Abolitionism (animal rights)

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DescriptionThe legal ownership of non-human animals should be abolished.
ProponentsGary Francione
Tom Regan
SubjectAnimal rights, ethics, law, philosophy

Abolitionism or abolitionist veganism is the animal rights based opposition to all animal use by humans. Abolitionism maintains that all sentient beings, humans or nonhumans, share a basic right: the right not to be treated as the property of others.[1][2] Abolitionist vegans emphasise that animal products require treating animals as property or resources and that animal products are not necessary for human health in modern societies.[3][4] Abolitionists believe that everyone who can live vegan is therefore morally obligated to be vegan.[3][4]

Abolitionists generally oppose movements that seek to make animal use more humane or to abolish specific forms of animal use, since they believe this undermines the movement to abolish all forms of animal use.[1][2] The 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.[5] This is contrasted with animal welfare, which seeks incremental reform, and animal protectionism, which seeks to combine the first principles of abolitionism with an incremental approach, but which is regarded by some abolitionists as another form of welfarism or "New Welfarism".[6]


The word relates to the historical term abolitionism—a social movement to end slavery or human ownership of other humans.[7]

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. 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. 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.[8] Others think that this should be done by creating a public debate in society [9].

New welfarists argue that there is no logical or practical contradiction between abolitionism and "welfarism".[10][11] Welfarists think that they can be working toward abolition, but by gradual steps, pragmatically taking into account what most people can be realistically persuaded to do in the short as well as the long term, and what suffering it is most urgent to relieve. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, for example, in addition to promoting local improvements in the treatment of animals, promote vegetarianism. And although some people[who?] may believe that changing the legal status of nonhuman sentient beings[12][13] is a first step in abolishing ownership or mistreatment, there may be ample evidence that this is not the case if the consuming public has not already begun to reduce or eliminate its exploitation of animals as their own food.[citation needed]


In 1992, Switzerland amended its constitution to recognize animals as beings and not things.[14] The dignity of animals is also protected in Switzerland.[15]

New Zealand granted basic rights to five great ape species in 1999. Their use is now forbidden in research, testing or teaching.[16]

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.[14][17][18]

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.[19]

In 2013, India officially recognized dolphins as non-human persons.[20]

In 2014, France revised the legal status of animals from movable property to sentient beings,[12] and the province of Quebec in Canada is considering similar legislation.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Six Principles of the Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights
  2. ^ a b Francione, Gary. "Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach"
  3. ^ a b Gary Francione, Eat Like You Care
  4. ^ a b HowDoIGoVegan.com
  5. ^ "The Torch of Reason, The Sword of Justice, animalsvoice.com". Archived from the original on July 22, 2011. Retrieved May 24, 2011.
  6. ^ Francione, Gary L. and Garner, Robert. The Animal Rights Debate. Columbia University Press, 2010.
  7. ^ "When Vegans Won't Compromise". New York Times. 16 August 2015. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  8. ^ Francione 1996, chapter. 5.
  9. ^ ""For the abolition of veganism, for the abolition of slavery. About the necessary paradigm shift needed in the animal rights movement."". Retrieved 2019-02-03.
  10. ^ "Farm-animal welfare, legislation, and trade". Law and contemporary problems 325-358. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
  11. ^ Smith, Allison; Reese, Jacy (24 March 2016). "An empirical perspective on animal advocacy". Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Les animaux ne sont plus des "meubles" (animals are no longer furniture)". Le Figaro.fr. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
  13. ^ a b "New bill aimed at modifying the legal status of animals announced". Montreal SPCA. Archived from the original on 2014-12-14. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
  14. ^ a b "Germany guarantees animal rights in constitution". Associated Press. 2002-05-18. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  15. ^ "Swiss constitution". 1999-04-18. Retrieved 2013-03-23.
  16. ^ Thomas Rose (2007-08-02). "A Step at a time: New Zealand's progress toward hominid rights" (PDF). CBC News.
  17. ^ Constitutional Protection for Germany's Animals. page 13
  18. ^ "Germany guarantees animal rights". CNN. 2002-06-21. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  19. ^ Thomas Rose. "Going ape over human rights". CBC News. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  20. ^ "Dolphins gain unprecedented protection in India". Retrieved 2007-08-02.

Further reading[edit]