Monday, May 3, 2010

Radical Feminism and Liberal Feminism Vs. Animal Rights and Animal Welfare

I saw an old post at Official by Lake Desire, who compares animal rights and animal welfare with radical feminism and liberal feminism:
I want to clarify the difference between animal rights and animal welfare. Animal welfare is what most of you (and me) are in favor of: humane treatment of animals. Animal rights advocates entire liberation from human use. We both don’t want animals to suffer unnecessarily, but we don’t agree on what’s necessary.

I compare animal welfare and animal rights to liberal feminism and radical feminism. Animal welfare and liberal feminism both work for change within the system, while animal rights and radical feminism want a revolution that will dismantle oppressive hierarchies. (Ecofeminism joins the two and recognizes the ways in which animal and human dominion are interconnected.) I prefer to focus on our common goals rather than our differences. Fighting amongst ourselves takes time away from changing the world.
Apart from the fact that I think animal welfare can’t reduce any ‘suffering’ and think all animal use by humans is ‘unnecessary’, I also feel that comparing the two pairs (animal rights and animal welfare with radical feminism and liberal feminism) is like comparing apples and oranges.

Radical feminism is about abolishing patriarchal institutions such as the military, courts, the parliament, marriage etc.
Liberal feminism is about regulating and making these institutions egalitarian.
Both these theories have the main goal of making men and women equal in every way and can work simultaneously.

Animal rights are about abolishing animal use.
Animal welfare is about regulating animal use.
Their main goals are not the same: Animal welfare takes a utilitarian view of animals and just wants to make animals suffer less while being used. It ultimately places human interests above animal interests. It aims at reducing only that suffering that can be comfortably reduced and still allow animals to be used. Once the line of questioning use itself draws near, it doesn’t matter how much animals suffer because it would interfere with allowing the use. Unlike animal rights, it does not question the use itself.

The approaches these four theories would take in a given situation:

Animal welfare vs. animal rights: Let’s take the example of a physically abused woman:
Animal welfare: Don’t beat her twenty times, if you must, then do it ten times.
Animal rights: Don’t beat her at all.

Liberal feminism vs. radical feminism: Again taking the example of a physically abused woman:
Liberal feminism: We must regulate the institution of marriage and close the loopholes that let her be beaten.
Radical feminism: We must abolish the institution of marriage that gives the abuser the power to beat the victim.

Animal welfare sounds ridiculous while liberal feminism sounds plausible. Clearly these two are not comparable. This is because marriage can be made egalitarian through regulation. The woman can have control over her body and make her own choices and decisions but that is impossible in the case of nonhuman animals living with and being used by humans. The animals’ ‘owners’ have complete dominance over them, can do whatever they like with them and this can only be stopped if humans stop ‘owning’ animals, stop keeping animals in their homes, stop domestication and let the wildlife be. In my opinion, blending the approach of radical and liberal feminism will be the ideal solution (making marriage safe for people who still want to marry, while removing the social conditioning that makes marriage the default) while Peta has amply demonstrated that blending animal rights and welfare will make no sense and effect still less change.

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