Abolitionism (animal rights)

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Not to be confused with Abolitionism (bioethics).
Description The legal ownership of non-human animals should be abolished.
Proponents Gary Francione
Tom Regan
Subject Animal rights, ethics, law, philosophy

Abolitionism is the advocacy of animal rights that oppose all animal usage by humans and maintains that all sentient beings, humans or nonhumans, share a basic right: the right not to be treated as the property of others.[1] The word alludes to the historical term abolitionism—a social movement to end slavery or human ownership of other humans—but is modified in this context to promote ending the human ownership of all animals.[citation needed] Animal rights theory[clarification needed] is the idea that focusing on animal welfare reform not only fails to challenge animal suffering, but may prolong it by making the exercise of property rights over animals appear acceptable. The abolitionists' objective is to secure a moral and legal paradigm shift, whereby animals are no longer regarded as things to be owned and used. The American philosopher Tom Regan writes that abolitionists want empty cages, not bigger ones. This is contrasted with animal protectionism, the position that change can be achieved by incremental improvements in animal welfare.[2]

Gary Francione, professor of law and philosophy at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, argues from the abolitionist perspective that self-described animal-rights groups who pursue welfare concerns, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, risk making the public feel comfortable about its use of animals. As a result, he calls such groups the "new welfarists," arguing that, though their aim is an end to animal use, the reforms they pursue are indistinguishable from reforms agreeable to traditional welfarists, who he says have no interest in abolishing animal use.[3] He argues that reform campaigns entrench the property status of animals, and validate the view that animals simply need to be treated better. Instead, he writes, the public's view that animals can be used and consumed ought to be challenged. His position is that this should be done by promoting ethical veganism.[4] Others think that this should be done by creating a public debate in society.[5]


In 2007, the parliament of the Balearic Islands, an autonomous province of Spain, passed the world's first legislation granting legal rights to all great apes.[6]

New Zealand granted basic rights to five great ape species in 1999. Their use is now forbidden in research, testing or teaching. [7]

In 2013, India officially recognized dolphins as non-human persons. [8]

Animal welfare progress[edit]

In 1992, Switzerland amended its constitution to recognize animals as beings and not things.[9] The dignity of animals is also protected in Switzerland.[10] In the interests of future generations, Germany added animal welfare in a 2002 amendment to its constitution, becoming the first European Union member to do so.[9][11][12]


  1. ^ The Six Principles of the Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights
  2. ^ "The Torch of Reason, The Sword of Justice, animalsvoice.com". Retrieved May 24, 2011. 
  3. ^ "For the abolition of slavery, for the abolition of veganism". Retrieved 2014-03-23. 
  4. ^ Francione 1996, chapter. 5.
  5. ^ "For the abolition of slavery, for the abolition of veganism". 2012-11-17. Retrieved 2014-03-23. 
  6. ^ Thomas Rose. "Going ape over human rights". CBC News. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  7. ^ Thomas Rose (2007-08-02). "A Step at a time: New Zealand's progress toward hominid rights". CBC News. 
  8. ^ "Dolphins gain unprecedented protection in India". Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  9. ^ a b "Germany guarantees animal rights in constitution". Associated Press. 2002-05-18. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  10. ^ "Swiss constitution". 1999-04-18. Retrieved 2013-03-23. 
  11. ^ Constitutional Protection for Germany's Animals. page 13
  12. ^ "Germany guarantees animal rights". CNN. 2002-06-21. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 

Further reading[edit]