|Description||The legal ownership of non-human animals should be abolished.|
|Subject||Animal rights, ethics, law, philosophy|
Abolitionism or abolitionist veganism is the animal rights based opposition to all animal use by humans. Abolitionism maintains that all sentient beings, humans or nonhumans, share a basic right: the right not to be treated as the property of others. Abolitionist vegans emphasise that animal products require treating animals as property or resources and that animal products are not necessary for human health in modern societies. Abolitionists believe that everyone who can live vegan is therefore morally obligated to be vegan.
Abolitionists disagree on the strategy that must be used to achieve the aboliton. While some abolitionists, like Gary Francione, professor of law, argue that abolitionists should create awareness about the benefits of veganism (by also pointing to health and environmental benefits) and inform people that veganism is a moral imperative, others think that abolitionists should make the claim in the society that animal exploitation has to be banned and create a societal debate on this issue, and by doing so shouldn't use environmental or health arguments.
Abolitionists generally oppose movements that seek to make animal use more humane or to abolish specific forms of animal use, since they believe this undermines the movement to abolish all forms of animal use. The objective is to secure a moral and legal paradigm shift, whereby animals are no longer regarded as things to be owned and used. The American philosopher Tom Regan writes that abolitionists want empty cages, not bigger ones. This is contrasted with animal welfare, which seeks incremental reform, and animal protectionism, which seeks to combine the first principles of abolitionism with an incremental approach, but which is regarded by some abolitionists as another form of welfarism or "New Welfarism".
Gary Francione, professor of law and philosophy at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, argues from the abolitionist perspective that self-described animal-rights groups who pursue welfare concerns, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, risk making the public feel comfortable about its use of animals. He calls such groups the "new welfarists", arguing that, though their aim is an end to animal use, the reforms they pursue are indistinguishable from reforms agreeable to traditional welfarists, who he says have no interest in abolishing animal use. He argues that reform campaigns entrench the property status of animals, and validate the view that animals simply need to be treated better. Instead, he writes, the public's view that animals can be used and consumed ought to be challenged. His position is that this should be done by promoting ethical veganism. Others think that this should be done by creating a public debate in society.
New welfarists argue that there is no logical or practical contradiction between abolitionism and "welfarism". Welfarists think that they can be working toward abolition, but by gradual steps, pragmatically taking into account what most people can be realistically persuaded to do in the short as well as the long term, and what suffering it is most urgent to relieve. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, for example, in addition to promoting local improvements in the treatment of animals, promote vegetarianism. Although some people[who?] believe that changing the legal status of nonhuman sentient beings is a first step in abolishing ownership or mistreatment, there may be ample evidence that this is not the case if the consuming public has not already begun to reduce or eliminate its exploitation of animals as their own food.