First a quote from a 2014 book which I am very fond of –
~ I ask myself continuously how to balance the utopian vision of animal rights with the pragmatic politics of animal welfare. For the sake of the animals, I always take the side of rights over welfare; however, there are times, particularly in the political arena, when welfare or regulation is the only option available. As has often been said, politics is the art of the possible. Nevertheless, I believe that any compromise must always be situated in the context of ending animal cruelty and exploitation. ~ – Kim Stallwood in Growl.
Kim’s book is essential reading for anyone concerned about animal rights.
……and now a quote from a 1900 essay – which we were very happy to ‘find’ & add to our Ernest Bell Library collection. Henry S. Salt was a ‘forward thinker’.
~ ……be both restrictionists and abolitionists at once. Humanitarians have a hard fight before them against the power of cruelty and oppression, and they cannot afford to refrain from using their intellects as well as their hearts. Stupidity, in such a contest, will retard the noblest cause. And the recrimination that goes on between the advocates of greater and lesser measures strikes us, if we may say so, as just a little stupid. ~ – Henry S. Salt in his 1900 essay – Restrictionists and Abolitionists.
In more depth – a longer excerpt from Growl by Kim Stallwood.
Kim Stallwood – “This photo of me wearing the Hunt Saboteurs Association sweat shirt, ‘For Fox Sake Stop Hunting,’ was taken in the early 1980s when I was still trying to discover who I truly was.”
From – Growl – Chapter 10 – The Animal Rights Practice
p176 – 179
…… I promote the abolition of animal exploitation and reject its regulation. I base my position on the sentience of animals and regard veganism as the moral baseline in animal rights. I reject violence and I promote veganism. I consider these positions not only compatible with a definition of animal rights consistent with the four key values but a practical and pragmatic way of leading to positive social and political change for animals.
I’m reminded of Frances Power Cobbe, the founder of BUAV, and framer of its mission: ‘The aim of the Union is to oppose vivisection absolutely and entirely, and to demand its complete prohibition by law, without attempts at compromise of any kind’ (Westacott, 1949: 204). These are stirring words—a rallying cry to fire up even the toughest abolitionist and animal-rightist—from a charismatic individual who adopted a fundamentalist position in order to hold fast to a heroic ideal.
Yet Cobbe was neither a vegan nor a vegetarian, and she’s just one of many examples of individuals throughout history who held out an absolutist position in one area but compromised in other aspects of their life. Perhaps one day everyone will subscribe to an entire array of absolutist positions on the human and animal condition. But I’m not holding my breath, and I’m not entirely sure that I’d like to be among them.
We inhabit a world in which a universal absolutist ethics is not realistically achievable. I’ve already mentioned the danger of people becoming obsessed with perfection and finding fault with individuals and organisations trying to achieve reform. I’ve yet to find these individuals successfully implementing programmes to the same standards they demand of everyone else. In the end, the fundamentalist abolitionist view of animal rights is more about the need to be in the position of permanent opposition than actually building coalitions and the infrastructure that will take power.
Life is messy, complex, and difficult. We make compromises all the time. History demonstrates that most, perhaps even all, freedom fighters and social change agents were flawed or had moral blind spots. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) was a womaniser; Gandhi had dubious relationships with his grandnieces; Nelson Mandela (1918–2013) supported and may even have committed property damage. If these individuals weren’t perfect, why should animal activists be? Focusing on the destination rather than the journey gets too many of us into trouble. Even the most assiduous vegan will have used (perhaps unwittingly) an animal product, even if it’s the body of the ground-up animal in the tarmac they drive upon.
In the case of animal protection, I have even less control over determining what we might call a vegan outcome. I’m mindful that I may have to make political compromises along the way. I ask myself continuously how to balance the utopian vision of animal rights with the pragmatic politics of animal welfare. For the sake of the animals, I always take the side of rights over welfare; however, there are times, particularly in the political arena, when welfare or regulation is the only option available. As has often been said, politics is the art of the possible. Nevertheless, I believe that any compromise must always be situated in the context of ending animal cruelty and exploitation.
Now we again jump back to 1900 & see more of what Henry S. Salt had to say on the same topic!
In saying a few words on a question which is always more or less rife among reformers, and is unfortunately (and, as we think, unnecessarily) a cause of dissension among some humane workers today, we must disclaim any intention of speaking dogmatically or as partisans. So, far from wishing to lay down any hard and fast principle, we hold that the acceptance or refusal of compromise—the adoption or rejection of what are called “lesser measures”—is a matter of policy, not principle, and must he settled by each individual, or each society, according to conditions and circumstances, since what is advisable in one case may not be so in another. What we deprecate is not diversity of methods (for that, in the long run, may even be beneficial to the cause), but the misunderstanding which is apt to arise between “restrictionists” and “abolitionists”, when the advocates of “lesser measures” are viewed on the one hand as merely tinkering at reform, while on the other hand the “all or nothing” party is pronounced unpractical and extreme. There is need, we think, of clearer and more dispassionate judgement on this matter, usually discussed in far too heated a spirit; we propose, therefore, to set down a few reasons why, as it seems to us, the two parties should regard each other not as rivals but as allies…….
……For our own part, we have no quarrel with those who are abolitionist only, or with those who are restrictionist only; it is for each to do what he or she can. But we hope that members of the Humanitarian League will strive, wherever feasible, to adopt the fuller and wiser policy—that is, to be both restrictionists and abolitionists at once. Humanitarians have a hard fight before them against the power of cruelty and oppression, and they cannot afford to refrain from using their intellects as well as their hearts. Stupidity, in such a contest, will retard the noblest cause. And the recrimination that goes on between the advocates of greater and lesser measures strikes us, if we may say so, as just a little stupid.
. Published: Humanity, 4, November 1900
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Working to promote vegan businesses since 1978. Henry S. Salt Archive - researcher & fundraiser. The Humanitarian League - researcher & fundraiser. The Ernest Bell Library - archive manager. Collecting & republishing historical material of vegetarianism and other humanitarian movements. Running the 'Hum-an-imal Badge Co.'.
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