Abolitionists in animal rights movement push for vegan society
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So what is Francione’s solution? Throughout his decades of work, his message has remained the same: as long as we socially and legally regard animals as property, there will be structural limitations on the changes we can make in our relations to them. The problem with welfare-reform approaches to animal advocacy—as well-intentioned and hard-working as those advocates are—is that they do not make explicit the notion that animals should not, in principle, be used as mere things. Francione argues that until our education and advocacy work begins addressing the fact that animals are not to be used, rather than that they are simply to be treated better, there will be no progress in the animal-advocacy movement. It’s only in eradicating the property status of animals that we make progress toward recognizing their rights.
Arguing that we can’t begin this large a change from the top down—because the economy, governments, and media respond to consumer demand—he proposes we take a simple grassroots approach, using creative vegan education to build momentum in our communities. Francione said we need to empower people with information and options until these institutions have something clearer than “we don’t like to hurt bunnies” to respond to.
“Like any other social movement, we have got to change people first; we have got to shift the social and moral paradigm first...for there to be any effective change,” he said. “You’d be amazed how quickly people get the common sense of veganism and...[animal rights] when you cut to the chase and talk about abolition—it’s very intuitive for us. I do this every day of my life: empower people with information and choices to make their own decisions. It’s like most [animal advocates] think no one can understand these issues but them. Do they think they’re special that they can figure it out and others can’t?
“I developed the abolitionist approach because the movement...was problematic....We might as well use all of the millions of dollars and resources currently used to pressure the industry and governments [and put it toward] educating and empowering people about veganism rather than educating them about demanding a higher-welfare product, because a higher-welfare product that would make a real difference for animals would be way too expensive to buy.” He said it’s the eating question that really needs our attention.
“I don’t want people wearing fur, I don’t want rodeos or circuses. But we need to start getting people to reevaluate what we do three times a day...[when we] act out our superiority over animals. We’re all partaking in this hierarchical celebration of violence. Once we see that, and once we get away from that, everything else goes with it. We need to come to a paradigm shift where we see that no animal use, however humane, can be justified.”
He is, apparently, far from being alone in his thinking. He’s published four books on the subject and his Web site is available for viewing in five languages and contains widely circulated podcasts, pamphlets, essays, and videos. “Since the onset of the Internet, the abolitionist animal-rights movement is growing like nuts...worldwide,” Francione said. “Honestly, I can’t keep up with it. And what I find interesting is the extent to which normal people not at all involved in the animal movement can understand the message. The response has been overwhelming; I’m very encouraged by it.”
So why are most animal advocates working so hard to keep the big “animal-rights agenda” a secret? With the intent of trying to ease people into it, they’re alienating most of us and further entrenching the notion that animals are ours to use. If animal advocates are sending us a message that animals don’t matter in a real way, how are the rest of us supposed to figure it out? They’re not really presenting us with all of the choices; it’s not only an insulting strategy but an ineffective one. Whether or not people are ready to respond to the information is up to them, but it’s better we all have a discussion about what’s really at stake so people consider the central issue: what it means to respect animals and their interests.