I have no formal affiliation with any organization, including those that characterize themselves as “abolitionist” or “abolitionist vegan” organizations.
Some people who get exposed to my work get excited and decide to start “abolitionist” or “abolitionist vegan” groups. I am not sure why these people feel motivated to do this. After all, if they are rationally persuaded by my position (and rational persuasion is the only thing in which I have any interest; I am not interested in “followers”), why not just use the materials that I have developed and made available for free, and engage in creative, nonviolent abolitionist vegan advocacy? Why do they have to start a new “group”?
I don’t know the answer to that question.
In almost all of these cases, the person involved is a relatively new vegan, has often come from a welfarist background, and has little understanding of, or perspective on, how the modern animal movement developed and the ways in which it has gone seriously wrong, and really has no grasp on abolitionist theory. Being able to recite the Six Principles of the Abolitionist Approach does not mean you understand what those principles mean in the context of the overall theory.
These new groups are more or less centralized. Some have a more democratic structure; some have “executive directors” and are more authoritarian. Some engage in merchandizing and produce buttons, bags, and t-shirts to “brand.” Some don’t. But all basically purport to use my theory as a way to distinguish themselves from large animal charities and from smaller, more grassroots but still overtly new-welfarist efforts.
My experience is the moment I observe that these “abolitionist vegan” groups are engaging in advocacy that involves welfarism, single-issue campaigns, or any of the things that I have argued are inconsistent with abolition, or that they engage in advocacy that I believe is superficial and trivializes or even misrepresents the abolitionist position, or that they are engaging in deliberate efforts to keep people away from my work in favor of promoting their “brand” for the sake of it, these “abolitionist” groups complain that they have been victimized in some fashion by my observation. They apparently believe that I have some obligation to support them because they are supposedly representing my views even when I believe that they are not, and, in some cases, have seriously misunderstood and misrepresented my views. Some attempt to denigrate my ideological concerns by claiming or intimating in a dishonest way that my criticism is a matter of “personal conflict” or engaging in overtly ad hominem or defamatory attacks. But all go on to claim that they are really abolitionist vegan groups even though they incorporate some element or elements that I reject as inconsistent with abolitionist theory as I have developed it over the past three decades.
I cannot stop people from calling themselves “abolitionists,” “abolitionist vegans,” or from starting groups of this sort that purport to represent my position while not doing so. But I want to be clear that I have nothing to do with any of these groups and I believe that some of them are contributing in significant ways to the confusion that is impeding effective advocacy for nonhuman animals.
I do believe that there is room for collective “think tank” efforts that will develop intellectually sound materials to facilitate grassroots abolitionist advocacy, and develop and promote reading groups and other similar activities. I regard reading groups as extremely important. But these efforts should never become efforts in merchandizing, branding, or the promotion of superficial or trivial actions, and they should adhere to the main tenets of the abolitionist approach: a rejection of animals as property and and recognition of nonhuman personhood; veganism as the moral baseline; a complete rejection of welfare reform and single-issue campaigns, and a recognition that human rights and animal rights are inextricably intertwined.
Those who are persuaded rationally by the abolitionist theory I have developed would be better advised to educate themselves thoroughly–both as to the theory of abolition and how to teach others–and then go and advocate in creative, nonviolent ways. In my experience, groups of this sort have nothing to do with helping animals and everything to do with why the animal “movement” is in the mess it is in.
If animals matter morally at all–if animals are not mere things that exist as resources for human use–than veganism is the only rationally response.
If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Going vegan is easy, better for your health and the heath of the planet, and most important, it is what we owe morally to nonhuman animals.
Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University
©2014 Gary L. Francione