Advocating for Animals, part 6
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Advocating for Animals, part 6

Abolitionists reject those animal welfare reforms that reduce animal mistreatment but fall short of ending animal exploitation. This strategy seems incompatible with efforts to reduce animal suffering by passing laws or setting industry-wide standards of animal treatment. Whether working with legislators or with animal exploitation industries, welfare reforms invariably involve compromise. But, compromise seems incompatible with an abolitionist approach.

Some abolitionists have argued that elimination of a category of animal abuse accords with abolitionism. For example, they might approve of laws or standards that eliminate battery cages for egg-laying hens, that end force-feeding geese for pate de foie gras, or that stop production of veal. However, as Joan Dunayer has noted in her book Speciesism, this is really just playing semantic games. Why not call ďabolitionĒ standards that still allow for caged egg-laying hens but end the practice of confining them so tightly that they canít spread their wings, or permit overfeeding and killing geese for pate de foie gras but which end forced-feeding, or which end the confinement of calves to narrow stalls but continue to kill them for veal?

Abolitionism that permits gradual improvements in how badly humans abuse nonhumans differs from animal welfare primarily by the ways they use language. Consequently, many abolitionists reject gradual reforms. Though this would seem to make progress using legislation or establishing industry standards impossible, many assert that reforms arenít helpful. They argue that the only reforms we see are those endorsed by animal exploitation industries, for example because they can reduce costs. Reforms opposed by powerful industries donít become laws or fail to be enforced. Is this a valid concern? I will consider this next essay.

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