Abolitionism Vs. Reformism
In this essay, Austrian animal advocate Martin Balluch argues that reform-based and abolition-based animal advocacy are inextricably linked in a “welfare-rights continuum” that makes it very difficult to achieve meaningful change through public education and persuasion. Instead, Balluch argues, widespread change for animals will only come through altering the system itself, by changing the balance of power and codifying animal-friendly laws and policies. [Note: Balluch welcomes comments and feedback on his essay at [email protected]]
The primary aim of the animal rights movement must be to produce political pressure to achieve incremental reforms towards animal rights. A reform is a step towards animal rights if it significantly damages animal industries, i.e. if it weakens them and/or forces them to use more expensive production systems. That is so, because the only enemy in the political conflict to achieve animal rights is the animal industries. Without them, animal rights would be reality.
Weakening animal industries through tough animal laws serves a purpose in two ways. Firstly, it weakens the opponent for future animal laws, and secondly it makes animal products more expensive so that fewer people will buy them and the vegan alternatives will have a better chance when competing on the free market. Stricter animal laws do not hinder people becoming aware of animal rights issues, but they actually promote that, because animal welfare is the psychological basis for animal rights.
To try and convince individual people, person for person, is a tactic which cannot but fail, as long as the system is not changed. That is so, because the system in society determines the behaviour of people in it. In an extremely speciesist society, to live vegan costs an enormous amount of energy, so that only a tiny minority will ever have enough motivation and resolve to be able to sustain it for longer.
On the other hand, a system in society that does not provide animal products, will automatically make people lead a vegan life, and latest in one or two generations of young people growing up in a vegan society, the awareness of animal rights will follow.
The animal rights movement must adapt their political campaigning strategies to these psychological facts. That means, political campaigns must incorporate the following aspects:
- Centre your campaign material on presenting suffering and stimulate compassion and empathy in people. Abstract-rational phrases using terms like rights or personhood should play no significant role.
- The goal of the campaign should be presented to the public in a way that it seems to them that if it was achieved, a certain clearly distinguishable aspect of suffering of animals will be totally alleviated.
- The aim of the campaign must be to change society, the social system in which people live, and not individual people’s minds.
- The campaign should not demand huge changes in society. The goal must be realistic and should not lead into the unknown. The whole development of society must be slow and continuous.