The Abolitionist-Regulationist Debate From Another Era: Sound Familiar?

During race-based slavery in the United States, there were those who said that they believed that slavery should be abolished eventually (whatever that meant) but who refused to criticize the institution of slavery openly and call for its end, and, instead, campaigned for more “humane” slavery.

And there were those who believed in abolition and would not endorse the system of slavery in any way. The former group criticized the latter group claiming that their refusal to jump on the regulationist bandwagon would only strengthen slavery.

Does this sound familiar?

This quote from William Lloyd Garrison, an 19th-century abolitionist, is instructive.

What an idiotic absurdity

Garrison was clear: If you oppose slavery, you stop participating in the institution. Period. You emancipate your slaves. You reject slavery and you aren’t ashamed of your opposition. You don’t try to hide it. You openly and sincerely, but nonviolently, express your “persistent, uncompromising moral opposition” to slavery, which is “a system of boundless immorality.”

Similarly, if you believe that animal exploitation is wrong, the solution is not to support “happy” exploitation. The solution is to go vegan, be clear about veganism as an unequivocal moral baseline, and to engage in creative, nonviolent vegan education to convince others not to participate in a system of “boundless immorality.”

It would have been absurd in the 19th century to claim that there was no difference between those who opposed slavery and those who favored its regulation. It is absurd now to claim that there is no difference between those who propose veganism as a clear, unequivocal moral baseline and those who promote the “humane” regulation of animal exploitation and “compassionate” consumption, and who claim that being a “conscientious omnivore” is a “defensible ethical position.”


If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan!

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University