Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Singer’s Utilitarianism or ‘New Welfarism’, Regan’s and Francione’s Animal Rights Theories, and Philosophical Inconsistencies in the Contemporary ‘Animal Rights Movement’

[Please note that this version of this text has been recovered from an early draft due to a server crash. There may be a few typos and even mistakes in the following]

As mentioned in Part One of the thesis, animal rights philosopher Tom Regan recognises that, in thinking about the human treatment of other animals, people’s social attitudes are influenced not only by dominant forms of thinking, but also by ‘established cultural practices’ (Regan 1984: 399).  Indeed, he states that ‘the rights view’ concerning human-nonhuman relations involves ‘issuing condemnations’ of such practices.  However, Regan maintains that animal rights, properly conceived, is, contrary to pro-use claims, ‘not anti-business, not anti-freedom of the individual, not anti-science, not anti-human’ (ibid.)  For Regan, the rights view is simply ‘pro-justice’, seeking as it does to alter the ‘scope of justice’ to include many animals other than human.

          Regan further recognises that the case for animal rights will be heavily contested, not least because ‘prejudices die hard’; and he argues that conventionally seeking to establish that justice applies to moral agents only, or to assert that humans have some right to regard other animals as resources and ‘things’, is prejudicial to many animals’ inherent value as individuals.  In addition to the issue of prejudice, Regan is keen to underline the influence of the ‘insulating’ function of ‘widespread secular customs’ and religious belief, while he likewise acknowledges the ‘sustaining authority’ of ‘large and powerful economic interests’.  Finally, in this diverse matrix of social constructionism, he appreciates the protection afforded to the whole system by the common law (ibid.)  Regan also warns his readers that animal rights proper is not for the faint hearted because, for nonhumans to have their rights respected, nothing less than a cultural revolution is required. 

Ultimately a political battleground is sketched out in which any philosophy of animal rights is bound to be substantially criticised and contested; by philosophers who just do not agree that ‘the case’ has been adequately made – but also by many who have personal or vested interests in the continuation of the human exploitation of other animals.  It is tempting, furthermore, also to suspect that many objections to ‘animal rights’, whether from trained philosophers such as Frey (1980; 1983) and Cohen (1986), or media journalists, or various other commentators, arise in the first instance at least from efforts to find the justification for a bacon and egg breakfast already eaten, and the steak dinner planned for later on.
         Regan insists that moral philosophy can and will play a role in political action associated with the notion of animal rights because ‘history shows that ideas do make a difference’ (1984: 400).  What he is implying – indeed, why he wrote The Case for Animal Rights – is that the animal protection movement would benefit by being well versed about the foundations on which much of their claims-making rests, the hoped-for result being precisely the substantial cultural change that Regan regards as a prerequisite for a widespread adoption of genuine animal rights thinking over traditional animal welfarismWhile this point may appear so obvious that it need not be made, the evidence does suggest that Regan is more than justified in making it.  Regan also articulates his firm belief that ‘moral philosophy is no substitute for political action’, but insists, ‘still, it can make a contribution.  Its currency is ideas’ (ibid.: 399-400).  This assertion was made almost twenty years ago.  However, it appears that large sections of the animal advocacy movement was not (and is not) listening to this important message.[1] 

          Many factions of the entity that Garner (1993) calls the modern ‘animal protection movement’ seem not to fully agree that a well worked out philosophical position may greatly assist in the furtherance of altering the moral standing of nonhumans.  Moreover, many of those that do seem to agree with the general point that social movements require a solid basis for claims-making, appear not to accept the case for ‘animal rights’ in the first place.  Commentary on the recent development of the animal movement tends to confirm such a view.  For example, Francione (1996: 3) states that ‘the modern animal “rights” movement has explicitly rejected the doctrine of animal rights’.  In fact, it might be tempting to claim that, analogous to Gilroy’s (1987) declaration that ‘there ain’t no black in the Union Jack’, the suggestion here is that, often, there ain’t much ‘rights’ in ‘animal rights’ either.  This tends to beg the question, if not rights violations, what do modern animal advocates substantially rely upon in order to make claims on behalf of nonhuman animals?

The Controversial Claim of ‘New Welfarism’.[2]

Francione (1996) says that the contemporary animal movement appears content to rely on a new formulation of traditional ideas, which he provocatively labels ‘new welfarism’.  He describes this conception of new welfarism as a ‘hybrid position’ which may be understood to be a more radical (or a ‘modified’ [ibid.: 47]) welfare position compared with traditional animal welfarism, especially in the sense that this ‘version of animal welfare…accepts animal rights as an ideal state of affairs that can be achieved only through continued adherence to animal welfare measures’ (ibid.: 3).  This appears to be a crucial defining issue of so-called new welfarism: that its adherents are content talking about the eventual ending of animal exploitation, rather than expecting that the best the animal movement can or should do is tightly regulate nonhuman exploitation to such an extent that ‘cruelty’ and ‘suffering’ is greatly reduced or, ideally, eliminated altogether.  However, for Francione, even new welfarists – despite what sets them apart from traditionalists of the genre - should be regarded as committed to the endorsement of measures ‘indistinguishable’ from policies put forward by those ‘who accept the legitimacy of animal exploitation’.  Unsurprisingly, such statements have angered many animal advocates.  Francione puts forward two reasons to help explain apparent disparity between theory and practice:

First, many animal advocates believe that, as an empirical matter, welfarist reform has helped to ameliorate the plight of nonhumans and that these reforms can gradually lead to abolition of all animal exploitation.  Second, although animal advocates embrace as a long-term goal the abolition of animal exploitation, they regard rights theory as “utopian” and as incapable of providing concrete normative guidance to day-to-day movement strategy and practice (ibid.)      

When animal advocates discuss Francione’s position on email lists,[1] they often appear to object bitterly to the assumption that supporting a number, many, or all animal welfare measures does indeed ‘accept the legitimacy of animal exploitation’ – they claim the opposite, that accepting welfare improvements does not diminish their commitment to abolitionism

Contributors have difficulty accepting Francione’s claim that new welfarism necessarily accepts, on some level, the legitimacy of the animal exploitation issue in question.  On the contrary, many argue that any ‘welcoming’ of a welfare measure, or even sets of them, and over an extended period of time, can be done within an acknowledgement that their position is ultimately abolitionist in intent.  Debate such as this amounts to beliefs about whether forms of animal welfarism are able to provide ‘stepping stones’ toward the ending of the human exploitation of other animals or not.[2]

On the level of inter-movement dynamics, Francione appears to have assumed that perhaps the majority of campaigners for nonhuman animals will be concerned about his claim that traditional and new welfarist strategies have failed – and will continue to fail – to advance the cause of animal rights, and that a perspective based on genuine rights formulation can likely bring greater advances for nonhuman animals.  He acknowledges that ‘rights talk’ is a rhetorical matter in the modern animal protection movement which has lead to non-rightist Peter Singer being regarded as the foremost ‘animal rights philosopher’ ever since the mid-1970s publication of Animal Liberation

For Francione, therefore, the contemporary animal movement continues to commit cardinal philosophical and tactical errors:

These modern advocates, whom I have called new welfarists, defend the use of nonrights means to achieve a rights end, on the grounds that ideological distinctions are meaningless or, alternatively, that welfarist reforms will somehow lead someday to the abolition of animal exploitation (ibid.: 220.)

Future historians of the animal protection movement may well take an interest in such questions.  Anecdotal evidence and contributions to email listings suggest that Francione’s view expressed in the quote above may well be vindicated: many activists suggest that the welfare + welfare + welfare = rights equation may bear fruit for the animal movement, and anyway, they frequently suggest, the achievement of ‘utopian animal rights’ will take hundreds of years, if it is to be considered possible at all. 

Perhaps Francione was ultimately mistaken in believing ordinary movement members and animal activists would take the time to explore the ‘problem’ he raises, despite the fact that his position is directly related to day-to-day campaigning strategy and movement claims-making.  Ostensibly, this issue might be expected to greatly interest social movement participants.  In recent interviews, Francione does seem to have reluctantly accepted that the animal protection movement is resistant to any ‘audit’ of its philosophical foundations. 

         In effect, some sort of impasse exists about this point.  On the one hand, Francione believes the animal protection movement makes ethical and tactical errors by not sorting out its philosophical position that directs its action.  Because it cannot provide what is required, animal welfarism ought to be rejected by a movement that seeks to radically alter human-nonhuman relations.  On the other hand, however, many activists and careerists in established organisation care less about philosophical purity as long as something is being done on behalf of nonhuman animals.

Francione seems to have accepted the view that activists who wish to pursue a position on human-nonhuman relations based on genuine rights thinking are very few in number and, furthermore, do not often feature in ‘leadership’ positions within the current animal protection movement.  Talking in 2002, in Friends of Animals’ publication Act.ion Line,[3] he claims that, in the United States at least, ‘there is no animal rights movement’.  In terms of Francione’s argument, it seems there is reason to think that this is also the case in British animal advocacy at the present time.

          Francione appears to have had the frustrating experience of seeing his own - and indeed Regan’s to a lesser extent - animal rights formulations largely marginalised within the animal movement over the years; his attempt to bring bona fide rights thinking into the heart of a social movement has been largely rejected.  Moreover, he has seen his own work not so much regarded as a source of philosophical clarity, nor particularly thought to be helpful in terms of strategic thinking within a campaigning movement, but rather labelled ‘disruptive’, ‘divisive’ and ‘elitist’.  In retrospect, it may well have been somewhat unwise to call activists who see themselves as radical, ‘full-on’, cutting-edge campaigners for the rights of nonhuman animals ‘new welfarists’ and expect them to welcome or tolerate the criticism.  Nevertheless, the evidence points to the fact that the modern animal movement remains content with the philosophical leadership provided by Singer (to the extent that philosophy is thought important in the first place), and financially supports organisational leaderships including many who may be welfarist in orientation, even in the traditional sense of the word, or else essentially use the term rights as a rhetorical devise only

Francione complains that Singer’s consequentialist utilitarian approach, based on reducing animal suffering[4] and balancing interests, has marginalised the abolitionist approach to the extent that when the giant McDonald’s hamburger corporation announced in 2002 a welfare initiative to increase battery cage space and phase out ‘beak trimming’ practices by its suppliers, the move was greeted by many, including Singer himself, as the most important ‘advance’ for nonhuman animals since the publication of Animal Liberation in the 1970s.

          Social movement theorists report that strategic and tactical dispute is, as might be expected, common in active social movements, and the animal movement is clearly no exception (Yates 1997).  Often, animal advocates discuss what, for them and their movement, is ‘practically achievable’.  The recent McDonald’s initiative is one of those cases in which something ‘winnable’ was seen to be won.  For understandable psychological reasons, ‘victories’ on any scale tend to be loudly trumpeted within social movementsIn terms of campaigning for nonhuman animals, supporters argue that the animal movement is inevitably constrained in terms of the immediate benefits it may bring for sentient nonhuman beings: this regardless of their heartfelt abolitionist aspirations.  While this could be characterised as a movement getting what little it can when it can, supporters of such moves merely state that they are being ‘practical’ and, in any event, how can animal advocacy mobilisations be seen to reject measures that seems to ease the plight of many suffering nonhumans?  For such advocates the McDonald’s case may be seen as a further indication, since larger cage space and specific alterations in production procedures were the only proposals ‘on offer’, that campaigning on an ‘extreme’ or a fundamentalist platform, and seeking the rapid abolition of major aspects of commercial animal exploitation, is totally unrealistic – utopian indeed.

          Such a position begs questions.  Why, since the modern animal protection movement has rarely pursued an abolitionist agenda for any prolonged period, are many advocates apparently and unequivocally so sure that it is doomed to failure?  Why are they so convinced that it will take hundreds of years?  Why, moreover, that a philosophical grounding in widely-accepted ideas of rights undoubtedly represent demands that unrealistically call for ‘too much’?  The following section outlines Regan’s and Francione’s rights approaches to human-nonhuman relations: approaches that are often regarded as utopian and extreme both within and without the ‘animal rights’ movement.  These are approaches not adopted or widely followed within the present animal movement.[5]  Francione agrees with Regan that philosophy and political action go together.  Indeed, he claims the latter require the former to inform action:

A social movement must have a theory if it is to have action at all… I suggest that we need a new theory to replace the one that we have. I am not unrealistic. I recognise that even if we adopt an abolitionist theory, abolition will not occur immediately. Change will necessarily be incremental. But it is my view that the explicit goal must be abolition and that abolition must shape incremental change ( Gary%20Francione, emphasis added)

‘Rights’ and ‘Animal Rights’.

Regan and Francione are acknowledged as the major theoreticians of perspectives that seek to build on established rights formulations, and apply - or extent - to them to nonhuman animals.  Regan is a Kantian deontologist who argues that many nonhumans are ‘subjects-of-a-life’, a factor demanding that humans respect their inherent rights.  Francione is a law professor particularly critical of the property status of other animals.  His rights-based formulation is thought less complicated than Regan’s; he claims basic rights for all sentient beings. 

Reganite and Francionian positions on nonhuman-human relations can be regarded as attempts to bring genuine rights views to bear on the issue of the human treatment of other animals.  Such approaches are different in nature to traditional or classical welfarist stances; and different also from Peter Singer’s version of utilitarianism which, as said, Francione claims as the philosophical grounding of modern day ‘new welfarism’.  Neither Regan nor Francione use rights concepts, or the language of rights, in a rhetorical manner as many other animal activists do, and both believe that protective rights formulations can be plausibly extended to prevent current large-scale institutionalised human exploitation of certain species of other animals.  As stated, Regan’s and particularly Francione’s works are effectively marginalised even within the movement that calls itself a ‘rights’ mobilisation.  This section, therefore, acknowledges and highlights a paradoxical situation in which the so-called ‘animal rights movement’ virtually rejects genuine rights theories while embracing a non-rights animal liberation position as its main philosophical stance. 

As implied above, however, it may be recognised that even the phrase ‘philosophical stance’ can be quite misleading in relation to the majority of current animal advocacy in which ‘philosophising’ per se is actively frowned upon, and/or seen as a very poor second to ‘doing things’ (doing any thing) ‘for animals’.  The modern animal protection movement, as well as its countermovement mobilisations, frequently (and correctly) presents the book Animal Liberation as the origins of second wave animal advocacy, along with an implicit and often explicit (and incorrect) claim that the book, and therefore the movement, is based on Peter Singer’s (nonexistent) animal rights perspective

The frequent characterisation of his utilitarian perspective as an animal rights position, and presumably the number of times Animal Liberation has been described as ‘the animal rights bible’,[6] has seemingly led its author to regret ever having used rights language, even rhetorically and, according to Regan (2001: 83-4), Singer remains committed to his claim that attributing rights to nonhumans is not possible.[7]  As seen in sections to follow, some of the misrepresentation of Singer’s work as rights-based theorising, especially by pro-use countermovements, appears on the face of it to be deliberately ideological in intent.  However, in relation to what Singer says about his own position, Francione fully accepts that Singer is entirely consistent to the extent that he rejects the notion of moral right holding in the case of human and nonhuman animals.  Moreover, his consistent utilitarian principles have led Singer to accept that ‘there might be circumstances in which human and animal exploitation…could be justified in light of consequences (Francione 1995: 259). 

Francione suggests, however, that rights concepts are always likely to be important and invoked as resources in human affairs and therefore utilitarian ‘balancing’ of human and nonhuman interests are extremely dangerous in terms of nonhuman interests.  Dangerous precisely because protective rights considerations are not conceptually available ‘to limit the results of the balancing process’ (ibid.)  Francione attempts to clarify the point by putting it in a different way, while at the same time revealing how authentic animal rights theorists attempt to build on already established ways of thinking about the protection afforded by bearing rights:

the utilitarian notion of “consequences” cannot be interpreted in a way that does not prejudice the issue of animal protection. Even if we do accept that animals have interests, it is simply difficult to make determinations of those interests from a humanocentric perspective; it is because we systematically devalue and underestimate the interests of disempowered populations that rights concepts are necessary in the first place. Although rights theory rests ultimately upon a consideration of animal interests, rights theory does not permit the sacrifice of animal interests simply because human interests would be served. Rather, rights theory assumes that at least some animal interests are entitled to prima facie protection and that the sacrifice of those interests require a justification not dissimilar to that required when we seek to override human interests protected by rights (ibid.)

The questions, ‘where do rights come from?’ and ‘how are ‘rights’ used in animal rights thinking?’ are, of course, pertinent to this particular section of the thesis.  Perhaps the first thing to be said about matters concerning any formulation of rights, following Steve Kangas ( kangaroo/L-rights.htm), is that ‘the origin of rights is a messy and complex debate’.  Kangas suggests that the understanding of the first question of where rights ‘come from’ can be aided by separating out three types of thinking about rights: conservative, liberal and libertarian; and also by thinking about four initial bases put forward for the creation of rights: that rights are ‘natural’ (following Locke), ‘inalienable’, ‘God-given’ and ‘self-evident’.  Kangas states that until a few hundred years ago, most philosophers believed that rights could be defined in these four ways.  However, ‘today, most philosophers agree that rights are social constructs, open to change’.  He says that this view accords well with the ‘liberal’ stance, since, ‘Liberals believe that rights are social constructions, defended by force and open to change and improvement’.

          Kangas is almost certainly correct to state that rights cannot be regarded as self-evident because, as he notes, ‘philosophers have been vigorously arguing about them for thousands of years’ (ibid.)  Kangas also finds support in his assertion that debates about rights can be messy and complex.  For example, Carl Cohen, in his 1986 article, ‘Why Animals Have No Rights’,[8] states that ‘The differing targets, contents, and sources of rights, and their inevitable conflict, together weave a tangled web’.  Cohen’s title itself indicates philosophical controversy over recent rights claims.  He has published a number of works addressing human rights concepts and the whole idea of nonhumans being right holders.  Whereas theorists such as Cohen argue that nonhuman animals, as a matter of logic, cannot ever be said to bear rights, Regan and Francione disagree and have put forward differing ways by which they argue that rights formulations can and should protect sentient nonhuman interests.  While Regan’s position has been described as a liberal rights perspective (Fiddes 1991: 196), Regan characterise Cohen, like Singer, as a utilitarian theorist, at least ‘when reasoning in support of continued widespread and possible expanded reliance on nonhuman animals in biomedical research’ (Regan 2001: 70).[9]  The difference between Cohen and Singer is that Singer argues that no animal, human or nonhuman, can hold rights, while Cohen argues that all humans do and nonhumans do not.

          Regan claims to adhere seriously to a commitment to develop an ‘informed, thoughtful moral outlook’ (2001: 101).  According to Benton & Redfearn, strength within Regan’s strategy accrues from the ‘benefit of latching on to the currently near-universal moral priority attached to human rights’ (1996: 51, emphasis in original).  Although it may be rather unkind of them to label Regan’s approach a strategy’, as if his commitment to human rights was only for the following reason, Benton & Redfearn acknowledge that, ‘Regan was the first theorist to ‘get ‘rights’ across the species barrier’ (ibid.: 50).  Therefore, Regan can be credited with breaching that hitherto solid defensive ethical barrier based exclusively on species membership, of which the construction, maintenance, and usage of featured prominently in Part One of the current work.

          Benton & Redfearn state that, as a matter of historical record, ‘the ethics of the ‘rights’ tradition has been markedly anthropocentric.  To ‘qualify’ as an inherently valuable being one had to possess ‘reason’, ‘autonomy’, ‘moral agency’ or some other capacity generally restricted to humans’ (ibid.)  Regan, they go on, gets morality over the species barrier by concentrating on the criteria of right holding, a familiar notion in rights discourse addressing the question of the expansion of rights bearing.  Clearly, many human beings do not have the characteristics listed by Benton & Redfearn above, neither do many have language use, another favoured way of deciding who holds rights.  There is therefore a philosophical puzzle to be solved here.  Either human beings without the above capacities are themselves not right holders or, if they remain so, on what basis are nonhumans, with similar capacities, to be denied at least basic or negative rights? 

In general rights discourse, the notion that rights have been converted from shields to swords is seriously contested by various theorists:[10] however, in this formulation, the idea of animal rights is clearly about rights as protective shields for individuals.  Regan’s ‘subjects-of-a-life’ are not necessarily moral agents; and logically nonhuman animals are placed into the category of right holding moral patients along with certain ‘marginal’ humans (as they have became known in rights discourse) (DeGrazia 1996).  Using a post-Darwinian understanding of the psychological complexity of many nonhumans, Benton & Redfearn claim that Regan shows that, ‘though animals are not moral agents in the full sense, they have enough sense of self as persisting through time, ability to express preferences and so on to be said to have ‘interests’, which may be harmed or favoured by human agents’ (1996: 50)  Benton & Redfearn investigate the ‘lesser-than’ aspect of moral marginals and conclude that not only are they not denied protective rights, ‘On the contrary, it might well be argued that it is just because of their lack of these attributes that they are in special need of the protection offered by the attribution of rights’ (ibid.: 50-1).

          For these commentators, Regan’s concentration on the rights of the individual strengthens the rights approach over what they describe as the more moderate ‘linkage of utilitarianism and animal welfare reform’ (ibid.: 51).  The one advantage of utilitarianism, they claim, is its reliance on ‘mere sentience’ as the ethically relevant criteria.  The strength of that, they say, is due to the fact that hardly anyone in the modern world would dispute that many nonhumans are sentient beings.  A further ‘strategic limitation’ of Regan’s position, Benton & Redfearn argue, stems from the huge social and personal changes implied by respect for the rights of many nonhuman animals.[11]  This would require ‘both social transformation and lifestyle changes of very fundamental kinds’.  How many, they ask, will be prepared to adopt a vegan diet and avoid all animal products?  Surely, only those who could adhere to veganism can remain consistent with the logic of animal rights?  This question greatly interests animal advocates, many of whom suggest that a strict advocacy of the vegan diet can be ‘divisive’ and ‘elitist’, whereas others simply see it as a logical consequence of accepting the rights view about human-nonhuman relations (Francione 1996b: 43-44, 239).

          Francione’s position is free of the first ‘limitation’ in Regan – but clearly not of the second.  In other words, Francione’s basic right theory argues that a being’s sentiency alone is enough to demand that humans respect their rights.  Francione also firmly declares that respect for nonhuman rights does indeed require the personal adoption of veganism as a lifestyle choice.  Francione begins his outline of animal rights with a familiar warning common in accounts of rights discourse: ‘There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the concept of rights’ (2000: xxvi).  His focus is on one aspect of rights, the protection they may offer, and argues that this is common feature of virtually every theory about rights: in other words, ‘a right is a particular way of protecting interests’:

To say that an interest is protected by a right is to say that the interest is protected against being ignored or violated simply because this will benefit someone else. We can think of a right of any sort as a fence or a wall that surrounds an interest and upon which hangs a “no trespass” sign that forbids entry, even if it would be beneficial to the person seeking that entry (ibid.)

A feature of rights formulation associated with other animals often clash with the views of environmental ethicists such as ‘deep ecologists’ (see Regan 2001: 19-21 and David Orton’s discussion paper about Deep Ecology and Animal Rights[12]).  Dispute may arise due to the concentration in rights thinking of protecting individuals rather than emphasising, say, ‘species conservation’.  However, citing Rollin’s ‘The Legal and Moral Bases of Animal Rights’, Francione (2000: xxvii) notes that rights were deliberately constructed as ethical ideas about respecting individuals.[13]  Rights protect individuals even in cases in which the general welfare of society would be improved by the right being ignored or not respected.  Francione provides a detailed account of the concept of rights and rights theory in the context of animal law in Animals, Property, and the Law (Francione 1995) in which he distinguishes respect-based rights from policy-based rights.  He argues for a basic right for sentient nonhuman animals: the right not to be treated as a ‘thing’.  For Francione, this basic right is not only a respect-based right but it is a special respect-based right ‘in that it is necessary in order to have any rights or moral significance at all, irrespective of the political system and whatever other respect-based rights are protected.  The basic right not to be treated as a thing recognises that the right holder is a person’ (2000: 191, emphasis in original).

          Moving toward his conception of animal rights, while accepting that no rights are absolute ‘in the sense that their protection has no exception’ (ibid.: xxvii), Francione builds on the notion that all humans ‘who are not brain dead or otherwise nonsentient’ (and presumably who are not masochistic) have an interest in avoiding suffering and pain (ibid.)  This interest is tied to the importance of being a legal person:

Although we do not protect humans from all suffering, and although we may not even agree about which human interests should be protected by rights, we generally agree that all humans should be protected from suffering that results from being used as the property or commodity of another human…in a world deeply divided on many moral issues, one of the few norms endorsed by the international community is the prohibition of human slavery.  Nor is it a matter of whether the particular form of slavery is “humane” or not; we condemn all human slavery (ibid.)

Resisting a critical critique of this statement, if only by regarding it as an ideal type formulation, Francione’s point is fairly straightforward.  In fact, he does himself acknowledge that human slavery still persists in the modern world, even though ‘the institution is universally regarded as morally odious and is legally prohibited’ (ibid.)  Returning to his theme about basic rights, Francione argues that all and any ‘further’ rights are dependent on basic ones, in particular ‘they must have the basic right not to be treated as a thing’ (ibid.)  By examining the principle of ‘equal consideration’ which says that similar interests should be treated in a similar way, Francione makes the case for animal rights, at least the case for the basic right that concerns him the most:

If we apply the principle of equal consideration to animals, then we must extend to animals the one basic right that we extent to all human beings: the basic right not to be treated as things (ibid.: xxix).

As a matter of logic, then, Francione claims that ‘if we mean what we say’ about nonhumans being morally significant, as even traditional animal welfare does, ‘then we really have no choice’: if social attitudes to human slavery desire its abolition rather than its regulation, ‘we are similarly committed to the abolition of animal exploitation, and not merely to its regulation’ (ibid.)

          As for what ‘sort’ of right is being claimed within his formulation of basic animal rights, Francione continues to rely on notions of basic or ‘innate’ rights, distinctions about ideas of ‘natural rights’, and the thoughts of, among others, Kant, Locke, and modern political theorist Henry Shue.  Francione continues to attempt to build on the widely accepted ‘value’ of basic human rights.  He argues that ‘there is certainly a great deal of disagreement about precisely what rights human beings have’, however it is clear that all humans are seen as right holders which prevents them being ‘treated exclusively as a means to the end of another’ (ibid.: 93).  In pointing out that this basic right is different from ‘all other rights’, Francione claims it as a pre-legal right; and a necessary pre-requisite for other important rights.  What is the use, Francione asks, of thinking about rights appropriate to human beings, such as the right to free speech, voting rights, etc., if their basic right not to be a thing is not respected?  This sense of ‘basic right’, he argues, is different from what many claim to be ‘natural rights’ (although the discourse about ‘natural’ - or any - rights is complex and often contradictory).

Explaining Genuine Animal Rights is Not Animal Welfare.

Francione claims that his position on human-nonhuman relations is both far-reaching and non-radical at the same time:

The position that I am proposing…is radical in the sense that it would force us to stop using animals in many of the ways that we now take for granted. In another sense, however, my argument is quite conservative in that it follows from a moral principle that we already claim to accept – that it is wrong to impose unnecessary suffering on animals (ibid.)

Further to the moral principle identified here, which has been written into animal welfarism, animal rights thinking also follows established, if still controversial, thinking about human rights.  What Francione (and Regan) have claimed all along is that claims-making about human-nonhuman relations can be – and require to be – based on extended ideals compared with traditional or modern animal welfarism.  Given the rhetorical use of ‘rights’ in second wave animal advocacy, and the prominence of Singer’s views, ‘animal rights discourse’, rather than being primarily about which rights views are appropriate to extend to - and claim for - nonhumans (see Francione 1995, particularly section 5 of Part I), has become rather ‘bogged down’ in efforts to disassociate itself from utilitarian animal welfarism.  

         It is recognised that both Regan and Francione have set about substantiating their claim that rights theory is the most useful basis of asserting pro-animal claims but their views have failed to persuade the British and North American animal protection movements of their case on that issue.  Rather, as noted above, authentic rights views appear to have been received within ‘the movement’ with a degree of irritation due in part to its perception as a fundamental, impractical, unrealistic, extremist or abolitionist position compared to versions of animal welfarism.  Rather than being reviewed as a matter of attempts to clarify claims-making about human-nonhuman relations, and thereby ‘improve’ animal advocacy, a strict adherence to strictly animal rights views (meaning views articulated by rights philosophers such as Francione, Dunayer and Regan) is seen by many, certainly by some movement ‘leaders’, as a potential or actual divisive element in any strategic debate about practical campaigning for nonhuman animals.  A close examination of this particular point is beyond the scope of this section, indeed the whole thesis in some senses, but, organisationally at least, the reluctance to adopt the ‘full’ animal rights agenda is almost certainly to do with thoughts about membership numbers, not wanting to be publicly labelled as ‘extremist’, and other tactical concerns that engage social movement activists, staff and tacticians. 

          It is also quite plausible that reluctance to use rights in animal rights simply reflects the controversial and complex nature of rights discourse in general, and perhaps especially when making welfare claims means making claims that are the easiest to understand.  On the one hand, such factors make animal advocates wonder if rights theory is the best way by which they formulate claims about human-nonhuman relations and, on the other hand, the most ‘active activists’ tend to feel they have little time to explore such – to them, largely irrelevant and abstract - complexities when there is ‘stuff’ to be done ‘for animals’ (Yates 1998).  Whatever the precise particulars if this aspect of machinations within the nonhuman protection movement, it is clearly far too much to claim that genuine rights views have been able to successfully break free - on any level - from the ‘clutches’ of animal welfarism.

Part One of the current work saw Garner’s (1993) assertion that animal rights views (rhetorical or not) are challenging perspectives in relation to the traditional moral orthodoxy concerning human-nonhuman relations.  The following section places further emphasis on how genuine rights positions tend regularly to be drawn into some level of conflict with a good deal of the traditional articulation of the moral orthodoxy with regard to such relations.  Of course, this conflict may be expected with regard to pro-use animal welfarists.  However, clearly genuine rights views appear to sit uneasily alongside any form of animal welfarism, perhaps especially when rights advocates doubt that welfarism can bring sufficient change required to end the instrumental and sentimental exploitation of other animals.  It may be stated that such conflict has increased, at least theoretically, since Francione entered the debate with his particular formulation of animal rights and, more to the point, that rather tactless dismissal of other non-traditional welfare positions as ‘new welfarism’ already mentioned (Francione 1996a).  This section of the thesis, then, almost bizarrely continues to consider the meaning of animal rights while taking seriously Francione’s claim that there may be no current social movement of note that deserves the name. 

Much of the apparent confusion, often seen on a ‘grassroots’ campaigning level, about personally ‘being into ‘animal rights’’ and also ‘being into animal welfare’ (Yates 1998), appears to stem from the fact that, sociologically, the former emerged (or has attempted to) from the latter.  The former may even be characterised as something of an ‘outgrowth’ of animal welfarism.  This has resulted, on a common sense level, in notions of animal rights and welfare being widely regarded as roughly ‘the same thing’, or based on similar concerns about the human treatment of other animals, a claim, indeed, made by Francione above.

All the while it must also be appreciated, as stated before, that relatively few individuals are likely see the value of taking the time and making the effort to differentiate rights and welfare views on human-nonhuman issues.  However, emergent rights views from the 1980s onwards, expressed in the main by North American theorists, subsequently developed beyond the bounds of welfarism, both in terms of its philosophical standpoint and campaigning objectives.  Most clearly, such rights views are seen to provide an alternative to Peter Singer’s utilitarian approach that has shaped the majority of second wave animal advocacy.  Apart from the ideological benefit that pro-use countermovements may derive by misrepresenting the rights view (Guither 1998, chap. 11), the fact that Singer’s position emerged first, as it were, explains its prominence in the modern movement for nonhuman protection.  In other words, Animal Liberation was published during the rise in the late 1960s and 1970s of the so-called ‘new social movements’.  Thus, during a period when human-nonhuman relations were assessed anew, Singer’s perspective was the most radical view available to inform and inspire new advocates seeking to move beyond the limitations of traditional pro-use animal welfarism.  That said, genuine rights theorists must explain with some conviction why their claims about human-nonhuman relations are superior or just different to the welfarist approach, and especially Singer’s radical version of welfarism which is both dominant and popular in nonhuman advocacy circles. 

Academic observers such as Guither, Benton, Redfearn and Garner have often shown a greater interest in exploring the philosophical stances - and their inconsistencies - adopted within the movement than nonhuman advocates have themselves.  For example, Professor of agricultural policy Harold Guither (1998: ix), who characterises his own position as ‘middle-of-the-road’ when it comes to animal welfare and animal rights, says, ‘The animal rights movement has emerged from old ideas but with a new philosophy emphasising moral and ethical standards for how humans should treat animals’.  Journalist Danny Penman (1996: 156) argues that, as ‘animal rights’ activism is now an established social fact, animal rights philosophy is increasingly seen as a legitimate area of thought.[14]  However, despite this, and despite the frequency that an apparent ‘animal rights’ issue is reported in the mass media, the answer to the question, ‘what is animal rights?’ remains far from certain at this present time, including within the ‘animal rights movement’. 

Furthermore, although animal rights philosophers and some grassroots activists continue to articulate their substantive aspirations in terms of the abolition of the major forms of animal exploitation, the precise contours of a post-animal rights, or ‘non- (or less-) speciesist’, society are remarkably unclear, perhaps especially with regard to various contentious areas of the animal rights agenda such as the morality of pet ownership and what to do about so-called ‘vermin control’.  Moreover, as Benton & Redfearn (1996) suggest, just which nonhumans would be protected by animal rights – or ‘qualify’ for them – is unsure.  Given the common rhetorical use of ‘rights’, it may be argued that a good deal of ‘animal rights’ coverage and its associated discourse is not actually grounded in rights thought at all, which does not assist much in resolving such questions. 

Furthermore, there is another pertinent and far from simple question to be asked: who says what ‘animal rights’ is – philosophers? - animal activists? - pro-use animal welfarists!?  This is an intriguing and very real question for those interested in the evolution of the animal protection movement.  Sociologically, influential definers have tended to be the dominant social agents and agencies of the time, and usually they are male and white.  The hierarchy of credibility relating to this definitional matter appears still to be sorting itself out.

          Perhaps it is precisely because animal rightism - despite distinctions that may be claimed for it - attempted to emerge within a paradigmatic field already ‘full’ of animal welfarism, that prompted Guither to comment that ‘confusion’, ‘suspicion’, ‘misunderstanding’, and ‘mistrust’ exists about the true character of the objectives and the beliefs of animal rightists (1998: ix).  Quite clearly, it is understood that foremost among the ‘old ideas’ Guither refers to is traditional animal welfarism, ‘established on the principle that while humans are free to subjugate animals, it is wrong for people to cause them to suffer unnecessarily’ (ibid.: 2).  If this suggests nothing else, it does point to the fact that animal rights and animal welfarism are linked to the extent that it is, in practice, difficult to talk of the former without some reference to the latter.  However, Regan’s (1985: 13) initial description of the generalised goals of an animal rights movement serves to clearly reveal just how far a genuine rights position goes beyond the aspirations of conventional animal welfarists.  For example, Regan states that animal rights, as he sees it, stands for:

                   * the total abolition of the use of animals in science;
                   * the total dissolution of commercial animal agriculture;
                   * the total elimination of commercial and sport hunting and trapping.

The goals here are quite clear, unambiguous and relatively bold: the abolition, dissolution, and elimination of the major forms of exploitation and potential abuse of other animals by human beings.  These are very forms of animal exploitation which animal welfarism seeks to carefully regulate and sometimes reform rather than end altogether, although more radical welfarists who adhere to a welfare + welfare + welfare = rights equation[15] claim that such processes of gradual change may eventually end the human exploitation of other animals.  Such welfarists in this latter vein are essentially not pro-use welfarists, at least not in the sense of those in pro-use mobilisations set up to defend the institution of animal exploitation and try to discredit the whole idea of ‘animal rights’ (see below), which explains why they often characterise their own orientation toward human-nonhuman relations as abolitionist in intent.  The paradigmatic case concerning the notion that a succession of welfare measures can eventually end with respect for animals’ rights involves speculation about, say, whether support for ‘bigger cages’ is consistent with abolitionist thinking.

          Although Regan’s animal rightism is not particularly radical in the sense that he simply argues for a (limited) extension of deontological moral rights theory to cover (some) animals other than human (Lee 1997: 344-47), nevertheless it is immediately clear that his ‘goals’ go far beyond the generalised desire of a non-cruel utilisation of nonhuman animals for human ends.  Underlining the intrinsic nature of the welfare-rights divide, it may be noted that philosophers such as Regan and Francione find themselves explaining ‘animal rights’ by outlining what it is not.  They will specifically argue that any animal rights movement - if it is to remain consistent with its name - must certainly go beyond the scope of orthodox welfarism, or the ‘anti-cruelty’ movement, or (in the USA) the so-called ‘humane movement’.  In essence, then, these advocates and others regularly get involved in debates about what ‘animal rights’ does not stand for, and what type of pragmatic campaign a rightist might support, again indicating that there are complicated and perhaps still poorly-understood relationships between traditional animal welfarism, radical animal welfarism and emergent animal rights advocacy.          

          In Britain, animal welfarism was codified within early legislation such as the 1911 Protection of Animals Act[16] (which is still in force, although the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is presently urging its modernisation).  The view that ‘something should be done for animals’ found organisational expression with the initial formation of the Society for the Protection of Animals (SPCA) in 1824 and then the RSPCA itself, the name changing in 1840 when Queen Victoria lent her support.  The suggestion made above that ‘animal rights talk’ is often difficult without reference to animal welfarism cannot be said with great confidence in reverse.  Therefore, although animal welfare groups and organisations such as the RSPCA may sometimes talk in abolitionist terms about, for example, (some specific forms, or a subset, of) hunting - such as ‘hunting with dogs’ - welfarism in general is more commonly concerned with regulating on-going animal exploitation rather than even aiming toward bringing a complete end to it.  This orientation appears in the welfarist tendency (in both traditional and radical forms) to concentrate on issues such as ‘cruelty’ (especially excessive cruelty cases involving privileged species like cats, horses and dogs) rather than base claims-making on rights violations regardless of ‘conditions’.  This seems especially to be true in relation to the greatest use and abuse (numerically) of animals; in factory farming practices[17] and in far less numerous vivisection experiments.  Activists who are critical of rights formulations as the initial basis of claims about human-nonhuman relations often implicitly suggest that their position is essentially based on issues of framing.  In other words, they often feel faced by a broadly sympathetic public but one that largely accepts welfarist propositions of worry-free non-cruel exploitation of nonhuman resources.  Thus, as Francione suggests, audiences receptive to their messages may share a commitment to viewing nonhumans as sentient beings with important interests of their own, yet whether nonhuman ‘rights’ make sense to them or not is another matter, and rather more difficult to grasp or articulate.   

          Animal welfare thinking is based on the idea that it must be possible to devise precise and carefully controlled ways to exploit nonhuman animals as resources in systems that are demonstrably ‘not cruel’.  Welfarist advocacy, furthermore, is often predicated on a claimed practical understanding that it is very unlikely to reach a situation of the abolition of many forms of animal use, even if this aim is realistic or desirable, especially in the case of the eating of nonhuman animals.  Therefore, for many orthodox and non-traditional animal welfarists, ‘animal rights talk’ is actually superfluous to the more realistic programmes of reducing levels of cruelty and increasing the ‘humane’ treatment of nonhumans.  Radical welfare’s ‘getting hands dirty’ efforts amount to pragmatically and gradually reducing animal suffering in selected campaigning areas where public and/or political support can be gained.  As seen below, the vast majority of the acrimonious debates that have raged for decades over several different bloodsports such as foxhunting and hare coursing have proceeded almost entirely without recourse to bona fide animal rights perspectives.  Indeed, current proposed legislation to outlaw ‘hunting with dogs’ appears not to have been informed by genuine animal rights thought at any stage for either pro- or anti-hunt proponents. 

          In the case of nonhuman experimentation, often covered by the general term ‘vivisection’, whether the cutting into a live animal is involved or not, animal welfarists have sometimes attempted to regulate the infliction of pain in such procedures (Hollands 1985: 168-78).  This strategy often avoids a principled engagement of fundamental arguments about the legitimacy of performing experiments on non-consenting rights-bearing sentient beings.  Note that this welfarist strategy is not necessarily based on the same claims as scientific anti-vivisectionists who argue that animal experimentation is an invalid methodology that endangers human lives as much as it takes millions of nonhuman ones.  With regards to ‘animal farming’, traditional welfarism often involves the advocacy of so-called ‘welfare friendly’ agricultural systems which in practice usually means ‘de-intensifying’ farming practices, such as transferring egg production from ‘battery cage’ to ‘deep-litter’ or (better still) ‘free-range’ systems.[18]  The post-war development in Britain of more intensive (‘battery’) systems provoked a marked welfarist response; academically in the shape of Ruth Harrison’s influential book, Animal Machines (Harrison 1964); and organisationally in the shape of the campaigning group Compassion In World Farming (CIWF), formed in 1967 by dairy farmer Peter Roberts.  To this day, CIWF campaign for ‘farm animal welfare’ and oppose intensive ‘livestock’ systems. 

Regardless of the claimed legitimacy of on-going welfarist initiatives - which may ostensibly result in a ‘more humane’ situation for the nonhumans directly concerned in given circumstances – (few would argue that smaller cages are ‘better’ than larger ones) – they nevertheless still fall short of animal rights demands, as philosopher Steve Sapontzis noted in 1987:

Perhaps what most sharply separates the new animal rights movement from the traditional welfare movement is the new movement’s insistence that no matter how humanely we do it, our continuing routinely to sacrifice animals’ interests for our benefit is unfair (quoted in Wynne-Tyson 1990: 446).

One of the most obvious distinctions between genuine animal rights and animal welfarism stems from the rights attack on the property status of other animals (Francione 1995; 1996b).  Welfare organisations, including major ones such as the RSPCA, the Cats’ Protection League, the International League for the Protection of Horses and the Canine Defence League, actively promote the ‘responsible ownership’ of pet animals or domesticates (described more politically correctly within some sections of the animal protection movement as ‘companion animals’).[19]  The owning of other animals as human property is also enshrined in welfarist-inspired animal protection law which recognises those two Kantian categories - ‘persons’ and ‘things’.  In legal proceedings, animals other than human are viewed as ‘legal things’ (Wise 2000).  The legislation concerned with many categories of nonhumans acts to provide certain ‘safeguards’ in relation to their interests because they are recognised to occupy a status once held also by human slaves: sentient property.  In Animals, Property, and the Law, Francione (1995) claims that any legal balancing of interests of owner versus owned is predetermined in favour of the former.  Elsewhere, Francione points out that human slavery was based on a legal position that allowed the ‘sacrifice’ of slaves’ interests to the interests of slavekeepers.  Effectively, the ‘ending’ of slavery in North America depended on reclassifying slaves as persons in law.  This means protection was afforded due to an extension of respect for rights: ‘Rights notions are intended to place limits on the instrumental treatment of persons, and to ensure that certain fundamental interests cannot be sacrificed for the general welfare’ (Francione 1996b).  The fact that animal rightists demand another such ethical extension - seeing ‘the liberating of animals from human exploitation [as] the next logical step in the progress of our everyday, Western moral precepts’ (Sapontzis, quoted in Wynne-Tyson 1990: 447) - places real animal rights thinking some way beyond many day-to-day welfarist concerns.

          Perhaps more apparently mundane, yet also far-reaching, the differences between traditional welfarist views and a relatively radical view of human-nonhuman relations (described as an ‘enlightened utilitarian theory’ [Francione 1995: 105]) can be identified in the preface of Peter Singer’s influential Animal Liberation, when the author describes researching (in the early-1970s) his then new book ‘about animals’:

Soon after I began work on this book my wife and I were invited to tea - we were living in England at the time - by a lady who had heard that I was planning to write a book about animals.  She herself was very interested in animals, she said, and she had a friend who had already written a book about animals and would be so keen to meet us.  When we arrived our hostess’s friend was already there, and she certainly was keen to talk about animals.  ‘I do love animals’, she began, ‘I have a dog and two cats, and do you know they get on together wonderfully well.  Do you know Mrs. Scott?  She runs a little hospital for sick pets...’ and she was off. 
She paused while refreshments were served, took a ham sandwich, and asked us what pets we had.  We told her we didn’t own any pets.  She looked a little surprised, and took a bite of her sandwich.  Our hostess, who had now finished serving the sandwiches, joined us and took up the conversation:  ‘But you are interested in animals, aren’t you, Mr. Singer?’ 
We tried to explain that we were interested in the prevention of suffering and misery; that we were opposed to arbitrary discrimination; that we thought it wrong to inflict needless suffering on another being, even if that being were not a member of our own species; and that we believed animals were ruthlessly and cruelly exploited by humans, and we wanted this changed.  Otherwise, we said, we were not especially ‘interested in’ animals.  Neither of us had ever been inordinately fond of dogs, cats, or horses in the way that many people are.  We didn’t ‘love’ animals.  We simply wanted them treated as the independent sentient beings that they are, and not as a means to human ends - as the pig whose flesh was now in our hostess’s sandwich had been treated.

In this passage of the book so often credited with providing the philosophical foundation and campaigning inspiration for the modern animal protection movement in Britain, Australia and elsewhere, Singer grounds his perspective in notions such as opposition to arbitrary discrimination and ruthless exploitation rather than on concepts such as simply ‘loving’ animals or ‘taking care’ of them. 

Of course, reference to Animal Liberation is made at this juncture, not because it is an animal rights book - it isn’t, but because it serves to demonstrate the width of the gulf between traditional animal welfarism and the position of one of the first academics in the 1970’s who would help to prompt a fresh rethinking of human-nonhuman relations which, in turn, quickly gave rise to the emergence of second-wave animal rights thought in the writings of Tom Regan in the 1980s. 

Animal Liberation has a further importance that deserves note.  For it could be argued that Peter Singer’s groundbreaking book, and many of his subsequent publications, were instrumental in fuelling the rhetorical use of the term ‘animal rights’ already mentioned.  Singer is by far the most widely-read – and quoted - philosopher of the animal protection movement.  Indeed, according to one cheeky[20] New Statesman subeditor, Singer is ‘perhaps the most famous philosopher in the world’.  However, it may be asserted with confidence that few animal advocates could explain what makes Singer’s position a non-rights one, or could explain why Francione characterises Singer as a ‘new welfarist’ philosopher advocate.  Explaining the meaning of ‘animal rights’ involves recognising that the majority of those who may describe themselves as rightists do not consistently articulate their perspectives on human-nonhuman relations with rights-informed language, and neither do they seem to accept the reasons for why they might do so. 

          Returning to the traditional animal welfare advocates in Singer’s citation, for these more old school animal welfarists, apparently ‘loving’ animals, or at least loving ‘their’ companion animals, is their starting point for their concern about nonhuman animals.  Such kindly and ostensibly caring views are based on entrenched welfarist notions such as ‘being kind to animals’, certainly not causing them ‘unnecessary suffering’,[21] and always promoting ‘humane treatment’.  Singer’s pig-eating entertainer, and her friend, probably and quite sincerely adhered to the conventional welfarist doctrine that the animals they were eating could – indeed should - have been bred, fattened, transported and killed in an entirely non-cruel way.  However, they are equally unlikely to have pondered much on whether supporting the multimillion pound meat (or pet) industry is a gross violation of many hundreds of millions of sentient animals’ most fundamental rights. 

Two Recent Campaigns.

Some of the characteristics of two contemporary and on-going examples of British ‘animal campaigning’ may help to emphasise the marked distinctions among animal welfare and animal rights approaches to given issues.  The first example comes from the relatively popular and heavily media reported campaign against the live export of animals which began in earnest in the 1990s (for an interesting account of these lively events, and links to thoughts about the growing apolitical nature of British society generally, see Benton & Redfearn 1996). 

       The second example comes from the as-yet-unresolved campaign (it began in the 1920s) to outlaw ‘hunting with dogs’ in England and Wales (Scotland passed a similar law prohibiting hound sports on August 1st, 2002).

Live exports.

Both animal welfarists (but, note, not all, if any, of Guither’s pro-use animal welfarists) and animal rightists are opposed to transporting animals over large distances to be slaughtered abroad.  The standard, and apparently logical, welfare ‘solution’ to this problem is essentially contained in the campaign slogan: ‘On the Hook, Not On the Hoof’. 

Welfarist arguments are therefore sometimes based on the pragmatic proposition that, since ‘food animals’ will be killed - and therefore the question is how - it would be ‘less cruel’ to slaughter them in Britain and then transport their frozen bodies overseas.  A second strand of this argument is the potentially racist notion that ‘our’ British slaughterhouses are ‘better’ (meaning more regulated and therefore more humane) than dirty, foreign, abattoirs. 
       Empirical evidence gained over several years by organisations such as the RSPCA and Compassion In World Farming, and consumer programmes such as BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme, appears to generally support both of these claims.  As a consequence, many ‘animal rights’ campaigners have often supported campaigns which are based on such views (meaning campaign spokespersons and activists would be prepared to articulate their claims and aspirations in the light of such points). 

However, as a general rule, this animal welfarist aim to kill nonhumans before transportation overseas clearly stops far short of genuine animal rights claims and objectives since it does not adequately address the rights view that it is illegitimate to kill other sentient right holding animals (anywhere) in the first place, or enslave them, or deliberately bring them into being for human use and exploitation.  That said, movement discourse over such matters, once again, will often be based on assessments of what is ‘practically possible’ in terms of benefits for animals as compared to ‘utopian wishes’ that cannot be met - especially in the short term.[22]
        Francione, quite surprisingly perhaps in the first instance, argues that genuine rightists may justifiably support individual reforms on the basis of cumulative incrementalism - and also within a practical recognition that the immediate abolition of major forms of animal abuse is extremely unlikely.  However, Francione disputes the validity of many step-by-step approaches, arguing that rights advocates cannot, if they want to remain consistent with rights theory, support many such reforms. 
        Francione contentiously maintains that reformism that is based on animal welfarism necessarily assumes the legitimacy of the property status of other animals, and therefore reinforces the property characterisation of nonhuman animals (Francione 1996a).  However, he is prepared to modify this apparently strict position slightly, but only if each measure, even if claimed in the name of animal welfare, at every and all stage, amounts to the total abolition of a discreet abusive practice, and can be presented within an openly-stated animal rights framework that articulates abolitionist aims with the employment of abolitionist and rights language use.  Thus, Francione argues, perfectly demonstrating a genuine animal rights orientation toward welfarist measures, ‘any incremental approach must be both abolitionist in itself and accompanied by a continued and aggressive critique of the remaining parts of the system’.[23]  In a Weberian ideal type formulation, Francione cites a five criteria model for guidance, and to promote inter-movement discourse about this matter:

Criterion #1: An Incremental Change Must Constitute a Prohibition;

Criterion #2: There Must Be a Prohibition of an Identifiable Activity That is Constitutive of the Exploitative Institution;
Criterion #3:  The Prohibition of a Constitutive Activity Must Recognise and Respect a Non-Institutional Animal Interest;
Criterion #4:  Animal Interests Cannot Be “Tradable”;
Criterion #5:  The Prohibition Should Not Substitute an Alternative, and Supposedly More "Humane" Form of Exploitation.[24]

In 2001, consternation was registered by many contributors to ‘animal rights’ email networks regarding competitive animal welfare moves by Burger King (known as ‘Murder King’ in activists’ discourse), the McDonald’s (‘murder burgers’) franchise, and ‘Wendy’s’ fast-food chain.[25]  These commercial businesses are currently attempting to produce better ‘methods of regulating’ animal produce suppliers, enabling the active ‘monitoring’ of the welfare standards of meat and especially eggs as they seek to promise customers that they will enforce strict welfare ‘improvements’.  These include such measures as the phasing out of the industry practice of ‘debeaking/beak-trimming’ and reducing the numbers of individual birds per battery cage.  How should genuine animal rightists respond to such initiatives and ‘remain consistent with rights theory’?  Join in welcoming the moves, as utilitarian Peter Singer has?  Or reject - or at least criticise - them because these businesses will subsequently heavily self-promote themselves as ‘animal welfare friendly’ enterprises?  As said earlier, the finer points of ‘animal rights’ are still being worked through, and instances such as this one provokes a great deal of campaigning claims-making as a modern social movement attempts to develop its ethical and strategic positions.  


It was suggested above that ‘animal rights’ thought has not featured a great deal in discourse about hunting in Britain.  A great deal of the continuing foxhunting debate involves fierce arguments about which ‘vermin control’ methodology should be employed to ‘cull’ fox populations: foxes themselves often characterised in the foxhunting debate as a potential or actual pest species.  Recalling Jim Mason’s proclamation that controlling nature is now ‘second nature’ for modern agri-culturists, the debate has not often critically embraced the notion of whether there is a need to control foxes - in this discourse foxes are nearly always regarded as agricultural ‘pests’.  How foxes may be ‘controlled’ has featured time and time again in the great foxhunting debate.  After all, pro-hunt apologists will state, and anti-hunting supporters have often accepted, that high fox numbers result in largescale chicken and lamb ‘losses’. 
        However, it is nevertheless true that the blanket assertion that foxes kill many healthy lambs is a controversial statement, and political action groups such as the League Against Cruel Sports have published research which has challenged the contention that foxes are the ‘pests’ that the fox hunters say they are.[26]  That said, the majority of organisation spokespersons and politicians involved in the hunting debate seem to invariably become embroiled in a dominant ‘how best to kill foxes’ argument.  By suggesting that fox numbers ‘need’ controlling, again built on views about controlling nature in the human ‘stewardship’ model, pro-hunt advocates such as Scruton (2000), are able to characterise the arguments against abolishing hunting as a ‘civil liberties’ and ‘minority rights’ issue.

In other words, if a foxhunting ban would not increase animal welfare (because farmers will continue to kill foxes because they ‘require’ to be controlled), then the motivations for a ban must be to do with something else other than animal welfare.  It must be said that many anti-hunting positions have not served to clarify the pro-animal perspective.  For example, it has often been suggested from the anti-bloodsports position that there is something ethically problematic about killing nonhuman animals if such killing is ‘for fun’.  However, this perspective suggests that hunting for the dinner plate, for example in the case of fishing, is a different matter, morally speaking.
      From an absolutist animal rights position, as opposed to anti-bloodsports and welfarist approaches, detailed points about ‘guns versus dogs’ in fox control methodology are fairly irrelevant: for those adopting an animal rights position, animal enslavement in agriculture is the central issue here.  Since the genuine rights view sees the routine human exploitation of chickens and lambs as utterly illegitimate, and since foxes appear not to prey on carrots or cabbages, they are hardly ever likely to be regarded as a ‘pest’ by vegan animal rights campaigners (see Gold 1988; Garner 1993; Moran 1997; Guither 1998; Kean 1998 for discussions of vegetarianism and veganism in relation to animal advocacy).[27]
        In relation to predatory foxes, as far as many animal rights campaigners can see, when farmers and hunters complain about chicken and lamb ‘losses’, they simply complain on the basis that a fox may have killed before they themselves had the opportunity to do exactly the same thing.  Essentially they moan simply because the fox got there first.  Ironically, in the veganic world of non-violent humans which many campaigners advocate as an ideal, foxes would become agricultural friends rather than foes because they limit the numbers of the animals, such as rabbits, which compete with human beings for vegetable foods.

                        [When she visited her brother, Alexandra Tolstoy’s aunt] was
                        offered only a vegetarian diet [and] was indignant, said she could
                        not eat any old filth and demanded that they give her meat, chicken. 
                        The next time she came to dinner she was astonished to find a live
                        chicken tied to her chair and a large knife at her plate.
                                    ‘What’s this? asked Auntie.
                                    ‘You wanted chicken’, Tolstoy replied... ‘Not one of us is
                        willing to kill it.  Therefore we prepared everything so that you could
                        do it yourself’.
                                                      Alexandra Tolstoy, Tolstoy: A Life of My Father.

As noted elsewhere, in the 1998 Flying Eye video, A Cow at My Table, Carol Adams states that people often do not want the awareness that, when they eat meat, they are eating somebody else’s dead body.  Who wants to know that, she asks.  Just as Henry Salt, the founder of the Humanitarian League (1891-1919), came to the realisation that he was eating ‘dead flesh’ - the actual flesh and blood of cows, sheep, pigs and other animals, John Robbins (1987: 133) tells of another person who says she was ‘shocked speechless’ when she really looked at what was on her plate: ‘It was a God Damned Turkey I was eating!  I couldn’t believe it!  Those were its legs, right there in front of me, disguised by all the cranberries and sauce!’ 

          Similarly, musicians Paul and Linda McCartney reportedly had identical thoughts when looking out of their Scottish farmhouse window.  They were eating ‘lamb’ at the time, and were delighting in watching live lambs gambol outside and they simply put two and two together.  Paddy Broughton, who in the 1980’s was the local group contact for the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, once wrote in the organisation’s magazine, Liberator, that she had something of a ‘road to Damascus’ experience simply by being given an ‘animal rights’ leaflet about animal suffering.  Apart from Salt - who is credited for forming the first ever (if short lived) animal rights movement - all of these people just cited, if they were aware of them, could relate their personal experiences and feelings about other animals with the messages emanating from the new radicalised animal movement and its philosophies of the 1970’s and onwards. 

This new movement, albeit that its use of rights formulations should often be regarded as rhetorical in nature, constantly attempts to articulate its principled opposition to instrumentally (less so sentimentally) using nonhuman animals for human ends; and thus this relatively recent mobilisation provides alternatives to the message(s) of traditional animal welfarism.  On the other hand, dispute within the new movement frequently remains predicated on tensions created by considerations of fundamentals-versus-pragmatics in animal advocacy.  As ever, animal welfarism features as a central resource in such discourse about human-nonhuman relations (Francione 1996a).  Although no-one can presently claim that there is agreement about what ‘animal rights’ means, its basic philosophical foundations, based on established ‘human rights’ thought, appear to be more or less solidly grounded, and yet they are sedimented in a generally messy and by no means universal consensus among ‘rights’ advocates. 

          It is perhaps a little ironic that the subject that seems to have forged the most agreement in recent years is the growing recognition that animal rights and animal welfare are not the same thing, although it is also clear that confusion about these philosophical and campaigning positions still exists.  Of course, as seen presently, there is absolutely no reason why anyone must comprehend - or try to assess - what modern animal advocates stand for; but the point is, in the last twenty five years at least they have, with a little effort, been able to do so, perhaps moreso in Regan’s North America than in Singer-influenced Britain and Australia.

          Even given a growing acknowledgement that animal rights is not the same as welfare within the animal protection movement, the very solidity and resilience of institutionalised animal welfarism is likely to remain a serious problem for genuine rights-based claims-makers, especially in the light of the popularity of animal liberationism.  One major problem which rightists have yet to overcome is the almost automatic orientation toward some form of welfarism in addressing issues of human-nonhuman relations.  The apparent strength and resilience of the orthodoxy, along with the prevailing reliance on the welfarist lens by which to view animal issues and review and criticise ‘rights’ arguments, provides the next topic of investigation.

[1]   Such discourse tends to take place on North American listings.  British lists, apart from hardly ever – or only briefly and often grudgingly - addressing philosophical issues, rarely mention either Francione or Regan.  Peter Singer’s name (if not his philosophical approach) is much more likely to be cited.
[2]   Among other arguments, Francione responds to such points by saying that, ‘as a practical matter, [animal welfarism] does not work.  We have had animal welfare laws in most western countries for well over a hundred years now, and they have done little to reduce animal suffering and they have certainly not resulted in the gradual abolition of any practices…  As to why welfarism fails…the reason has to do with the property status of animals.  If animals are property, then they have no value beyond that which is accorded to them by their owners.  Reform does not work because it seeks to force owners to value their property differently and to incur costs in order to respect animal interests’.
[3]   Reproduced by Bill Huston in
[4]   Benton and Redfearn (1996: 50) write: ‘Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation is…within the utilitarian tradition, and it may be that the animal welfare movement’s concern with animal suffering is a measure of the pervasiveness of utilitarianism as the ‘common sense’ of secular morality’.
[5]  When asked, most British animal advocates state that they are not familiar with either Regan’s or Francione’s work.  Many, however, have read (or at least heard of) Singer’s Animal Liberation.  For others, say anti-bloodsports campaigners and scientific anti-vivisectionists, they tend to be most familiar with publications about their principal interest.
[6]   Adam Kydd’s recent on-line  review ( of Francione’s Introduction to Animal Rights argues that this book should be seen ‘as the true bible of the Animal Rights Movement’.
[7]   Throughout Animal Liberation Singer is careful to talk about the ‘Animal Liberation movement’ and never speaks of a clash between human and nonhuman rights, rather human and animal interests.  In the 2nd edition of Animal Liberation, Singer was motivated to say something about rights formulations: ‘The language of rights is a convenient political shorthand.  It is even more valuable in the era of thirty-second TVA news clips’ (Singer 1990, cited by Francione 1996: 49, 240).
[8]   Originally printed in the New England Journal of Medicine, Vol 315(14) (October 2, 1986): 865-69, this citation is taken from wysiwyg://19/ (visited 20/08/03).  Critics of Cohen (including Regan 2001 and Nathan Nobis [ nobis/papers.cohen-kind.html]) have noted how rare it is for a philosophical work to feature as the lead article in a medical journal.  Regan (2001: 70), for example, states that, ‘the pride of place accorded the essay reflects both the high regard in which Cohen is held by members of the biomedical community and the perceived importance of the issues he examines’.
[9]   If Kangas is correct that talking about the origins of rights is messy, the same may be said of the claimed position adopted by this or that theorist.  For example, while Regan suggests that Cohen takes a utilitarian line, Nathan Nobis (2002, in a review of Cohen and Regan) states that, ‘Cohen and Regan give high regard to moral rights… Both are decidedly anti-utilitarian’.
[10]   see
[11]   Benton & Redfearn (1996) also note that Regan’s rights approach will find opposition in some perspectives based on ‘ecological morality’.  For example, the rights view implies that only animals that resemble humans in relevant ways ‘qualify’ as right bearers.  Animal rights theory, they note, ‘offers nothing at all to animals not conforming to the ‘subject of a life’ criterion’ (1996: 51).
[12] (visited 20/06/2003).
[13]   One interesting aspect of Carl Cohen’s attack on the whole notion of animal rights (Cohen 1986) is his use of groups or ‘kind’ to claim that all humans have rights and nonhumans do not.  In other words, Cohen argues that all humans regarded as ‘moral patients’ [including ‘infants, young children, the anencephalic (who suffer from the congenital absense of magor portions of the skull, scalp, and brain, never attain consciousness, can never feel nor suffer, and usually die within a few months of birth), the severely mentally retarded and those in a persistent vegetative state (Wise 2000: 255)] should be afforded rights because they belong to a group whose ‘normal’ characteristics can be described as constituting full moral agency.
[14]    in 1986 Jolyon Jenkins remarked in the New Statesman (21 February) that ‘‘animal rights’ have probably entered the popular consciousness’ and ‘animal liberation is arguably the youth movement of the 80’s’.
[15] see Stephen Clark on this from the Animal Rights Resource Site website: (visited in 2001).  Clark writes, for example: ‘Brutally: we are not going to get Abolition either locally, or globally, unless the Galactic Empire arrives and orders us at laser-point to change.  What we are going to get, and are getting, is a gradual change of consciousness, issuing in many little improvements that may eventually approximate to abolition (or at least as close to abolition as human slavery now is, i.e., there are undoubtedly still slaves, but not as many as there were)’.
[16]   According to Robert Garner (1993: 74), there were some limited anti-cruelty measures in Ireland and North America in the seventeenth century [e.g., the ‘West’s first animal protection laws’ in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1641 - Wise 2000: 43].  However, ‘the first sustained attempt to legislate for animal welfare occurred almost two centuries later in Britain’.  In 1800 William Pulteney proposed a Bill to outlaw bull baiting which was narrowly defeated, as it was twice more, in 1802 and 1809.  In 1822, Richard (‘Humanity Bill’) Martin’s Bill was passed by parliament.  This legislation made it an offence to wantonly and cruelly ‘beat, abuse or ill-treat’ a wide range of domestic animals including horses and cattle (ibid.: 75).  Significantly, Singer (1983: 223) writes: ‘Martin had had to frame his bill so that it resembled a measure to protect items of property, for the benefit of the owner, rather than for the sake of the animals themselves’.
[17]   The world-wide figures of annual deaths of ‘farm’ animals are huge, estimated to ‘account’ for 43.2 billion individuals per year (Gellatley 2000: 125).  This figure includes ‘cattle’, pigs and ‘poultry’, but excludes fishes and shellfishes.
[18]   Clearly, it can be very difficult to unpack issues such as this considering the welfarists involved may be pro-use, traditional, or ‘new’ ones, not to mention ‘animal rights’ campaigners of the rhetorical kind.
[19]   For example, in 2000 Tesco’s tinned dog food had this message printed on the label: ‘Tesco and the RSPCA working together for responsible pet ownership’.  More generally, there is an assumption, even in ‘animal rights’ discourse, that personal relationships with individual animals, for example ‘pets’, may increase universal concern for animals (see Ryder 2000: 9).
[20]   Cheeky because the by-line also suggests that another philosopher, Roger Scruton, ‘demolishes’ the logic of the world’s ‘most famous philosopher’ with regard to human-nonhuman relations.…%3A+Front+Page&newDisplayURN=200101220048 (visited 08/05/2002).
[21]  The concept of ‘unnecessary suffering’ is regarded as the ‘cornerstone’ of UK and US animal welfare legislation (Radford 1999).  It implicitly accepts that some animal suffering is ‘necessary’.  Moreover, what may be considered as ‘unnecessary’ is determined by industry norms.  For example, if a pig farmer is accused of causing ‘unnecessary suffering’, courts inquire into what are the ‘normal’ practices of pig farmers generally.  Once the norm is established, the case for or against the allegation of ‘unnecessary suffering’ is judged.
[22]   As indicated in Part One, Dalton & Kuechler (1990) discuss how ‘tactical’ problems concerning fundamentals and pragmatics effect many social movement mobilisations.  One interesting aspect of this concerns those who join a campaign on the basis of its pragmatic claims rather than fundamental beliefs.  To take bloodsports as an example, and the League Against Cruel Sports as an organisation, in this single mobilisation members may range from vegan activists opposed to all forms of nonhuman exploitation to campaigners specifically focused on their opposition to some forms of hunting.
[23]   see voices/three_aw.html
[24] (these formulations also appear in a chapter entitled: ‘Animal Rights: An Incremental Approach in Francione 1996b).
[25]   These concerns have remained and heightened into 2002, especially since organisations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) are encouraging members to take part in a competition to design a poster for Burger King’s new vegetable-based (but not 100% vegan) burger (Francione’s response to this initiative is contained in
[26]   see   - In relation to claimed fox predation of lambs, Gellatley (2000: 31-2) writes: ‘[T]here have been three studies into fox predation on lambs in Britain - by the Government, Bristol University and the hunters’ magazine The Field.  The Government said that the problem was ‘insignificant’.  Bristol University said that far from being a problem, the effect of the fox on the countryside was beneficial.  Even the hunters’ favourite publication could only come up with a figure of one lamb per hundred being taken by foxes.  It compares with 20 lambs per hundred that die because of cold, hunger and neglect by the farmer.  The chances are that the lambs taken by foxes were likely to be those that were sickly and dying’.  In relation to the claim that the fox population would explode if it were not controlled, Gold (1998: 86, 212) cites a 1979 Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries report that suggests that foxes self-limit their numbers based on the availability of food and safe territories.
[27]   in August 2000, contributors to a North American email network were discussing how people react to their vegetarianism, knowing that they are animal protection supporters.  On the 8th of August ‘Rich’ came up with this neat ‘theory’: ‘I have a theory that meat-eaters do not like to try vegetarian food for two reasons: 1) It might taste bad and 2) It might taste good’.  

[1]   This view is often contested in animal advocacy discourse.  Many animal advocates argue that it is not necessary that the animal movement has a fully elaborated or internally logical set of ideas to justify their claims.  For many, just ‘doing something’ for nonhumans – for whatever reason – is the most important thing.
[2]  “New Welfarism” has more recently been joined by “New Speciesism” (Dunayer 2004) as terms to describe second wave “animal rights” advocacy.

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