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What does "Zeitkritik" mean?
Zeitkritik is a German word with, unfortunately, no English equivalent. It is a fundamental critique of the contemporary mainstream, a „critique of the time.“ The subjugation and exploitation of non-human animals is one of the primary paradigms of the 21st century. It is so entrenched in our societies, and we are complicit from such an early age that eating meat or buying cosmetics tested on animals doesn‘t even seem like a decision, but simply like „the way things are.“ That‘s why veganism is not just a critique of a specific aspect of our lives, but a fundamental commentary on the present itself.

What is the difference between animal welfare and vegan abolitionism?
People who consider themselves animal welfarists advocate for the better treatment of animals. They might push issues such as bigger cages for chickens or the organic production or dairy. In a way, it has become mainstream to support animal welfare. At least in Germany and to some extent also in the US, many people now buy organic meat or get upset when a cat has been abused. Few people would openly say they don‘t care at all about animal suffering, that the fate of an abandoned dog or the squeaking of a pig whose tail is being clipped without anesthesia leaves them cold.

Abolitionists, on the other hand, don‘t promote the better treatment of animals, but rather the idea that animals are not for us to treat at all. They want empty cages, not bigger ones, as Tom Regan put it. Abolitionists argue that simply fighting for the better treatment of, for example, farm animals still operates within the speciesist paradigm that we have the right to keep animals on a farm in the first place.

I am an abolitionist, without doubt. A question that I do find difficult, however, is whether animal welfare is a step in the right direction, a signpost on the way to vegan abolitionism. In this case we should celebrate animal welfare breakthroughs as successes. Or is it quite the opposite? Is animal welfare an alternative path to abolitionism, rather than a complimentary one? Does it impede abolitionist goals, because it gives the impression that vegan abolitionism is not as urgent since animals are not obviously being mistreated? (Which, of course, they are and continue to be in ever-greater numbers. Don‘t let any cage-size law fool you.)

Access to goods marketed as animal welfare-approved, such as milk from „happy cows“ or „free-range“ eggs, makes consumers feel good about themselves: they‘re buying the ethical animal products, and so they have done their part. Vegan abolitionism loses its immediacy when you think you‘re supporting industries that „host“ only content animals.

I share this worry that many abolitionists have. To me, organic meat is no better than conventional meat, and perhaps it is even worse because it lulls people into thinking they‘re doing good for animals when they‘re not. On the other hand, for those individual animals that do get to live in a bigger cage, that are numbed while being mutilated, and that eat food more appropriate for their bodies, isn‘t animal welfare a good thing?

This is a crucial question that I‘m still trying to figure out. I know I‘m a vegan abolitionist, but I have yet to decide whether animal welfare is hurting or helping my cause.