Random Thoughts on the Abolitionist Approach
Gary Fancione is a law professor and long-time animal-rights activist. He's also remarkably consistent and straight-forward in his beliefs that animal use is wrong, and that animals should not be viewed as property in any way, shape, or form. He has little patience for the sneaky, incremental approach of animal rights activists who work under the guise of animal welfare to end the ownership and use of animals -- in fact, he has long believed animal welfare actually impedes animal rights:
"Not only are the philosophies of animal rights and animal welfare separated by irreconcilable differences... the enactment of animal welfare measures actually impedes the achievement of animal rights... Welfare reforms, by their very nature, can only serve to retard the pace at which animal rights goals are achieved."
This viewpoint may help to allay some of the confusion that arises in people when they see so-called animal advocates fighting tooth and nail against regulations that actually help to improve the welfare of animals. This is because fundamentally, it is not about the treatment of animals: it's about ending animal use altogether. Gary was kind enough to lay it all out once again just earlier this morning:
Welfare “reforms” not only fail to provide any significant protection for animals; such reforms actually make matters worse because they encourage the public to feel more comfortable about animal exploitation and to continue to consume animals and animal products. The problem is use, not treatment. The goal is to abolish animal use, not to regulate treatment.
While the insights he provide go a long way toward explaining why some animal rights supporters sport an anti-welfare reform mindset, we disagree with him not only philosophically, but on strategic grounds as well.
Converting people to veganism isn't easy, and it is oftentimes even harder getting them to stick to it. As the animal rights organizations who have taken on a more patient, nuanced approach have proved time and time again, it's far more effective preying on the emotions and good intentions (and oftentimes, lack of hands-on experience) of animal lovers than bashing them over the head with animal liberation and veganism -- just ask all the dog fanciers who used to blissfully donate to groups like PeTA back in the 1980s!
For the incrementalists, the approach has worked spectacularly so far: the stakes are higher -- financially and socially -- for animal enterprises than ever before. No, animal ownership has not been abolished, but the incrementalists are definitely moving toward their goal.
And the here-and-now, take-no-prisoners abolitionists? Eh. Aside from the recent spate of vegan cookbooks (as opposed to the vegetarian cookbooks that seem to come in vogue every 15 years or so), their track record has quite simply not been too terribly impressive.
Iranian Dogs and Owners Under Seige
Speaking of animal ownership...
Dog ownership in Iran has long been a precarious institution. It is technically against the rules, but many people, especially the younger generation, are willing to flout the law for the sake of having a pet. And can you blame them? The human-animal bond* is, after all, some very powerful stuff...
Of course, the government is not happy about this, so last year, after a cleric issued a fatwa against pet ownership, it banned all advertisements alluding to the keeping and caring of pets (which reportedly increased the sale of small, easily-hidden dogs). And this year, things are set to get even tougher, with pet owners bracing for the wrath of a government crackdown:
The widening acceptability of dog ownership, and its popularity among a specific slice of Iran's population — young, urban, educated and frustrated with the Islamic government — partly explains why dogs are now generating more official hostility. In 2007, two years into the tenure of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, security forces targeted dog owners alongside a crackdown on women's attire and men's "Westernized" hairstyles. In the regime's eyes, owning a dog had become on par with wearing capri pants or sporting a mullet — a rebellious act.
Dog owners in Iran, like much of the population, are mostly preoccupied these days with inflation, joblessness and the parlous state of the country's economy. But they will soon need to consider whether keeping their shih tzu or poodle is worth the added worry. Their dogs may face the same fate as the hundreds of street dogs that the government regularly sweeps from the streets of Tehran.
By the way, being "swept from the streets of Tehran" is a euphemism for being shot to death. Better dead than fed, indeed. Yikes!
* This might be a good time to once again plug Meg Olmert's wonderful book Made for Each Other!