The Six Principles of the Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights


We abolitionists believe that every sentient being, whether human or nonhuman, has the right not to be used as a mere thing—not to be treated like a piece of property. Accordingly, we believe that we ought to abolish the use of nonhuman animals by humans. This means that we must collectively and individually stop using animals for food, clothing, entertainment, medical experimentation, and all other such purposes. According to abolitionism, we must eradicate nonhuman animals’ status as pieces of legal property and we must respect animals as individuals.

But the abolitionist approach to animal rights is not only a view about what goals to pursue. It is also a view about how we must seek the realization of those goals. We believe not only that we must abolish humans’ use of animals, but also that we must pursue this goal in a specific way. According to abolitionism:

  1. The abolitionist approach to animal rights maintains that all sentient beings, humans or nonhumans, have one right: the basic right not to be treated as the property of others.
  2. Our recognition of the one basic right means that we must abolish, and not merely regulate, institutionalized animal exploitation—because it assumes that animals are the property of humans.
  3. Just as we reject racism, sexism, ageism, and heterosexism, we reject speciesism. The species of a sentient being is no more reason to deny the protection of this basic right than race, sex, age, or sexual orientation is a reason to deny membership in the human moral community to other humans.
  4. We recognize that we will not abolish overnight the property status of nonhumans, but we will support only those campaigns and positions that explicitly promote the abolitionist agenda. We will not support positions that call for supposedly “improved” regulation of animal exploitation. We reject any campaign that promotes sexism, racism, heterosexism or other forms of discrimination against humans.
  5. We recognize that the most important step that any of us can take toward abolition is to adopt the vegan lifestyle and to educate others about veganism. Veganism is the principle of abolition applied to one’s personal life and the consumption of any meat, fowl, fish, or dairy product, or the wearing or use of animal products, is inconsistent with the abolitionist perspective.
  6. We recognize the principle of nonviolence as the guiding principle of the animal rights movement. Violence is the problem; it is not any part of the solution.