A House Divided: Distilled
January 9, 2012 3 Comments
Having read through the responses to my series of posts on welfarism and abolitionism, I’m deeply appreciative of their thoughtfulness, humbled by their erudition, and more eager than ever to keep this conversation alive. For now, here are my distilled thoughts on the issue in general:
a) Billions of animals currently suffer immensely on factory farms. There are people and organizations fiercely dedicated to improving the lives of these animals. I simply cannot accept the claim that these efforts, while surely flawed in many, many ways, are fundamentally misguided, as many responses to my pieces insist they are.
b) Welfarists might very well fail to properly frame their ameliorative efforts–in fact, as I argue, they do–but that does not negate the basic fact that improved conditions on factory farms lead to improved (albeit still miserably exploited) lives for the animal therein. Why should we discount this tangible reduction in suffering? Aren’t there great risks to marginalizing those gains, however qualified and provisional they are? If I were wrongly imprisoned, I would want advocates to both seek improvements for my prison conditions AND seek to end wrongful imprisonment.
c) To dismiss such improvements–rather than critique them as inadequate–because they do not fundamentally challenge the ultimate problem of animal ownership strikes me as placing a human interest in moral consistency ahead of the short-term interests of non-human animals locked into a system that, at least in our lifetimes, is going nowhere. Pragmatically speaking, I see no reason why we cannot pursue abolition while, at the same time, helping the currently exploited animals who will in no way–at least in the here and now–benefit from an exclusive abolitionist approach.
d) I have yet to hear a convincing explanation for why these incremental improvements are essentially inconsistent with the ultimate quest for ending animal exploitation. The fact that more animals are exploited now than when welfarist efforts began is not especially convincing, for reasons that one responder aptly notes. (I may address this issue in a future post.) For now, as a result, I will continue to think about ways to build a bridge between abolitionism and welfarism.
As always, I will also continue to appreciate your thoughtful and intelligent remarks, for which I’m very grateful.