The Six Principles of the Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights

  1. The abolitionist approach to animal rights rejects all animal use and maintains that all sentient beings, humans or nonhumans, have one right: the basic right not to be treated as the property of others.
  2. Our recognition of the one basic right means that we must abolish, and not merely regulate, institutionalized animal exploitation—because it assumes that animals are the property of humans. We recognize that we will not abolish overnight the property status of nonhumans, but we will support only those campaigns and positions that explicitly promote the abolitionist agenda. We will not support positions that call for supposedly “improved” regulation of animal exploitation.
  3. The abolitionist approach sees abolition as the goal of animal ethics and sees creative, nonviolent vegan advocacy—and not welfare reform—as the means to that end. The abolitionist approach regards veganism as the moral baseline and maintains that we cannot draw a morally coherent distinction between flesh and other animal products, such as dairy or eggs, or between animal foods and the use of animals for clothing or other products.
  4. The abolitionist approach links the moral status of nonhumans with sentience alone and not with any other cognitive characteristic. Sentience is subjective awareness; there is someone who perceives and experiences the world. A sentient being has interests; that is, preferences, wants, or desires. If a being is sentient, then that is necessary and sufficient for the being to have the right not to be used as a means to human ends, which, correlatively, imposes on humans the moral obligation not to use that being as a resource. It is not a matter of “humanely” using that animal. Although less suffering is better than more suffering, no use can be morally justified.
  5. Just as we reject racism, sexism, ageism, and heterosexism, we reject speciesism. The species of a sentient being is no more reason to deny the protection of this basic right than race, sex, age, or sexual orientation is a reason to deny membership in the human moral community to other humans.
  6. We recognize the principle of nonviolence as the guiding principle of the animal rights movement. Violence is the problem; it is not any part of the solution.

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A Note: In order to embrace the abolitionist approach to animal rights, it is not necessary to be spiritual or religious, or to be an atheist. You can be a spiritual or religious person, or you can be an atheist, or anything in between. It does not matter.

What does matter is:

(1) that you have moral concern about animals and that you want to do right by animals. That moral concern/moral impulse can come from any source, spiritual or non-spiritual; and

(2) that you regard as valid the logical arguments that our moral concern should not be limited to some nonhumans but should extend to all sentient beings and that we should abolish, and not regulate, animal exploitation.