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Our Voices, Our Movement: How Vegans Can Move Beyond the “Welfare-Abolition Debate”

Dr. Melanie Joy speaks about the "welfare -vs- abolition "debate"", and suggests a new way of thinking about this issue. 

Our Voices, Our Movement: How Vegans Can Move Beyond the “Welfare-Abolition Debate”

Written by Dr. Melanie Joy 

 

For years I have remained silent on the “welfare-abolition debate,” believing that my limited time and energy as an activist were best directed elsewhere. But recent events have compelled me to witness the profound anger, confusion, guilt, weariness, and despair this issue triggers in vegans – vegans whose commitment and compassion never cease to astound and inspire me. So I could not, in good conscience, avoid contemplating this issue and sharing my reflections.

Much has been written about the content of the issue – the specific ideas and arguments that comprise each position. In fact, virtually all that has been discussed in regard to the “debate” is content-based, and one would be hard-pressed to find new content to add to a “debate” that has been at a stalemate since its inception. So I am not going to argue for a position here, but, rather, suggest a different way of thinking about this issue – a reframe that I hope will help free up some energy that’s been spent in a gridlock, so that our lives are more peaceful and our activism is more effective.

What I suggest is that we turn our attention from the content to the process of the issue. 

 

CONTINUE READING

 

 

Please visit www.carnism.com to read about the amazing work Dr. Melanie Joy is doing to create other types of dialogues. 

 

Dr. Melanie Joy also covered this topic when she spoke with ARZone recently HERE. 

 

 

Originally Posted at One Green Planet

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Francione's latest essay appears to respond to Melanie Joy (without mentioning her): http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/there-is-nothing-invisible-abou...

Thanks for the link, Spencer! He wrote that before Melanie's essay was published yesterday, so I assume it's in response, in part, to her podcast. Not that he'd admit that, or even admit that it's in response to Melanie at all. 

It's really difficult to respond to what he says (as a general matter) without writing a book, as he seems to weave so many false claims and misstatements into everything he says. He seems to be confusing what he refers to as the "animal welfare ideology" with Carnism. They are completely different and I don’t understand how he could be so recklessly confusing the two. 

He says: "The ideology that supports animal exploitation is the ideology of animal welfare."

Is he seriously suggesting that those who wish for other animals to fare well are the very people who support their exploitation? That the less than 5% of humans on the planet who have some concern for the interests of other animals, and act on those concerns, are the problem, and they are the ones he should be attacking? Seriously? Not the 95% of humans who really do see the exploitation and commodification of other animals as “normal” and not a deliberate act? 

He says: "According to welfarists, animals are not self-aware and do not have an interest in continuing to live. As long as we treat them well and kill them in a relatively painless way, animals don’t care that we use them. They only care about how we use them. We can use animals for human purposes but we have a moral obligation to treat animals “humanely.”

and:

"Think about it: Do you know anyone (apart from other abolitionist vegans) who disagrees with the notion that it’s morally acceptable to use animals but that we have a moral obligation to treat them “humanely”? You probably don’t. Just about everyone claims to accept the animal welfare position."

According to Gary, any advocate who doesn't follow his "Abolitionist Approach" to the letter is a “welfarist”. Again, is he seriously suggesting that every advocate for other animals who is not a Francionist believes that other animals are not self aware and do not have an interest in continuing their lives? Does he really believe that we all accept that we may use other animals as we please, albeit in a relatively “painless” way? 

He completely misrepresents Peter Singer, and he knows better. He knows that Peter Singer is doing what philosophers do - he's considering all sides of an issue and positing different ways that others may look at things. 

He, again, shows a complete misunderstanding of who and what the HSUS are by showing surprise that "HSUS and other large animal organizations in the United States and Britain sponsor various “humane” label schemes that are explicitly intended to make consumers feel more comfortable about continuing to consume animal products." First, it is his theory that these schemes make consumers feel more comfortable about continuing to consume animal products, not a fact. (Melanie speaks about that mistake many advocates make in her podcast.) And secondly, showing surprise that HSUS sponsor "humane" label schemes. Umm, yes, that’s because the HSUS are an organisation who advocate for the regulation of exploitation (animal "welfare") … and welfarists do … WELFARE!   How is that worthy of complaint? It is what they do! 


He seems to be presuming to know what others are thinking and what their intentions are. This is very problematic and something else that Melanie spoke about in her ARZone podcast. It is incredible that another person deems it appropriate to tell other advocates what their intentions are, and how they think and feel. As far as I can tell, Melanie is concerned with bringing to people's attention the fact that they act in ways that are not fully the result of deliberate decisions on their part. What does that have to do with a "welfarist ideology"? 


I think part of what makes him seem so confused, is that Melanie is actually trying to do what he says that vegans ought to do, and that's get people to think about and act differently toward other animals.

I found this essay to be little more than a deliberate attack on other advocates, (surprise!) with little understanding of what those advocates actually stand for or believe. I'm not sure what the purpose of writing something like this would be. He completely misrepresents Melanie's position, and the positions of other advocates. I hope that isn't intentional, but I suspect it may be. 




Great observations, Carolyn. If welfare groups like HSUS are a problem (and I'm still unconvinced that they are), they present an enormously smaller problem than normal, every day omnivores who unreflectively support animal exploitation - the 95%.  Hence why I started to devote substantial time engaging them (mostly online). There needs to be more debate and discussion, but mainly between animal advocates on the one hand,  and omnivores, hunters, circus-supporters, etc, on the other. 

Some more comments regarding Melanie's essay: http://james-mcwilliams.com/?p=2241#comments

The real focus should be on people like him: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/292864-1

Actually, the "welfare" policies of HSUS and the ASPCA are consistent with carnism, because both groups support "humanely" raised and killed farmed animals for food, yet both oppose the killing of horses for this reason.  I'm happy to see the end of horse slaughter, but it does spare a certain animal and not others, which is the essence of carnism. 

Humane Society International, a branch of HSUS, has been active in other countries making the sale of dog meat illegal, and it continues to police illegal sales: http://www.hsi.org/news/news/issue_news.html?related_issue=123632996   Again, while it works to end the consumption of dogs and cats, there is no such prohibition on other animals.  I think we can be happy about the ban, but it does reflect carnism.

The same can be said, imo, about the HSUS investigation of dog fur trimming which led to a ban on dog and cat pelts in the U.S.: "Fur Flies Over Use of Dog, Cat Pelts; U.S. Ban Approved" http://articles.latimes.com/2000/nov/01/news/cl-44994   As much as we rejoice, I think it's also important to see that these bans are self-centered, because they reflect human appreciation of certain other animals, just as animal "welfare" protects human interest in nonhuman animals, including our interest in eating some of them.  Consider this article on the ASPCA Animal Brigade which supports "The Dog and Cat Fur Prohibition Enforcement Act, H.R. 891, which is based on the American consumers' right to know what we're buying:  http://www.cocothebloggingdog.com/2008/08/aspca-advocacy-brigade-lo...

When I first read "Animal Liberation" by Peter Singer, I wasn't familiar with his philosophy.  Later I learned that his utilitarianism condones the killing of disabled infants for some hideous concept of the "greater good", and I was aghast!   Eventually, I also learned that Singer's philosophy is actually not rights-based at all, so the idea that he's the "Father of Animal Rights" can't possibly be correct.  Nor would Singer grant personhood to most nonhumans; and like HSUS, he condones the killing and eating of "humanely" raised farmed animals.  This was addressed in 1997 by none other than Gary L. Francione in "Animal Rights Theory and Utilitarianism: Relative Normative Guidance", and remains available on the web site of the Michigan State University College of Law, Animal Legal and Historical Center: http://www.animallaw.info/articles/arusgfrancione1997.htm

And Melanie Joy does not seem to consider what I think is the worst problem with "welfare" reforms ( which James McWilliams deliberately omitted from my quote), that they actually encourage animal consumption.  I truly don't mean to be offensive, but I'm baffled as to how animal activists read articles like the following, and still support "humane" reforms (?) 

“Something Almost Primal” by Angel Flinn: http://gentleworld.org/something-almost-primal/

“Veal to Love, Without the Guilt”: http://www.humanemyth.org/mediabase/1000.htm

"Why Vegetarians Are Eating Meat": http://www.humanemyth.org/mediabase/1057.htm
 

"HSUS Report: The Economics of Adopting  Alternative Production Systems to Gestation Crates"".... Sow productivity is higher in group housing than in individual crates, as a result of reduced rates of injury and disease, earlier first estrus, faster return to estrus after delivery, lower incidence of stillbirths, and shorter farrowing times” and “[c]onversion from gestation crates to group housing . . . marginally reduces production costs and increases productivity……”: http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/media/pdf/econ_gestation.pdf

Is this what we want -- more pigs who will suffer and die to become our food, guilt-free animal products,  vegetarians who resume meat-eating -- all for reforms that make little difference to the lives of farmed animals?

Hi Ellie,


Regarding Singer, I'll just briefly say that there is a lot of misunderstanding regarding his philosophy (I'll get into more details at a later time, perhaps in a blog post), and so much of the popular criticisms I've seen are simplistic and misinformed.  I recommend reading his "Practical Ethics" (3d ed), which I picked up today. One common misunderstanding: his argument in "Animal Liberation" actually *doesn't* presuppose utilitarianism, but is merely compatible with it. Hence the argument can be fully embraced by someone sympathetic to a rights-based approach.

Hi Ellie, 

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain my poorly worded comment further. 

I said: "He seems to be confusing what he refers to as the "animal welfare ideology" with Carnism. They are completely different and I don’t understand how he could be so recklessly confusing the two. " 

I should have said that I believe that Gary is confused in trying to recklessly oversimplify Melanie's position as that of what he refers to as "animal welfare ideology". 

It seems that anyone who holds a position other than HIS position is classed as a "welfarist". I don't think that is a coherent argument when one is dealing with such complex issues. 






Hi Carolyn,

Thank you for clarifying that.    I'm not familiar with Melanie Joy's work, but as I understand "carnism", it's a belief that some nonhuman animals can (or even should) be eaten, while others should not be.   Of itself, that doesn't seem to me to be animal "welfare" ideology; but I still don't agree with a number of things Melanie Joy said in this article :-) 


 
Carolyn Bailey said:

Hi Ellie, 

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain my poorly worded comment further. 

I said: "He seems to be confusing what he refers to as the "animal welfare ideology" with Carnism. They are completely different and I don’t understand how he could be so recklessly confusing the two. " 

I should have said that I believe that Gary is confused in trying to recklessly oversimplify Melanie's position as that of what he refers to as "animal welfare ideology". 

It seems that anyone who holds a position other than HIS position is classed as a "welfarist". I don't think that is a coherent argument when one is dealing with such complex issues. 






Over at opposing views, where Francione's essay on carnism is posted, I wrote the following:

----------------

Professor Francione,  

Melanie Joys defines carnism as the invisible belief system that conditions us to eat some animals but not others. Doesn’t carnism accurately describe the situation of non-vegans? The ideology is “invisible” or “hidden” precisely because non-vegans are generally unreflective about their dietary choices—viewing some animals, like dogs and cats, as being okay to eat but not others, but rarely reflecting on why. This “hidden belief” definitely does support animal exploitation. Carnism is simply another way of more fully describing what you have termed “moral schizophrenia,” so I don’t see what it has to do with anything pertaining to the “animal welfare” debate.   

 

Spencer, I completely agree with that comment, and that's what I was trying (unsuccessfully!) to say above! :) 

Hi Ellie, 

Melanie explains her position and her definition of Carnism in her ARZone podcast of a few weeks ago. If you have the time to have a listen, it's really interesting to hear what she had to say about carnism, and also about much of what she wrote in her article. 

http://arzone.ning.com/forum/topics/arzone-podcast-52-dr-melanie-jo...



Ellie Maldonado said:

Hi Carolyn,

Thank you for clarifying that.    I'm not familiar with Melanie Joy's work, but as I understand "carnism", it's a belief that some nonhuman animals can (or even should) be eaten, while others should not be.   Of itself, that doesn't seem to me to be animal "welfare" ideology; but I still don't agree with a number of things Melanie Joy said in this article :-) 







On Francione's fb page, he wrote: "Opposing Views picked up my essay about the supposed "invisibility" of the ideology of animal exploitation.

Maybe some of the defenders of this position will engage me in discussion about this topic. Oops. I forgot. We aren't allowed to discuss anything that is critical of animal welfare. That's 'divisive.'"

That motivated me to post my brief response over at Opposing Views. :)

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