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Are vegans welfarists?

May 5, 2013
NOTE:  Please read this if you believe that any vegan strives for anything less than 100% justice for all.  Read this if you believe that any vegan supports only steps towards abolition but not abolition itself.  These beliefs are false.
If you are already vegan or on your way you may run across people or websites or groups of people who will tell you in no uncertain terms that if you associate yourself with wanting conditions to improve for animals currently in confinement then you are in support of animal exploitation.
 If you are newly vegan it is good to just be aware that some vegans will accuse another ethical vegan of animal exploitation simply because they support better conditions for animals currently in confinement.  The term used to label you as such is welfarist.  But don’t worry, you’re not a welfarist or a ‘happy exploiter’.
What these folks refuse to realize is that there are two types of people who want better conditions for animals currently confined:
Type I:  Those that want better conditions for the animals so that they can feel less guilty about eating them.  This fits the definition of a welfarist.
Type II:  Those that want conditions to improve but only for the sake of the animal.  This person is vegan, wants the animals to be free but recognizes that the animals are not currently free and may not be anytime soon.  Therefore they support any improvement of conditions with the ultimate goal of 100% freedom for the animals as soon as possible.
 The two people are completely opposite in reasons for wanting better conditions.
Perhaps type I is a welfarist but type II most certainly is not.  The key to being a welfarist has nothing to do with wanting better conditions for confined animals.  What makes someone a welfarist is WHY they want conditions improved.
If you are vegan you are not a welfarist.  I hope you will not allow another vegan to label you as such. 
Let me put it into perspective:
If you were an innocent man found guilty of a crime you did not commit and were sent to jail for life you would appeal and try to get your freedom back.  But that can take years and there is no guarantee you will ever get out of jail.  In the meantime the jail has a policy of ripping the testicles off of every man and they use no anesthesia when they do it. They do this to keep the men more docile.
Which of the following persons would you want on your side:
A  The person who wants to pass a law making it illegal for them to rip your testicles off.  The only reason they want this law is so that they don’t have to feel as guilty about an innocent man being in jail.
B  The person who wants to pass a law making it illegal for them to rip your testicles off but this time the reason is because while they are actively working to get you back your freedom they realize that you are in jail now and they want you to suffer the least amount possible until they can get you out.
C  The person who wants you to be free but does not believe in supporting working on laws that will improve conditions for you while you are in jail.  In fact they actively work against people who support laws for improvement while you are in jail.
I can only speak for myself but I would want B on my side. 
If B were not available I’m not sure I would choose C over A.  Even though A never wants me to have freedom, at least A is going to keep me from having my testicles ripped off.  I don’t know about you, but I find a lot of value in that.  Especially if my ever being free is in question.
Both A and C are actively engaged in behaviors that work against the one person who both wants your freedom and for your life in the meantime to contain less suffering.
When I looked up the definition of welfarism this is what I found by Doris Lin, animal rights attorney, the Director of Legal Affairs for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey and a member of the steering committee of the League of Humane Voters of New Jersey:
“Welfarism is the belief that humans have the right to use animals as we see fit as long as they are treated humanely.”
By that definition no ethical vegan is a welfarist.
Then I went on to read more from Doris Lin:

“Animal welfare is different from animal rights. The animal rights position is that humans do not have a right to use and exploit animals for our own purposes, regardless of how well the animals are treated.”

“Banning battery cages is a welfarist campaign, because it does not challenge the right of humans to keep chickens for our own purposes.”

Click here for the entire document

Now I’m concerned.

Banning battery cages in and of itself is not welfarist.  It is only when combined with the desire to continue to use chickens for any reason that it becomes a welfarist agenda.  Then and ONLY then is it a form of welfarism.  Simply because some people want to see conditions improved so they can continue to exploit with less guilt in no way shape or form makes any less worthy your own desire as an ethical vegan for wanting conditions improved as well.

Remember, wanting conditions to be improved does not equal exploitation.  The reason for wanting the improvements is.

I don’t believe in knocking other vegans so I want to make it clear that I wish for people who do knock other vegans the absolute best, I am happy to know anyone who realizes that animals need to be freed from all use by humans and I 100% understand these vegan’s rejection of people or organizations who are welfarists.  In fact animal welfare is not the goal and as vegans we know that.  Animal freedom and rights is the goal – the right to be an animal, not a food or a product or to be used for anything at all.

But I will question (keyword here is question) any vegan who works actively to knock down other vegans who want the animals’ lives to improve and actively seeks to discredit organizations such as Farm Sanctuary.  The main reason is because frankly it makes vegans look bad.  It causes confusion for the general public.  And I question anyone who is simply unable to see the difference between someone who wants conditions to improve for all the wrong reasons versus someone who wants them to improve for all the right ones.

Peace ❤


  1. Sid permalink

    WTF? It appears you’re somewhat confused. I suggest you put brain into gear, and think logically. Not wanting to appear nasty, just saying.

  2. Tell me what I am confused about. Thanks!

  3. And also if you don’t want to appear nasty then don’t. Just be nice instead of saying something you know is mean. Thanks ❤

  4. I don’t believe there is a single simple answer to this the questions posed by this issue. I think to find any resolution requires that you look at the matter pragmatically. While we hope that people will become vegan, and stop exploiting animals and each other and the planet, chances are exploitation will continue. While we may be Idealistic and hopeful, I think most vegans recognize that he eating meat and exploiting animals is deeply embedded in many cultures. These ancient practices and the beliefs which drive them will not quickly fade away, no matter how much we wish.

    I don’t see advocating for more compassionate and humane treatment of animals as being against vegan ethics. I see it as a recognition that changing ancient deeply held beliefs and practices can’t be accomplished instantly. We lurch forward one tiny step at a time, often imperfectly. The object of the exercise for me is to continue to move forward.

    Can we really imagine that, in a world where children are sold as sex slaves, or killed with poison gas that the human species is ready yet to actually be compassionate enough to give up meat, eggs or dairy? When vegans demand total abstinence from exploitation, and attack others who suggest this idealistic view is perhaps unattainable, it makes progress even more difficult. Let me state very clearly that I do not believe it compromises vegan ethics to support the humane treatment of all animals – even those being raised for food. Cruelty in all it’s forms is degenerative and does nothing to advance us toward a kinder world.

    I do not believe there is a single answer to the problem of cruelty; no single path or perfect ideology that can move us away from our primal urges and primitive instincts and entrenched ideas and beliefs. For me at least every step toward a more compassionate world, is a positive thing. I think it is important to see advocating for animal welfare as necessary step in the right direction. It is not perfect, it is not enough, but it is better than ignoring the horrendous, often unseen abuse that already exists.

    When vegans fight with each other, label, accuse and attack, I feel we weaken and impoverish the vegan movement, and in doing so take time and energy away from the cause. This does nothing to put an end to cruelty and exploitation.

    • Truth!!!!

      From all of my research I have concluded that choosing kindness in every situation (except when your life is in danger) with 100% non-discrimination is the only way to peace on earth. We are not born kind. For example, if someone is rude or hateful or angry our instinct is to turn into that person and be the same way back to them. To choose kindness when we don’t want to is key in evolving our psyche. It will not evolve on its own. This will be an evolution of our own choosing. Thank you for your comments friend!

  5. Shane waett permalink

    Brilliant brilliant .thankyou for this article .. Inspiring .. I run a animal friends group & support all action for animals ,all admins are vegan we hold single issue campaigns & protests etc & attend large events where others may be purchasing animal products we do our vegan outreach there .But I have been atacked & ridiculed for doing all of the above By a small but aggressive bunch of uptight vegan cupcakes they do nothing ,support no organisations & quite frankly turn newcomers off even turning vegan &supporting the movement .. Thankyou for this if you have any other peices or book recommendations I would greatly appreciate them as I see this fraction of our movement as being a major problem in the advancement of animal rights everywhere !!

  6. I like to address every question or controversy or myth or stereotype I have run into since changing my life. I keep it all in the “Where do you get your protein” section to which I plan to continue to add questions and answers in hopes of dispelling the myths about veganism. As well as addressing issues such as this one. Much love and peace to you!

  7. I’ve shared a few thoughts which are quite different from the author’s position on vegans who promote welfare “reform”. It’s titled “Some Thoughts on Why Vegans Criticise Vegans For Promoting Veganism”

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