Settling The Welfarism Vs. Abolitionism Debate With Science

This video takes a look at the impacts of farm animal welfare reforms using measurable data points.

It’s a powerpoint presentation narrated by Nick Cooney from Farm Sanctuary. This was presented at the Animal Rights 2012 national conference in DC.

If you’ve ever wondered if animal welfare reform is good or bad for the animal rights movement, this video helps settle the debate.

There are six main points:

1: Welfare reforms reduce suffering and provide immediate benefits for animals.

2: The animal agriculture industry spends millions of dollars to oppose welfare reforms, because reforms are bad for the industry.

3: Welfare reforms are followed by a reduction in consumption of the affected animal products. Example, reforms of the pork industry result in reduced pork consumption.

4: Media coverage of animal welfare issues causes people to eat fewer animals.

5: Welfare reforms coincide with decreased meat consumption.

6: People who make a small change (like eating vegetarian one day a week) become more likely to make a large change (like going vegan).

The references for the data in the video are here:


5 Responses to Settling The Welfarism Vs. Abolitionism Debate With Science

  1. Have you seen this reply from Humane Myth:
    “Magical Thinking or Historical Reality?”

    I also like this reply from Leslie Armstrong:
    “Farm Sanctuary Doublespeak”

  2. Puh-lease. Critical thinking, my friend.

  3. Thank you sincerely for this blog post, VS!

  4. Seems like they’re stretching some pretty thin data to try to make their case. Thanks to Brandon Becker for posting the rebuttals.

  5. I found Cooney’s case to be very compelling. I work in social services with a focus on behavioral change and I know that much of his presentation is based on real-world fact-based data on how and why people change their behavior. I also think he’s dead right about the reduction in animal use and consumption that indirectly results from welfare issues.

    Humane Myth is correct that we need clarity and conviction, but those are not strategies exactly. They motivate and focus the converted, but they don’t actually convert a lot of other people IMO. Behavior and values changes (which is the focus of his argument) are more successful when they are gradual, non-challenging, and as transparent as possible. If it takes too much thought and effort it will fail.

    Humane Myth’s rebuttal was unconvincing because they failed to meaningfully address any of Cooney’s points and because their reference to past social movements seemed superficial. I believe that all successful social movements employed a variety of tactics on a multitude of different battle fronts.

    Besides, which of us really thinks it’s a waste to reduce suffering? While we want to free all non-human animals at some future date, isn’t it still worthwhile to reduce the suffering that is happening today and to reduce the numbers of animals being consumed today? We can’t just turn our backs on today’s victims.


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