The notion of an animal rights movement is one which has the potential to mislead since those fighting for animals come from a variety of different ideological backgrounds and advocate many different ways to achieve many different aims. Gary Francione1 argues that animal rights have become subsumed in what he terms ‘new welfarism’. New welfarism is a hybrid approach which advocates more ‘traditional’ welfarist aims in the short term with the ultimate goal being one of animal rights and animal liberation in the long term. It is a sort of ‘crisis management’ whereby initial welfare problems are dealt with on a daily basis but the ultimate goal of liberating animals is never forgotten. Francione is critical of this ‘soft option’ and argues that to ever achieve anything the animal rights movement needs a return to its roots, ie. (direct) action towards the ultimate goal of total animal liberation and nothing else. This article takes issue with these sentiments and, based on three years of fieldwork within the animal rights community, argues that it may be the case that some of the larger animal rights charities have adopted this approach, but that the movement at the local activist level remains united in believing that direct action is the only method desirable or indeed effective in achieving its goal, which is one of complete animal liberation.
Recommended CitationTaylor, Nicola, Whither rights? Animal rights and the rise of new welfarism, Animal Issues, 3(1), 1999.