Dedicated to the premise of the animal rights movement – that only basic legal rights can make possible humane treatment of the vast majority of nonhuman animals – A 12-Step Program to Recover from Animal Use, Exploitation, and Destruction summarizes practical ways to move society beyond the animal welfare systems, that have failed to eliminate the present horrible exploitation, toward the rights the animals need.
1. Nonhuman animals have the moral rights, which should be established as basic legal rights, not to be used by human beings, not to be property, and to live according to their natures. Animals should never be subjected to human-inflicted suffering or interference.
2. Insist on basic legal rights – not secondary rights without basic ones already in place – as the primary goal, with secondary rights and enforcement mechanisms to follow achievement of that goal.
3. Do not confuse "helping animals," "improving conditions" for exploited animals, or other animal-welfare measures with animal rights objectives or goals, since animal rights by definition means getting to where nonhuman animals don't need human help because human beings are not using or interfering with them.
4. Where animals are known to be suffering due to the failure of the animal-welfare system to protect them from human beings, demand that authorities act to remedy the situation and educate about the inherent inability of the welfare system to protect the animals.
5. Educate in part by debunking claims that animal rights is anti-human and by demonstrating that animal rights is what humans need most, just as women's rights benefit men and civil rights benefit dominant as well as oppressed groups.
6. Communicate that humans are deserving of animal rights that do not currently exist or are not enforced, and that animal exploitation, oppression and abuse are original sources of similar mistreatment of humans. Animal rights should help expand, not diminish, human rights, except that human beings will no longer see themselves as having the right to use or interfere with other animals.
7. Educate people about the way capitalism and politics work, to emphasize that animal rights is a matter of justice rather than personal traits such as compassion, caring, or empathy. This is not to dismiss those traits as unimportant -- they're crucial to all interactions among human beings and between humans and other sentient beings -- but to heighten understanding of the important difference between the personal and the political, the incidental and the systemic, feelings and principles.
Compassion is natural except in a very small percentage of people. Merely acting on compassion is insufficient to change institutions, laws, and societies. Injustice isn’t due to individual people’s lack of compassion or empathy; it is due to strong incentives to overcome those positive traits.
8. Campaign to change practices, policies, regulations, and laws regarding government agencies and institutions that promote and/or support animal exploitation with public funds.
Current examples include efforts to reform the School Lunch Program; to end the teaching of “animal science” at our land-grant universities; and to end public funding of animal experimentation. Additional possibilities: work to end subsidies to the feed-crop, flesh, milk and egg industries; to end county extensions’ direct service to the flesh, milk and egg industries; to remove promotions of flesh, milk and eggs from county extension home-economics presentations; to end local, county, state and federal government purchases of and reimbursements for flesh, milk and eggs and cleaning products tested on animals; and more.
9. Work to eliminate the public-relations efforts of government agencies and other publicly funded and subsidized entities (usually on behalf of private industry at public expense) to maintain and promote the flesh, milk, and egg industries.
Through their supporters, the flesh, dairy and egg industries maintain the human-supremacist / speciesist / animal-exploitation status quo through subordination of up-to-date knowledge to popular false beliefs (social fictions), as when they promote false notions that human beings are natural omnivores, that Homo sapiens evolved as hunters, that flesh, milk and eggs are needed in the human diet or are “naturally” consumed by humans.
10. Demand in all circumstances that public entities adhere to the principle of equal consideration of equal interests by strictly enforcing Constitutional guarantees, open-records and open-meetings laws and by relying on substantive empirical evidence for decision-making when such evidence conflicts with what is popular or what is demanded by elites.
Since equal consideration of equal interests is basic to animal rights and to the rule of law by which the United States purports to govern itself but has remained subordinate to might-makes-right in the economic, political and legal systems, making equal consideration of equal interests a top priority in all matters will help direct society toward equal consideration of all sentient beings’ interests and away from the current human-nonhuman relationship guided by might-makes-right.
11. Define as victories, meaningful interim results, and achievable objectives education as to what animal rights is and animal rights' enormous benefits to human beings.
12. Have faith that small numbers of people can bring about fundamental change; do not be overly concerned with popularity or the early lack of popularity of the animal rights message.
Too much emphasis on popularity and support early on was a key factor in the declared animal rights movement’s reverting to animal welfare, where its strategies, tactics, and language remain for the most part today.