From Frankie Seymour, by email, 10/6/2011:
It is possible to be totally abolitionist and still grab with both hands any tiny improvement in welfare we can get - because those animals are alive and suffering right now and anything we can do to ease their suffering is worthwhile. I think we all agree about this ...
The only time it becomes an ethical dilemma is if by accepting the incremental welfare change we, in effect, reduce the public pressure for change and thus delay the greater welfare change. This is a choice we face every time we campaign against battery cages vis-a-vis all commercial egg production, against live animal exports vis-a-vis all slaughter of farm animals, against testing of cosmetics on animals vis-a-vis all animal testing.
My own view is that in most cases the lesser change hastens rather than delays the greater change because from every new milestone we reach we have less far to go to the total abolition of animals slavery. Still a long, long way - but very slightly less far.
This seems to me to have been the historical process in human welfare/rights. At each step, it became easier for the humanitarian movement to achieve the next step.
Of course we do know that the abolition of black slavery in America had more to do with states rights verses federalism than human welfare/rights and the abolition of the English slave trade to the Americas had more to do with the Napoleonic wars than human welfare/rights. This is not dissimilar to how we are now hoping that the environmental crisis will end up leading to the abolition of pastoral industries long before everyone wakes up to the immorality of murdering animals for food. But if you think about the abolition of child slavery and women's slavery, the process was pretty incremental - taking each reform they could get, so that each next reform became marginally easier.