The Problem: “Animal Advocates” Who Promote Animal Exploitation

[Note: Click to enlarge images.]

Mercy for Animals, an animal welfare organization, claims that “The Problem” is “Animals suffering miserably on factory farms.”

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The problem is identifying the problem as “factory farms” and not animal use or exploitation–wherever it occurs and however supposedly “humane” or “compassionate” or “merciful” it is.

Misidentifying the problem has absurd and speciesist consequences, such as declaring the McDonald’s “cage-free” egg announcement as a “victory” and identifying this:


and this


as “Progress!” and as representing “meaningful changes.”

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McDonald’s sells the suffering and death of animals.

Groups like the Humane Society of the United States and Mercy for Animals act as partners with McDonald’s in selling that suffering and death.

McDonald’s gets “animal advocates” to promote them and their products.

In return, McDonald’s gives these “animal advocates” meaningless “victories” to use in fundraising.

HSUS declares the McDonald’s “cage-free” egg announcement as a “watershed moment.”

MFA “applaud[s] McDonald’s for its commitment to phasing out cruel cages in its North American egg supply chain” and calls McDonald’s “praiseworthy.”

That statement is breathtaking.

Here’s a screenshot of the MFA statement in case you simply cannot believe that “animal advocates” would “applaud” animal exploitation.

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Notice that, in addition to “applaud[ing]” the McDonald’s “cage-free” egg announcement, MFA tells its supporters to ask McDonald’s to continue it’s “praiseworthy progress by adopting meaningful standards for chickens killed for Chicken McNuggets.”

And that’s the problem.

Supporting these groups is supporting animal exploitation just as much as consuming a McDonald’s animal product is.

If animals matter morally, then we are obligated morally to embrace and promote veganism as a moral imperative and we are equally obligated to oppose the speciesist idea that imposing suffering and death on animals can ever be “praiseworthy.”


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.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option — it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2015 Gary L. Francione

A Movement That Moves Backward

When I wrote “Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement” in 1996, I argued that the animal rights movement was becoming a “new welfarist” movement. That is, the movement claimed to embrace animal rights and abolition but it promoted the idea of using traditional welfarist reform to get to abolition. I argued that new welfarism was unsound both as a moral and practical matter.

It is now clear that the “movement” rejects abolition and maintains, as did the classical welfarists of the 19th and early- to mid-20th century, that animal use is not itself morally objectionable and that we can use and kill animals as long as we do so “compassionately.”

So the “movement” today is not even new welfarist; it is not taking the position that animal exploitation–however “humane”–is itself morally wrong. The “movement” has rejected veganism as a moral baseline. The only difference between now, and, say, the “movement” in 1940 is that in 1940, there were few, if any, people making a living from being “animal activists.” Now, there are thousands making a living off the back of animal suffering and death as they peddle the insidious notion of “happy” or “compassionate” exploitation.

It’s going backward.


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.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option — it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2015 Gary L. Francione

McDonald’s “Cage-Free” Eggs, Peter McSinger and the McAnimal Movement

In 2012, the European Union “ban” on conventional battery cages for laying hens came into effect. I wrote a blog post and discussed how, even though this supposed “ban” was not a ban on battery cages at all and required only that producers use “enriched” cages for laying hens, and even though conservative welfarists acknowledged that “enriched” cages “fail to overcome” the “severe welfare problems” of conventional cages, Peter Singer, so-called “Father of the Animal Rights Movement,” declared, in a CNN article entitled, Singer: Europe’s Ethical Eggs, that we should

celebrate a major advance in animal welfare, and, therefore, for Europe, a step towards becoming a more civilized and humane society.

Well, if Singer was happy about the 2012 EU “ban,” he’s overjoyed now that McDonald’s has announced on Tuesday, September 8, that it hopes to replace all the eggs it uses with “cage-free” eggs in ten years. In his essay, McDonald’s Rattles the Hen Cage, Singer states:

On Tuesday came what might be the biggest victory yet: McDonald’s announced that it will stop using eggs from caged hens in the U.S. and Canada.

“Biggest victory yet”?



is the “biggest victory yet”?

And Singer tells us that it took forty years to get to this “victory.” Actually, it’s going to take fifty, Peter. You forgot to add the additional ten years of the phase-in.

It is breathtaking that Singer would declare this to be any sort of “victory.” But Singer is not only a consistent cheerleader for the happy exploitation movement: he founded that movement in 2005 when he sent a public letter–endorsed by just about all of the large animal groups–to Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, expressing “appreciation and support” for the “pioneering” Whole Foods happy exploitation program:


When he was asked about the claim that his 2005 letter was an “endorsement for Whole Foods to apply the word compassion to the killing of animals and the packaging of their bodies,” Singer replied:

I think it is that. I don’t deny that. Obviously they’re killing animals and packaging their bodies. There might be some people who say, ‘You can’t be compassionate if you end up killing the animals.’ I just think that’s wrong. . . .

I think as long as the standards really are compassionate ones, that do as much as they can to give the animals decent lives before they’re killed, I don’t have a problem with it.

Sorry, folks, but anyone who claims fatherhood of the “animal rights movement” and says such a thing needs to have a DNA test because there’s a very doubtful paternity claim being advanced.

Ever since 2005, it’s been a constant race to the bottom as all of the large groups relentlessly promote the speciesist idea that animal use is just fine as long as treatment is “compassionate.” And, in this chilling recording from 2006, Mackey discusses how groups like HSUS, PETA, Viva!USA, and Farm Sanctuary served as “stakeholders” and participated in discussions–species by species–to decide what standards of happy exploitation Whole Foods should adopt for the program referred to in Singer’s letter. We find that absolutely breathtaking.

Now it’s no news that Singer does not have a particularly high regard for chickens:

You could say it’s wrong to kill a being whenever a being is sentient or conscious. Then you would have to say it’s just as wrong to kill a chicken or mouse as it is to kill you or me. I can’t accept that idea. It may be just as wrong, but millions of chickens are killed every day. I can’t think of that as a tragedy on the same scale as millions of humans being killed. What is different about humans? Humans are forward-looking beings, and they have hopes and desires for the future. That seems a plausible answer to the question of why it’s so tragic when humans die.

And it’s also no news that Singer explicitly rejects veganism as a moral baseline, denigrating consistent veganism as “fanatical” and as a matter of being “personally pure.” He talks about the “luxury” of eating animal products and calls himself a “flexible vegan,” claiming that:

there’s a little bit of room for indulgence in all of our lives. I know some people who are vegan in their homes but if they’re going out to a fancy restaurant, they allow themselves the luxury of not being vegan that evening. I don’t see anything really wrong with that. . . .

I’ve been a vegetarian since 1971. I’ve gradually become increasingly vegan. I am largely vegan but I’m a flexible vegan. I don’t go to the supermarket and buy non-vegan stuff for myself. But when I’m traveling or going to other people’s places I will be quite happy to eat vegetarian rather than vegan.

So Singer has no problem with eating eggs and other animal products. And in another ten years, he will be able to stop in at McDonald’s and enjoy one of their “cage-free” egg products with “victory” in every delicious bite.


But surely, even he must see that what McDonald’s is doing has nothing to do with animal ethics. It has to do with corporate profitability. McDonald’s is experiencing falling market share. Customers are demanding that McDonald’s serve breakfast foods all day long. And analysts see the “cage-free” announcement as allowing McDonald’s to do an all-day breakfast menu for which it can charge higher prices because of the “better” eggs that McDonald’s will phase in over the next decade.

From a business point of view, the move by McDonald’s is brilliant. They not only get to increase profits, but they get the “animal movement”–from Father Singer to reactionary welfarist groups such as the Humane Society of the United States and Mercy for Animals–to provide free advertising and tons and tons of praise. Indeed, these so-called “animal advocates” are declaring this to be a “watershed moment.” McDonald’s actually has these “animal advocates” reassuring the public that it’s just fine for people to continue to consume animals.

It’s also great for the animal groups, who are, as we write, undoubtedly raising tons of cash as they join Singer in declaring “victory” and as they all claim credit.

But what about the birds?

What about the birds who will still be confined in massive sheds with no room to move?

What about the birds, who will still be debeaked and tortured in other ways, from their birth to their deaths in the hideous abattoirs that slaughter chickens?

What about the male chicks, who will still be killed at birth in the hatcheries?

All of this will continue, but with the “animal movement” providing its stamp of approval.

Unfortunately, the birds are just tools to both the institutional exploiters, such as McDonald’s, and to the “animal advocates,” who are in every way partners with those institutional exploiters.

Singer reminds us that it took forty years–actually fifty with the additional ten years–to get to this “victory.”

Fifty years to get from a situation of torture to a situation of continued torture with the primary difference being that “animal advocates” are now praising that torture. So what’s next?

Another forty or fifty years to get a bit more space in the “cage-free” barn?

And then what? Another few decades of campaigning to get the hens a bit of outdoor space?

It goes on and on and on and on. It never ends. Just imagine all the opportunities for fundraising. That’s the beauty of welfarist reform campaigns. They make for literally unlimited campaigning opportunities. And every insignificant change results in “animal advocates” declaring “victory”–and asking you for more money.

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The “anything is a victory” approach is a great model for the thousands of “animal advocates” who make a living off the suffering of animals as they peddle happy exploitation. It’s great for Singer, who can pretend that he’s doing something other than putting a purported intellectual gloss on this insidious betrayal of animals. It’s great for the public, which is told by “animal advocates” that they can still care about animals and be “compassionate” as they shovel the products of suffering, death, and injustice into their mouths. And it’s certainly great for McDonald’s.

It’s a true win-win-win-win. Only the animals lose.

We do, however, agree that this is a “watershed moment”: the “animal movement” has redefined “activism” as making greater profits for McDonald’s, and has succeeded in associating McDonald’s–one of the most heinous exploiters of nonhumans, humans, and the earth–as a proud member of the “animal movement.”

At the level of the large groups and their Father, it’s a McAnimal Movement now.


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.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option — it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

Anna Charlton
Adjunct Professor of Law, Rutgers University

©2015 Gary L. Francione & Anna Charlton

Direct Action Everywhere (DxE): Vegan Advocacy is “Harmful to the Animal Rights Movement”

The Modern Animal Movement Rejects Veganism as a Moral Baseline

The modern animal movement, which promotes welfare reform and single-issue campaigns, explicitly and uniformly rejects veganism as a moral baseline.

There is not a single one of the large “animal advocacy” groups that promotes veganism as a moral imperative.

All of the large groups sideline veganism as just another way of reducing suffering–along with vegetarianism, Meatless Monday, less meat, crate-free pork, cage-free eggs, etc.

Peter Singer, so-called “Father of the Animal Rights Movement” calls being a consistent vegan “fanatical” and relentlessly promotes “happy” exploitation. PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk, when asked about promoting principled veganism, said: “Screw the principle”.

PETA, Farm Sanctuary, Father Singer and Sea Shepherd all denigrate consistent veganism as some sort of “personal purity.”

Many “animal advocates” claim that, since we cannot eliminate all harm to animals–animals will be killed in the cultivation of crops–and we cannot avoid all contact with animal products–there are animal by-products in road surfaces, bicycle tires, and plastics, we should not promote veganism as a moral imperative. For example, Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary tells us that consistency is not required because we can’t be perfect anyway:

• Personal Purity vs. Effective Advocacy

The number one thing that we do wrong—and I am speaking from many years of doing this myself—is that we place personal purity ahead of being as effective as possible for animals. We lose sight of the fact that veganism is not an end in and of itself but rather a means of ending cruelty to animals. Being vegan is not about being perfect and causing no cruelty at all—it’s about decreasing suffering as effectively as possible.

We all know this, but it bears repeating: At some level, everything we consume harms some animals. Every non-organic thing we eat involves pesticides that kill birds and other small animals. Organic foods use animal fertilizer. Harvesting vegan foods kills and displaces animals. Bike tires and even “vegan” shoes contain some small amount of animal product. We could all go out into the woods and live on nuts and berries as “level 10 vegans,” but ultimately, that would be far less effective than living where we could influence others to adopt a vegan diet as well.

Animals don’t need your purity, or else it would make sense to go live in a cabin in the woods, causing as little harm as possible. What the animals need is your advocacy—and they need for it to be as effective and influential as possible. Ultimately, veganism can’t just be about us, or it will become just one more narcissistic cultural fad. Veganism must be about helping animals.

This is, of course, like saying that our actions may have an indirect and unintended negative effects on humans so we don’t need to be consistent about not committing murder, rape, or any other action that violates the fundamental rights of humans. No one would ever say that in the human context. But in the nonhuman context, that’s what some “animal advocates” claim.

And that’s deeply speciesist.

But now, the new welfarists are taking it one step further away from veganism as a moral imperative, which I had previously thought was not possible.

And Now Comes DxE

Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) (why isn’t it “DAE” or “DaE”?) is a group that claims to be “radical” but claims that vegan advocacy is not “activism” and that vegan advocacy is “harmful” to the animals.

In his essay, “Boycott Veganism, DxE founder, Wayne Hsiung, claims:

the concept of veganism is harmful to the animal rights movement. And if you are serious about working for animal liberation, the first thing you should boycott is neither meat nor dairy nor eggs. The first thing you should boycott. . . is veganism.

Harmful? Vegan advocacy is harmful?

Here’s a screenshot of this quote in case you think I’m kidding:

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(Click to enlarge.)

Hsiung goes on to explain that he’s not saying it’s okay to eat animals but only that we have to do more than be vegan if we want to do right by the animals. But even though we should be more than vegan, we should not advocate veganism. In fact, we should reject vegan advocacy as “harmful“. Hsiung does not see vegan advocacy as “activism.”

This makes no sense.

No one will get any argument out of me about veganism being necessary but not sufficient for the recognition of animal rights. I have, since Hsiung was at least in junior high, been clear that going vegan is the very least that we can do for animals and that we should do more. But going vegan is the very first thing we should do once we recognize and accept that animals matter morally. I have also made clear that veganism is necessary but not sufficient if we want to live a nonviolent life.

To say, as Hsiung says, that veganism is necessary but not sufficient for animal rights and nonviolence but that promoting veganism is “harmful” because veganism is not “activism” is beyond absurd.

Let’s take a closer look at the DxE position.

Veganism and Vegan Advocacy Are Not “Activism”

According to DxE, veganism and vegan advocacy are “harmful” because they are about “personal choice” and “consumer lifestyle.” Hsiung claims that “Donald Watson coined the term in 1944 as primarily a consumer lifestyle.” Watson was not concerned with the larger political issues, according to Hsiung.

This comment indicates that Hsiung has either never read Watson or he is deliberately misrepresenting him.

We need go further than the statement made by Watson when he introduced the term “vegan” in 1944:

We can see quite plainly that our present civilisation is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilisations were built on the exploitation of slaves, and we believe the spiritual destiny of man is such that in time he will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the products of animals’ bodies. Even though the scientific evidence may be lacking, we shrewdly suspect that the great impediment to man’s moral development may be that he is a parasite of lower forms of animal life.

I certainly disagree with aspects of Watson’s thinking. I do not, for example, share his view that vegetarianism is a gateway to veganism. And I think it is imperative to make an explicit connection between animal rights and human rights and the need to reject all discrimination–a point that Watson did not discuss explicitly.

The Vegan Society, which Watson helped to found, has certainly gone in the direction of promoting veganism as a consumerist lifestyle. And I have openly and repeatedly criticized them for abandoning Watson’s progressive vision in favor of promoting the idea that veganism is about consuming products that have the Vegan Society “trademark.” Indeed, if Donald Watson were still alive, he would be absolutely horrified at what the Vegan Society has become.

But it is beyond absurd to say that Watson’s position was merely “personal” or “consumerist,” and that Watson did not see veganism as a political act and as part of a political movement that embraced nonviolence. Watson regarded the vegan movement as “the greatest movement that ever was” because it provided a solution to the crisis of greed and violence that affected and afflicted humankind and that threatened ecological disaster.

When I challenged Hsiung on his position on Watson on Bob Linden’s show, he stated that he really thought highly of Watson and that if we could “create 100,000 Donald Watsons…we could change the world overnight.” This is puzzling. Why would Hsiung want “100,000 Donald Watsons” if he believes that vegan advocacy is “harmful”? And if we did magically end up with “100,000 Donald Watsons” who promoted veganism, they would be told to not promote veganism but, instead, to promote “activism.”

This makes no sense.

In any event, and putting aside that, in many respects, the personal/political distinction is illusory, it is clear that adopting veganism as a moral imperative is not merely a matter of “personal choice” or “consumer lifestyle.” It is a political decision by the individual to reject the victimization of the vulnerable and the commodification of nonhuman animals that is pervasive in our society. It is a commitment by the individual to stop contributing to the demand that makes institutionalized animal exploitation possible. It is a commitment to the most fundamental prerequisite for justice for nonhuman animals.

And advocating veganism as a moral imperative is certainly activism. To say that someone advocating veganism as a moral baseline is simply seeking to get people to adopt a particular “consumer lifestyle” is ludicrous.

Are there people who do view veganism merely as a matter of “consumer lifestyle” and “personal choice”? There certainly are. The large animal charities, which, as I explain below, Hsiung actively supports, accept the status of animals as economic commodities and just demand a better “product.” They do not promote veganism as any sort of moral imperative. But Watson didn’t look at it that way and abolitionists (as I use that term) certainly do not.

Why would DxE take the position that veganism–either as the decision of the individual and as a matter of social advocacy and education–is not activism?

I had an opportunity to discuss this and other issues with Hsiung when Bob Linden invited me to talk with Hsiung on Go Vegan Radio.

In response to my question about why vegan advocacy was not “activism,” Hsiung used the following hypothetical: Let’s assume we come upon a child being beaten by a mob. How should we respond? We can say that we disapprove and refuse to participate. Or we can take action to help the child. Wayne believes that the first response–non-participation–is analogous to the vegan response, and the second response–disruption of the activity–is analogous to the DxE “activist” response. He concludes that since the first reaction is inadequate morally because we are obligated to act to stop the beating of the child, veganism fails.

This analogy shows clearly that Hsiung fails to understand the nature of animal exploitation. For the analogy to work, the bystanders would have to be paying the mob to beat the child. The mob would not be beating the child if the bystanders did not pay them to do so. That is how animal exploitation works. The “mob” of exploiters is killing animals because the bystanders are demanding that they do so and paying them to do it.

When we change the hypothetical so that it is analogous to what goes on with animal exploitation, the only appropriate response is for the bystanders to say to the mob, “stop that; we will not pay you to beat the child.” The only way that can stop the producers from killing animals is to stop demanding that they do so. And that is exactly what vegan advocacy aims to do.

Once we understand how animal exploitation works (and it’s not rocket science), we see that Hsiung’s comments about veganism/vegan advocacy as not being activism are just silly. Indeed, Hsiung is telling people not to demand the end of the exploitation that they are demanding.

This makes no sense.

Vegan Advocacy is “Harmful”

DxE claims not only that veganism and vegan advocacy do not involve “activism,” but that vegan advocacy is “harmful.” When I first saw this claim by DxErs, I thought they were making the same point that Singer and other utilitarians make: that promoting veganism as a moral imperative is harmful as a contingent matter because it may turn people away from being vegan because they may think it is too difficult.

But Hsiung and DxE go further: they think that promoting veganism is inherently harmful.

And why do the DxErs think that? Hsiung explained on the Bob Linden show that veganism advocacy is like the “free produce movement” of the 19th century that promoted a boycott on products made by slaves as a way of ending slavery. Hsiung claimed that some abolitionists, such as William Lloyd Garrison, criticized that approach as ineffective and as counterproductive.

Again, Hsiung’s use of this analogy again shows he does not understand the nature of animal exploitation.

The free produce movement sought a boycott of products made by slaves. With animal exploitation, the animals are the products. Vegan advocacy is not promoting a boycott of products made by animals; it is actively rejecting the status of animals as commodities. It is rejecting the status of animals as property.

To the extent that some abolitionists rejected the Free Produce Movement, it was because they thought it was ineffective relative to other things that would, it was argued, bring about abolition more quickly. They claimed that the Free Produce Movement did not attack slavery directly. Abolitionist veganism is a direct attack on animal slavery. Indeed, the very first first principle of the Abolitionist Approach is that nonhumans have a moral right not to be used as property. The second principle is that we must abolish and not merely regulate animal use. The third principle is that abolition requires veganism both as an individual and social matter.

A movement that promotes veganism as a moral baseline is, without doubt, the most effective tool for ending animal exploitation. If every vegan persuaded one other person to go vegan in the next year, and this pattern were repeated every year by the prior group of vegans and the new group of vegans, the world would be vegan in about a decade. Now, we all know that is not going to happen, but if all animal advocates embraced veganism as a moral imperative and educated themselves so that they could educate others effectively, we would certainly get closer to abolition in a decade than we will doing anything else.

Hsiung claims that if someone chooses to go vegan, it has no effect on reducing demand. That’s correct but, again, Hsiung misses the point. The Abolitionist Movement is seeking to inspire collective action–to build a movement of millions who reject the exploitation of animals and who want to bring about the end of animal exploitation. And the only way to end animal slavery is to end the use of animals as commodities. And the only way to end the use of animals as commodities is by individuals no longer eating, wearing, or using animals and acting collectively with others to persuade others to do the same as a matter of a moral imperative.

Moreover, Hsiung’s criticism that the individual decision to embrace veganism as a moral baseline does not reduce overall demand or do anything to effect any change as far as animals are concerned can be said about anything that anyone, including the DxErs, proposes as an alternative. For example, one of the DxErs, a DxE blogger and organizer named Kelly, has this advice:

So stop talking about veganism. Stop talking about vegan products. Stop talking about individual humans. Talk about speciesism. Talk about the animals. Talk about culture.

And shout about atrocity.

Assuming there is any substantive content to whatever Kelly thinks that people should be doing here, it is rather clear that one person talking about animals, culture, and speciesism, and shouting about “atrocity,” is not going to amount to a very big hill of beans. Moreover, when Kelly has these discussions with people, and they respond by saying, “hey Kelly, that’s really interesting, what can I do to make a difference?”, Kelly won’t tell them that they should stop participating in animal exploitation and go vegan. Rather, she will tell them to talk to others about animals, speciesism, and culture. And she will tell them to shout about atrocity. But she won’t mention veganism because that isn’t activism. That’s “harmful.”

This makes no sense.

In any event, Hsiung and all the DxErs misrepresent the vegan abolitionist movement and claim it is not about collective action; it is only about “consumer lifestyles” and promoting vegan options at non-vegan resturants.

That is simply and unequivocally false.

Those who embrace veganism as a moral baseline embrace the idea that animal exploitation is unjust. They are shouting about the atrocity of animal exploitation. But they are offering a strategy for ending animal exploitation in the most direct and effective way–by getting people to reject the status of animals as resources for humans, and educating others about the need to do so.

A point I made above (and that will be discussed further below) bears repeating here: there are “animal advocates” who reject veganism as a moral baseline and who embrace welfarist veganism–the idea that veganism is just one of many ways of reducing animal suffering (along with larger cages and “happy” animal products). These “animal advocates” do portray veganism as a matter of consumerism and get all excited about vegan options offered at fast-food chains. And it is precisely those groups that Hsiung and DxE works with and supports.

So DxE rejects advocating veganism as a moral baseline as a fundamental principle of justice because it is, according to DxE, “consumerist,” but embraces welfarist groups that reject veganism as a moral imperative and that characterize veganism in a completely consumerist manner as one way of reducing suffering through consumer choice–along with all sorts of “happy” exploitation.

This makes no sense.

Indeed, it makes your head hurt even to try to grasp this nonsense. But nonsense–and nothing more–is exactly what it is.

What Does DxE Consider as Non-Harmful “Activism”?

DxE thinks that vegan advocacy is not “activism” and is “harmful.”

So what does DxE regard as productive “activism?

Well, they promote chanting “it’s not food, it’s violence” or “until all are free” or whatever it is the DxErs chant at Chipotle restaurants as bemused patrons look at them the way they would someone singing, whistling, or talking to themselves:

[NOTE: This last video has now been removed by DxE. I assume that, for whatever reason, DxE does not want you to see DxE doing “direct action” that is almost comical in terms of the reactions elicited.]

Here’s another example of DxE “direct action” entitled “Disrupting Speciesism at Chipotle.

You can just see how engaged the patrons of Chipotle are with this “direct action.”

And if someone at one of these DxE protests should ask one of the DxErs what to do to as a practical matter, they won’t be advised to go vegan and promote veganism to others–they’ll be advised to become “activists.”

This makes no sense.

Hsiung and the DxErs have no problem with nonvegans participating in these “activist” events. So nonvegans are welcome to come and chant slogans at other nonvegans?

This makes no sense.

DxE claims that

[t]o change the institutions that hurt animals, we need to create millions of “water cooler conversations” about animal rights around the world.

For Hsiung and his DxErs, a non-vegan “water cooler conversation” about animal rights is “activism” but the same conversation around the same water cooler that links animal rights with veganism as moral imperative is “harmful.”

This makes no sense.

Hsiung explains that

We don’t need to convince 100% of the public to ‘go vegan.’ We need to inspire those who are already vegan to take action.

Okay, so we need vegans to be “activists” but we don’t need them to advocate for veganism; we just need them to be “activists” who don’t advocate for veganism because veganism is “harmful.”

This makes no sense.

DxE also promotes open rescue–going into facilities and rescuing individual chickens:

ScreenHunter_1071 Sep. 12 09.38

Given that we are killing billions of animals, that’s not a very sound strategy for change, particularly given that every chicken rescued will be replaced by another victim. Sure, it may save some lives and that is a good thing. But saving lives can be done by anyone who goes to a shelter and rescues one of the thousands of animals who are killed every day (and who will not be replaced as part of a production cycle in the same way that a hen rescued from a battery will be). The latter may not lend itself to dramatic, staged videos accompanied by requests for donations, but it does save lives. In any event, the idea that rescuing chickens is any substitute for vegan advocacy is absurd. The idea may appeal to people who are so eager to do “something” that they can’t realize that Hsiung makes no sense, but that “strategy” cannot and will not end animal use.

Another example of DxE “activism”: disrupting a speech by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and calling him on his veto of legislation banning the gestation crate:

DxE also engages in single-issue campaigns, in “solidarity” with all of the new welfarist groups that promote the counterproductive idea that some animal products are worse than others, and protest foie gras:

They protest the Ringling Brothers circus along with PETA:

[NOTE: This last video has now been removed by DxE. I assume that, for whatever reason, DxE does not want you to see DxE doing a joint demo with PETA.]

Hey, wait a second. How do all of these sorts of “activism” differ from what other new welfarist groups do?

The answer: they don’t. DxE is just another new welfarist group with the addition of street theater, matching t-shirts, candle holding, and Hsiung claiming that social science research proves that the DxE approach is scientifically sound.

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(Click to enlarge.)

It’s interesting and not just a little ironic that a group that claims to distance itself from the “consumerist lifestyle” is so relentlessly into branding.

Slogans like “It’s not food, it’s violence,” and “Until all are free” are just more of the incoherent nonsense that we hear from all the new welfarist groups. No message of veganism. No normative direction of what people can do to make a difference. Just slogans and the same very tired single-issue campaigns that the new welfarists have been promoting forever.

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DxE claims to reject welfare reform at the same time that Hsiung says that welfare reforms are “necessary, but they should be sustainable and part of a long term movement strategy.”

There isn’t a single new welfarist group that would disagree with that statement.

This makes no sense.

DxE claims to reject animal use but embraces Peter Singer’s welfarist “animal liberation” approach. When I asked Hsiung about this on Bob Linden’s show, he responded by saying that DxE accepts what Singer’s position was in 1976, when he wrote Animal Liberation. Apparently, Hsiung thinks that Singer’s position then was more radical than it is now. That assumption is incorrect. Singer has always rejected animal rights. He has never promoted veganism as a moral imperative. Indeed, in 1976, Singer explicitly rejected moral rights and maintained that animals are not self-aware and do not have an interest in continuing to live. Singer rejected the position that animal use is per se morally objectionable.

This makes no sense.

Hsiung claims that he opposes animal welfare but stated that he wanted DxE to help the work of new welfarist Bruce Friedrich be “more effective.”:

First, if our goal is network building, it is absolutely vital to emphasize that our model of activism — building a movement for nonviolent direct action — complements many of the strategies taken by other groups. If we are successful — as I fully expect we will be — our activism will make the lobbying, outreach, and education that Bruce does exponentially more effective. Indeed, in many ways, that is the entire point of nonviolent direct action: to create so much energy behind an issue that less assertive methods can finally sink in the way they should!

This makes no sense.

Although the other groups talk out of all sides of their fundraising mouths to make sure they keep the donor pool as broad as possible–PETA complains about Whole Foods at the same time it embraces the Whole Foods “happy” exploitation program (and the “happy” exploitation of other exploiters)–DxE takes the “animal confusion movement” to new heights.

Some people think DxE does not solicit donations. In the beginning, they did not. But that changed pretty quickly:

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(Click to enlarge.)

And they don’t pay salaries to people so that there are yet more careerist “animal activists” out there. No. They seek donations to pay “activist stipends.”

DxE boasts that

Writer James McWilliams tells us we’re doing today’s “most compelling animal activist work”!

That’s the very same James McWilliams who has become captain of the cheerleading squad for HSUS and other welfarist groups, and who condemns vegans who promote veganism as a moral imperative. McWilliams thinks that an organization like DxE is “compelling.” How not surprising.

Hsiung regurgitates the new welfarist nonsense that veganism as a moral imperative is meaningless because we cannot avoid harming animals:

[A]nimals are commoditized, abused, and killed everywhere in our society. For example, plant-based agriculture involves the use and slaughter of countless animals in fertilization, plowing and tilling, energy consumption, and habitat displacement. Climate change rivals animal agriculture in its likely impact on non-human life, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Veganism as non-violence, then, is at best, a myth; and at worst, a malicious corporate deception. Veganism, even when effective, merely replaces one set of abused and killed victims for another. We must do better than that if we hope to see a world where animal liberation is a reality.

So we have to do better than veganism but we must not advocate veganism because advocating veganism is “harmful.”

This makes no sense.

DxE claims that wherever animals are exploited, they “will rise up and fight for what is right.” But they won’t promote veganism. That is “harmful.”

This makes no sense.

In sum, the modern “animal movement” has rejected veganism as a moral imperative. And now, we have a new welfarist street theater ensemble complete with matching t-shirts and relentless branding gimmicks that tells us that vegan advocacy is “harmful” and does not count as “activism.”

To call this shameful really does not even begin to capture the problem here.


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.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option — it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

Embracing veganism as a moral imperative and advocating for veganism as a moral imperative are, along with caring for nonhuman refugees, the most important acts of activism for you can undertake.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2015 Gary L. Francione


A number of people have asked me to comment on the new “investigation” by DxE of a turkey farm that supplies Whole Foods with “happy” turkeys.

This campaign illustrates perfectly what is wrong with DxE. It is yet another welfarist campaign that sends the message that it is the treatment of animals that matters and not the use. And that is exactly the message that the media are getting from the reports I have read.

DxE with Arrow

(Click to enlarge. We added the red arrow.)

The claim by some DxE supporters that the campaign promotes veganism and takes the position that all killing is wrong is complete nonsense. If that were really the message that DxE wanted to put out, why have the “investigation” in the first place? What is the point? If the message really is that killing is wrong no matter how it’s done, then the these sorts of “investigations” are completely worthless in addition to being misleading. And any vegan message is compromised even further by the fact that DxE thinks “vegan” is a dirty word and “harmful” to animal rights. DxE leader Wayne Hsiung explicitly rejects the idea that veganism is a moral baseline.

But Hsiung himself admits that the campaign is all about treatment:

What we are asking of Whole Foods is stop the fraud. For the past ten years, its been marketing its product as being compassionate and friendly to animals,” said Hsiung. “We want them to live up to their own values.”

So let’s get Whole Foods to make sure that its “products” really are as Whole Foods describes them. That is breathtaking, even for Hsiung.

Anyone who thinks that such a statement conveys the idea that Hsiung is promoting veganism can’t read. And given that Hsiung explicitly does not pass up an opportunity to tell everyone that he does not see veganism as a moral baseline, no one could see this campaign as promoting a vegan message.

And the DxE “investigation” went on for 9 months? So DxE was aware of what was going on but remained silent so they could develop a slick new “investigation” campaign with grotesque imagery and a “donate” button? That is also troubling.

DxE is now exploiting the two birds that they claim to have removed from the farm. They are using Sarah, one of the birds, as part of their effort to get the public to give them $100,000 to “Save Sarah From a Brutal Death.”

DxE Sarah

(Click to enlarge. We added the red circle around the $100,000.)

Sorry. but this is just Mercy for Animals with the addition of coordinated t-shirts, candles, chanting, etc. In other words, it’s just new welfarist nonsense with different branding.

Save a life. Donate. What a complete travesty.

Gary L. Francione

Animal Abuse: Us and Them

This week, a radio show in Boston aired a recording in which a Municipal Court Judge in Ohio recently sentenced a woman accused of leaving her dog in a filthy house to spend eight hours in a garbage dump. People are commending what the judge did; after all, the defendant did not act “humanely.” She abused the dog. And we don’t like that.

Also this week, media were abuzz with the news that Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil the lion and who faces extradition to Zimbabwe, had returned to work amidst protests and continued anger by many over Palmer’s killing of Cecil for no reason other than that he derived pleasure from doing so. He inflicted unnecessary suffering and death on Cecil. And we don’t like that.

There is an endless stream of similar stories and the public reaction is almost always the same: we object to instances where people impose suffering or death of animals when there is no necessity. They abuse animals. And we don’t like that. Perhaps the most noteworthy example of this phenomenon involves football player Michael Vick, who, in 2007, was charged with operating a dog fighting operation. Despite Vick’s having spent time in prison and publicly acknowledging that what he did was wrong, many people still won’t forgive him. He inflicted suffering and death on those animals. And we don’t like that.

The problem is that this “us/them” distinction—this idea that some of us are animal abusers and some of us are not—is based on outright hypocrisy. We’re all in the same boat.

Let’s focus just on our most numerically significant use of animals—for food. We kill about 60 billion land animals every year, and an unknown but much larger number of aquatic animals, for food. If imposing suffering and death without necessity constitutes abuse, then all of those deaths constitute abuse and all of us who partake of those animals are abusers.

Before you even think of saying that what we do is different from what they do because we need to use and kill animals for health reasons, let’s be clear: it’s not necessary to eat animal foods to maintain health. Mainstream professional organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, the British Nutritional Foundation, the Dieticians Association of Australia, the Dieticians of Canada, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation; research and teaching institutions, including the Mayo Clinic, the UCLA Health Center, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; government agencies, such as the British National Health Service and the United States Department of Agriculture; and even large managed care organizations, such as Kaiser Permanente, all acknowledge that a sound vegan diet is perfectly adequate for human health and some say that a vegan diet may even have significant health benefits.

The best justification we have for imposing suffering and death on billions of animals every year is that they taste good. We enjoy the taste of meat, dairy, eggs, etc. We get palate pleasure from eating animal foods.

And just how is that different from any other imposition of suffering and death by people like Walter Palmer, Michael Vick, or anyone else whom we label as an “abuser”? The answer is simple; it isn’t any different. Yes, there may be a psychological difference between someone who actually participates in killing animals and those who just go to the supermarket to buy animals someone else has killed. There may also be a psychological difference between the person who actually murders another human being and the person who paid an assassin to pull the trigger. But both are equally morally culpable and that is why the law considers them both to be guilty of murder. Any psychological difference between the Walter Palmer and the rest of us is irrelevant as far as morality is concerned.

And it’s not just a matter of making sure that animals used for food are treated or killed “humanely.” Would anyone be less upset if Palmer had killed Cecil in a more “humane” way rather than letting him linger for a long while with Palmer’s arrow stuck into him? No, of course not. The concept of “humane” treatment has no application in the context of suffering and killing that is itself unnecessary.

Unfortunately, many supposed “animal advocacy” organizations promote the idea that the “humane” use of animals for food is not only not objectionable but morally just fine. Just this week, the New York Times announced that McDonald’s will begin phasing out using eggs from hens who have been confined in conventional battery cages in favor of “aviary systems” that allow the birds some movement. McDonald’s estimates that it will take about 10 years to achieve a completely “cage-free” supply. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Mercy for Animals (MFA) are uncontrollably delighted about this. HSUS has declared this move to be a “watershed moment for animal welfare” and calling McDonald’s “admirable” and, in the words of HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle, this results in the elimination of the “cruelest confinement from our food supply” at least as far as McDonald’s is concerned. MFA is claiming that its investigation of McDonald’s egg suppliers was responsible for the announcement.

We applaud McDonald’s for its commitment to phasing out cruel cages in its North American egg supply chain,” said MFA’s president, Nathan Runkle. “It’s high time that McDonald’s acknowledged that cramming animals in cages barely larger than their bodies is inhumane and unethical.

Runkle tells us that:

McDonald’s should continue this praiseworthy progress by adopting meaningful standards for chickens killed for Chicken McNuggets.

MFA advises those concerned:

You can help! Tell McDonald’s that chickens raised for meat deserve protections just like those raised for laying eggs.

Once again, we see the us/them distinction: those businesses who use conventional eggs are abusers; those who use the “cage-free” eggs promoted by “animal advocates” are morally enlightened. We believe that is wrong.

First of all, it is folly to maintain that “cage-free” eggs involve anything more than moving the birds from a cage to a large shed in which the birds are cramped and living in hideous conditions. Paul Shapiro, Vice President for Farm Animal Protection at HSUS is quoted in the New York Times story as praising McDonald’s decision. He sent an email just today with the subject line “wow” and telling us that “the battle over battery cages is far from over” but that animal advocates “should use this momentum to place the battery cage where it belongs once and for all: in the dustbin of history.”

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(Click to enlarge.)

Wow, indeed.

But in 2004, before Shapiro went to work for HSUS, he had a distinctly different view of “cage-free” systems:

But “cage free” doesn’t necessarily mean much in terms of quality of life for hens. Eggs labeled “cage free” often come from hens packed side by side in massive sheds, Shapiro says.

That’s right. That’s Paul before he went to work for HSUS. And that’s astonishing. Again: Wow.

The fact remains that “cage-free” eggs do not involve a significant increase in the protection of animal interests. Indeed, the “cage-free” egg is nothing more than very cruel (to the animals) gimmick. Here is what Shapiro, HSUS, and Runkle are celebrating:

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Some “watershed.”

Second, once again, supposed “animal advocates” partner with the “happy” exploitation industry to make people feel more comfortable about continuing to participate in animal exploitation. They once again normalize animal exploitation by celebrating it.

People like Pacelle, Shapiro, and Runkle would do well to study the work of Elizabeth Heyrick, an 18th century British abolitionist who rejected the idea of the “gradual emancipation” of slaves in favor of “immediate emancipation.” She understood that “gradual emancipation” helped the slave owners because it served to normalize slavery and make it acceptable as an institution rather than condemning it as the fundamental injustice it involved. In her excellent pamphlet published in 1838, Immediate, Not Gradual Abolition, she wrote:

The enemies of slavery have hitherto ruined their cause by the senseless cry of gradual emancipation. It is marvellous that the wise and the good should have suffered themselves to have been imposed upon by this wily artifice of the slave holder, for with him must the project of gradual emancipation have first originated. The slave holder knew very well that his prey would be secure, so long as the abolitionists could be cajoled into a demand for gradual instead of immediate abolition. He knew very well that the contemplation of a gradual emancipation, would beget a gradual indifference to emancipation itself.

And that is precisely what welfarists like HSUS and MFA are doing: they are working with institutional exploiters to normalize “happy” exploitation.

In any event, the idea of “humane” exploitation of animals we use for food runs afoul of a moral principle that we purport to accept and that serves as the basis of our us/them distinction—that, whatever else we may believe about animal ethics, imposing suffering and death on animal in the absence of necessity or compulsion cannot be morally acceptable.

The problem with the us/them distinction is that most of us end up being on the them side. If we believe that animals matter morally, we need to draw the line between those who eat, wear, and use nonhuman animals and thereby participate in and perpetuate the deliberate and intentional victimization of the vulnerable–animal slavery–and those who do not.


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.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option — it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

Anna Charlton
Adjunct Professor of Law, Rutgers University

©2015 Gary L. Francione & Anna Charlton