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International Animal Rights ConferenceInternational Animal Rights Conference

Thursday, 12.09.2013   17:00-17:50   Room A
Rights theory, welfarism, and the "new welfarist" amalgamation
A critical perspective
Jan-Harm De Villiers

In this paper I consider law`s relation to animal subjugation, both as facilitator of animal sacrifice and as possible enabler of animal liberation, by philosophically examining the relationship between the two most prominent theories intended to address the plight of the animal. I will illustrate how the distinction and interaction between these two approaches, known as animal welfarism and the rights-based approach, has been muddied in recent years by intellectual and practical efforts. This has lead to the emergence of `new welfarism`, an approach that sees welfarist reforms as essential short-term steps en route to the ultimate ideal of animal rights. My main aim in this paper is to explore the ideological foundations underlying animal welfare- and animal rights theory and to illustrate that these approaches are based on contrasting and irreconcilable ideologies, rendering an amalgamation of the approaches highly problematic and detrimental to the ideal of animal liberation.

I will start off by briefly sketching the history of the animal advocacy movement and highlighting the developments that facilitated the divergence of the welfare- and rights-based approaches. I will then examine the rationale and assumptions underlying the new welfarist position and argue that this approach constitutes an uncritical `privileging of the present` that is ultimately to the detriment of the ideal that animal rightists strive to realize. I will draw on Karin van Marle`s jurisprudence of slowness to argue that we need to create a (moment of) thinking that is able to address the plight of the animal and meaningfully reflect on the way in which we utilize the law to facilitate the transformation towards animal liberation. By following Van Marle`s deconstructive approach, which she connects with `slowness, lingering and greater attention`, we can reflect on the fundamental ideological discrepancy between the welfare and rights-based approach that makes a theoretical and strategic amalgamation highly problematic. In order to illustrate this ideological dissonancy I will explore Jacques Derrida`s thesis that humans maintain a conceptual human-animal divide by failing to embrace animals in the proscription `thou shalt not kill` and examine how this prohibition translates into the respective theories.













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