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Oh My God, These Vegans ... ~ Prof. Gary Francione

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In the ongoing debate between those who promote the abolitionist approach and those who promote the welfarist approach, some of the welfarists
claim that they support veganism so there is, in reality, little
difference between the two approaches on the matter of eating and using
animal products.

To the extent that welfarists support veganism, it is important to understand that the abolitionist position on veganism is very different from the welfarist position on veganism.

The abolitionist sees veganism as a non-negotiable moral baseline of a movement that maintains that we should abolish all animal use, however “humane” our treatment of animals may be. The abolitionist position
maintains that nonhumans have inherent value and that we should never kill and eat them even if they have been raised and killed “humanely.” Abolitionists regard veganism as an end in itself—as an expression of
the principle of abolition in the life of the individual.

Abolitionist vegans do not campaign for welfare reforms that supposedly make animal exploitation more “humane.” It is, of course, “better” to inflict less harm than more harm, but we have no moral
justification for inflicting any harm on nonhumans in the first place. It is “better” not to beat a rape victim but it does not make rape without beating morally acceptable, or making campaigning for “humane”
rape something that we should do.

Abolitionists regard veganism as the most important form of incremental change and spend their time and resources on educating others about veganism and the need to stop using animals altogether,
rather than on trying to persuade people to eat “cage-free” eggs or flesh produced from animals who have been confined in larger pens.

 To the extent that welfarists endorse any form of veganism (and many do not), they see veganism not as an end in itself but merely as a means to reduce animal suffering. They do not regard animal use as the primary problem; they think that it may be acceptable for humans to kill and eat nonhumans and that the primary
problem is how we treat animals. Welfarists who promote veganism argue that because it is difficult to obtain animal foods that have been produced in a morally acceptable manner, we ought to be vegans for the
most part but that it is acceptable to be “flexible” vegans and to eat non-vegan as well. Because welfarists focus on treatment rather than use, they campaign for things like “cage-free” eggs or alternatives to the gestation crate.

Most of those who subscribe to this view agree with the position of utilitarian theorist Peter Singer, who provides an excellent example of welfarist “veganism.”

Singer does not think that it is necessarily a problem that we use nonhumans for human purposes because he does not regard the killing of animals as necessarily immoral. According to Singer, animals (with the
exception of nonhuman great apes and perhaps a few other species) are not self-aware and do not really care that we use them but only about how we use them. This leads Singer to say that it may be morally acceptable
to be “conscientious omnivores” if we are careful to eat only animals who have been raised and killed in a “humane” manner.

For example, in a 2006 interview in The Vegan, Singer states:

[T]o avoid inflicting suffering on animals—not to mention the environmental costs of intensive animal production—we need to cut down drastically on the animal products we consume. But does that mean a
vegan world? That’s one solution, but not necessarily the only one. If
it is the infliction of suffering that we are concerned about, rather
than killing, then I can also imagine a world in which people mostly eat
plant foods, but occasionally treat themselves to the luxury of free
range eggs, or possibly even meat from animals who live good lives under
conditions natural for their species, and are then humanely killed on
the farm.

In Singer’s May 2006 interview in Mother Jones, he states:

[T]here’s a little bit of room for indulgence in all of our lives. I know some people who are vegan in their homes but if they’re going out to a fancy restaurant, they allow themselves the
luxury of not being vegan that evening. I don’t see anything really
wrong with that.

I don’t eat meat. I’ve been a vegetarian since 1971. I’ve gradually become increasingly vegan. I am largely vegan but I’m a flexible vegan. I don’t go to the supermarket and buy non-vegan stuff
for myself. But when I’m traveling or going to other people’s places I
will be quite happy to eat vegetarian rather than vegan.

In an October 2006 interview in the new welfarist magazine, Satya, Singer states:

When I’m shopping for myself, it will be vegan. But when I’m traveling and it’s hard to get vegan food in some places or whatever, I’ll be vegetarian. I won’t eat eggs if they’re not
free-range, but if they’re free-range, I will. I won’t order a dish that
is full of cheese, but I won’t worry about, say, whether an Indian
vegetable curry was cooked with ghee.

Singer argues that there are times when we have a moral obligation not to be vegans:

I think it’s more important to try and produce a change in the right direction than to be personally pure yourself. So when you’re eating with someone at a restaurant, and you ordered something
vegan but when it comes there’s a bit of grated cheese or something on
it, sometimes vegans will make a big fuss and send it back and that
might mean the food is wasted. And if you’re in company with people who
are not vegan or not even vegetarian, I think that’s probably the wrong
thing to do. It’d be better off just to eat it because people are going
to think, ‘Oh my god, these vegans…’

There is, of course, no moral distinction that can be drawn between flesh and dairy products or eggs. Therefore, Singer would be committed to the position that if you were in a restaurant with non-vegetarians
and ordered a vegetarian meal only to have it come with bits of bacon or other flesh products on it, or if your non-vegetarian host served you flesh at a dinner party, you may well be obligated to eat the flesh to stop people from thinking, “Oh my god, these vegetarians…”

I discuss Singer’s view on the issue of killing animals at length in my essay, The “Luxury” of Death.

Singer’s focus on the treatment rather than the killing of animals leads to the position that veganism is simply one of a number of ways to reduce suffering, but that there is nothing mandatory or required about
veganism because there is nothing inherently wrong with killing animals. Indeed, Singer regards being a consistent vegan as “fanatical.”

And many welfarists talk about veganism in this way. For example, Paul Shapiro, Director of the HSUS Factory Farming Campaign, states

The reason I’m vegan is because I see it as a tool to help reduce animal suffering. Vegan Outreach has written about this extensively, and I agree with them. They write that vegan eating ‘is not an end in itself. It is not a dogma or
religion, nor a list of forbidden ingredients or immutable laws—it is
only a tool for opposing cruelty and reducing suffering.’

In other words, veganism is just another way, along with bigger cages and other welfarist reforms, to reduce suffering. This is how Shapiro apparently justifies promoting “cage-free” eggs as “socially responsible,” campaigning for other welfare reforms, and working as part of the coalition that supports the Certified Humane Raised and Handled label.

For the welfarists, the basic issue is animal treatment, not animal use. As Singer states:

It’s pretty difficult to be a conscientious omnivore and avoid all the ethical problems, but if you really were thorough-going in eating only animals that had had good lives, that could be a defensible
ethical position.

In February 2007, I had a podcast debate with Erik Marcus from Erik’s Diner. Marcus is an enthusiastic promoter of insignificant animal welfare reform, including “cage-free” eggs.

But, as the debate made painfully obvious, Marcus exaggerates the protection provided to animals by welfare regulation despite his not having knowledge of the relevant facts. Moreover, he is seemingly
unaware as to how welfare reforms are making animal exploitation more socially acceptable and increasing consumption, as well as how these reforms are in the economic interests of institutional animal
exploiters. An essay by British sociologist Dr. Roger Yates reveals the stunning ignorance of Marcus and his HSUS colleagues about the basics of institutional animal exploitation.

Marcus, like the other welfarist “vegans,” maintains that it is acceptable to eat foods that are not vegan as long as they are “essentially vegan” and he regularly promotes animal products that are supposedly more “humanely” produced. I do not question Erik’s sincerity, but I disagree strongly with him.

This casual attitude about veganism is characteristic of the welfarists. In a December 2006 article about Dan Mathews of PETA, Mathews and the writer went to McDonald’s to eat and the writer asked if it was okay to order a cheeseburger. Mathews is reported as saying “‘Order what you want,’. . . .’Half of our members are vegetarian and half think it’s a good idea.’” Putting aside that Mathews eats at McDonald’s and tells the reporter to order what he wanted, and proclaims without apparent consternation that only half of the PETA membership is “vegetarian” (let alone vegan), Mathews himself ate a product—the “veggie burger”—which not even McDonald’s claims is vegetarian given that it is cooked on the same grill with meat products and handled along with animal products.

The abolitionist rejects the welfarist position on veganism both because it explicitly endorses speciesism and exploitation, but also because it is counterproductive as a matter of strategy. If you explain
to someone that there is no moral justification for eating any animal foods, she may not give up everything right away, but you have stated a clear and consistent position and you have provided a clear
goal to which to aspire. If you tell her that it is morally acceptable to do less than become a vegan, you can be certain that she is unlikely to see any need to go further. When you have people like Singer, the
so-called “father” of the movement, telling people that they can act morally by being “conscientious omnivores,” that is exactly what many people will do.

In conclusion, there is a world of difference between the veganism of the abolitionist and the “veganism” of the welfarist. The latter sees veganism as a means of reducing suffering but does not see it as a moral

There is a world of difference between a person who takes the position that sexism is always wrong and one who says that we should be “flexible” about sexism and allow ourselves the “indulgence” of a bit of
sexism, or even that we have a moral obligation to engage in sexism in certain circumstances because we should avoid eliciting the reaction, “Oh my god, these feminists…”


Gary L. Francione
© 2007 Gary L. Francione


Prof. Franciones's original essay may be found here:


Prof. Francione's website may also be found here:

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Comment by Tim Gier on January 3, 2011 at 10:03
I'm not here to defend Prof. Francione, but I will try to answer blackpanther's questions.
Francione's point isn't that there are “Good” and “Bad” vegans, but that there are people who are distorting what veganism is.  If veganism is properly considered as the practical result of the philosophy of equal consideration of interests and non-exploitation of others, then one cannot occasionally deliberately and intentionally use other animals and still refer to oneself as a vegan.
Consider an anti-racist philosophy.  One could not coherently claim to be non-racist and yet occasionally resort to racist attitudes and actions.  One who adopts a racist attitude, and acts as a racist, is a racist, no matter how infrequently that attitude and those actions are manifest.  So, if one occasionally deliberately and intentionally exploits other animals in some way, one cannot be coherently thought of as vegan.
Now, the problem is, what do we, as vegans, say to those who are beginning to consider veganism, are aspiring to veganism, and making steps towards veganism?  We have to find ways to talk to them in ways which encourage their continued exploration, non-judgmentally, in terms they can understand and relate to.  At the same time, we can't dilute or soften the essential claims we are making about the rights of other animals or our obligations towards them.  This may not be an easy task.  The additional and complicating problem is that we may not talk to other animal advocates in the same way we would talk to aspiring vegans – one would expect other advocates to know more, and we would expect more of them.  Often, Prof. Francione is talking to other advocates in what he writes, and were he talking one-on-one to an aspiring vegan, we should assume that his tone would not be the same.
The third point blackpanther raises is very important, and it asks whether the debates between advocates are even productive.  When we have strong opinions and disagree with other advocates, are we doing more harm than good for the animals and for the movement?  Are we helping to bridge the gap between differing viewpoints or are we just further entrenching opposing camps.  I believe that we must stand by our convictions, while we reach out to those who disagree with us.  The position of animal welfare, as compared to animal rights, is different on a fundamental level, to the point where welfare may be thought of a different movement from animal rights, and not as a different branch of the same movement.  
As far as I know, there isn't an abolitionist who would say that you should stop helping distressed cats and dogs (there would be disagreement over how best to help them though).  However, a rights-based abolitionsist position would, I think, require that we never kill any other animal unless we'd also kill a human animal in the same circumstances.  We don't often euthanize humans, so we generally ought not to be euthanizing nonhumans.
I don't know what is happening in France.  But I do know that the internet is crossing international borders and making information available throughout the world, at the same moment, everywhere.  It's a good time to be alive, and a great time to be an advocate for a better world!
Comment by Tim Gier on January 3, 2011 at 9:22

*reposted to fix glaring error!!


While I agree with the thrust of Francione's argument against "flexitarians" and "welfare" reforms, and for veganism, I do not think of being vegan as an end, in and of itself.  I'm vegan because it is the logical extension of a way of thinking about the world.  That way of thinking acknowledges that all life is worthy of respect, and that rights of others ought to be accepted based on an equal consideration of interests.  As such, this view requires veganism, insofar as it is possible to live that ideal in practical terms.  The end I seek is a life of respect towards all others, the means to it encompasses veganism.

Comment by Sam Hillyer on January 3, 2011 at 7:26

I have to agree with blackpanther, I can see why the abolitionist approach should be favoured, especially if you used human rights analogies. If people had been campaigning for slave welfare instead of the abolition of slavery would we still have the slave trade today but with them working in better conditions? 

But I don't think welfarists should be treated so negatively. I would guess, though I don't know how accurate I would be, that most people who eventually come round to the abolitionist approach started out with concerns for animal welfare, because initially imagining a world where people don't exploit animals does not seem imaginable or within reach.

Is it not a stepping stone, doing more good than harm?


It's where I came from, that's all.

I'd also like to see the questions blackpanther posed answered and discussed, because I am here to listen to the views of others, and have my way of thinking challenged and potentially changed.


As far as possible without surrender

be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

and listen to others,even the dull and the ignorant;

they too have their story


If you compare yourself with others,

you may become vain and bitter;

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.


The world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

many persons strive for high ideals;

and everywhere life is full of heroism

Comment by DEN FRIEND on January 2, 2011 at 23:13

A vegan is a vegan is a vegan, or is it?

I have encountered people who claim to be vegan, but eat eggs from rescued chickens.

According to Singer they are 'essentially vegan' or 'flexible vegans. Apparently this would seem to be acceptable to him. Far from appearing inconsistent in their ideology towards animal exploitation, people who eat the meat that has inadvertently found its way on their plate, rather than throwing it away might actually be helping their cause! Who are these vegans who can so easily be persuaded to consume flesh, no matter how repugnant. If the flesh is eaten or thrown away the situation remains the same -the animal is dead, it does not care if it is eaten or not. A life was 'wasted' as soon as it was taken!

I don't like Singer, I don't know why he is still held in such esteem. His ideas do not coincide with my own abolitionist viewpoint. He may be a pragmatist, but he is also irritating.

People who eat the odd bit of meat or the occasional egg can call themselves what they like but they are not vegans.

Comment by blackpanther on January 2, 2011 at 21:59

so, Garry, if I understand well, there are "GOOD" vegans, and "BAD" ones.......but maybe I didn't understand you....complicated that kind of differences and quarrels, seen from France. I must say I don't really follow, and don't see exactly where it leads.....but who am I to criticize you, some may think?

I think when you always make others think they are far less smart than you, then, they are no longer interested in what you have to tell them, as they know what they do will always be wrong in your opinion.....that doesn't lead to clear communication.....and to convincing people to follow you! isn't it better to help them reach the aim, little by little?

sometimes I read things here that make me wonder if one day, we'll progress on the path to "freedom" for all and no more exploitation, or will loose ourselves in endless quarrels....

For example, must I stop helping distressed cats and dogs because it seems to be "welfarist" to save them? and the "good" abolitionist position would be to do nothing, as to have a pet is wrong?.....then, why criticize PeTA when they euthanize animals that cannot be adopted. Is it better to be dead or to live one's whole life in prison? I would personally choose death.....

We don't have that kind of debate in France (most people don't even know what veganism is)...Does it mean you are far ahead of us? 

And all those questions are very real ones for me......asked without any agressiveness

(forgive my mistakes!)

Comment by Eduardo Terrer on January 2, 2011 at 20:04


Voy a dar mi opinión en base a lo que he entendido al traducirlo con el señor google. Así que quizás no haya captado matices que me hayan hecho
malinterpretar partes del texto.

En mi opinión el artículo acierta en las conclusiones pero con un análisis muy básico y encorsetado. Me parece que no se puede establecer que una línea
estratégica es más efectiva por establecer que la posición es más clara.

Es decir, no creo que el hecho de ser más claro con el mensaje, y más directo con la oposición al especismo, haga que una línea estratégica sea mejor.

De hecho, creo que usar “mejor” y “peor” nos lleva a una espiral confusa.

Deberíamos hablar de efectivo. De más efectivo y menos efectivo. Eso, lo de efectivo, no depende de si nuestra percepción subjetiva de cierto tipo de activismo o de
cierto tipo de mensaje es peor o mejor, si no que la etiqueta de “más efectivo”
debe estar acompañada de datos que lo verifiquen.

Creo que no hay datos tales que verifiquen si una línea estratégica es más efectiva o menos efectiva. Aunque creo que se puede intuir, no creo que se pueda afirmar
con la rotundidad con la que se afirma en este artículo.

No sé en otros países, pero en España hay varias líneas que se supone que buscan la abolición de la explotación animal.

La línea pragmatista (uso la terminología que suelo usar aquí, no sé si la vuestra es diferente) se supone que tiene como fin hacer uso de muchos recursos, como
por ejemplo reformas bienestaristas (o lobby político, etc…), para dificultar
la explotación, aumentar los costos y, junto a acciones de otro tipo, crear una
especie de dinámica que vaya complicando a los explotadores mantener sus
negocios de sangre.

Esta línea estratégica, supuestamente, no tiene como fin reducir el sufrimiento.

La otra línea, la abolicionista, busca concienciar a la sociedad (como ya sabemos todos, vamos).

Hablar en términos de eficacia me parece algo tendencioso. Aquí en España, mi percepción del tema viene, principalmente, determinada por la eficiencia, no
por la eficacia.

Hay un grupo que está trabajando con una eficiencia asombrosa en la línea abolicionista. Con poco esfuerzo consigue salir en medios masivos y llegar a
millones de humanos. Esas acciones claramente son muy eficientes, y hacen
llegar un mensaje anti-especista a la sociedad humana. No obstante ¿Cómo se
mide la eficacia de dichas acciones?

No creo que haya, ahora mismo, una forma de medir dichos resultados. O si lo hay, debe ser bastante complejo. Entre otras cosas porque, al contrario que una
campaña de marketing para aumentar las ventas de un producto, el paso de un
individuo al veganismo es un camino incierto, muchas veces largo y complejo, y
el sembrar la semilla ya puede ser considerado un logro. Pero esa semilla es
posible que ni el mismo individuo humano sepa que ha sido sembrada en su
cerebro, con lo cual medir la eficacia se complica.

Por eso, me parece que se debería evitar este tipo de afirmaciones rotundas que intentan justificar la eficacia de una estrategia en base a lo coherente a
nivel ético. Hace que el discurso pierda credibilidad.

Y, por supuesto, como no podemos medir la eficacia (o no podemos medirla de manera sencilla) me parece que una ecuación muy sencilla puede ayudarnos a movernos de
una manera que, a priori (y reconozco que de manera subjetiva, aunque con un
argumento que lo respalda) debería ser más efectiva:

La línea más corta es el camino recto. Por lo tanto, lo más efectivo debería ser usar la eficiencia para lograr depurar el avance en dicha línea recta.

Es decir, aunque puede parecer, según la línea pragmatista, que es más fácil lograr que las jaulas en batería se prohíban que lograr que se prohíba la
explotación de las gallinas, es una falacia afirmar que dicha reducción nos acerca
a la abolición de ese tipo de explotación. Intuitivamente puede parecerlo, pero
al profundizar en el tema no existe una relación tal y como la afirman quienes
defienden dicha línea estratégica.

Por tanto, debe ser más efectivo dedicar los esfuerzos a pedir la abolición, y usar la eficiencia, también usar el feedback para aumentar la eficacia de esta línea

Es muy sencillo. Si pido algo y lo logro ¿qué logro?

Entonces, si pido el fin de la explotación y lo logro ¿qué logro?

Y si pido jaulas más grandes y lo logro ¿qué logro?

Así pues, mi conclusión es que si se enfoca todo el esfuerzo en aprender a pedir las cosas, se avanzará más que si no se pide de forma directa asumiendo que no
se puede pedir de forma directa.

Considero más efectivo aprender a ser más efectivo en el camino en línea recta, que aprender a ser más efectivo en el camino sinuoso.

En España, al menos, el trabajo de un grupo me hace percibirlo de esta manera. Un trabajo directo, de forma muy eficiente y prestando especial atención al
feedback que se establece con la sociedad. De este modo no se trata solo de
pedir (lo cual hacen muchos, y en cuyo caso no me parece efectivo), si no de
aprender a pedir. No se trata de comunicarse, si no de comunicarse aprendiendo
a comunicarse.

En conclusión, que no me parece coherente analizar la eficacia de las diferentes estrategias de una manera tan simplificada y atendiendo a la coherencia del
discurso. Me parece una simplificación de un proceso que es mucho más complejo,
y que requiere manejar y estudiar diversos parámetros dinámicos.

Esa es mi particular forma de verlo. 

Un saludo 



I will give my opinion based on what I understood to translate to Mr.
google. So there may not be captured nuances that I have been
misinterpreting the text.
In my opinion the article is correct in the conclusions, but with a very basic
analysis and corseted. I do not think you can set a strategic line is more
effective to establish that the position is clearer.
That is, I do not think the fact that the message clearer and more direct
opposition to speciesism, have a strategic line is better.
In fact, I have to use "best" and "worst" leads to a spiral
We should talk about cash. More effective and less effective. 
So what cash is not dependent on our subjective
perception of a certain type of activism or a certain type of message is better
or worse, if not the label of "most effective" must be accompanied by
data verification.

I think there is such data to
verify whether a strategic line is more effective or less
effective. Although I think you can guess, do not think you can say for
the forthrightness with which it is stated in this article.
I do not know in other countries, but in Spain there are several lines that are
supposed to seek the abolition of animal exploitation.
Pragmatist line (using the terminology I use here, I do not know if yours is
different) it is assumed that aims to make use of many resources, such as welfare
reforms (or political lobbying, etc ...) to hinder the exploitation ,
increase costs and, together with other actions, to create a dynamic that will
complicate the business operators to keep their blood.

This strategic, supposedly, is not intended to reduce suffering.
The other line, the abolitionist, aims to raise awareness of society (as we all
know, come on).

Speaking in terms of efficiency I think is biased. Here in Spain, my
perception of the issue is mainly determined by the efficiency, not effectiveness.
One group is working with stunning efficiency in the abolitionist
line. With little effort to get out in mass media and reach millions of
humans. These actions clearly are very efficient, and they send a message
to anti-speciesist human society. Nevertheless How do you measure the
effectiveness of these actions?
Do not think there is, right now, one way to measure those results. Or if
any, should be quite complex. Among other things because, unlike a
marketing campaign to increase sales of a product, an individual step to
veganism is an uncertain path, often long and complex, and sow the seed can be
considered an achievement. But the seed is possible that not even the
human individual known to have been planted in his brain, which measure the
effectiveness is complicated.

So I think that should prevent such categorical statements that attempt to
justify the effectiveness of a strategy based on what ethical standards
consistent. Makes the speech lose credibility.

And, of course, since we can not measure the effectiveness (or can not easily
measure it) I think a very simple equation can help us move in a way that, a
priori (and acknowledge that subjectively, but with an argument behind it)
should be more effective:
The shortest line is the right path. Therefore, the most effective should
be used to make debugging efficiency progress in this straight line.
That is, although it may seem, according to the pragmatist line that is easier
to ensure that battery cages are banned to ensure that prohibit the exploitation
of chickens, is a fallacy to say that this reduction brings us to the abolition
of such exploitation.Intuitively it may seem, but to pursue the subject no
relationship as proponents claim that the strategic line.

Therefore, you should be more effective to devote efforts to seek the
abolition, and use efficiency, also use the feedback to improve the
effectiveness of this strategic line.
It's simple. If I order something and achieving what achievement?
So if I ask an end to exploitation and achieving what achievement?
And if I ask for larger cages and achieving what achievement?

So my conclusion is that if you focus all the effort to learn how to ask for
things, you move ahead only if not asked directly assuming that you can not ask
It is most effective to learn to be more effective on the road in a straight
line to learn to be more effective in the winding road.

In Spain, at least, the work of a group perceive me this way. Direct work,
very efficient, with particular attention to feedback that is set by
society. This is not just to ask (which many do, and in which case I do
not cash), if not learn to ask. It is not communicated, if not to
communicate learning to communicate.

In conclusion, it does not seem consistent to analyze the effectiveness of
different strategies in a manner so simplified and coherent response to the
speech. I think a simplification of a process that is much more complex,
requiring handling and study various dynamic parameters.

That is my particular way of seeing.



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