Abolitionism (animal rights)
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|Description||The legal ownership of non-human animals should be abolished.|
|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. The word relates to the historical term abolitionism—a social movement to end slavery or human ownership of other humans. Proponents believe 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.
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. Others think that this should be done by creating a public debate in society.
New welfarists argue that there is no logical or practical contradiction between abolitionism and "welfarism." 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 believe that changing the legal status of nonhuman sentient beings is a first step in abolishing ownership or mistreatment, unfortunately there is ample evidence that this is not the case at all.
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