“I am for the truth, no matter who tells it” –Malcolm X
I am often surprised by the lack of sincerity and the underhandedness of many of the 'would-be figureheads' in the animal advocacy community. Misrepresentation has become a business model. But in spite of their
protestations about “understanding the differences between welfare and abolition”, so many of them seem to get it so very wrong. If people disagree with our views, that's one thing. There are serious and important differences between a regulationist approach that many figureheads and businesses take in our community and an abolitionist approach. But when they simply fabricate things, that's intellectually
and morally irresponsible.
I understand, for example, that Mylène Oullet is now being personally attacked for her blog on vegetarianism over at My Face is On Fire.
Of course, I am in favor of critical discussion, but when advocates of
vegetarianism put forward criticisms that are deeply misguided, it is difficult to take that too seriously; when they put forward things they know to be patently untrue, it’s disingenuous. It’s also sad for me to
see some 'would-be figureheads' take an inventive approach to criticism in an effort to resuscitate what are obviously failed academic careers (not naming any names…). More to the point, some common untruths:'Abolitionists do not care about helping nonhuman animals in the here and now.'
This is untrue on its face. First, abolitionist vegan education helps nonhuman animals in the here and now both by helping people to
transition to veganism and by laying the groundwork for abolition. If someone were beating me to death with a pipe and someone spoke in my defense to try to get them to stop doing so, s/h/ze would certainly be
helping me in the ‘here and now’.
Second, Joanne and I live with
several rescued cats, and many of my colleagues personally engage in
shelter, sanctuary and other kinds of adoption work. If I were left for dead on the side of the road, and someone picked me up, took me and cared for me, s/h/ze would certainly be helping me in the here and now.
There are, of course very substantive and very important differences between what regulationists and what abolitionists believe we owe other animals and how best to help other animals. These essays provides some
ideas on those differences.http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/the-four-problems-of-animal-wel...http://weotheranimals.blogspot.com/2009/11/caring-for-other-animals...
In the interests of full-disclosure, I only wrote the second one.
'Abolitionists just repeat uncritically whatever Gary L. Francione says.' On its face, this is both untrue and it is disingenuous. First, there is serious and often difficult debate (over fine details) in the
abolitionist community over the nature of our work, what exactly we owe other animals, how best to achieve abolition tactically and other topics. Indeed, some of my colleagues are “vegan abolitionists” and
some of them are “abolitionist vegans”. There are a couple of discussion forums that focus on discussing abolitionist ideas with dozens of members.
Second, there are often tactical differences.
Some might put a greater emphasis on economic activity (e.g., by
starting coops that reduce the cost of plant-based foods or by starting a business that provides plant-based alternatives), some might focus on starting sanctuaries of their own or just working with established
rescues and shelters. Many other advocates focus on podcasts, blogs, on in-person outreach, potlucks, street theatre, youtube videos and other expressions of creative and nonviolent activism. Joanne (hi, Joanne!)
and I run a forum, create posters and other education materials, but we’re a vibrant and diverse community, no matter what our opponents claim.
It varies. A lot.
But what if we all repeated the exact same thing? So what? If 1,000,000
people spoke clearly and with one voice to say that: “Animals have a right not to be used as property. Did you know that going vegan is easer than ever and that it is the right thing to do for nonhuman
animals?” how would that be a bad thing? I’m sincerely puzzled by this constant and strange “criticism”. In fact, this kind of criticism is just a way for our opponents to try to draw us off message, and to
silence us. Don’t be silenced! Activism isn't just a matter of being original: it's about doing what's right most effectively.
'Abolitionists eviscerate activism.'
I’m not even sure what exactly this claim means, but again, I think
it’s also untrue on its face. Abolitionists engage in critical discussion in order to encourage other advocates to engage in the best work that they can. That means, first, understanding what it is we owe
other animals morally (and that’s veganism and respecting their rights not to be used as if they were our resources, etc.), and second how we may act virtuously on the behalf of other animals as the moral persons
that they are (e.g., promoting veganism and abolition, conducting and encouraging shelter, adoption and rescue work).
disagree, it does not follow that we want others to stop working. As an
abolitionist advocate, I simply encourage people to do the most meaningful work they can for nonhuman animals. That means focusing on abolishing (rather than regulating) their use as our slaves, promoting
abolitionist vegan education and with personal adoption, rescue and sanctuary work (in AE’s literature, we often refer to this as
Sure, but as a matter of intellectual honesty, it’s required ethically and professionally for me to do so. I should actually cite him more and the citations I provide should be more careful and specific, but I take
my blog to be a work of journalism and not an academic piece. Still, we should always give credit to others for their ideas.
But let’s examine the argument in terms of its logical consequences a little further: if someone else comes up with a really good idea (e.g., the wheel, sliced bread), am I supposed to pretend like I came up with
it myself? Should I pursue bad or impractical ideas (e.g., the rectangular wheel, shredded bread) just so that I can feel like I’m being different? In fact, what our opponents propose as their “deep and
critical thinkings” are often the kind of mystical and misguided proposals that we should all agree have no place in any justice movement, let alone the struggle to end the last great legal slavery.
don’t understand why our opponents feel the need to try to belittle abolitionist advocates personally for their work, but I know that it coincides surprisingly often with an inability to engage substantively
with our views. I guess if someone can't knock my dress, they insult my shoes. As misguided as they may be, it would be a huge step forward if other figures simply stopped lying and engaged in the discussion in a
principled and thoughtful way.
If you are not yet vegan, try not
to let mystical, self-appointed figureheads and the opportunism of
welfare business put you off. As Francione suggests, veganism is the most important thing we can do with respect to other animals. If you are not an abolitionist, you can learn more about the approach from my
earlier articles or at www.abolitionistapproach.com.http://weotheranimals.blogspot.com/2010/03/when-it-comes-to-truth-i...