Understanding the Welfarist Position
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

By Gary Francione, The Abolitionist Approach
September 2013

It’s always better to do “less bad” rather than “more bad.” But “less bad” and “more bad” are both still bad.

Think about this:

Joe the Bully is hitting a little child with a big stick. He then picks up a slightly smaller stick, which causes the child a bit less pain, and proceeds to continue to hit the child.

Is it better that he uses the smaller stick? Yes.

It’s always better to do “less bad” rather than “more bad.” But “less bad” and “more bad” are both still bad.

Should we have campaigns to urge that bullies like Joe use smaller sticks when brutalizing innocent children? No, of course not.

But that is exactly what animal groups are doing with their welfare reform campaigns promoting “cage-free” eggs, “crate-free” pork, etc.

Should we praise Joe because he’s taking a “baby step” toward not being a bully by hitting the child with the smaller stick? No, of course not.

But that is exactly what animal welfare groups are doing when they encourage people to eat “cage-free” eggs or “crate-free” pork, or when they give awards to animal exploiters.

Should we claim that those who criticize what Joe is doing in hitting the child with the smaller stick are not being “compassionate” toward Joe because he’s taking a “baby step” in the “right” direction? No, of course not.

But that is exactly what animal welfare supporters claim: if we say those who consume “happy” animal products are engaged in action that is morally wrong, we are not being “compassionate.”

Should we claim that those who criticize what Joe is doing in hitting the child with the smaller stick are “bashing” Joe? No, of course not.

But that is exactly what animal welfare supporters say. If an abolitionist says to a welfarist or a welfarist group that promoting “cage-free” eggs or “crate-free” pork (or other “happy” animal product) is not a good idea, they are accused of “bashing” the person or group.

The choice between the abolitionist approach and the welfare approach is crystal clear. You just have to decide where your moral compass points.


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