Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Proven Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Occasionally, abolitionists are asked by skeptics to “prove” that welfare reform itself does not and cannot lead to veganism, and therefore ultimately to abolition. The skeptics generally accept that the reasoning used by abolitionists to support our view is cogent and even compelling, but that we haven’t been able to produce properly controlled and statistically valid formal study results to “prove” to them that welfarism presents an obstacle to abolitionist goals.

That we plainly see causal connections going from vegan outreach efforts to new vegans and going from welfare reform and “happy meat” promotion to increased “happy meat” consumption as self-evident will not undermine their skepticism. That we see “happy meat” promotion by new welfarists (e.g. PETA, HSUS) leading to “happy meat” as the “movement-recommended moral baseline” as providing a formidable obstacle to vegan outreach efforts as self-evident will not undermine their skepticism. That we see the growing popularity of “happy meat” without a corresponding increase in the popularity of veganism as significant observational evidence to support the disconnect between "happy meat" and veganism will not undermine their skepticism. That we see our initial outreach communications with potential new vegans indicating their belief that “free-range” and “cage-free” and “certified humane” labels are assurance of cruelty-free animal products as significant observational evidence to support our view that “happy meat” promotion makes humans feel more comfortable about animal product consumption will not undermine their skepticism.

Okay, so they’re a tough group to persuade unless formal studies are presented. Fine, if skeptics want formal studies, we’re fine with skeptics doing formal studies. We are not in need of any such studies, and even if we were, we could not afford to direct the scarce dollars away from vegan outreach, which is already starving while welfare efforts are bloated with millions of dollars from donors who consume “happy meat”. We know from our combination of theory and more than adequate informal empirical observation that if formal studies are properly performed, they’ll confirm what we already accept beyond a reasonable doubt.

Perhaps large welfarist organizations like PETA or HSUS would like to fund such formal studies, suggest the skeptics? Don’t hold your breath. There are significant business (fundraising) reasons why welfare efforts are essential to PETA and HSUS to thrive under the current system of industrial animal abuse. The business reasons can be summed up in the following eternal business cycle as follows: donations-campaigns-“victories”-donations-campaigns-“victories”-donations…; you-get-the-point. Since there are so many different ways in which we exploit and inflict cruelty on animals, the opportunities for the welfare-campaign business cycle will last literally centuries.

Additionally, there are philosophical reasons which tie in well with the business reasons. Indeed, the welfarist utilitarian philosophy of Peter Singer works perfectly with the long-term business plan. Singer, the so-called “Father of the Animal Rights Movement” and PETA’s “bible” writer (i.e. Animal Liberation), explicitly rejects rights, except as a rhetorical name or “battle cry” for the “movement.” Indeed, as most advocates know well, Singer claims that we can meet our moral obligations to sentient nonhumans by being “conscientious omnivores”. Singer sees nothing wrong with slaughtering animals, as long as they are treated “humanely”. Since Singer claims he is not speciesist, he is committed to holding similar views about infants, very young children, and the mentally disabled, who, according to Singer, don’t have a (supposedly cognitive) interest in continued existence. Of course, sentient nonhumans, if they know someone is trying to kill them, have an intense interest in their continued existence as is blatantly evident by their behavior when slaughter methods are ineffective or when they run from or fight potential predators. With Singer, instead of Gary Francione or Tom Regan, as the philosopher-of-choice, these organizations can promote the welfare reforms and be consistent with Our Father. Indeed, PETA, HSUS, et al don’t have any motivation, philosophically or pragmatically, to fund formal studies to see if their business plan is inconsistent with real animal rights or abolition.

So, to the skeptics: I hope you can eventually fund or find the evidence provided by properly conducted formal studies which will confirm for you what current abolitionists see as proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Until then, try to make the best of your uncertainty (and presumably the resulting non-action, since to act with “significant uncertainty” might be foolish). Abolitionists will be doing vegan outreach, which we see as the political manifestation of our personal veganism and the only way sentient nonhumans will ever catch a break. As I’ve written before, publicly going from promoting welfare reform and “happy meat” to vegan outreach is akin to privately going from “happy meat” consumption to veganism.