Welfarism vs. Abolitionism

Have you stopped beating your spouse?


Have you not stopped beating your spouse?

How to answer such a question when you have never beaten anyone (and you are not even married)?

Are you an abolitionist?


Are you a welfarist?

I am an abolitionist and I am a welfarist.

One does not exclude the other: This a false dichotomy.

An abolitionist militates to do everything possible to abolish all human-caused suffering to other sentient beings (except self-defense).– I am an abolitionist.

A welfarist militates to do everything possible to reduce all human-caused suffering to other sentient beings when it is not yet within reach to abolish it. — I am a welfarist.

What gave the false impression that there is an opposition between abolitionism and welfarism – that someone cannot be both abolitionist and welfarist?

It was a theoretical hypothesis: the hypothesis that to militate to reduce suffering when there is not yet a way to abolish it reduces the chance of abolishing it.

The only argument made in support of this hypothesis is that the industries which exploit animal beings profit from any reduction in their victims’ suffering to justify not abolishing their exploitation, and thus to entrench it even more firmly.

But the industries that exploit animals have no intention of abolishing themselves; they are doing everything they can to entrench themselves more firmly.

So this is a theoretical hypothesis which is cited as evidence that practical actions to reduce real suffering will reduce the chances of abolishing suffering.

This is not a scientific hypothesis, with objective evidence. It’s a subjective premise.

As such, it is not a justification for abandoning sentient beings to preventable suffering.

It’s more like the false premise behind the question:

Have you stopped beating your spouse?


Have you not stopped beating your spouse?

I would say that it is not being both abolitionist and welfarist that is self-contradictory but being abolitionist and not being welfarist.

2 Replies to “Welfarism vs. Abolitionism”

  1. This is very well written. Thank you so much! I didn’t even realize I was trapped within a false dichotomy! I knew something felt wrong about it and I felt guilty that apparently I wasn’t in support of abolishing suffering, but I could also see the very real harm that being an abolitionist was doing to [some efforts to] reduce the very real suffering that is currently on going.

    1. I’ve added “[some efforts to]” because otherwise the false dichotomy returns: A welfarist seeks to reduce human-inflicted animal suffering. An abolitionist seeks to abolish all human-inflicted animal suffering (other than individual self-defense). A wefarist abolitionist seeks to do both.

      PS: All human beings are also animals.

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