AR Philosophy > Debating AR

The fallacy of Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfarists

The distinction between animal rights "extremists" and animal welfarists was created in order to divide and suppress the animal rights movement. As long as those who are working towards ending the use of animals work together and do not see each other as enemies, the animal-exploitation industries are threatened. The more time we waste fighting and labeling and name-calling, the less gets done. In some circles, "obstructionist" is the label given to those who effectively work against the cause while claiming to work for it. Gary Francione is an obstructionist, because he divides and labels the AR and AW movement. Anything anyone can do to help an animal is a good thing!

Animal Rights (AR): the idea that animals have the right not to be used by humans in any way, and that animals have equal rights to humans.

Animal Welfare (AW): the idea that animals should be treated kindly and without inflicting any pain or suffering upon them.

Being in favour of animal rights is not mutually exclusive with being in favour of animal welfare, although Gary would rather they were! Gary Francione's magnum opus is at He says that AW efforts legitimize and support animal abuse. This is an illogical red herring; animal abusers legitimize and support animal abuse, not people who fit the definition of AW, above. He also says that AW efforts (supporting animals in shelters, pressing for legislation to improve the condition of animals in ) is counterproductive. This doesn't make sense! People change their minds slowly. It's a lot easier to convince someone that animals have rights if they already accept that the welfare of animals is of concern. Below is a post to ar-views explaining Dietrich's take on this issue.

Patrick: What I am trying to get across here is that it does not follow from asking for larger cages that one "accepts that it is morally okay that animals spend their lives in cages." For me, there is no conflict between AW work and AR beliefs.

OK. This is definitely the time to bring in Gary Francione. Here, in a nutshell, is his thinking:

AW: those who endorse the property status of animals and thus want animal exploitation to be maintained forever -- with a few PR gestures: let's treat them nicely as we slaughter or vivisect them, and so we'll have a few "reforms" off and on.
AR: No reforms! Total Abolition!

At this point, many AR activists (from Ingrid Newkirk on down) came and said to him: "Wait a minute, Gary, we ARE for abolition, but we want to chip away at instituionalized exploitation by slowly tightening the regulations. Or in Patrick's words above, "there is no conflict between AW WORK and AR BELIEFS."

"Wrong!", says Gary. The conflict is fundamental. You just don't get it! OK, if there are apparently many of you who feel that way, I'll coin a new word for you guys. I'll call you "the new welfarists."

So for Gary, the "old" welfarists are the institutional exploiters, and the "new" welfarists are Ingrid and Patrick and thousands of activists, like Gene and Laurie Bauston of Farm Sanctuary, who want eventual abolition, don't eat animals, but meanwhile work for "reforms". For Gary, they haven't understood his main thesis, which is: Reforms will NEVER achieve abolition. On the contrary: Reforms, by removing the most callous excesses, will entrench exploitation and make abolition impossible. If, as he accepts, we must move forward in incremental steps, each such step must be in itself an abolitionist step, not an "improved conditions" step. So, in his view, the "new welfarists" are just as bad for the animals as the old ones.

Here my view: I regard Gary's term "new welfarists" as most regrettable because it practically wipes out the fundamental ideological distinction between so many fervent AR activists and the institutionalized exploiters. Their beliefs are fundmanetally different; the former are abolitionists, the latter are maintainers of the status quo. But abolitionists are divided over TACTICS. Most appear to agree that various reforms (like strengthening the Animal Welfare Act or the Humane Slaughter Act) are proper steps toward abolition, while strict Franicone followers disagree.

Kerry wrote:

from a practical point of view, I think I probably agree that we should start by making those cages larger before we achieve our goal of emptying them; but I don't like it.

and Patrick responds:

and that's exactly what I have been saying. We don't disagree.

Right. But Gary Francione vehemently disagrees.

Patrick continues:

I do, however, disagree--and strenuously--with those who protested on the 30th anniversary of the Animal Welfare Act; abolitionists who believe there shouldn't be an Animal Welfare Act. Sure, it doesn't go far enough and is spottily enforced at best, but a lot of animals would be a lot worse off if it didn't exist.

Gary would label you a "new welfarist" (and that ain't no compliment.)

Basically, I disagree that advocating larger cages is tantamount to saying that it is morally okay to cage animals.

Well, even Gary wouldn't say that. He concedes that "new welfarists" don't regard caging animals as morally okay. He just says that when cages are large enough to appear comfortable for the critters, they will stay forever.