There are quite a few people involved in “the animal movement” who support what Prof. Gary Francione has termed “new welfarism” (that is, the idea that we can achieve the abolition of all animal use through implementing a gradual buildup of individual reforms of our treatment of animals) who have presented the idea that there is a morally significant difference between single-issue campaigns that they claim are “abolitionist” in nature and ones that are overtly welfarist.
But this thinking is logically unsound.
These people claim that there are SICs (if you haven’t read anything before on why SICs are problematic, you may want to do so now and then come back to finish this essay) that are not welfarist because they attempt to abolish a particular kind of animal use -instead of changing the treatment of only a certain species of animals- and so are not “reforms” and/or are not speciesist and so are supposedly not problematic.
SICs of that type are merely “incremental” reforms, in that the people engaging in them are trying to abolish all use by abolishing one type of use at a time. The campaigns for these kinds of incremental reforms are still part of what makes the mindset of welfarism so harmful to animals. They seem like Abolitionism but they are merely welfarist types of actions; just bent and twisted so they can be disguised as Abolitionism and used to a welfarist purpose.
Welfarism is concerned with incremental reforms for “farmed animals” and “pets” etc. “Non-Welfare” SICs are merely incremental reforms for all different species of animals. They purport to abolish harms to each species as a whole, but doing that is just incremental in the overall arena of the exploitation of all species. The main problem with these kinds of campaigns is that they, unfortunately, focus many people’s attention -inadvertently or not, it makes no real difference- on the idea that by eliminating whatever one type of animal use that the campaign is focusing on, that they can discharge their entire moral obligation to animals and thus go back to their complacent, speciesist lives. They also cause the observers to believe that if they’re not one of the people who participate in the type of animal use targeted by the campaign, that they have no need to change their behavior towards animals and thus, no need to learn why they need to live Vegan.
In this way, all SICs can clearly be seen to be closely tied to welfarism. The key here is that they’re single issue campaigns. By definition, since they’re concerned with single issues, they are not campaigns to advocate Veganism as the moral baseline, which makes them inherently speciesist.
In contrast, Creative Non-Oppressive Vegan Advocacy abolishes all exploitation at once. Anything that focuses on a single issue is just an incremental half-measure, but they are not productive half-measures by any means. Almost all half-measures in regards to Animal Rights are profoundly counter-productive. And the main point here is that single-issues are always something that we need to avoid focusing people’s attention on if we’re serious about our efforts to advocate for the nonhuman animals who we share this planet with. We need to advocate solely for the abolition of animal use, and if we question why this is the case, the links scattered throughout this piece and other writings on this blog as well as the others linked to give us ample evidence to answer that question.
Many SIC supporters also claim that “rescue” (trap-neuter-return/adopt/foster/volunteer/etc.) of cats and dogs (and other animals) and Creative Non-Oppressive Vegan Advocacy are also SICs, in an effort to paint Abolitionist Vegans as somehow “hypocrites” or in some other way confused about why they should criticize SICs. This is simply not true. There are 3 main categories of action we can take regarding nonhuman animals: Single-Issue Campaigns, Direct Action, and Vegan Education. These 3 forms of activism can be distinguished from each other in these ways: single-issue campaigns involve only engaging in a public plea to observers -who may or may not be in the immediate area- to change their behavior in some way as it relates to a single type of animal use, to change their treatment of animals in a single specific way, etc.; direct action involves only directly physically intervening and taking a nonhuman out of whatever situation may be harming or threatening to harm them; and Vegan Education involves only explaining to others why Veganism is the non-negotiable moral baseline and why their moral obligation is to live Vegan.
In this way we can see that things such as protests, petitions and the like are examples of SICs, while “animal rescue” is an example of Direct Action (although not the only example by far and DA certainly includes many problematic kinds of actions), and Vegan Education is by definition not in either of the other categories.
Again, if we claim to take seriously the idea that we need to represent the interests of nonhuman individuals and so attempt to bring about an end to the agony, misery and despair that we as a species subject each of them to every second of every hour of every single day by the thousands, we need to reject the use of any speciesist or otherwise counter-productive activities and stick to exclusively engaging in the education of others on Veganism as the moral baseline. Here’s how to start:
If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.
To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.