I was invited on several occasions to sign the Montreal Declaration on Animal Exploitation. I appreciate that the drafters asked me to sign but, for the following reasons, I am unable to do so.
First, the Declaration Does Not Reject All Animal Use
What is the end — the ultimate goal — envisaged by the Declaration?
The Declaration purports to seek “the end of animal exploitation.” But what does that mean?
Just about every animal charity condemns “animal exploitation.” But just about all of these charities also promote various types of supposedly higher-welfare animal use. They may characterize factory farming practices as “exploitation” but promote supposedly more “humane” farming. They reject “exploitation” but give awards or praise to companies that produce or use these supposedly “happy” animal products. Some groups even have their own higher-welfare labels. The same is true of the signers of the Declaration. They oppose “exploitation” but many still promote various types of animal use.
To say that one opposes “animal exploitation,” without saying more, is meaningless and may — and almost always does — mean nothing more than that one is opposed to some practice that one finds immoral or unjust.
For precisely this reason, it has been and remains my view that we must be unequivocally clear that we seek the end of animal use. We must be clear that all use is exploitation.
The Declaration does not do that — and could not do that — because many of the signers have in various ways explicitly rejected the idea that all animal use is exploitation. Therefore, I cannot sign the Declaration.
Second, the Declaration Does Not Promote Veganism as a Moral Imperative
A central point in my work since the 1990s has been that the animal rights movement has failed because it decoupled the means from the ends, and proposes means that are not suited to achieve the end of abolishing animal use. I have argued that means such as welfare reforms or single-issue campaigns are not only not conducive to the end of abolishing animal use but are actually counterproductive because they make people feel more comfortable about continuing to…