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Ten Myths of New Welfarism

“It’s not looking good for animals, to say the least, when even vegans oppose putting more resources into abolitionist vegan education.”

~ Facts and Explanation 7

In discussions with new welfarists, I am repeatedly faced with variations on the same old myths about abolitionism. It will be the purpose of this essay to correct ten of these myths with facts and explanations.

Myth 1:

Abolitionists are apathetic about nonhuman animal suffering.

Corollary to Myth 1:

Abolitionists want other animals to suffer as much as possible so people are motivated to go vegan.

Facts and Explanation 1:

Abolitionists care at least just as much, and likely more, about animal suffering than new welfarists do. We agree that less suffering is better than more suffering. We simply deny, from a rational and empirical standpoint, that animal suffering can be meaningfully reduced with welfare reforms and campaigns as long as animals are considered legal property and economic commodities. For overwhelming evidence in support of this empirical claim, read Animals, Property, and the Law. As additional overwhelming evidence, it is an uncontroversial fact that welfare reforms were just as useless to prevent or even reduce the torture and killing of human slaves in 19th century America as they are today for nonhumans. To deny this is to deny the severe torture and murder that was so prevalent in American human slavery right up to the complete emancipation of slaves.

Abolitionists believe as many resources as possible should be directed toward vegan education, which will serve to 1) increase the vegan population, eventually building an abolitionist political base; and 2) increase care and concern about animals as sentient beings generally.

Contrary to the Corollary to Myth 1, abolitionists believe that animals (human and nonhuman) are harmed not only by suffering, but by painless exploitation and painless death as well. In other words, abolitionists believe people ought to be motivated to go vegan simply because unnecessary exploitation and killing are wrong, and that 99.999% of our uses are unnecessary. It is the same argument used against human chattel slavery; and only speciesism, like racism did in much of human slavery in various societies, makes us morally blind to the atrocity of institutionalized exploitation and slaughter.

Myth 2:

Because countries with the best animal welfare laws have the most ethical vegans, animal welfare laws (and reforms and campaigns) cause people to become ethical vegans.

Facts and Explanation 2:

Myth 2 has the railcar pulling the engine rather than the engine pulling the railcar. Vegan education causes 1) new vegans, and 2) increased care and concern about animals as sentient beings generally. Such increased care and concern indirectly causes more welfare campaigns, more welfare regulations, and more welfare marketing gimmicks by industry.

Myth 3:

Abolitionists are “seduced by a theory.”

Facts and Explanation 3:

All social justice advocates guide their actions with a theory, regardless of the theory’s effectiveness, and regardless whether or not such advocates are even aware they are following a theory. It is quite ironic to read welfarists’ rants against abolitionists and our theory, and then have them tell us that we are the ones “seduced” by a theory, when they are so engrossed in following and defending new welfarist theory that they’re not even self-aware enough to realize it.

So, let’s be honest: We all have a theory, and to claim another advocate is “seduced” by a theory is little more than a demonstration of one’s “seduction” by an opposing theory. The relevant question is: Which of two incompatible theories is correct and effective, and more importantly, why? What reasons do we have for accepting one theory over an opposing theory? What evidence do we have to support one theory over another?

As many essays on this blog and other abolitionist blogs demonstrate (for example: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), we have much stronger reasons to believe, and far more evidence for, the claims that 1) new welfarism has been an abject failure over 30 years (and over 200 years for traditional welfarism), and 2) if there is any chance of meaningfully reducing suffering and eventually ending animal agriculture, it will be due to a permanently growing, grassroots movement that embraces the abolitionist approach of creative, non-violent, vegan education. Why new welfarists – who claim they want to reduce suffering and help eventually end animal agriculture – are so adamantly opposed to directing as many resources as possible to creative, non-violent, vegan education, is something that boggles the mind.

Myth 4:

Abolitionist vegan education is “all or nothing.”

Facts and Explanation 4:

I’ve never known anyone, other than the leaders of the corporate welfarist movement, to perceive abolitionist vegan education as “all or nothing.” Indeed, my experience in communicating with the non-movement public has been that abolitionist vegan education leads to greater concern about the issue (with the rare exception of sadists and psychopaths). Whether such concern – in the face of abolitionist vegan education – leads to a new vegan or merely more concern about other animals depends on the person, but it almost never results in “nothing.” I’m basing this on years of experience communicating with people, but the claim that abolitionist vegan education leads to “either vegan or nothing” also strikes me as ludicrous.

Myth 5:

By criticizing welfare reforms, abolitionists effectively prevent future welfare reforms. (Or, even worse for new welfarists, abolitionists are a threat to the money-making potential of the industry-welfarist partnership.)

Facts and Explanation 5:

As long as there are non-vegans, there will be welfare concerns over the resulting torture and death of other animals. And as long as there are welfare concerns, there will be welfare campaigns and attempts at reforms. Welfarism is a symbiotic phenomenon of modern, institutionalized human and nonhuman exploitation. That is, welfarism needs and feeds on institutionalized exploitation; and institutionalized exploitation needs and feeds on welfarism.

Myth 6:

Abolitionists 1) are lazy, 2) “don’t do anything,” and/or 3) advocate only on the Web.

(Blog author note: Shame on us for using the Web so damn much).

Facts and Explanation 6:

Blanket statements like Myth 6 are nothing more than a demonstration of some welfarists’ prejudice and ignorance against most or all abolitionists motivated by their personal resentment over disagreement.

Let’s ask what would logically follow if it were true that “All or most abolitionists are lazy; don’t do anything; and/or are limited to Web advocacy.” Hmmm . . . given the growing number of abolitionists over the past four years, and given the strong welfarist response to “lazy, do-nothing abolitionists,” it seems that abolitionist theory, even if “only Web-based,” is amazingly powerful!

The truth is that one cannot have the growth of, and reaction to, the abolitionist approach in only four years with both a “weak theory” and mostly or only “lazy do-nothings” promoting it. To explain the current success in four years, some combination of strong theory and effective promoters is necessary.

Myth 7:

Welfare campaigns and reforms drive up the cost of production.

Facts and Explanation 7:

The welfare measures proposed by organizations like HSUS and PETA (such as cage-free, CAK, and gestation crate elimination) are presented to industry by HSUS and PETA as ways to improve economic efficiency in mass exploitation. That is, groups like HSUS and PETA act as free-of-charge consultants to industry on matters of economic efficiency and welfare. Indeed, many studies (some funded by industry) that show that the welfare measures proposed will not only eventually cover the capital cost of implementing them, but be highly profitable thereafter. Further, these welfare measures are a marketing boon, as industry can assure consumers that the animals are living much better lives than they actually are. And as industry gradually phases in these changes, HSUS and PETA can yell “Victory!” to their donors, increasing donations. HSUS and PETA also publicly praise industry for implementing the measures, further assuring consumers that everything is fine. So, industry wins; consumers win; HSUS and PETA win! The animals? Well, they’re still processed at the rate of 56 billion annually and climbing. If anyone thinks that we can raise and slaughter anywhere near the magnitude of over one billion animals weekly (over 100 million daily) without intensive farming causing massive suffering, they are deluding themselves; I don’t care how the victims are raised and slaughtered.

In addition to all the benefits noted above that industry receives from welfarism, regulations further strengthen industry by adding layers of inspector jobs and bureaucracy, legitimizing and politicizing the institution. Industry is then more entrenched and politically powerful than ever.

Seriously considering the reality of the above points, the only thing that can possibly erode and threaten industry is a viable abolitionist vegan movement. But to be viable, according to political scientists, such an abolitionist vegan movement must make up at least 20%, if not 30% or more, of the electorate of a country or society. Right now, abolitionist vegans, albeit currently growing rapidly in number, make up only a fraction of vegans, and vegans make up such a small percentage of society that the statistical margin of error of even a very expensive survey would make the results meaningless. Welfarism, on the other hand, has almost everyone else in society on its side, including industry, despite its ostensible resistance to forced regulation.

It’s not looking good for animals, to say the least, when even vegans oppose putting more resources into abolitionist vegan education.

Myth 8:

Abolitionists are “divisive,” and generate “infighting.”

Facts and Explanation 8:

The accusation of “divisiveness” is nothing more than an attempt by the 30 year-old new welfarist establishment to stifle disagreement. Abolitionists are no more “divisive” than new welfarists.

Myth 9:

We’re all on the same side, but abolitionists cause “infighting.”

Facts and Explanation 9:

First, abolitionism and new welfarism are two profoundly different philosophies with advocates engaged in very different activities based on deep philosophical differences. This means we are not on the same side. Since we’re not on the same side, there can be no “infighting.”

Second, disagreement is not fighting, it is disagreement.

Myth 10:

Nineteenth century American abolitionists were like today’s new welfarists, not like today’s abolitionists.

Facts and Explanation 10:

Nineteenth century American abolitionists were like today’s abolitionists, not like today’s new welfarists, or we might still have legal human slavery in America today. Yes, there were plenty of people who adamantly opposed abolitionists, and many of the same debates today are repetitions of the debates 180 years ago; but it was abolitionists who called for the end of slavery, not its regulation and continuation. It was people like William Lloyd Garrison who are most similar to modern day abolitionists; and who are to be credited for moving society away from slavery.

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