Well, I’m often not afraid to take on the tough subjects and this is certainly one of them. I think most of us that get along from day to day have little concept of the differences between ‘animal rights’ and ‘animal welfare.’ If you’re like me you grew up naturally assuming that most people would treat their animals with loving kindness and care. That groups like this are even deemed necessary wouldn’t have crossed my mind.
But we all have to grow up and leave fantasyland at some point in time. As I became more involved in horse ownership, puppymill dogs, rescue groups, and ferrel dog packs I butted heads with both points of view. It became evident that I needed to find out the differences and similarities of both. My knee jerk reaction was to simply agree that animal rights is a good thing. But when you dig deeper into the subject there are some very elementary differences between rights and welfare that, as a person who has companion animals, are difficult to swallow.
Let’s consider the actual definition of each:
To end all human “exploitation” of animals –
this includes, but is not limited to, raising
and slaughtering of livestock for human or
animal consumption, eating meat, hunting,
using animals for any medical or veterinary
research, zoos (regardless of how well
managed), circuses, rodeos, horseshows,
dog shows, animals performing in TV
commercials, shows or movies (regardless
of how well treated any of the above are),
guide-dogs for the blind, police dogs, search
& rescue dogs, and the practice of owning pets.
To prevent suffering and cruelty to animals. And to
provide care and good homes for pets in need. This
often includes, but is not limited to, the funding and
running of animal shelters (to provide a sanctuary for
abandoned, abused, homeless, or unwanted pets, and
to place them in good homes where possible, provide
painless euthanasia for those that cannot be adopted,
and to educate the public about the need for
spaying/neutering their pets to prevent more surplus
animals ending up in shelters), enforcement of
anti-cruelty statutes (where their authority permits),
initiating, lobbying for, and monitoring enforcement
of legislation to ensure more humane standards of
care for livestock, laboratory animals, performing
animals, and pets.
When you actually take the time to read the differences between the two it becomes clearly evident that these are very disparate opinions and both bring up many issues that people have been fighting to change in our overall view of animals and their rights in this world. I highlighted the end of the Animal Rights definition for a reason. Most of us reading this column have companion animals. What would our lives be without them? But more significantly if pets/companion animals were no longer allowed what would that do to entire species of animals? How can anyone endorse animal rights if they proport to advocate the entire annihilation of species? More than that, it’s well documented that animals and humans form a very special bond that is loving for both. Why should this be deemed wrong or illegal?
To quote one of the national directors of PETA:
“Pet ownership is an absolutely
abysmal situation brought
about by human manipulation.”
— Ingrid Newkirk, national director,
People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (PeTA), Just Like Us?
Toward a Nation of Animal Rights”
(symposium), Harper’s, August 1988,
What are the other fundamental differences between these two groups? Is there anyplace in-between the two philosophies that we can navigate? Must we be one or the other? And what are the actions taken by these groups that either endear people to them or drive them away? And how does the gigantic animal products industry in this nation play a part? Stay tuned for part two – where we talk about the differences between companion animals and livestock, the treatment of both, the inhumanity of man, the craziness that is out there and just how we find our way through this quagmire. I’m certain there will be people on both sides of this issue that speak out!
The issues surrounding the philosophies of animal rights and animal welfare are very familiar to those who utilize animals in industry, entertainment, sport or recreation. As society has migrated from our agricultural roots to a more urban existence, the importance of distinguishing between animal rights and animal welfare becomes paramount.
Animal Welfare, as defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association, is a human responsibility that encompasses all aspects of animal well-being, including proper housing, management, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane euthansia.
- Animal welfare proponents seek to improve the treatment and well-being of animals.
- Animal welfare proponents believe that humans can interact with animals in entertainment, industry, sport and recreation, and industry, but that the interaction should include provisions for the proper care and management for all animals involved.
- Animal welfare proponents support self-regulation of animal sports, including rodeo, polo, three-day eventing, FFA competitions, horse racing, field trials and endurance riding.
- Animal welfare groups utilize scientific evidence to base animal care and handling guidelines.
Animal Rights is a philosophical view that animals have rights similar or the same as humans. True animal rights proponents believe that humans do not have the right to use animals at all. Animal rights proponents wish to ban all use of animals by humans.
- Animal rights proponents support laws and regulations that would prohibit rodeos, horse racing, circuses, hunting, life-saving medical research using animals, raising of livestock for food, petting zoos, marine parks , breeding of purebred pets and any use of animals for industry, entertainment, sport or recreation.
- Animal rights proponents believe that violence, misinformation and publicity stunts are valid uses of funding donated to their tax-exempt organizations for the purpose of helping animals.
- Arson, vandalism and assault are common tactics used by underground animal rights groups to further the animal rights cause. Groups such as the Animal Liberation Front, which have been classified as terrorist by the FBI, routinely use criminal activities to further their cause.
More information on the subject:
Center for Consumer Freedom: