Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Brief Introduction to Abolitionist Veganism

Abolitionist veganism is an animal rights approach based on the principle that all sentient beings deserve to be granted the right not to be classified as property.

Abolishing the property status of nonhuman animals will permit the dismantling of the institutions of animal exploitation that currently exist within the property status framework.

Abolitionism contends that exploitation of sentient beings is wrong regardless of species, in the same way that it is wrong to use race, age, gender, or sexual orientation to afford basic rights to some humans and not other humans.

The abolitionist approach as defined by Professor Gary L. Francione seeks to clearly and directly reduce and ultimately eliminate animal exploitation through creative, nonviolent educational efforts designed to change cultural attitudes about the legitimacy of the use of nonhuman animals. This is a fundamentally different approach than animal welfare, which seeks to regulate existing forms of exploitation.

Animal welfare has been around for a long time, and has not worked. It does nothing to change society’s attitudes about exploitation and move us along the path to abolition. Rather, regulating exploitation has the effect of reinforcing the property status paradigm.

Abolitionists value moral consistency. We reject animal protection campaigns that utilize sexism or other forms of discrimination, as well as those that are in other ways contradictory, morally confusing, or embrace utilitarian “ends justifies the means” mentality. We contend that animal rights cannot be separated from other issues of social justice and oppression. These issues are interrelated and connected.

We recognize veganism as the moral baseline. Living the vegan lifestyle is a necessary component of affirming one’s commitment to abolition and animal rights. Being a vegan means at minimum not eating animals (meat, fish), not eating their secretions (milk, eggs, honey), not wearing animals (fur, leather, wool), and educating others around you by setting a good example, understanding the issues of animal rights, and pursuing honest, logical, non-confrontational engagement.

The six principles of the Abolitionist Approach to animal rights may be read here


croneishome said...

It is interesting how the word "vegan" evolved to have so much meaning. I must be older than you, because I remember when vegan simply meant that you were a vegetarian who does not eat any meat (including fish or dairy, and it was debatable back then about honey). Now, vegans claim that the word connotes awareness in animal rights. This assumes that everyone who is a vegan is motivated by a desire to end animal cruelty. I do not believe that is true. I think one can be a vegan because of health reasons and they do not need to be educated about animal rights. Someone like that should be able to claim the label vegan. Or a vegan (using the original definition) may be motivated by the impact that eating meat has on the planet. In this case they are vegan because their focus is the environment and not animal cruelty. The environment and health are equally valid reasons for being vegan, and limiting the term "vegan" to animal rights activists is divisive.

Ken Hopes said...

Thank you for leaving the first comment on my first post to my first blog.
I agree that one can be a vegan for reasons other than desiring to end animal cruelty, but I can't understand why they would be. For example, while animal products are unhealthy when eaten in the quantities typically found in western diets, it's certainly possible to consume a very healthy diet that has limited amounts of meat, dairy, or eggs. Or you could eat an unhealthy vegan diet consisting of potato chips washed down with soft drinks.
Environmental concern are strongly linked to the well being of sentient beings because you can't have one without the other. Sentient beings (humans and non-humans) depend on the environment for their survival, and the environment can't exist without a sentient being being around to perceive it. So I would ask why would someone be concerned about the environment but not also about sentient beings? Well I suppose that you could be concerned about certain sentient beings, such as humans, and not be concerned about other sentient beings, such as non-humans. That would be called speciesism. But that doesn't make sense to me either, because if all non-human sentients were eliminated, the ecological balance would be so drastically disturbed as to pose an imminent threat to the continued existence of humans.

croneishome said...

Here is my perspective: I do not eat animals or animal products because I believe that they are unhealthy, not because I am opposed to killing animals. Also, eating animals slows spiritual growth. This is a part of yoga philosophy, spiritual nutrition, and energy anatomy, all of which I adhere to. I think at this time in history, with the overgrowth of humans, and the excessive abuse they commit, that killing animals is a symptom of a larger problem. I feel that focusing on symptoms does not address the problem. That does not mean we should stop voicing our opinion about abuse. All abuse is negative. But even that statement makes me stop to say, this is all part of the evolution of consciousness, all part of the plan. Suffering and lack leads to innovation. But that which you resist persists. Being the neutral witness is the most powerful place to stand in the face of the insanity in this world today. We can speak out from that place of neutrality, and it has a different effect.
As far as the environment goes, your comment "the environment can't exist without a sentient being being around to perceive it" is not accurate. What about planets and other celestial bodies that do not have life forms on them? Do they not exist? I believe that the earth itself is a sentient being and we do not need to survive so she can survive. The earth will be around a long time after we are gone. I am not saying that I do not care about the survival of the animals, just that it is not the reason that I do not eat animals. One has to pick their fights and that one is not my destiny.

croneishome said...

Let me revise that first statement to be prefectly clear: I do not eat animals or animal products because I believe that doing so is unhealthy, not because I am opposed to killing animals.

Ken Hopes said...

What I meant when I stated that "the environment can't exist without a sentient being being around to perceive it" was based partly on philosophy and partly on my limited understanding of quantum physics. I believe that reality arises from sentience (consciousness), not the other way around. This isn't something that can be proved or disproved, and I could be wrong. As for the "planets and other celestial bodies that do not have life forms on them", they have been perceived by sentient beings here on Earth who look through telescopes or gaze at the night sky.

Anonymous said...

OK, but where do we draw the line? No animals, no fish...
How about fungi? How about the small number of eukaryotic organisms you accidentally eat on your lettuce?
And how do we know that plants don't have some rudimentary consciousness?

Perhaps we should eat a purely elemental diet derived only from waste products of other organisms.

Anonymous said...

I would like to remind everyone that veganism has always been an abolitionist movement, ever since it's inception. If you understand the original meaning of veganism, croneishome, and identify as a vegan, then you are totally incorrect to say that "vegan simply meant that you were a vegetarian who does not eat any meat (including fish or dairy, and it was debatable back then about honey)". -honey wasn't/isn't debatable-
Veganism has always been a principle, the principle of nonexploitation, not a mere dietary choice. If you apply this principle to your life then it means you are against exploiting others for your own ends.
It fine for you to live however you want but to equate veganism with just dietary preference is factually incorrect. The "vegan" diet is really just a total vegetarian diet that is an apparent manifestation of the principle of nonexploitation. Other manifestations are not wearing animals or buying products tested on them, etc. Vegetarianism is about diet. That's why the early vegan movement, the Watsons etc., felt the need to make a distinction between what they were doing and what vegetarians were doing.
Please go back and read "Veganism Defined" by Leslie Cross, and other early vegan literature to further explore my points.

To quote Donald Watson (in 1947), "If the vegan ideal of non-exploitation were generally adopted it would be the greatest peaceful revolution ever known, abolishing vast industries and establishing new ones in the better interests of men and animals alike."

Jess Parsons said...

Wow, it isn't hard enough trying to talk to the average supermarket meat and milk buyer - let's waste energy fighting each other as well.

After all, by experience we know how successful one person is at changing another person's feelings.

Or perhaps we could celebrate how much we have in common and set to work together to shout out about the choices that most don't even know they have!