two distinct types of animal rights/vegan activists: abolitionists, and incrementalists.
These two groups share the common goal of eliminating all use of other
animals by humans.
important to note that incrementalism is not the same as welfarism. Welfarists
do not have a vegan world, animal liberation, or anti-speciesism in mind as
their goal. Their intent is to reform certain practices to improve the living
conditions of animals, not primarily focused on the largest abused
group: farmed animals. [A good example of an animal welfare organization would
be “Four Paws;” while their work is valuable and important, their focus is on
cats, dogs and endangered wild animals.]
we have clarified the terminology, we can hopefully all agree that vegan
activists – whether so called abolitionists or so called incrementalists – all
share a common goal: animal liberation. The terms used to differentiate the two
groups describe their methods, not their stance on animal
liberation. This is important.
general, do not prefer to categorize activists into the binary of abolitionist
or incrementalist, since I feel that methods can differ depending on the
situation. Therefore, I have created the following spectrum:
abolitionist: uses solely abolitionist methods. They
criticize anyone who does not exclusively use a specific kind of abolitionist
activism, and often consider those people welfarists or not 'real vegans' for
that reason. See Example 1 below.
- unwavered but
appreciative abolitionist: uses solely
abolitionist methods. They understand the importance and *logic of
incrementalist methods but do not feel comfortable using them.
abolitionist: uses mostly abolitionist methods, for personal
or strategic reasons. They understand the importance and *logic of
incrementalist methods and also use them from time to time.
- flexible activist: uses different methods depending on the situation. They
prefer neither method over the other.
incrementalist: uses mostly incrementalist
methods for personal or strategic reasons. They understand the importance and
**logic of abolitionist methods and also use them from time to time
- unwavered but
appreciative incrementalist: uses solely
incrementalist methods. They understand the importance and **logic of
abolitionist methods but do not feel comfortable using them.
incrementalist: uses solely incrementalist
methods. They do not like to use the word 'vegan' at all, and they consider all
people that use abolitionist methods to be irrational, ineffective and
damaging. See example 2 below.
*logic of incrementalist
methods: motivate people to take steps since every step in the right
direction is important and to be encouraged
**logic of abolitionist
methods: encourage people to go entirely vegan, hopefully leading to
step by step or total behavior changes
Example 1: A lot of activists
and organization that utilize incrementalist methods are falsely placed into
the welfarist or not 'real vegan' and speciesist categories by unwavered
abolitionists. Organizations that use incremental methods are often falsely
accused of welfarism due to their campaign strategies. They frequently support
and promote meatless Monday iniatives, flexitarianism, and reducetarianism,
which are all initiatives that may be considered welfarist nature. These
organizations know and agree that eating dairy, eggs or meat on 6 instead of 7
days is neither entirely ethical nor animal friendly, but they encourage these
small steps, because it saves other animal lives. Additionally, it
pushes people closer to the end goal of veganism. People are more likely to
start doing research on meatless dining, try out new recipes and generally
think more about what they are putting into their bodies. These organizations would
not actively promote “humane” meat, dairy or eggs, which is also important
to note. On the other hand, they might run campaigns to abolish the cheapest
and most cruel forms of factory farming like caged-eggs, which would ultimately
drive up the production price and decrease some amount of suffering.
Example 2: There are
activists criticized by unwavered incrementalist for talking to people in one
to one conversations about veganism, when instead, for example, they could have
handed out more leaflets. Criticizing people for making a personal
impression - which is much more effective for the individual than handing
them a leaflet - is not only extremely unreasonable but also highly
discouraging. Talking one to one not only makes it easier for people to be
encouraged, and also gives activists a better way of measuring their impact,
which will result in more motivated and dedicated activists down the road.
Criticizing these activists is similar to an unwavering abolitionist
criticizing someone who already tries to make some change in their diet, even
though they may not be entirely vegan. This behavior is completely ineffective
and does not help anyone.
methods in a non-intrusive and encouraging way
all, I implore anyone who considers themselves unwavering incrementalists to
let go of their belief that abolitionist methods are irrational, ineffective
and damaging. I also implore anyone who considers themselves unwavering
abolitionists to let go of their belief that incrementalist methods are
speciesists, welfarists, damaging, or that the people that use them are not
'real vegans.' This judgmental behavior inhibits calm and reasonable discussion
between activists. In general, it devalues people's activism, puts them down
and ultimately hurts animals.
regular incrementalist and abolitionist methods in terms of diet and farm animals?
- abolitionist methods: encouraging people to eliminate all animal products off
their plates: promoting the
end goal and in this regards often point out righteously that “humane” meat, dairy
and eggs are not any better
- incrementalist methods: encouraging people to take small steps: promoting step by
step change towards the end goal: often fight against specific forms of factory
farming like caged eggs
to the psychology of behavioral change, change almost always happens in small
steps. This is the reason why such a small percentage of vegans went vegan
overnight. It is the same reason why you are not starting to go to the gym
every day from tomorrow on (given you would have the resources to do so). Going
to the gym seven days a week seems ridiculously hard for the majority of
people. So does going vegan. Such things ask for serious commitment, at least
at first. Going vegan not only asks for commitment, but also to live an
ideology that goes against society, family and friends, which is often a
challenge. Our system advantages non-vegans on all levels of society, for
example when dining at schools or hospitals or simply when trying to find
something vegan to eat on the go. On top of all that vegans are often judged,
confronted and criticized, which does not at all help our case.
incremental or abolitionist methods in a non-intrusive and encouraging way is
the key for effectiveness.
easier for people to initially cut out chicken and turkeys from their diet than
cutting out all animal products at once. Asking people to take small steps
in a non-intrusive way may encourage them to take action. Asking people to cut
out all animal products from their diet in a non-intrusive way may also
encourage people to take action. In other words, it is not the methods, but the
approach that will effect change.
the intrusive and discouraging way?
intrusive and discouraging way is the judgmental way. As soon as you judge
people, their defense walls shoot up. Saying something along the lines of,
“unless you don't participate in meatless Monday and at least try, I am not
going to talk to you anymore” does not get through to people. Most people won't
be encouraged, but discouraged, by this kind of aggressive language. From an
abolitionist perspective, it is also ineffective to ask people to go vegan
immediately by telling them that they support things like murder and rape.
that the kinds of methods used are not that important, as long as it is done in a non-intrusive and encouraging
way, so people do not feel the need to defend themselves.
and encouraging ways of telling people what to do:
- abolitionism: “Work towards eliminating all animal products off your
plate”; “Try to cut out all animal products off your diet”; “Consider cutting
out all animal products off your diet” are preferable to saying “Go vegan” or
“Stop eating animal products now.”
- incrementalism: “Consider reducing your meat consumption today”, “Try to start
cutting meat out of your diet”, “Try a few meat free days a week” are
preferable to saying “Stop having meat on Mondays”
incorporating both methods
of a lot of incrementalists I have talked to is to shift the whole of society
towards a more animal friendly way of life, which eventually would lead to
veganism becoming easier and more accessible. When a large amount of people
move a small step forward, this can lead to massive change: a lot of other
animals being saved.
focusing on creating vegans is more crucial at this stage? Maybe once we have
reached the critical mass/tipping point, veganism will raise exponentially by
itself? Maybe effectiveness should be measured in ‘how many vegans created’ at
this stage? These are questions unwavering incrementalists should ask
definitely good that we have this divide in the two methods used in the
movement, because we simply do not know which way is THE way to go. Imagine
there were only incrementalist organizations and activists that mostly ask
people to just take small steps? There would no one be there telling people that
there is more they can do. This way, these two methods complement each other
very well. Large organizations can reach a wider audience, yet on a less
personal level. They are effective in getting people started to take first
steps towards veganism. Later on, these may be more receptible to an
abolitionist message on the personal grassroots level.
Measuring effectiveness should first and foremost
be about the number of other animals being saved, because this is what this
movement is all about: saving the ones that cannot speak for themselves. But
maybe saving less today results in saving a lot more down the road?
Question That Caused This Divide: Should we be focusing on making vegans to reach the
tipping point, or focusing on reducetarianism to shift society? Both are important.
5. Abilities determine methods used
methods chosen by individuals differ largely on their strengths, which may lead
some people to think that their most effective method works for everybody.
Let's say you are a great speaker, and are able to convince and motivate people
very easily. Talking to people about veganism and imploring them to go vegan
might work for you incredibly well, because that is what you are good at -
convincing people. Another person who does not have as strong communication
skills may not be as drawn to this method because they are not as confident and
direct when talking to people. These people can have a much higher impact
encouraging others one-on-one to take smaller steps towards veganism (i.e.
starting by reducing meat consumption).
important to note that not all forms and kinds of activism have a solely
positive impact. When I first got invested in activism, I thought that no
matter WHAT people were doing, it could not have a negative impact. Now I
realize that there is a spectrum. There are kinds of activism with a positive, neutral,
or even negative impacts. I want to illustrate my point with Facebook post
supposedly neutral impact:
If you do not provide any emotional or
thought-provoking content, and just ask people to do something without providing
any motivation to do so, it will not have any impact at all.
Ex: “Stop eating meat” “Go vegan” “Please only
eat meat one time a day from now”
supposedly negative impact:
Criticizing people for being 'just' vegetarian,
accusing them of being murderers or rapists, or generally scolding people for
buying meat would simply offend your readers.
“If you are a vegetarian, or think you are a
better person for buying humane meat, think again. Vegetarianism still supports
rape and murder of cows, and humane meat is just as bad as regular meat.”
with supposedly positive impact:
If you post pictures of an animal sanctuary and
describe the personalities of the individuals living there, post some cruel
footage of a factory farm investigation, or a delicious looking food picture,
adding a caption with context helps:
“Please consider cutting down or out on meat” or
“Consider eliminating all animal products off your plate.”
mind that approaches/posts with a supposedly negative impact might still make
some people move towards veganism, but certainly not the majority. The examples
examine the supposedly total impact of your posts. So even though a more
aggresive way of communicating pulled few of your friends and maybe even you
closer to veganism, it probably pushed a lot more even further away from it.
People should not only worry about their total impact they are having online,
but also offline.
important to note that a lot of people do not really know HOW to take first
steps, or how to go entirely vegan. This is why I always link some resource
pages alongside my posts. Choose whatever transition aids you believe work
best. Some of my favorites are www.chooseveg.com, which provides specific courses of action for
transitioning, and www.veganuary.com, which is a highly effective initiative that uses
abolitionist methods. (This past January 2016, 23,000 people pledged to go
vegan for a month, and 81% of them expressed intent to stay vegan!) Regardless
of the resources you provide, it allows your audiences to have a tangible game
plan to change their lifestyle, instead of the unsettling feeling that they are
doing something wrong with no way to fix it. It can also never hurt to offer to
help these people with the transition yourself.
all we need to all become more aware of the total impact we are having on
people, focusing on communicating in anon-intrusive and encouraging way.
Second of all, no matter where you are on the spectrum, we need to stop the
fighting within the movement, start appreciating and supporting each other more
and therefore recognizing the importance of each method. As I have already
mentioned, fighting against each other does not do any good for the ones we are
fighting for – the animals.
Disclaimer: This post was prepared by the above author in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself.