!

Vegan: Don’t you see how absurd it is to eat animals, but donate to save their lives? Being vegan is the answer. Donations don’t matter, your actions do.

Welfarist: We should always donate to organizations like MFA and PETA, every step counts.

Abolitionists: We don’t need to donate, being vegan and promoting veganism as the moral baseline is the answer. Donations don’t matter, your actions do.

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Non-Vegan: I don’t buy products tested on animals, wear fur or eat foie gras,  aren’t I awesome?

Vegan: You don’t buy products tested on animals, wear fur or eat foie gras but you still buy products made with animals, wear leather or wool and eat other animals. Do you really not see the connection? That’s wrong. Go Vegan.

Welfarist: We need to campaign against products that are tested on animals, the fur industry and foie gras, these industries are horrible!

Abolitionists: Campaigning against animal testing, fur or foie gras, etc. but not campaigning against  the total use of animals only makes people feel comfortable with continuing to use some animals but not all animals. Single Issue Campaigns are ineffective and make no sense. Promote Veganism

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Non-Vegan: I reduced my meat intake. Baby steps! I’m on a journey!

Vegan: Yes, but there is no difference between milk and steak. And if you know it’s not morally right to eat or wear animals, why not eliminate it? You really need to think about veganism as a lifestyle change.

Welfarist: Try meatless Monday! Baby steps! We’re all on a journey.

Abolitionists: Yes, but there is no difference between milk and steak. And if you know it’s not morally right to eat or wear animals, why not promote to eliminate all animal products without compromise? You really need to think about veganism as a lifestyle change.

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Non-Vegans: We have laws that protect animals. Haven’t you heard of Temple Grandin?

Vegan: Laws are only there to make you feel better about killing animals. They’ve been around for 200 years and we’ve only see an increase in the killing of animals. The only real way to end animal suffering and death is to go vegan.

Welfarist: Laws are important, we need to fight for cage-less, bigger cages and more laws to protect animals.

Abolitionists:  Laws are only there to make society feel better about killing animals. They’ve been around for 200 years and we’ve only see an increase in the killing of animals. The only real way to protect animals is to go vegan and promote veganism as a moral baseline.

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Non-Vegan: Fuck you, vegans! You’ve ruined my dinner by making me feel guilty. I care about animals!  Don’t tell me what to do! We all love animals in our way.

Vegan: I’m just trying to tell you what’s really happening. Can you please take some time to review these books and movies? I’m not judging, I’m trying to educate.

Welfarist: Fuck you, abolitionists! Don’t you see what I’m doing matters! You’re divisive and purist. Don’t tell me what to do, I love animals in my own way.

Abolitionists: I’m just trying to tell you on what’s really happening. Can you please take some time to review the abolitionist approach. I’m not judging, I’m trying to educate.

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Non-Vegan: All vegans are the same, I hate PETA.

Vegan: We are all individuals, with a common goal. Not all vegans have to like PETA.

Welfarist: All abolitionists are the same, I hate Gary Francione.

Abolitionists: We are all individuals, with a common goal. Whether you like Gary Francione is irrelevant, what’s important is the message of veganism.

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No one likes to be told that what they think is wrong, we get it. But when it comes to advocating for veganism, we have to put aside our own egos, and do what’s best for animals. However, when vegans and activists decide to get together in groups and organizations, the message of veganism is often compromised, or lost. Gary Francione’s approach is the only one that doesn’t compromise the message of veganism, and promotes it as a moral baseline. Take a step back, see the big picture, and do some reading on Gary Francione’s theory, before jumping to conclusions on the message of abolition. Then, let’s meet up and discuss how we can promote veganism.

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0 Comments
  • ModVegan

    I think Francione’s theory makes perfect sense, and abolition should be our goal. However, I do think there is value in pursuing animal welfare legislation simultaneously (as PETA does). We need to constantly remind the public that you can’t eliminate cruelty while keeping species as your slaves. Creating laws against cruelty is important, as long as we are unrelenting in our ultimate goal of abolition. I don’t think giving water to a dying animal or trying to relieve suffering on factory farms is taking away from the abolitionist cause. It’s like saying Germans shouldn’t have created awareness about the prison camps, because treating prisoners better would have just made the people complacent. People are complacent, and welfarists just remind them of the monstrous results of their actions.

    • Greg Laviolette

      Francione’s position is that vegans should promote veganism. Welfare changes will come from within industry to make their products more appealing regardless of what PeTA, MFA, COK, HSUS or any other welfarist animal “rights” charity does to push these minor improvements along. More vegans = more industry sponsored welfare changes. Abolition and welfare are at odds with each other. Welfare will never lead to abolition.

      • John B

        Welfare regulations only come because of the pressure or those orgs and the people who support them. Those companies do not offer them up, they fight until the public demands them. More vegans = less sales but no more consideration for their welfare. In my life, abolition and welfare work together depending on the audience and at what stage of compassion they are at.

        • Greg Laviolette

          Every industry adapts to meet the every changing preferences of their clientele. Let me explain, “More vegans = more industry sponsored welfare changes”. The more vegans that are running around increases the odds that non-vegans will know a vegan and the more non-vegans that know vegans increases the odds that these non-vegans will become aware of the violence that they choose to participate in. Some of these non-vegans will become vegan but a lot won’t but some will start to purchase products of “happy exploitation”. The more cage free eggs that are sold creates a demand that industry will meet. Industry will change regardless of what these corporate charities do. Vegans have a moral and pragmatic obligation to promote veganism. Anything less is horribly speciesist.

          • John B

            More vegans does not mean more industry sponsored welfare changes. Logically, someone producing and selling meat would not consider the thoughts of someone who has vowed to not use their products. That would be like designing a car for someone who vowed to only use public transportation. In essence catering to clients you will never have. I agree, “the more cage free eggs that are sold creates a demand that industry will meet.” Similarly, the more exposure the horrible cruel standards the industry utilizes, the more people that will never stop using animal products might be inclined to use those cage free products. Becoming a vegan is the most effective thing one can do as you know to affect cruelty, the environment, and their health. Part of being a vegan does not require that you promote it although many do for obvious reasons. Once one realizes the moral and ethical considerations of veganism many become quite active. If someone does nothing but become one, are they then speciesist? That is in essence what your last two sentences stated. Let me ask you this, if you saw a stray cat limping badly, that was obviously injured and needed medical care, would you say no, it would be speciesist to help just that one cat? Or if some organization was trying to raise funds to rescue an endangered animal from a zoo and find a sanctuary to send it too you would not donate? Tell me that when I joined with four others in my area, got ALDF involved and we won a lawsuit to remove tigers and lemurs from a hellhole zoo that it was speciesist of me and I should have been simply promoted veganism. Promoting veganism would have done nothing to help those animals. Do me a favor, tell me in straight forward terms why I should not follow my personal credo and I will repeat it for you. “If I can help any animal, even if only briefly, or in some small way, I will.” I get the speciesist argument, but to present it in such a black and white way when life sometimes is gray, is illogical.

  • John B

    I actively seek the abolition of animal use, promote veganism, and morally and ethically believe veganism serves as a moral baseline in my life. Having said that, if I can help any animal, even if only briefly or in some small way, I will. I will never turn my back to a situation in which I can practice that in lieu of making a phlosophical point.

  • MagentaRex

    The difference is that the welfarist vegan still hasn’t conceptualized that the main problem is human supremacy. Human supremacy will manifest in stages from least harmful (exclusion), to most (catastrophic expoitation – being-as-tool confusion). It’s like saying, I’m not going to own slaves, or eat them, that’s the best way… but it’s ok if you do. You can be a human supremacist and a dietary or ethical vegan at the same time. It takes more awareness to put the pieces together on human supremacy and the implications there. Reading David Nibert’s book Animal Oppression and Human Violence is an excellent next step for people seeking resources on this topic. I think all vegans are approaching the realization that all beings are sacred and beyond valuation. Humans are not more important just because we are, or seem to be, more complex. We’re all just versions of the same giant life program….Gaia.

    • You can believe in animal equality and support animal welfare legislation – the two are not mutually exclusive. I want an end to all animal exploitation and abuse, but in the meantime I don’t think we need to undermine efforts to save animals and reduce suffering in the meantime.

      • Sarah

        Exactly, and anything that can promote awareness of animal cruelty to non-vegans is a good thing in my book.

        • Abolition and welfarism are in direct conflict with one another. Abolition states that animal use should be abolished, while welfarism states that animal use should be regulated and made ‘better’ for animals. It’s not about treating animals better, it’s all about not using animals *at all*. If we say to a person that they should opt to eat less meat, or less dairy for example, then we are implying that animal use is OK as long as it is ‘reduced’ (or made better through their treatment and such), while abolitionist veganism unequivocally states that we should not be using animals period. Welfarism is speciesism given how we would never focus on making exploitation more comfortable or more ‘humane’ where humans are concerned.

    • Going vegan is a very simple concept – one that most of us already agree with in that it’s wrong to unnecessarily inflict suffering and death on animals. If we agree that it’s wrong to harm animals then veganism is our moral obligation. Whether or not human supremacy is the main problem or not is irrelevant to the nonhuman persons and their continued harm through their use. They can care less about what the cause is or what human ideals we can point to. They simply want to live and continue living without being regarded as economic commodities or slaves for other humans. It’s very easy to go vegan. We do not need to focus on other ideals and philosophies in order to see how it’s wrong to eat, wear, or use animals. It’s much more simpler than that.

  • Soren Impey

    This is the most unsophisticated characterization of utilitarian veganism I have seen in many years. I value the rational abolitionist approach even though I disagree with it. This collection of puerile strawmen does rational abolitionism a disservice.

    • I could not disagree more. Abolition is all about unequivocal justice and not about us or our preferences. Welfarism on the other hand is utilitarian in that we must make everyone happy and take into consideration where the nonvegans are at and by giving them the option to be happy in their continued exploitation (whenever we promote baby steps or ‘journeys’) while completely saturating the message that animal use is wrong no matter what. I do not see anything utilitarian about the abolitionist approach to animal rights.

      • Soren Impey

        *sigh*

        before you criticize something it would be helpful to have some minimal understanding of what you are criticizing.

        PS: not all welfarists are utilitarian. and not all utilitarians are welfarists.

  • Greg Laviolette

    I was at a Francione lecture a couple of years ago at Western and I recall a young couple telling Gary that they just acquired this website and wanted to abolition-ize it. So pleased that you did!

  • Gillian Moynihan

    Man, I was so excited about this site when I first found it. But straw man arguments are pointless at best, and this is just insulting (and perhaps worse, inaccurate and superficial). One less blog in my feed after today.

    • What exactly do you disagree with? Abolitionist approach veganism is clear, logical, and leaves no gray areas. Either we are vegan (or promoting veganism) or we participating in nonhuman exploitation (or promoting exploitation), there is no third choice. The abolitionist approach is the only nonspeciesist approach to vegan advocacy.

  • Jay Miller

    It’s no wonder the author supports the abolitionist position, as she doesn’t seem to understand the welfarist position at all.

    • What would lead you to that conclusion? Seems quite clear to me that the author understands welfarism very well.

  • ClearlyDemented

    Abolition should be the message. Vegans saying ‘hey, it’s not going to change overnight, so let’s just encourage people to stop wearing fur on Fridays so I can still have a job and people can feel good about themselves donating to my organization,’ it’s immoral. The message needs to be, this is the LEAST you can do. If people choose to do less than that, that’s what they choose. It is not our job to make people feel they’re doing the right thing by refraining from beating their slaves on Mondays or whatever. Before I ever heard Francione ever speak or knew the term, ‘abolitionist vegan’ I was one and was disgusted at the ‘non-profits’ that emailed me 3 times a day for donations and didn’t demand anything from their ‘members’ except for a credit card number. I believe some welfarists believe they’re doing the right thing. You just cannot do something wrong for the right reasons.

  • Sarah

    Of course abolition is what we want, but don’t shame people who start out with baby steps. Not every vegan did it overnight.

    • Yes we all do want the abolition of all animal use Sarah. There is nothing more efffective at getting people to abolish their animal use than to promote veganism *only*. By promoting veganism *only* can we help people get on board with veganism. If you present nonvegans with baby steps, (and baby steps simply means avoiding one form of animal exploitation while engaging in another) then the nonvegans will most usually opt for the least common denominator and go for the baby steps rather than go for veganism. In reality, veganism is a concept that most of us already agree with in that it is wrong to unnecessarily inflict suffering and death on nonhuman persons.

      So going vegan or telling nonvegans to go vegan is simply just us helping them act on the idea that they already hold dear. Promoting baby steps is unethical given how we are continuing to promote animal exploitation. And it makes no sense to tell a person that the goal is to eliminate their animal use yet tell them that it is fine that they continue to exploit ‘some animals’ in order to get to a point where they do not exploit *any* animals. Promoting these baby steps is speciesist and anthropocentric at best given how we are valuing human preference over doing the right thing. Not to mention that there is no guarantee that baby steps even lead to veganism. I’ve met countless people who have stayed decades in this ‘baby step’ mindset such as believing that vegetarianism will one day lead to veganism.

      But ultimately promoting baby steps should not be promoted because they are unethical. We would never promote baby steps in overcoming violent positions where humans are concerned. For example, we would never tell a sexist person, or even a racist person that baby steps are OK. So why must we twist things around where nonhuman persons are concerned? It must not be that way.

      Once we realize that using animals is unethical we then have a moral obligation to go vegan ASAP. Veganism is not a diet or a lifestyle. Veganism is a moral baseline. Veganism isn’t about us or our preferences but about the animals and what we owe them, as Gary Francione points out.

  • Emilia Leese

    Absolutely spot on!

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