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Reflections On Underground Non-Advocacy

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In response to my recent articles on PETA UK and Veganuary there have been a number of acrimonious voices dissenting against my criticism. I would like to take this opportunity to say that unless we can criticise and think rationally about the actions we take and the messages we promulgate in the public eye, we do not have a movement. Indeed, there has never been a unified movement asking for veganism. Veganuary, PETA UK, PETA, and the other large animal welfare businesses make up what we call the mainstream “animal movement.” That is, these are groups that make a business out of “animal advocacy” and necessarily water down the message in order to attract enough attention to self sustain as businesses. They run with the default welfarist paradigm that “reducing suffering” is all we need concern ourselves with and turn what should be a serious matter of fundamental morality into an exercise in human back patting and moral relativism. This is not conducive to a societal recognition of animal value. This is just more of the same corporate welfarism that has dominated society’s perception of animal issues for decades now and that continues to throw animal interests under the bus for the sake of fundraisers and fixed-trial morality where the only beneficiaries are the humans who feel better for “doing something.” Even when that “something” is actually worse than nothing as it merely continues to perpetuate the notion that our exploitation of animals is not a matter for serious moral consideration and can instead be rectified by attempting to “reduce suffering” for a fixed period of time. As highlighted in this Grumpy Old Vegans post, it doesn’t even do that.

Criticising these speciesist endeavours is an essential part of moving things forward and changing the conversation. We are part of the abolitionist countermovement and an important arm of that is highlighting the issues involved with the mainstream “animal movement,” as these issues are responsible for perpetuating the speciesism and confusion we seek to end.

Veganism represents a recognition of the moral value of animals and their right not to be used as resources. Just as promoting a fixed-trial period where people can “try” reducing the suffering of women by abstaining from beating them in February would constitute a denial of fundamental rights (by suggesting that morality is subjective and that all beating outside of February is fair game), so too do we promote and normalise the exploitation of animals by suggesting that people merely “try” to “reduce” animal “suffering” (or not, depending on individual preferences) for a fixed period of time.

Like humans, animals don’t just care about “suffering” a little less for a few weeks (Veganuary doesn’t even do this given how the animals who are “suffering” are already in existence at the time of the trial and because the demand for animal products remains relatively inelastic before, during, and after the trial). They care about their lives. They care about not being exploited at all and used as human property. Every time we promote a fixed-trial or a “challenge,” we deny this. We deny their most fundamental interests.

To move things forward for animals and to change the conversation away from how animals are treated and towards recognising their right not to be used at all, we need to focus our efforts on vegan education and veganism as a moral imperative. That is what we owe animals as a matter of moral obligation and it’s the only way we’ll change the default paradigm away from animals as property to animals as moral persons.

Please consider learning more about the abolitionist approach on the How Do I Go Vegan website and through reading the Animal Rights The Abolitionist Approach book. And why not get inspiration for your own abolitionist advocacy? Check out what abolitionist advocates are doing all around the world on the How Do I Go Vegan photo page.

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  • Such a pity — a tragedy, actually, for the (animal) victims — this needless, destructive, dogmatic divisiveness. So few vegans in the world, yet the “abolitionist” zealots fight with them instead of trying to reach the hearts of carnivores. This is not the way to cultivate compassion. Nor to reduce suffering. Nor, for that matter, to convert most people to veganism or abolition.
    A Non-Dogmatic Abolitionist

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