Challenging Peter Singer’s Paternity Claim


Peter Singer initially gained fame by popularizing utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s idea that just as race should not be used to exclude humans from the moral community and justify their enslavement, species should not used to justify treating animals as things. Singer borrowed the term “speciesism” from psychologist Richard Ryder and argued that using species to discount or ignore the interests of nonhuman animals was no different from using race, sex, or sexual orientation to justify discrimination against certain groups of humans. And Singer’s position as “father of the animal rights movement” was thereby secured. Gary Varner refers to Singer as “[t]he veritable Moses of the animal rights movement.” (Varner, Personhood, Ethics, and Animal Cognition, 2012, p. 133).

But is that title merited? And does Singer really reject speciesism or does he just promote a different version of speciesism?

Like Bentham, Singer is a utilitarian. He maintains that what is morally right and wrong is determined by consequences. Because rights require that certain interests be protected irrespective of consequences—a human can’t be used as a non-consenting biomedical subject even if the benefits of such use would be great—utilitarians, including Bentham and Singer, categorically reject the idea of rights. Singer categorically rejects the idea of animal rights. Singer claims that he uses the notion of “animal rights” simply as a rhetorical device; he is very clear that he ultimately shares Bentham’s view that rights are nothing but “nonsense upon stilts.” But to say that Singer’s paternity status as father of the animal rights movement is merely “rhetorical” is somewhat odd when we are talking about a rights movement. After all, the notion of a right is a legal and moral concept that by its very nature is irreducible to mere rhetoric.

A possible reply here is that Singer rejects rights for humans as well as for animals, so at least he’s being consistent. Yes and no. Singer does, indeed, reject moral rights for humans as well. But there’s a catch. Even though he rejects the notion of rights as categorical entitlements, he insists that, generally speaking, human beings are morally superior to nonhuman animals. He regards humans, or at least “normal” humans, as being self-aware and having a sense of self over time and hence an interest in continued existence. These characteristics support a presumption against using those humans exclusively as replaceable resources for the satisfaction of others’ needs and desires.

This presumption is rebuttable, of course, which is to say that it can be overridden if utilitarian considerations warrant it. If, for example, using one human as a non-consenting subject in a biomedical experiment would result in saving the lives of a million people, Singer would, other things being equal, have a difficult time as a utilitarian arguing that we should not use the human in the experiment. (This is precisely the kind of use that advocates of rights seek to preclude.) But otherwise, Singer’s presumption functions very much like a right—it protects the interest of humans in not being used exclusively as resources in all but cases where the balance of consequences is clear and significant.

And here’s where Singer’s claim to reject speciesism becomes problematic.

Singer believes that nonhuman animals do not have an interest in continuing to live in the way that “normal” humans do. According to Singer, “normal humans have an interest in continuing to live that is different from the interests that nonhuman animals have.” (New York Times, The Stone, May 27, 2015). That is because beings with the ability to be self-aware over time and plan for the future have a greater interest in living than beings who don’t. And Singer thinks that even if animals, or some animals, are self-aware in some sense, “they are still not self-aware to anything like the extent that humans normally are” (Singer, Practical Ethics, 3d ed. 2011, p. 122). So there is a qualitative distinction between humans and nonhumans, and this leads Singer to conclude that there is a moral difference between humans and nonhumans. Indeed, Singer sketches a moral hierarchy in which “normal” human beings are categorically superior to nonhuman animals.

Nonhumans, on Singer’s view, have no interest in not being used as replaceable resources. Singer thinks that “a being with the ability to think of itself as existing over time, and therefore to plan its life, and to work for future achievements, has a greater interest in continuing to live than a being who lacks such capacities” (New York Times, The Stone, May 27, 2015). For a human being to lose its life, on Singer’s view, is to suffer the loss of all the future opportunities for satisfaction that it is capable of contemplating. For a nonhuman animal to lose its life, in comparison, is essentially like going to sleep and never waking up—an animal cannot be said to “lose” anything by dying because it has no conceptual or linguistic access to its future.

For Singer, this translates into the view that the lives of nonhuman animals are of lesser moral value than the lives of human animals. Unlike humans, nonhumans can be used as replaceable resources, whereas “normal” humans possess a status that, even though Singer would deny it, is inseparable from the notion of inherent dignity that advocates of rights attribute to human beings. This privileging of humans leads Singer to make comments like: “[M]illions 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” (Indystar, March 8, 2009).

Now, how is this not speciesist?

Singer’s response is that speciesism involves treating the interests of nonhumans in a way that is different from the way that we treat similar human interests. According to Singer, animals do not have an interest in not being used as replaceable resources because they are not self-aware. And even if they are self-aware, their self-awareness is, according to Singer, qualitatively inferior to the self-awareness of normal humans. So to treat nonhumans as replaceable resources does not present a problem of speciesism because there is no similar interest involved—humans have an interest in continued existence, whereas nonhuman animals do not. There simply is no arbitrary privileging of human beings here.

According to Singer, animals are not indifferent to how we use and kill them, but they don’t care that we use and kill them. Because animals are not self-aware, “it’s not easy to explain why the loss to the animal killed is not . . . made good by the creation of a new animal who will lead an equally pleasant life” (Singer, Animal Liberation, rev. 1990, p. 229). Animals are utterly indifferent to their futures because they cannot think conceptually about those futures; all that an animal can care about is its immediate circumstances. Thus, for example, an animal caught in a painful trap will certainly want to get out of the trap and have the pain stop, but s/he cannot have any interest in surviving and living even another day.


Why would anyone think that a cow, or a pig, or a chicken, or a fish does not care about whether we use and kill him or her but simply about how s/he is used and killed? When one of our dogs or cats gets ill, do we think that, by dying, s/he loses nothing because s/he did not have an interest in continuing to live in the first place? We would venture a guess that most of us would reject as absurd the idea that animals do not have an interest in continuing to live, and would consider it indisputable that animals are harmed when we kill them—however “humanely.”

So how does Singer justify a contrary conclusion?

The answer is found in the work of Bentham. Singer is Bentham’s modern proponent on many issues, and on this issue Singer stands shoulder to shoulder with Bentham. Before the nineteenth century, animals were excluded from the moral community because they were thought to be our cognitive inferiors on the grounds that, unlike humans, they did not reason, use abstract concepts, or engage in symbolic communication. Bentham argued that we could not use cognitive differences to justify excluding animals from the moral community. The only characteristic that was required for membership in the moral community was the ability to suffer. If an animal can suffer, we cannot, on the basis of species alone, ignore or discount that suffering.

But did that mean that Bentham thought that cognitive characteristics were completely irrelevant? No. On the contrary, Bentham thought that although the supposed cognitive inferiority of animals did not mean that we could use them for whatever purpose we wanted and treat them however we wanted, it did mean that animals were not self-aware. And that meant that we could continue to use and kill animals—at least for food—as long as we accorded appropriate consideration to their interests in not suffering.

Bentham objected to human slavery, but he did not object to the institution of animal property because he did not see humans and nonhumans as similarly situated: the former were self-aware; the latter were not. Singer agrees with Bentham: animals are not self-aware so that, other things being equal, we can use them in ways in which we would not use (at least most) humans.


We find this idea that animals are not self-aware and that, other things being equal, we do not harm them when we use and kill them, to be quite peculiar. Not only does this idea not accord with our own experience in relating to nonhuman animals; it is problematic on theoretical grounds. Indeed, we think that it’s downright speciesist.

We certainly agree that nonhuman animals think differently from the way that humans think because human cognition is linked with the capacities for conceptual abstraction and language. Humans are the only animals who use symbolic communication. So it’s probably true that only humans have the autobiographical sense of self that humans have. But so what? The question we are faced with is this: is humanlike self-awareness the only sort of awareness that results in having an interest in continued life sufficient to give rise to at least a rebuttable presumption against killing?

Let’s assume with Singer that most nonhuman animals live in a sort of eternal present. Does that mean that they are not self-aware? Consider a human with  a total amnesia in which the person is unable to recall memories of the past and form new memories and, therefore, lives in an eternal present.  We submit that it would be inaccurate to say that the person is not self-aware. There is certainly awareness of self in the present moment and then the next moment and so on. It is certainly the case that continued existence is in the interest of such a person—she or he prefers, or desires, or wants to get to the next instant of awareness—regardless of the manner in which she or he thinks about self and even if they don’t have an autobiographical sense of self.

The notion that animals are not self-aware is based on nothing more than the unargued assumption that the only way to be self-aware is to have the self-awareness of a normal adult human. That is certainly one way to be self-aware. It’s not the only way. As Donald Griffin, one of the most important cognitive ethologists of the twentieth century, noted in his book Animal Minds, if an animal is conscious of anything, “the animal’s own body and its own actions must fall within the scope of its perceptual consciousness.” In this respect, an animal’s consciousness is comparable to that of a human with transient global amnesia. It is on these grounds that Griffin concludes that “[i]f animals are capable of perceptual awareness, denying them some level of self-awareness would seem to be an arbitrary and unjustified restriction” (Griffin, Animal Minds, 2001, p. 274). The idea that one must be able to think in detached, abstract terms of an “I” who is having these experiences as part of one whole life trajectory is nothing more than a device for depicting human beings as unique and as superior to all other animals.


Moreover, there is something seriously wrong with Singer’s view that we can nevertheless accord equal consideration to the interests of animals. We maintain that we can’t do it except, perhaps, as an abstract matter. And we’re not sure it can be done even then.

Animals are legally classified as property, namely, as things that have no inherent or intrinsic value. They are chattel that are owned by humans. This, combined with the generally accepted view (which Singer promotes) that animals are cognitive inferiors, makes it almost impossible for us to think of animal interests as similar to our own in the first place. And even if we were to think of an animal having an interest that is similar to a human’s, the status of animals as property provides a good reason always to decide in favor of the human interest where there is any sort of conflict between human and nonhuman interests. When we, as owners of animals, balance the interests of animals against our own interests, we will always privilege our own interests and devalue those of animals.

Interestingly, although Bentham was a utilitarian, he opposed human slavery as an institution. Why? The standard explanation is that he thought that slavery would inevitably become the “lot of large numbers” and slaves would invariably be treated badly because such treatment would be justifiable on utilitarian grounds as contributing to the happiness of the majority. But there is another explanation. Bentham recognized that the principle of impartiality, or equal consideration, could not be applied to slaves because the interest of a slave would always count for less than the interest of a slave owner.

Bentham did not recognize this problem in the context of animals. Neither does Singer. Bentham thought that an enlightened utilitarian society could continue to eat and use animals even while according animal interests due consideration: in effect, on Bentham’s view, killing and eating animals did not entail that animals were being “degraded into the class of things.” But the fact is that there is no way to respect the vital interests of animals as long as they are legally classified as things that we are entitled to use. It can’t happen. It’s a simple matter of economics. Animals are property. It costs money to protect their interests. Given the nature of markets, and particularly in light of “free trade” and international markets, we will, for the most part, spend that money only in situations in which we get a direct economic benefit. That is why animal welfare standards mandated by law are and have always been very low and prohibit only gratuitous suffering. For the most part, the owners of animal property are required to change their behavior only when they are arguably acting in economically inefficient ways. So, for example, we require large animals to be stunned before being shackled, hoisted, and butchered not because of any real concern for animals because not doing so increases worker injuries and carcass damage.

Perhaps in recognition of the limitations of animal welfare standards imposed by law, animal advocacy organizations, led by Singer, have in recent years changed their focus from law reform to working with industry to secure voluntary changes to improve animal welfare. In 2005, Singer led an effort involving just about all of the large animal advocacy groups to endorse and promote the efforts of Whole Foods Market to formulate a program of “humane” improvements. But like Bentham, Singer fails to appreciate both the interest that sentient animals have in not being killed in the first place and the reality of economics in light of the property status of nonhuman animals. At the very best, animal welfare efforts can do no more than result in the creation of niche markets for affluent consumers whose consciences can be assuaged by paying a higher amount for animal products that may involve slightly less cruelty than conventional products. This is not consistent with any sort of “animal rights” view.


The idea that animal life is of lesser value than  human life is one that permeates the welfare position as it has been developed by utilitarian philosophers, such as Bentham and Singer. But this position also surfaces in the work of rights theorist Tom Regan.

Regan rejects both utilitarian moral theory and the theory of animal welfare. He maintains that we have no moral justification for treating at least adult mammals exclusively as means to the ends of humans, so he does not rely on the lesser moral value of nonhumans to justify animal use as did Bentham and as does Singer. Regan does, however, argue that in a situation in which there is a conflict, such as a situation in which we are in a lifeboat and must choose whether to save a dog or a human, we should choose to save the life of the human over the dog because death is a greater harm for the former than for the latter. According to Regan, “the harm that death is, is a function of the opportunities for satisfaction it forecloses,” and death for an animal, “though a harm, is not comparable to the harm that death would be” for humans. Indeed, Regan would argue that we should sacrifice any number of dogs to save one human. (Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, 1983, p. 324).

Regan’s position is problematic because if death is a qualitatively greater harm to humans than to nonhumans, then there is a nonarbitrary way to distinguish humans from nonhumans. Although Regan rejects using animals exclusively as resources, his argument that moral patients (such as nonhuman animals) have equal inherent value is based on his view that there is no nonarbitrary way to separate moral agents from moral patients. So his position on humans having a qualitatively greater interest in their lives seems to undermine that position. At the very least, to the extent that Regan thinks that situations of true conflict ought always to be resolved in favor of humans based on species, his position invites mischief depending on how “conflict” is interpreted.

We do not agree that we can say that death is a lesser harm to nonhumans any more than we can say that death is a lesser harm to a human with amnesia than to one without it, or that death is a lesser harm to a less intelligent person than it is to a more intelligent one. In situations of genuine conflict, we think that choosing a nonhuman over a human is perfectly acceptable. But we also believe that if we took animal rights seriously, we would stop manufacturing conflicts between human and nonhumans that result from bringing nonhumans into existence to use as human resources.


We conclude by noting that Singer says that we should not use animals in situations in which we would not use similarly situated humans. But it is clear that Singer allows for the use of nonhumans in situations in which we would never consider using any human being, be that human being “normal” or mentally disabled. From what we have said here, it should be clear that there are no legitimate reasons for categorically privileging human beings over nonhuman animals, any more than we would privilege a more intelligent human being over a less intelligent one. Thus New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is entirely right to acknowledge, as he has done repeatedly in his New York Times op-ed pieces, that he is being a “hypocrite” when he deplores our treatment of food animals but resists the call for veganism.

Singer advocates precisely the kind of speciesism that he purports to decry. Until we find the courage and honesty to acknowledge the unjustifiable violence against animals that Singer’s ideas sanction, we will continue to read articles in the pages of major newspapers with titles, such as “Saving the Cows, Starving the Children” (New York Times, June 26, 2015), whose authors insist, entirely speciously, that conflicts between animal and human interests are irreducible and that the life of a nonhuman animal comes at the cost of a human life.

Gary L. Francione, Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Law and Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy, Rutgers University School of Law.

Gary Steiner, Professor of Philosophy, Bucknell University.
© 2016 by Gary L. Francione & Gary Steiner

Business As Usual: VegfestUK and the Animal Welfare Industry

Last year, 2015, I spoke at two VegfestUK events. I was invited to speak at four in 2016.

On January 31, 2016, Tim Barford, the owner of VegfestUK, and Alan V. Lee, Operations and Marketing Manager at VegfestUK, disinvited me from speaking at further VegfestUK events. On February 3, they issued another statement.

This essay is my comment on this situation.

Let me emphasize two things at the outset. First, VegfestUK is a for-profit business. I accept that they can have whomever they wish speak or participate in their events. I have no problem whatsoever with their deciding not to have me speak there.

Second, I have no objection to VegfestUK making a profit if  it promoted the right message. VegfestUK is not a non-profit or a charity. It’s not a charity that is taking in donations “for the animals” whose interests are compromised. I am very happy when businesses that sell vegan food or vegan clothing do well and I would have been happy to see an abolitionist VegfestUK do well.  The problem is that VegfestUK has decided to conduct that business to pander to those who promote “happy” exploitation and who reject veganism as a moral baseline. Vegfest has decided to go back to selling a new welfarist message. And in making that decision, Tim and Alan have made defamatory and otherwise unfair representations about me and other Abolitionists, as if this is somehow our doing. To continue the analogy, it’s as if VegfestUK has decided to stop selling vegan chocolates and is introducing milk chocolates and attacking and defaming those who want the vegan chocolates as the cause of the product switch.

I have a longstanding academic interest in the manner in which financial and other considerations having nothing to do with animals have resulted in “animal advocates” taking positions that compromise animal interests at the same time these “animal advocates” claim some moral high ground.

In my 1996 book, Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement, I argued that the “animal rights movement” had sold out in favor of what I called the “new welfarist” position—that promoting more “humane” exploitation will supposedly lead to no exploitation.

The new welfarist position, which is morally bankrupt as a theoretical matter and counterproductive as a practical matter because it makes people feel more comfortable about exploiting animals, has only gained strength in the past 20 years as more and more corporate animal organizations compete more intensely for donations and seek to increase their donor bases by promoting the idea that we can exploit animals in a “compassionate” way. The unifying theme of the new welfarist movement is that veganism is not a moral imperative—it is simply one way of reducing suffering.

What has happened with VegfestUK is another example of the problem that I’ve been discussing for 20 years and that I have identified as the primary cause of why the animal movement moves in one direction—backward.

Vegfest is a for-profit business but, as I stated in 1996 in Rain Without Thunder and have repeated many times since, the entire “animal movement”—whether charitable or non-charitable—is a business that sells out the interests of animals.

Never before in history have the so-called “advocates” of an oppressed group spent so much time and exerted so much effort in trying to convince the public that continued oppression of the victims it claims to represent is a matter of individual “journeys” and that continued oppression can be “compassionate.”

Never before in history has a supposed movement for justice been so very unjust with respect to those for whom it is supposedly concerned.

As this essay will show, VegfestUK has decided to reject the position that veganism is a moral imperative and to return to the new welfarist approach that it promoted exclusively until last year, and the motivation for this action is primarily financial.  The VegfestUK situation represents a dramatic example of the many problems that attend the new welfarist position.

My criticisms of VegfestUK are not personal. On the contrary. My criticisms go to the very heart of the ethical morass that the “animal movement” has become.

Tim Barford has permitted the posting on his Facebook page of screenshots of private communications of a personal nature from one of my moderators in an effort to disparage me. Therefore, I trust that he will have no problem with my use of screenshots of a non-personal, factual nature that have been given to me by others in response to the VegfestUK action, particularly as they show quite clearly what is really going on here, and that he and Alan V. Lee have been dishonest and disingenuous.

I would like to preface my remarks with something that I said to Alan in an email dated January 29. Alan has quoted from that email publicly and that’s fine. I am going to quote from some of his. I do want to reiterate part of what I said to Alan in that email: “I am terribly disappointed.”

And I certainly and sincerely am.


Tim Barford and Alan V. Lee accuse me of being critical of other supposed animal advocates.

They are 100% correct.

I certainly do criticize animal advocates who promote “happy exploitation” and reducetarianism, and who otherwise do not clearly promote veganism as a moral baseline or imperative.

I not only criticize these animal advocates—I consider it an obligation to do so.

In case Tim and Alan have not noticed, I have—for the past 20+ years—been relentless in my criticism of a “movement” that unceasingly compromises animal interests and sells out animals for the price of a donation. I believe that the “movement” has been a failure precisely because so many “animal advocates” promote everything but veganism as a moral baseline or imperative.

That is a major focus of my work and I will continue to call out those who engage in what I regard as a reprehensible approach that betrays nonhuman animals. But I have in the past and will continue in the future to engage in substantive criticism. I will provide reasons why I believe these animal advocates are engaging in problematic behavior.

Let’s look at four recent and specific criticisms that I have made to which Tim and Alan have objected and that were mentioned specifically by them in connection with their decision to disinvite me.

Roger Yates and “Intersectional” Speciesism

Tim and Alan are upset that I criticized Roger Yates, who runs something called The Vegan Intersectionality Project (which is also called The Vegan Information Project) (VIP). I pointed out that, in addition to his blatant and constant misrepresentations of the Abolitionist Approach, Yates received funding from, and expressed support for, an organization called VegFund. VegFund promotes a terribly problematic “happy exploitation” organization, Mercy for Animals, and endorses reducetarian promoter and anti-vegan advocate Matt Ball. The Executive Director of VegFund is a member of the Board of Humane Society International, which has its own “happy meat” label.

Even Alan V. Lee, who defends Yates for taking money from VegFund (as we will see later, Alan defends him because VegfestUK also receives money from VegFund), recognizes that Yates did not just take money from VegFund—he “actively promotes” it.

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Alan tried to justify Yates’ relationship with VegFund, explaining that he needed the money for “his gazebos, cupcakes, literature etc”:

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There are Abolitionists all over the world who do creative, nonviolent vegan advocacy and none of them takes a cent from—much less promotes—new welfarist groups like VegFund.

In any event, hours after I wrote on my Facebook page that Yates was accepting funds from VegFund and, even worse, was promoting VegFund on his “intersectionality” page, the VegFund logo disappeared from the VIP page. Yates is now complaining that he got a grant from VegFund in 2013 and he is claiming that it is my responsibility to ascertain whether VegFund was, for example, supporting Mercy for Animals back then:

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No, Roger, it is incumbent on you to know whether groups you promote are promoting “happy exploitation.”

And let’s be frank, Roger. It’s not a matter of whether VegFund promoted Mercy for Animals in 2013. You are using Mercy for Animals material in your own advocacy in 2016.

In order to get an idea quickly as to how problematic Mercy for Animals is, here’s Nathan Runkle, the head of Mercy for Animals promoting “happy exploitation” by mega-corporation Walmart.

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In my view, campaigns like this are reprehensible. They are blatantly speciesist and they explicitly promote animal exploitation.

And here’s a screenshot I took on February 18, 2016 of the video section of Yates’ Vegan Information Project Facebook page where Yates has a video of his group showing a Mercy for Animals video:

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That video directs people to a Mercy for Animals site where they see the following message right at the top—a message that makes it seem as though the problem is how animals are raised for food and not that they are used at all:

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Although Yates removed the VegFund promotion from his page after I pointed out the problem with VegFund, The Pollination Project is still promoted on every page of his website:

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Yates is apparently proud that he’s an “Official Grantee” of this group.

I had heard of, but knew nothing about, The Pollination Project. So I looked.

And I was shocked.

The Pollination Project is an organization that promotes and lists as its “Community Partners” a wide variety of welfarist groups, including The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Mercy for Animals, Vegan Outreach, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and many others. One of its Partners is the Sistah Vegan Project, which characterizes veganism as a moral baseline as “vegan fundamentalism.”

This is deeply troubling. Yates claims to be against animal exploitation but he accepts funds from and, worse, promotes a group that supports, and whose Partners include, organizations that condone animal exploitation.

One of the Community Partners of the group that appears on every page of Yates’ website:

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As I explain and document here, HSUS promotes “happy exploitation,” sponsors events at which meat and other animal foods are served, employs a pig farmer as Political Director of the HSUS Legislative Fund, and has a President and CEO, Wayne Pacelle, who is on the Board of the Global Animal Partnership, the organization that formulates standards for the “5-Step Animal Welfare Ratings” program used by Whole Foods, which grades the level of animal suffering that the consumer wishes to purchase.

So if someone goes to Yates’ website and clicks the logo for The Pollination Project that appears on every page, they are taken to a website that promotes HSUS (as well as other groups that promote all sorts of problematic, speciesist positions).

If Yates were an anti-slavery campaigner, would he promote a group that listed as its “Community Partner” a group that promoted slavery?

I certainly hope not. But he thinks it’s just fine to do so where nonhumans are concerned.

That, in my view, is deeply speciesist.

(NOTE: After the publication of this essay, Yates removed his promotion of The Pollination Project from his page. The Mercy for Animals video remains on his Facebook page.)

Finally, Yates is a supporter of single-issue campaigns. As I have argued before, these campaigns necessarily promote animal exploitation.

Interestingly, Roger Yates was not that long ago in complete agreement with the Abolitionist Approach. Indeed, when my book, Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation, was published by Columbia University in 2008, Yates reviewed the book. He had this to say:

Gary L. Francione builds on the themes of his first three rights-based books, synthesizes them, adds new ingredients, and bring it all up to date in a striking restatement of animal rights philosophy for the twenty-first century. As the pioneer of the abolitionist approach to animal rights, Francione is an extremely important figure in animal ethics. This new volume is not only high-quality scholarship but also provides the theoretical foundations for a new social movement which takes rights seriously as its core claims about human-nonhuman relations.

Indeed, Yates was so closely identified with my theory that he was referred to as a “Franciombe” by some of my less mature critics. And now he is trashing the Abolitionist Approach. How very strange!

What could possibly account for his rather dramatic change of position? Yates should explain what changed his mind about my work from his assessment of it as providing “the theoretical foundations for a new social movement which takes rights seriously as its core claims about human-nonhuman relations.”

In certain respects, however, it doesn’t really matter why Yates is behaving in this most mysterious way. It just matters that he is now saying all sorts of things that are completely inconsistent with what he said before.

I stand by my criticism of Roger Yates.

VegFund: Promoter of Happy Exploitation Organzations

Tim and Alan are upset that, as part of my discussion of Yates promoting VegFund, I necessarily criticized VegFund, which promotes “happy exploitation” organizations and supporters of reducetarianism. Tim stated in writing that he was angry not only about my criticism of Yates, but also about my criticism of VegFund. As we will see below, that may well be due to the fact that VegfestUK also gets money from and promotes VegFund.

I stand by my criticism of VegFund.

The Vegan Society Senior Advocacy and Policy Officer Has a Non-Vegan Policy

Tim and Alan are upset that I criticized Amanda Baker, Senior Advocacy and Policy Officer of The Vegan Society, for maintaining that my position that veganism is a moral baseline or imperative involves white privilege and male privilege. According to Amanda, if you are a woman or a person of color and you don’t recognize a moral obligation to go vegan, then there is no moral obligation for you to go vegan and saying that there is such an obligation constitutes racism and sexism. The obligation to be a vegan, according to Baker, is context-dependent.

I disagree that the obligation to be a vegan is context-dependent. And my disagreement is not a reflection of racism, sexism or of any other form of discrimination. On the contrary, the Abolitionist Approach explicitly rejects all discrimination. My disagreement reflects an unequivocal rejection of discrimination against nonhuman animals as well as a rejection that any human concerns justify the property status of animals or the use of animals as human resources.

Putting aside that Baker’s position is incoherent as a matter of moral thinking, it is, in my view, a complete betrayal of the vision of Vegan Society co-founder Donald Watson.

I stand by my criticism of Amanda Baker.

Vicki Moran: Reducetarianism is a “Lovely Concept”

Tim and Alan are upset that I criticized Vicki Moran of Main Street Vegan for supporting reducetarianism. Here’s what Vicki said:

During my thirteen-year journey from omnivore to vegan, I wish I’d known the term reducetarian, and that I was already helping the planet, consuming fewer animals, and giving my own health a boost. It’s a lovely concept, leaving no one out and doing a world of good. Victoria Moran, author of Main Street Vegan and Creating a Charmed Life

Here’s a screenshot of Vicki’s comment:

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There is no way that Vicki’s endorsement can be read as anything but her stamp of approval on the exploitation and consumption of animals.

I stand by my criticism of Vicki Moran.

So Tim and Alan are right. I have criticized these groups and individuals. Indeed, I see it as my moral obligation to make those criticisms. And the criticisms are valid. No one who took animal interests seriously could maintain otherwise.


Frankly, the concerns and objections of Tim and Alan are puzzling.

It’s not as if Tim and Alan only recently became aware that I was taking these positions. Not only have I been making these exact sorts of criticisms for the past quarter of a century, but I made these exact sorts of criticisms when I spoke at VegfestUK in London in October. Anna Charlton and I made these exact sorts of criticisms when we spoke by Skype at VegfestUK in Glasgow in December. Anna Charlton and I made these exact sorts of criticisms in our book, Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, a book that both Tim and Alan recently read and reviewed enthusiastically.

Here’s a photo from January of Tim reading Animal Rights and Alan reading Rain Without Thunder. Both books have pointed and direct criticisms of animal protection groups and individual animal advocates:

ScreenHunter_1734 Feb. 13 12.28

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So nothing new has happened.

Tim and Alan are making a big deal about the operation and moderation of my Facebook page. They are saying that something has changed recently and that the page now has criticisms of animal advocates. But that is just nonsense. The content of the page has not changed at all. I have been critical of those who promote new welfarism in any shape or form, or who promote new welfarist organizations, from the day that I started the page. If anyone is in any doubt on this issue, they can scroll through the page and they will see a very consistent criticism of “animal advocates” and groups that compromise animal interests.

My website has hundreds of essays, many of which discuss the problems with new welfarism and criticize specific groups and animal advocates.

The position of Tim and Alan is even more bizarre because not only have they been fully aware of my criticism of particular groups and individuals, they have agreed with that criticism until very shortly before their decision to disinvite me from all VegfestUK events.

VegfestUK Has Agreed With My Criticism of New Welfarist Groups

Alan V. Lee explicitly acknowledged on January 6:

ScreenHunter_1716 Feb. 04 19.00

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Alan recognized that those who feel alienated by the Abolitionist Approach are influenced by the large groups:

ScreenHunter_1726 Feb. 06 13.47

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Both Tim and Alan have made numerous comments (many written) to me and to other people that were highly critical of a number of animal advocates and organizations, including The Vegan Society and Viva!. Here are several just concerning Viva!:

ScreenHunter_1716 Feb. 04 19.08

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ScreenHunter_1716 Feb. 05 02.08

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In this post, part of a discussion about Viva!, Alan again mentions corruption:

ScreenHunter_1726 Feb. 06 13.44

Click to enlarge.  Again, I agree with Alan. The corruption is, indeed, flabbergasting.

I had referred to Viva! as the “UK PETA.” Alan agreed:

ScreenHunter_1716 Feb. 05 09.58

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In this exchange, Alan V. Lee agrees with the Abolitionist criticism of the Viva! “Tesco Tortures Turtles” campaign:

ScreenHunter_1726 Feb. 06 13.08
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In this message, Alan acknowledges that I and others have tried to reason with Tony Wardle of Viva!, who, to put it mildly, does not like me. He attacks me publicly in juvenile but nevertheless vicious and defamatory ways every chance he gets. Alan opines that money, prestige, and Viva!’s non-vegan supporters get in the way of productive communication.

ScreenHunter_1721 Feb. 05 17.03

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I could not agree more with Alan. In fact, I’ve said the exact same sorts of things about Viva!—and every other large corporate animal charity—many times.

Here’s a comment about both Viva! and The Vegan Society:

ScreenHunter_1726 Feb. 06 13.04

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Again, I could not agree more. The Vegan Society should, indeed, be called The “Vegan” Society. Perhaps “The Non-Vegan Society” would be even better!

Another comment about The Vegan Society and Viva!:

ScreenHunter_1729 Feb. 07 07.45

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On January 9, 2016, I published an essay that was critical of an Animal Aid campaign to stop the building of a particular pig farm. Alan V. Lee read the essay. As Alan can confirm, he agreed in writing with my position, stating that he was “gobsmacked” (one of my favorite British expressions!) at anyone who would “naively believe that this sort of campaign is a big step forward.” He added that “[d]onations trump logic all the time with these groups.”

I couldn’t agree more, Alan.

VegfestUK Agreed That My Criticisms Were Not “Attacks”

Tim and Alan have made a number of public statements in which they rejected the exact same “attack” claims that they are now making. That is, they have responded that what others claim are “attacks” by me are instances of reasoned criticism. Here’s one thread from November in which VegfestUK says, “He doesn’t attack—he offers criticism”:

ScreenHunter_1710 Feb. 04 15.43

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And here’s Tim claiming that the rejection of criticism by the groups and leading vegan spokespeople is “astounding.”

ScreenHunter_1716 Feb. 04 21.07

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In that very same thread, a new welfarist whom Tim is now defending claims that the Abolitionists are engaging in “vegan shaming” that “hurts and oppresses others.” Tim says exactly what I say: that the people who complain about being “shamed” are promoting animal exploitation and are merely being called on it.

ScreenHunter_1710 Feb. 04 16.29

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In November 2015, as Tim can confirm, Juliet Gellatley, the head of Viva!, complained to him that I was “attacking” Viva! Tim responded that I was critiquing Viva! and he urged her to engage the criticism rather than to cry “attack” or have other people in Viva!, such as Tony Wardle, engage in ad hominem attacks on me.

And now Tim is crying “attack” when there is only reasoned criticism with which he and Alan V. Lee have agreed in the past.

It’s truly bewildering.

In any event, I don’t “attack” anyone. I offer reasoned, documented, and substantive criticisms of speciesist campaigns, groups, and individuals, including individuals who deliberately misrepresent my positions. My concern is to highlight the lack of integrity and coherence of the movement, as evidenced by these individual examples.

When people don’t like what I have to say, they often call it an “attack.” Funny how Alan V. Lee recognized precisely that on January 24—one week before disinviting me and accusing me of “attacking” people:

ScreenHunter_1721 Feb. 05 18.25

In November 2015, Tim stated to me in writing that he had “no objections at all to any posts criticising VS [The Vegan Society] Viva etc.”

Tim seems to have forgotten that he wrote those words.

Tim also seems to have forgotten about the fact that when Melanie Joy wrote an essay that characterized as “shaming” an incident where two activists interrupted the presentation of a new welfarist and accused the speaker of being a hypocrite who worked for a corrupt organization, VegfestUK published an essay written by none other than Roger Yates, who defended what those activists did and argued that criticism and protest are not “shaming.”

ScreenHunter_1735 Feb. 20 20.15

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It really makes no sense at all. Tim can’t seem to take the same position two days in a row. And it’s also bewildering that Roger Yates seems just fine with rather aggressive criticism of others, but when someone points out that he’s promoting new welfarist organizations, single-issue campaigns, and engaging in other conduct that even Tim has been critical of, he goes running and crying to Tim.

In their statement concerning why they disinvited me from VegfestUK, Tim and Alan complain that my criticisms, which are identical to the ones that they have defended in the past, result in “psychological damage” to those I criticize. I certainly do not mean to harm anyone. But I consider myself morally obligated to point out that certain animal advocates are taking overtly speciesist and counterproductive positions that harm nonhuman animals. If being confronted with their speciesism troubles these advocates then they need to do something about that. The solution is not for me to stop challenging them. This idea that people who are involved in what is supposedly a social movement (that many make a living from) suffer “psychological damage” when their positions are challenged is nonsense at a level that is mind-boggling.

To take the position that we have to sacrifice the clarity of ideology or basic morality in order to keep people happy is the very essence of new welfarism. And that’s the VegfestUK position in a nutshell. In this screenshot, Alan V. Lee makes the remarkable statement that he’s “not prepared to sell out my supporters for the sake of ideological purity.”

ScreenHunter_1722 Feb. 05 18.41

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He and Tim are, however, willing to sell out the animals.

VegfestUK Agreed With My Specific Objections to People They Are Now Defending

Tim and Alan have acknowledged that the people they are now defending and using as the pretext for disinviting me have misrepresented the Abolitionist Approach. Tim stated to me in writing on January 23 that some of the advocates that he is now defending have publicly made “unjust” comments about me and my work.

Alan V. Lee made the following statement in connection with misrepresentations of my views by Roger Yates and another new welfarist with whom Yates is associated, Carolyn Bailey, who attacks and deliberately misrepresents my work:

ScreenHunter_1716 Feb. 04 23.35

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Alan also stated that he could not defend the behavior of Yates and Bailey:

ScreenHunter_1721 Feb. 05 13.26

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So both Tim and Alan agreed that the advocates they are now defending have misrepresented my work and have attacked me, but my pointing out that those advocates have done exactly that has caused Tim and Alan to disinvite me.

On January 30, Tim cited my criticism of Amanda Baker of The Vegan Society (for claiming that veganism as a moral baseline was sexist and racist) as a reason why he was disinviting me. However, on January 23, he sent me an email stating that he did “not agree with” what Amanda said and that he had posted a request to Amanda on his Facebook page and asked her to respond to my criticism. Tim subsequently deleted that post.

After VegfestUK in London in October 2015, Tim and I talked by Skype. I raised my concerns about Vicki Moran promoting reducetarianism. He said that he agreed and he was not inviting her back for VegfestUK events in 2016. Alan wrote me an email on January 6 after I had posted a criticism of Vicki’s promotion of reducetarianism. Alan stated:

No doubt she’s a lovely person, but we have to make clear that journeys which involve animal exploitation are never never lovely – period.

I agree. I have known Vicki for 25 years and she is a lovely person but she is, for the reasons I have set forth here and elsewhere, including the comment I posted on January 6 and with which Alan V. Lee agreed, engaged in blatant speciesism in her promotion of reducetarianism. It’s really quite bewildering.

VegfestUK Has Suddenly Decided to Express Support for Welfare Reform, Single-Issue Campaigns, and Reducetarianism

As a direct result of being exposed to the Abolitionist Approach, VegfestUK purported to tighten its criteria to exclude any promotion of welfarism, single-issue campaigns, and reducetarianism.

I want to make the following very clear: I did not ask VegfestUK to change its criteria to focus on a more Abolitionist paradigm. I was happy that they did so and I offered my comments when asked. But I did not request or demand the changes in criteria. I did not make my appearing at VegfestUK in any way contingent on there not being new welfarist groups appearing there. That was their decision.

And now, they’re complaining about me because their welfarist friends are unhappy about the new criteria. That’s both absurd and unfair.

Alan V. Lee has had an ostensibly magical transformation. On January 3, he posted a condemnation of reducetarianism:

ScreenHunter_1710 Feb. 04 16.44

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Now, Alan embraces reducetarianism as well as supports welfare reform and single-issue campaigns:

ScreenHunter_1727 Feb. 06 18.17

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This is, to say the very least, a rather dramatic moral about-face.

Alan accepts the misrepresentations of the Abolitionist Approach from Tony Wardle, Associate Director of Viva!, in his comment after Alan had only three weeks before expressed his concern about corruption at Viva! (see screenshots above). Moreover, Alan had as recently as January 5, declared to be “nonsense” the very arguments by Wardle he now embraces:

ScreenHunter_1727 Feb. 06 18.42

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And there was this statement back in December 2015 when we were told that VegfestUK was uncomfortable with single-issue campaigns:

ScreenHunter_1729 Feb. 07 07.54

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And, in December, VegfestUK seemed to be very much aware of the problems of single-issue campaigns:

ScreenHunter_1729 Feb. 07 07.53

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And now VegfestUK is fine with single-issue campaigns. Indeed, after disinviting me, they invited Roger Yates to speak and Yates is now a champion of single-issue campaigns.

So VegfestUK has completely changed its position. And although Tim and Alan have publicly rejected welfare reforms and single-issue campaigns, they now accept them. And they now embrace reducetarianism.

After Alan posted his support for welfare reforms, single-issue campaigns, and reducetarianism, Tim told Alan that he’d “get pulled up by Vegan Police” for his statement endorsing new welfarism:

ScreenHunter_1726 Feb. 06 17.16

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It’s clear that Tim cannot muster an argument against the Abolitionist Approach, so he resorts to the tired accusation of “Vegan Police” leveled by new welfarists against anyone who argues for unequivocal veganism as the moral baseline of the animal rights movement.

Tim must feel pretty strongly about reducetarianism in particular. He called one of the moderators of my Facebook page a “sick fuck” for criticizing Vicki Moran’s promotion of reducetarianism as a “lovely concept.” Here’s a screenshot of that:

ScreenHunter_1716 Feb. 05 01.11

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I, for one, am certainly glad that Tim is committed to “respectful” discussion. However, it might be a good idea if Tim and Alan figure out what that means.

When Tim was called on his “sick fuck” comment, Tim’s response—that the matter was “the subject of an investigation”—was, to put it mildly, odd.

ScreenHunter_1729 Feb. 07 04.47

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In an email Tim sent to another one of my moderators, he claimed that the “Police” were investigating criticisms of Alan V. Lee. What is he talking about? Does he mean seriously to maintain that Alan is protected by the law from being criticized? Oh, well. Maybe Tim meant that people who maintain that veganism is a moral imperative—what Tim, along with the other new welfarists, calls the “Vegan Police”—are pointing out the rather dramatic flip-flops of Alan V. Lee. That’s true. We did.

In a post on Alan’s page made on February 5, someone named Anna Slater complained about “extremists” and claimed that there is “no need to change the whole world” and that we “need to open [our] hearts and actually appreciate those who work tirelessly to save animals lives even if they do eat them.” She states that “there are plenty [of] non vegans who have saved more animals than any of us have by not eating them.” Here’s a screenshot of Slater’s comment:

ScreenHunter_1726 Feb. 06 17.51

You will notice that there is one “like” of that terribly speciesist comment:

ScreenHunter_1726 Feb. 06 17.41

Yes, indeed, it’s none other than Alan V. Lee.

That is nothing short of appalling.

Tim posted a reply to Anna Slater, claiming that those who continue to eat nonhuman animals need education and guidance and that those who maintain veganism as a moral baseline are “hardcore,” “extremist,” violent” and “full of hatred”:

ScreenHunter_1729 Feb. 07 05.18

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The Abolitionist Approach is, indeed, all about education and guidance. What it is not about is encouraging people to believe that there is a “compassionate” way to engage in animal exploitation. It is not about putting a stamp of approval on animal exploitation. It is not about telling people that as long as they do some “good,” they can continue to exploit animals. Once again, Tim is confused. It’s animal exploitation that is violent; it is not violent to say that we have a moral obligation to go vegan.

VegfestUK Has Suddenly Decided to Reject Veganism as a Moral Baseline/Imperative

In November 2015, Tim stated that The Vegan Society, Viva!, and Veganuary were splitting off from VegfestUK because VegfestUK was promoting the Abolitionist Approach. He asserted that these organizations “don’t have a clue.” Despite this, and despite his complaining in December 2015 that The Vegan Society and Viva! were threatening him, Tim is back supporting all three of these new welfarist organizations. Indeed, Tim is now claiming that Viva! promotes veganism as a moral baseline in addition to promoting welfare reform and single-issue campaigns:

ScreenHunter_1716 Feb. 04 19.32

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That, of course, is not only false—it is impossible and makes no sense.  Viva! very clearly does not promote veganism as a moral baseline. It promotes welfare reforms, vegetarianism, reducetarianism, and single-issue campaigns. Viva! Associate Director Tony Wardle rejected the very concept of veganism as a moral baseline when we “debated” at VegfestUK in October 2015.

Tim seems to think that the differences between the Abolitionist position and the position of groups like Viva! are minimal. He apparently forgets that not promoting veganism as a moral imperative is part of the business model of such groups and that it’s just not possible to change them. Indeed, in December 2015, Alan acknowledged that such groups cannot be changed because their business model “relies on generating donations from” single-issue campaigns and that “we can’t change that”:

ScreenHunter_1729 Feb. 07 07.46

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I note that the VegfestUK criteria for speakers still exclude those who promote welfare reform, single-issue campaigns, and reducetarianism. Tim and Alan had better change the criteria or they will be prohibited from speaking at their own event.

VegfestUK Has Suddenly Decided to Add “Intersectional Vegans” to VegfestUK Brighton

Tim and Alan claim—falsely—to promote veganism as a moral imperative. They can’t do so as long as they are supporting groups that explicitly reject veganism as a moral imperative. So just by virtue of supporting and promoting these new welfarist groups that themselves promote welfare reforms, single-issue campaigns, vegetarianism, and reducetarianism, which necessarily reject veganism as a moral imperative, Tim and Alan are rejecting veganism as a moral imperative in favor of the new welfarist principle of promoting non-veganism as a supposed way to get to veganism.

But Tim and Alan are going beyond that to make the point that they now reject the Abolitionist Approach. On February 10, they declared “Happy days” in connection with getting American “intersectional vegan” Christopher-Sebastian McJetters to speak at VegfestUK Brighton.

ScreenHunter_1734 Feb. 14 13.11

McJetters, like Amanda Baker of The Vegan Society, argues that people who live in poverty find it difficult to be vegan and, therefore, to maintain that veganism is a moral baseline is classist and ableist, and since many poor people are people of color, it is racist as well.

That position is explicitly and inherently speciesist.

In order to see how McJetter’s position is speciesist, imagine making his argument in contexts involving humans and human interests.

When a poor person (whether or not a person of color) harms another human who is innocent, do we say that it is classist, ableist, or racist to say that what the person did is morally wrong?

Of course not.

We may (and I hope would) understand why people who suffer the injustice of poverty might act in certain ways. We may (and I hope would) want to eliminate the economic inequality that causes poverty. We may (and I hope would) want to take the circumstances into account when we punish in such circumstances although the legal system generally does not.

But we would all agree that any violence against innocent humans is morally wrong. The rule that we cannot justify inflicting harm on innocent humans is a baseline irrespective of who you are or your circumstances. That is, we would all say, for example, that it is morally wrong for a person who is poor to kill an innocent person to get money. Poverty is horrible and it should be eradicated. But being poor does not give you a license to violate the fundamental rights of others.

However, when the innocents are nonhumans, there are supposed
“animal advocates,” such as McJetters, who claim that it’s racist, classist, and ableist to insist on moral baselines or imperatives. This is just more of the relativist “it’s all about journeys” nonsense mixed with identity politics. And it’s inherently speciesist.

For McJetters, the obligation to be vegan is context-dependent. It’s a matter of the “who you are space,” to use a phrase from Breeze Harper, an “intersectional vegan” who characterizes veganism as a moral imperative as “vegan fundamentalism.” I have written about McJetters, Harper, and other “intersectional vegans,” including Aph Ko, in recent blog posts here and here and in a number of Facebook posts, including here.

And feminists or people of color who disagree with these supposed “intersectionalist vegans,” and who maintain that the moral imperative of veganism is no different from the moral imperative that prohibits the violation of fundamental human rights, are dismissed as “tokens” or “sycophants.”

“Happy days”? Not for the animals.

Interestingly, on January 13, less than one month before VegfestUK announced that McJetters would speak at Brighton, Alan V. Lee seemed to recognize very clearly that people like McJetters were expressing a relativist position. He analogized the “intersectionalist” vegans to “large animal groups” who promote moral relativism:

ScreenHunter_1732 Feb. 12 08.45

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Alan, a person of color, also understood that people like McJetters are making accusations of racism and sexism in order to avoid the matter of veganism as a moral baseline. In a note he wrote to me on January 12 in response to my essay on McJetters and others, he stated that the “intersectionalist vegans” are:

another bunch of narcissists who need to get some sort of benefit from their free ride on intersectionality based on essentialism. And like the leaders of the (new) welfarist movement, they need to artificially create followers to believe in their nonsense. (either by playing the ‘racism / sexism card’, or by calls for more donations).

Anyway, it was a monumental essay! Well done on smashing yet another widely promulgated myth!

Thank you, Alan. I am glad that you liked the essay. But your comment invites this question: why are you and Tim declaring “Happy days” when you have someone like McJetters, who peddles speciesism, moral relativism, and identity politics, speaking at VegfestUK?

That’s a rhetorical question. The answer is clear. VegfestUK needs to make its new welfarist friends feel comfortable. The Vegan Society, Viva!, VegFund, and the others that Tim and Alan want to placate will all just love the moral relativism spouted by McJetters and some of the other speakers that VegfestUK has invited, such as Will Tuttle. After all, you don’t even have to discuss the substance of the argument that the moral status of animals requires the recognition of veganism as a moral imperative if the very argument can be dismissed as racist, sexist, or classist.

And that is exactly why Amanda Baker, Senior Advocacy and Policy Officer of The Vegan Society, embraces the speciesist nonsense peddled by McJetters so enthusiastically. It’s a great way to avoid the very uncomfortable fact that The Vegan Society has explicitly rejected the idea that veganism is a moral baseline.

The Abolitionist Approach has, from its inception, been intersectional in the proper sense of that word in that it has made the connection between human rights and animal rights, and has condemned racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, and all forms of discrimination, as well as speciesism. People like McJetters just promote yet another anthropocentric and speciesist position while they pretend to be “radical.” They are anything but. And their position is anything but “intersectional” as that term is used in its proper sense.


It is very clear that this recent drama has nothing to do with my criticism of new welfarists. I am doing what I have been doing for 25 years now. And I have been taking positions with which VegfestUK has explicitly agreed.

Tim and Alan have done a significant about-face and have returned to promoting new welfarism and single-issue campaigns, and to rejecting the promotion of veganism as a moral baseline.


The answer is what I discussed in Rain Without Thunder and have been saying ever since.

It’s just business as usual.

VegfestUK is a for-profit business. On July 1, 2015, Tim Barford made the following announcement:

From today, VegfestUK is no longer a not for profit company. VegfestUK has never sought to make a profit, and never has. This has changed and from now on we are a profit seeking venture.

As I mentioned at the outset, as far as I am concerned, the animal movement as a whole is a business. It does not matter whether the groups involved are charities or not. Animal charities, such as Viva! and The Vegan Society, as well as non-charitable limited companies, such as Animal Aid, are all competing for donors and they want to keep their donor bases as broad as possible. So they promote any position that they think will bring in donations. They all reject veganism as a moral imperative.

VegfestUK, as a for-profit business, has as important customers those animal charities and non-charity entities like Animal Aid that directly and indirectly funnel people to attend VegfestUK events. Tim and Alan briefly flirted with trying to bypass these organizations and market directly to the grassroots. But, as you will see from the following, that presented some financial challenges for the for-profit VegfestUK.

The solution? Backtrack. Change positions and re-embrace the previous VegfestUK business model of catering to the welfarist and single-issue charities and businesses, and put the blame somewhere else.

Consider the following:

First, Tim expressed to me and to others that he had been threatened by The Vegan Society and Viva! in response to his joining in my criticism of the new welfarist approach. Indeed, on January 23, Tim Barford made a public statement on the Abolitionist Approach Facebook page referring to the legal action that The Vegan Society had threatened against him:

ScreenHunter_1732 Feb. 12 16.37

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Second, Tim expressed to me on January 23 (and he has repeated to others) that the anti-badger-cull activists were threatening to re-route their march in Brighton on February 27 past the VegfestUK venue. According to Tim, the anti-badger-cull leader, Dominic Dyer, is not a vegan. The anti-badger-cull people are very hostile to the Abolitionist Approach.

Third, on January 28, three days before I was disinvited, Alan V. Lee stated to one of the moderators of my Facebook page (who was also scheduled to speak at VegfestUK Brighton) that since VegfestUK started tightening up its criteria, it has suffered adverse consequences:

ScreenHunter_1721 Feb. 05 17.59

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In this exchange, also shortly before I was disinvited, Alan states that VegfestUK would lose £10,000 if welfarist organizations were not to appear at VegfestUK:

ScreenHunter_1714 Feb. 04 17.53

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Alan said something similar to me in an unsolicited message sent to me at the same time he made the preceding statements:

Unfortunately, currently in the UK there’s a really strong appetite for SIC’s for some peculiar cultural reasons. On financial grounds, it’s totally unrealistic for VegfestUK to eliminate all groups who exclusively promote SIC’s or run animal rescue missions without providing vegan education. To explain this in more concrete terms, that would mean rejecting around 40 groups all of which contribute over £10,000 to our income, which I’m sure you’d agree is a sizeable contribution to the event financially.

In this comment, Alan indicates that if VegfestUK became Abolitionist, there would be economic consequences in terms of lost jobs and contracts:

ScreenHunter_1716 Feb. 04 18.36

Alan defends selling out by animal charities; he reasons that it’s not their fault: it’s “the monetary system and the obstacles it presents”:

ScreenHunter_1721 Feb. 05 18.01

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The new welfarist charities need to sell out:

ScreenHunter_1735 Feb. 20 08.06

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So according to Alan, the groups that sell out the animals are not to blame. It’s the fault of the economic system. In order to bring in the money that these animal businesses need, they need (according to Alan) to sell out the animals and compromise the message of veganism as a moral imperative.

That’s just breathtaking. But, if truth be told, all of the animal groups think the same way. And that’s why we’re in the mess we’re in and why the only thing that can and does work is a grassroots movement.

Fourth, Tim and Alan got particularly upset that I criticized Roger Yates for his promoting VegFund. Alan defended that Roger Yates took money from VegFund, claiming that there were not many other groups that Yates or VegfestUK could turn to:

ScreenHunter_1714 Feb. 04 18.00

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It’s no surprise that Alan and Tim defended Roger Yates with respect to VegFund and got upset that I had criticized Yates for seeking funding from and promoting VegFund. VegfestUK also gets funding from and promotes VegFund. This is the “Sponsor” section on the VegfestUK page:


Click to enlarge. I added the red arrow pointing to VegFund as a VegfestUK sponsor.

So VegfestUK is getting support from and promoting an organization that endorses the “happy exploitation” group, Mercy for Animals, and whose Executive Director sits on the Board of Humane Society International.

I also noted that on the “Sponsor” page, there was an announcement welcoming a new sponsor: A Well Fed World:

ScreenHunter_1716 Feb. 04 18.29

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According to Alan V. Lee, A Well Fed World also promotes Mercy for Animals and reducetarianism:

ScreenHunter_1716 Feb. 04 18.32

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Alan claimed that he saw no problem with Yates taking money from VegFund but agreed that it was problematic that Yates “actively promotes” VegFund:

ScreenHunter_1735 Feb. 18 12.23

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But So does VegfestUK. 

So Alan defends taking money from VegFund but agrees that it is problematic for Yates to promote VegFund. However, VegfestUK also receives funds from VegFund and promotes Vegfund.

This is a rather embarrassing situation for VegFestUK to be in.

Fifth, on January 31, VegfestUK stated on its own page that my being there or not being there would have no effect on the financial viability of VegfestUK:

ScreenHunter_1716 Feb. 04 20.11

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Please note that the comment states that VegfestUK supports the “Abolitionist Ideology,” which, if you’ve read down this far, you know is absolutely false.

Later that same day, on my Facebook page, Tim Barford said that my continued presence at VegfestUK “may well put us out of business”:

ScreenHunter_1716 Feb. 04 20.19

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So my presence one way or the other won’t make a difference financially but my presence may put VegfestUK out of business.

Well, that obviously makes no sense.

On the VegfestUK Facebook page, Alan O’Reilly, one half of the talented Grumpy Old Vegans, and a businessperson himself, asked Tim what he was talking about:

ScreenHunter_1716 Feb. 04 20.23

Click to enlarge.  As you can see from that screenshot, Tim did not answer the question.

Alan O’Reilly pressed Tim for an answer. This exchange ensued:

ScreenHunter_1716 Feb. 04 20.28

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Again, no answer. And then, Tim deleted the thread.

According to Alan V. Lee, who is the Operations and Marketing Manager of VegfestUK, VegfestUK is “at a watershed.” Please read this statement from him.

ScreenHunter_1721 Feb. 05 18.06

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The bottom line is clear: Tim and Alan have sold out in order to pander to the animal welfare industry.


Tim Barford and Alan V. Lee continue to attack me and others who are critical of them in ways that make the sneering sarcasm of a 12-year-old look sophisticated. They are allowing the welfarists, anti-badger-cull people, and anyone else to post ad hominem attacks, including outright defamation, on their pages.

Indeed, someone posted a thoroughly defamatory statement on the VegfestUK Facebook page. The response from Tim and Alan was to let it stay on the page with the following comment in which they explicitly recognize that the post misrepresents my work and personally insults me:

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So “free expression” allows for what are explicitly acknowledged to be misrepresentations and personal attacks, but not for the pointed criticism of speciesism and campaigns that promote speciesism? And they think it’s acceptable to leave on the VegfestUK page what they acknowledge in writing to be false and to constitute a personal attack?

It’s absolutely bewildering.

Tim has also engaged in repeated, public personal attacks against my Facebook moderators. This included calling for the removal of two female moderators who civilly disagreed with him using logical arguments. He even accused one of these moderators of being me using a fake profile. Apparently Tim does not believe that it is possible for others to agree with my views and to understand abolitionist theory well enough to express themselves intelligently and present logical and compelling arguments. Whether or not Tim’s questioning the identity of my female moderators reflects sexism on his part, he has allowed others to post on his pages sexist and otherwise malicious attacks on my moderators.

A woman who disagreed with Tim and Alan and who had been subjected to absolutely vicious sarcasm and personal attacks from Tim asked the following question and got a rather revealing answer:

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That really says it all. They are abusive because they can be.

Tim and Alan issued the following statement in their criteria for participating in VegfestUK when I was disinvited:

We also cannot accept speakers at VegfestUK events who are regularly disrespectful to other activists in public. We support polite, constructive, respectful critique, but not personal attacks, disrespectful comments, or rude and discourteous language towards other activists.

So “respectful critique” includes misrepresentation and personal attacks, but excludes the substantive critique of speciesist positions. And the purported justification for that incoherent position is that they have the power, as the producers of VegfestUK, to take that position—”Because we can.”

How very sad.

How very corrupt.

And how very ironic. Tim and Alan are constantly engaged in ad hominem, juvenile, and often defamatory attacks on others. If their criteria were applied to them, they would be the first to be excluded from VegfestUK.

I also note that several of the speakers, including McJetters and Yates, have, in violation of the VegfestUK criteria, “engaged in personal attacks, disrespectful comments, or rude and discourteous language towards” me and others whose advocacy is framed by the Abolitionist Approach. Yates has (for several years) been misrepresenting my position, as Tim and Alan have acknowledged, and McJetters’ response to my reasoned argument that his position reflects speciesism combined with identity politics was to call me an “asshole.”

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But then, when Tim Barford thinks that calling someone a “sick fuck” because they object to reducetarianism is acceptable, it comes as no surprise that the new criteria are completely meaningless unless, of course, it suits the agenda of Tim Barford, Alan V. Lee, and their new welfarist sponsors and friends.

I should mention with respect to the comment by McJetters that it is precisely because we allow identity politics to inform discussions of justice that we have progressives unwilling to criticize Barack Obama even though his policies have been just about as reactionary and unjust as those of George W. Bush. Because we pander to identity politics, we don’t recoil in horror when we are told that feminists have an obligation to support the reactionary Hillary Clinton for President, or when right-winger and anti-feminist Ayn Rand is proposed as a “feminist” for education on feminism in British secondary schools.

Sorry, Mr. McJetters, identity politics has been a curse to the left. I am sorry that you and your associates, such as Breeze Harper, Aph Ko, and others, have chosen to bring that reactionary nonsense into animal ethics. But, as I have discussed elsewhere, it’s clear that the corporate welfarists, including the Humane Society of the United States, are buying it by supporting your efforts, and you now have the Senior Advocacy and Policy Officer of The Vegan Society cheering you on as you peddle your moral relativism and identity politics, so I don’t expect you to stop anytime soon. But please rest assured that I won’t stop exposing it for the unjust sell out of animal interests that it is.

Interestingly, in December 2015, Tim Barford refused the request to speak at VegFestUK of another “intersectional vegan” whose views are not substantially different from McJetters’. This person, a woman of color, also takes the position that anyone who disagrees with her position is a sexist and a racist. On a Facebook thread, Tim explained that he refused her request to speak because “we dont [sic] want rude hostile bigots at our event thanks.”

Here’s a screenshot of that comment:

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Apparently, rude and hostile bigots are now acceptable at VegfestUK. Tim and Alan have no problem with someone like McJetters, who engages in juvenile name calling and who promotes the bigoted nonsense that those who maintain that  veganism is a moral imperative are racists or classists.

As I mentioned above, I did not request or demand that VegfestUK change its criteria for speakers. I made it clear that all I wanted was a venue to promote the Abolitionist Approach. I am quite happy for advocates to hear my position and that of people like Tony Wardle (despite his constant juvenile attacks on me), Melanie Joy, Vicki Moran, or any of the other welfarists who usually speak at VegfestUK, and let them make up their own minds.

But Tim and Alan wanted more. They wanted me to stop criticizing the “happy exploitation” efforts of the new welfarists as a condition of my speaking at VegfestUK. On January 29, I wrote the following to Alan V. Lee:

If Tim thinks that I am going to sell out and remain silent about people misrepresenting Abolition or promoting new welfarism or whatever so that I can be at VegfestUK, he is very much mistaken.

Two days later, I was disinvited.

I stand by my position. I am not willing to sell out the animals. I am sorry that Tim Barford and Alan V. Lee are willing to do so.


It is a shame that Tim Barford and Alan V. Lee could not be honest and instead chose to engage in this dishonest and transparent charade.

But I guess I was naive to expect much else.

I first encountered Tim Barford in 2014, when he launched an attack against me because I criticized marathon runner, Fiona Oakes, who was (and remains) an Ambassador of The Vegan Society, when she appeared on BBC Radio, and said:

I run in a positive proactive kind of way to promote a vegan diet…I’m not saying that it’s for everyone, I’m saying that it’s not probably for very many people…

You can listen to Oakes make this remarkable statement here.

Fiona followed up with statements that those who promote veganism as a matter of moral baseline and moral imperative are “aggressive, petty. . .fundamentalist nutters,” and stated that my position critical of her upset her “for the animals, the damage such comments and aggression do them.” You can see her breathtaking comments here.

Tim Barford not only voiced his support for Fiona, but stated:

Sadly it is true that many people don’t get on well with a vegan diet and get very ill on it. Not an ethical justification obviously, but a plain statement of fact.

Yes, that’s right. Just in case that you cannot wrap your mind around this, here’s a screenshot of the post:

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At the same time, I was being critical of The Vegan Society for its “You Don’t Have to Be Vegan” rebranding that made crystal clear that it was rejecting veganism as a moral imperative. You can read the essays I wrote about this here, here, and here. And, of course, there was the matter of my being banned by The Vegan Society in 2011 after I criticized the Society for taking paid advertisements for restaurants that served “happy” animal products.

On August 3, 2014, and, again, on August 10, 2014, Tim and I talked about these matters on Go Vegan Radio. Actually, I tried to have an intelligent discussion about these issues. You should listen and decide for yourself about Tim’s performance in these debates. You can listen to the August 3 show here. You can listen to the August 10 show here.

Whatever else was clear from those radio discussions, it was clear that I maintained that veganism was a moral imperative. Tim did not. I maintained that the welfarist position was both morally unacceptable and counterproductive. Tim disagreed.

Tim continued to defend The Vegan Society and to attack me in the most juvenile and unprofessional way.

In Spring 2015, Tim said he had a change of heart and agreed with the Abolitionist Approach. He thanked me for calling him on the matter with Fiona Oakes and The Vegan Society. He said that my “‘call to action'” had “transformed” his “life and work.” He asked me to come to speak at VegfestUK in October 2015. I agreed.

On February 1, 2016, after I had been disinvited, Tim stated that I should “be deeply grateful” to him and “respectful” of him because he had the “balls” to “take [me] on and promote [me].”

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Tim seems to have forgotten that it was he who approached me and said that the Abolitionist Approach had changed the way he thought about animal ethics. He claimed that he had come to realize that promoting Abolition at VegfestUK was the morally right thing to do. I never asked him to do anything. Abolitionists don’t need Tim Barford or anyone else to “take us on” or “promote us.”

Working with a small number of talented and dedicated advocates, we have succeeded in building a vibrant grassroots Abolitionist community all over the world and that community is growing every day. We did that with no assistance from any of the corporate welfarist groups or their advertisers, which is what VegfestUK is. Indeed, the large corporate welfare groups have done nothing but try to suppress the Abolitionist message.

This drama with VegfestUK is just another example of the hostility we encounter from the corporate welfarists and their cheerleading squads when we attempt to promote veganism as a clear and unequivocal moral baseline and educate people as to why welfare reform, single-issue campaigns, and reducetarianism are immoral and counterproductive.

That said, I want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed speaking at VegfestUK London in October 2015. The response from the attendees was overwhelming and I am continuing to get emails to this day from people who were exposed to the Abolitionist Approach in October. I enjoyed meeting and interacting with all of the wonderful people there. In December 2015, Anna Charlton and I spoke by Skype at VegfestUK Scotland in Glasgow. Although that was obviously a different sort of experience, it was enjoyable nonetheless. We’re sorry that we won’t be able to reach advocates through the VegfestUK venue. But we’ll reach them in other ways.

Justice for nonhumans simply does not fit the VegfestUK business model.

Tim claims that he is going to do a presentation at VegfestUK Brighton in which he will discuss “the merits of both the ideology and the approach, as he seeks to answer the question as to the value for activists that the Abolitionist Approach may provide.”

Putting aside that Tim is, at best, confused about my work, the idea that someone in the pocket of the large U.K. animal charities, whose lack of both candor and good faith are now clear beyond a reasonable doubt, is purporting to discuss with those at VegfestUK the “merits” of a theory that completely rejects what he and his friends are about raises some serious issues about deliberate misrepresentation.

In any event, in the end, it’s all about business. As Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters wrote in a song called Perfect Sense, part 2, “Can’t you see? It all makes perfect sense—expressed in dollars and cents, pounds shillings and pence.” Ironically, that song was on Waters’ album, Amused to Death, which, in many ways, characterizes both VegfestUK and the “animal movement” generally. It’s all just one big party and the animals are merely an excuse for that party. They are nothing more.

And being clear about moral imperatives and calling “animal advocates” on their rejection of veganism as a moral imperative, is, as far as VegfestUK is concerned, a matter of bad “marketing”:

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A social justice movement necessarily requires calling out injustice. The folks at VegfestUK unfortunately mistake a social justice movement for a business. And, in their view, if “marketing” means betraying animals by abandoning veganism as a moral baseline and supporting speciesist positions and campaigns, well, that’s just the price of doing business.

How very tragic that it’s the animals who are forced to pay the price.


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 you can undertake.

Groups that promote “happy exploitation” of any sort, or that do not promote veganism as a clear and unequivocal baseline and imperative are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor
Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy
Rutgers University School of Law

©2016 Gary L. Francione

Postscript, added February 20, 2016

Tim Barford responded to my essay and confirmed my point (again) that he has sold out for financial reasons.

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Today, Tim also posted a comment in which he once again accused me of “shaming” other animal advocates.
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As I pointed out above, Tim seems to have forgotten that only last October, he published an essay in which Roger Yates argued that criticizing is not shaming. This again shows Tim’s complete lack of good faith. But it also exposes Roger Yates’ for his own inability to engage criticism of his promotion of new welfarist organizations, his support for single-issue campaigns, and other problematic positions he has taken and, instead, whining to Tim and Alan.

Interestingly, in the essay that VegfestUK published, Yates defended coming on stage (carrying a dead chicken) and interrupting a speaker and accusing that speaker of being a corrupt sell out. Yates claimed that conduct constituted “criticism” and “protest.” I agree with him (although I don’t believe in using dead animals as “props”). Let’s look at what I did that allegedly caused Tim Barford and Alan V. Lee to disinvite me:

1. I criticized Yates for trashing the Abolitionist Approach and promoting new welfarist groups, which is empirically true. I should add that Tim Barford in writing stated to me that he agreed with my concerns about Yates’ attacks on me and my work and Alan V. Lee in writing stated that he agreed that Yates was misrepresenting me.

2. I criticized Amanda Baker, Senior Advocacy and Policy Officer of The Vegan Society for rejecting veganism as a moral imperative. Again, I did that using her own words.

3. I criticized Vicki Moran of Main Street Vegan of promoting animal exploitation and used her own words.

4. I criticized VegFund for promoting groups like Mercy for Animals and having an Executive Director who sat on the Board of Directors of Humane Society International, which, among other things, has its own “happy meat” label.

So disrupting a speaker and accusing him of corruption and promoting animal exploitation is okay and what I did was not? To call Tim’s position transparently dishonest is the very nicest thing I can say about it.

But, as the essay proves beyond a reasonable doubt using with the words of Tim and Alan, VegfestUK needed to find a way to get the Abolitionist Approach out of VegfestUK so that Tim could make money. So he’s now embarked on an effort to re-characterize the Abolitionist Approach as being able to accommodate the rejection of veganism as a moral baseline.

That’s why he’s now featuring people like Yates, who claims that veganism is a matter of privilege and that we should not say that veganism is easy or a moral imperative because people who sex-trafficked or who are in abusive relationships may not be able to get vegan food. This ignores that it is easy for the vast majority of people, and that we don’t decide what is morally right or wrong based on situations like that anyway. It may not be easy for a child soldier to resist an order to kill when she or he is being told to kill or be killed or that her or his family will be killed. But that does not mean that not murdering is not a moral imperative.

That’s why Tim has people like McJetters, who promotes this relativist nonsense that being vegan is a matter of the “who you are space” mixed with the toxicity of identity politics.

Indeed, it’s all one big effort to recast Abolition in new welfarist terms: “great ideology but we can’t criticize those who reject the ideology.” That’s exactly what the sell-outs did in the 1990s with animal rights and that’s what the new sell-outs are doing now with respect to Abolition. Indeed, I gave examples in the essay, such as Tim Barford claiming that Viva! is both abolitionist and welfarist. That’s what it’s all about.