Animal Rights And Animal Welfare – Do You Know The Difference?

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:

Animal Rights

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.

Animal Welfare

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, 
p. 50.


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!

56 thoughts on “Animal Rights And Animal Welfare – Do You Know The Difference?

  1. What is increasingly frequent and very very disturbing is that animal welfare advocates are being disrespected and marginalized with accusations lumping them with the more hard-core animal rights groups such as PETA. People in rescues, for example, are facing taunting on the internet and in person by those who consider animals to be without any need for decent food, water, shelter and medical treatment. Unfortunately law enforcement and other governmental authorities will act disrespectful while maybe not verbally specifically accusing someone of being a PETA type but they will still not work to uphold the few laws that do advocate for animal welfare. Increasingly, our country seems hopelessly divided between those who deeply love and care for/about animals and those who reject that caring utterly and as a means of dismissing the issue just label them as part of radical groups not to be taken seriously by the majority. I’m old enough to remember the 60’s and 70’s, the same thing happened when people organized for racial equality and when they organized anti-war protests. When critical mass is reached, the issues tip over into the mainstream, so the moral of the story is each one of us needs to be very strongly pro-active on the animal WELFARE front as I believe most of us who visit are on this page already – the more radical types don’t generally come here. Every one of us who cares about animal welfare needs to speak up and speak out every single day, and never miss a single opportunity to educate and discuss, save and rescue, wherever possible.

    1. Amen, Jenifer and thank you for your story Susan. I look forward to reading your future segments. I look forward to partnering – joining forces with those who speak for the voiceless.

    2. Amen, Jennifer. And the disrespect of which you speak is in evidence in comments here, below.

      Like you, I am sick and tired of being accused of being “radical”, “activist”, “emotional”, “brainwashed”, and similar by people who claim to be “for animal welfare”, yet who NEVER lift a finger to help protect the animals whose welfare they claim to care about.

  2. Thank you Susan, for your story on “Animal Rights” and “Animal Welfare”.
    Even I knew they were two different issues but kind of foggy on the actual definition of the two.

    In today’s world, there just seems to be so much abuse of animals. Animals raised for slaughter, (seem to me, not to have any rights at tall). Puppy mills, humans who neglect their animals, (cat, dog), make me especially angry. In this day and age, you would think that people in general would be more aware of how they treat animals.

    I see postings, petitions, newspaper articles, news media, bringing forth alot of awareness, but some people just don’t get it.

    In my lifetime, I am wondering if I will ever see justice, compassion, kindness, for animals.

    My two dogs are recue dogs. One is 10 yrs. old and I adopted him from the Montreal SPCA. A senior… He has issues, (bites when stroked) so we can’t cuddle him. But I still love him to death. My other dog is a 4 yr. old chichuahua that was rescued from a puppy mill in Buffalo. She came to Canada through a rescue group in Niagara. And, gracefully fell into my home. I love her too…She has issues too. I don’t care. If I could I would have 6 dogs, goats, hens. Maybe in my next lifetime I will have a sanctury for animals.

    Thank you for posting your article.


    1. Hmmmmm…. about that last part of Animal Rights … who made that “definition” ? I believe that livestock were put here by a higher power, God, if I may say … to help man with his work, and transportation… but that doesn’t mean that they have to be mistreated … I believe that dogs were “domesticated” from their wild ancestors, to be just that … COMPANION animals. They need human AND animal interaction to remain a social creature …. again, they are not to be mistreated in ANY way, shape or form. I believe that Animal Welfare and Animal Rights can coexist peacefully, right next to each other …..

  3. The definitions come from their own websites Melissa. Animal Rights don’t believe in companion animals, pets, assistance animals, work animals, etc. Animal Welfare believes that animals, no matter their intended purpose, should be treated humanely.

    1. Ms. Stolz, the definitions you have provided do not appear on any animal rights or animal welfare group’s website, nor do they appear in any dictionary, encyclopedia, or reputable reference work.

      However, they do appear in the propaganda of groups dedicated to demonizing animal welfare activists, especially groups that oppose activists who confront cruelty and abuse in the pet breeding industry.

      As I stated above, what you have so carelessly defined as “animal rights” is actually a definition of an extreme abolitionist view. It represents a very narrow portion of the spectrum of animal welfare philosophies, one not shared by the majority animal protection charities and those who support them.

      At best, it is incorrect for you to use this very narrow viewpoint to define a broad group of people. At worst, it is a deliberate attempt to smear the character of all animal activists by painting them as extremists.

      I’d like to hear your point of view on this.

  4. I knew about how PETA feels about companion animals and how it thinks we enslave them by owning them. I didn’t know they felt it also included police dogs and guide dogs. I think their radical way of thinking alienates moderate people and their stunts of throwing blood on fur coat wearers, being naked at protests and so on makes them seem like loonies. And I pay no attention to them. Period.

    1. What I don’t understand is how people .that love animals, like I assume the above commenter does…. can dismiss the unbelievable GOOD that PETA has done for animals. Even though I DEARLY love my companion animals I see how their unlucky brethren ARE used and abused and sadistically tortured by ‘owners’ every single day. Thus in a perfect world, I agree that humans would have no power over other sentient beings. Maybe it is because humans are SO immensely flawed, or perhaps it is the power itself over helplessness that is the corrupting power that we see in so many horrendous cases of animal abuse. Many cases, where most of us reading this would be outraged, shocked and sickened, are passed off by others as simply ‘dominion’ over animals that is ‘God given’ – in their minds – which makes OUR shock and anger equally shocking and angering TO them. Thus PETA’s stance that animals are better off without humans is not only understandable.. in a Utopia… but probably completely true. IF a virus wipes out humanity on the EARTH, and the animal world is untouched, the species and diversity on this planet would go back to how God – to use their own justification against them – intended it BEFORE humans, for whatever reason, decided animals were OURS to BE used and abused for our own gain. Setting all that aside? PETA is and has been THE most EFFECTIVE organization which took on the thankless job of shining the light on cruelty and horrors hiding in the darkest of places, where none of us have to SEE and maybe don’t WANT to see. Their very brave and unbelievably dedicated volunteers who live and work in those dark places for extended periods, putting their own safety and yes, their own lives at risk for no gain to themselves but ONLY to shine the light where no one else has dared to direct it. How many of YOU, who dare to sneer and complain and ridicule PETA, would dare to live and work and personally bear witness to the horrors that their video cameras expose to the world. They do this NOT for the sake of the animals that they cannot help and have to WATCH suffer, but for the sake of all the others that WILL suffer in the future without their intervention. But for their courage and perseverance and dedication to do whatever it takes to illuminate those dark places and to expose the dark soulless people that perpetrate violence on innocents when they feel they are ‘hidden’ from disapproving eyes, the violence and sadistic acts will continue against generation after generation of helpless victims. I applaud those volunteers; I pray for those volunteers; and yes, I donate to their organization because they do so much that I only wish I COULD do… for the animals’ sake.

      1. Thank you, Nanci, for so eloquently demonstrating the fallacy of stereotypes. As you say, this is not a perfect world, and humans are not perfect. In a perfect world, there would be no need to protect animals, because humans would already be doing right by them. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  5. Thank you Susan for such a great post! Just having the two definitions next to each other will clear up most of the confusion, I bet. People assume that as animal lovers, we are animal rights’ activists – it sounds nice. I am not. I am a tiny bit obsessed with animal welfare though 🙂

      1. The biggest problem with assigning broad labels to those who care about animals — especially mischaracterizations like the definitions above — is that it creates a false dichotomy.

        Either you oppose laws restricting breeding, or you’re an animal rights wackjob who wants to confiscate Grandma’s seeing eye dog.

        It ignores the huge spectrum of animal welfare philosophies and leaves no room for dissent.

        And from that false division, it’s easy to demonize and slander your opponents by saying they favor “animal rights”, and are therefore part of some sinister anti-animal radical terrorist vegan nutcase extremist animal rights movement that wants to steal Grandma’s guide dog.

        This is a deliberate and deceptive strategy that’s frequently employed by those who defend the status quo of puppy mills, factory farms, and other animal abusing industries. These industry front groups like to trot out a false and unsupported definition of “animal rights” like the one above, and then point to an animal welfare group’s use of the phrase in an *entirely* different context to discredit their work (e.g., where “animal rights” was defined in the early 1970’s as a living creatures right not to be tortured and mutilated for the entertainment of human beings).

        I’m deeply disappointed to see animal welfare advocates falling for that deceptive propaganda, and creating a divisive wedge between other animal advocates with the same goal of preventing cruelty to animals.

  6. Thank you for this concise and clear distinction. I have been saying for years that I am for animal welfare and it’s not the same as animal rights. Too many do not understand the difference and big orgs such as HSUS help spread the confusion, posing as animal welfare and fighting for animal rights.

  7. What many people don’t realize is that animal rights groups like PETA, in many cases, actually have done real and considerable harm to animals. Like “liberating” typhus-infected rats from a research lab — rats that were bred for research and had lived their lives with food, water, and shelter provided to them and were therefore ill-equipped to live in the wild. And that’s just one of many examples.

    Ultimately, the animal rights folks have a political agenda and no real interest in doing what’s best for animals.

    1. Exactly!!! PETA eutanizes over 90% of the animlas it takes in. I live very near their main headquarters and because of this I am subject to hear more horror stories about them than the general public does! They don’t care for animals at all, instead they are people haters. They want to see the end to all animal ownership, period, that is their main agenda. Saving animals is a front that they hide behind. They use this to pull at the publics heartstrings and to take their money, which in turn makes them very powerful.
      For those that don’t believe, there was an investigation done after reports came in about their high euthanasia record. When the officials went to PETA’s site and found a very large commercial sized freezer full of the dead bodies of dogs and cats, they asked for an explaination of why there were so many. The response was that all of the animals were beyond being helped so had to be destroyed. The officials had a very hard time swallowing this as most of the bodies were that of young dogs and kittens! They wanted to know how the young lives of so many puppies and kittens were beyond being able to be helped? PETA also wanted all of Michael Vicks dogs to be destroyed, PETA wanted them all and wanted to end their suffering, they said they were beyond being able to be helped. PETA wouldn’t even give these dogs a chance, thank goodness someone saw fit to get these dogs into the right hands and that was determined NOT to be PETA! Well, last time I checked only 2 of those dogs lost their lives, one was due to extreme injuries and the other was too aggressive, ALL of the others have found thier way into loving homes or are in breed related rescues and are doing just fine. And one of the worst stories that happened in this area was that PETA sent a couple of their workers to a shelter to retrieve some dogs. This interview was on TV! They went to the shelter director and told him that they would help to place some of the dogs into homes, since this shelter had high numbers of unwanted pets. The shelter director, at that time, was thankful for the assistance and let them have 7 dogs, the bodies of those 7 dogs were found very shortly after, dead and dumped in a dumpster. PETA admitted doing this in court and was not the least bit upset, nor were they apologetic. In fact the only thing they apologized about was not doing the job good enough to avoid being caught! And, believe me, there are many more stories that happen with this group that the rest of the country just doesn’t ever get to hear about. How about the one where PETA was supposed to have a video of dogs being used for the fur industry. Peta showed this video, it was of a dog being held by it’s tail with it’s head being bashed into the concrete over and over again. The fur industry cannot give any kind of tranquilizer to the dogs that are to have thier hides stripped because the drugs will cause the hair to fall out and alter the hide. So, these dogs are brutally murdered, some are alive when their hides are stripped. There was a question as to how PETA was able to get this video and after much research, it was found that PETA did this themselves to this poor dog. This way they had a video, they could use it to show how bad this trade is and again they could pull at the heartstrings of the public and pull the money out of their wallets! This is one sick organization people, if you support them then you are supporting animal abuse in it’s most severe form! Which makes you an accomplice!
      ANYONE who believes in PETA is either a member of this radical group or has their head buried so deeply in the sand………….well, ignorance is NO excuse!

  8. Hi Susan,

    Is there a connection between PETA and Wayne Pacelle, President of the HSUS? It seems to me that there is some manipulation going on…I heard Wayne Pacelle does not even own an animal (dog), no…not even a rescue.

    Also, what percentage of donations actually go towards the welfare of animals in need, not just promoting “animal rights”?


  9. Yep, couldn’t have said it better. I have known for a long time what PETA is all about and it disgusts me. Their thinking is so wrong headed it’s not funny. It makes those of us that actually CARE about animals look like the lunatics they are. As was said – we all get lumped together. They wanted all the Vick dogs euthanized because in their eyes they weren’t worth it. The money could have been spend on animals that could actually be adopted (which is actually against what they preach, isn’t it??). Well, not only have several been adopted, at least one is a certified therapy dog! (but then that’s against what they preach too, isn’t it? OY.) PETA needs to go away!

    I have always loved animals and as a child hated seeing any animal treated badly. I rescued a guinea pig from a kid we knew who thought it was a riot to scare the bejeebus out of the poor thing and watch it jump and squeal. We took in many abandoned cats over the years including one thrown from a window.

    As an adult, I became involved in animal welfare a few years ago when the Port Authority at JFK airport where I work suddenly decided the cats that were very well cared for in our parking lot and others throughout the airport were suddenly a threat to aviation, after being there for decades! To me it was just an excuse to “clean up” the airport. They made it sound like cats were running wild on the runways and attracting birds there as well. The former PA head gave us permission to set up shelters and do TNR at our lot. They were well cared for and bothered no one. We were also miles from the runways. As for food attracting the birds, well if it was, it was AWAY from the runways and hell, it was gone before the birds could get to it anyway. We never saw more that a few sparrows and an occasional pigeon. How about the fact that the airport is build on MARSHLAND that is the natural habitat of a hundred species of creatures, including who knows how many birds???

    Well, they came in and in two days at our lot rounded up as many as they could, despite the uproar by animal rescue groups, and left. They rounded up cats all through the airport. They threatened to take our Port ID’s if we continued to feed and took away all the shelters and such we had set up. I gave them a double middle finger salute and continued to feed, but also one by one trapped and relocated the ones that were left. Two I brought home and love very much. The others were too feral and were relocated to a colony where they’re doing great.

    I also became the self appointed, unofficial animal advocate at work. I speak for those that have no voice. I carry tie straps with me and whenever I see a kennel that is not properly secured, I fix it and try to educate the owner and agent about the importance of it. Airlines have gotten a terrible reputation for losing animals and I try to do my part to educate everyone on the importance of taking care of the animals while in the airline’s control and for the owner to make sure that the kennel they provide is safe and secure. Latches are VERY easy to pop open, which is why tie straps are so important. No tie straps? Tape that sucker up! Nothing is more devastating than losing a beloved pet.

    So, animal activist? NO. Animal welfare advocate? Hell yeah!

  10. Thank you for bringing up this issue, and to point out that there are nuances and differences in these areas. I appreciate that you said the definitions come from “their own websites,” but I wasn’t aware there is a single website that represents all Animal Rights and a single one that represents all Animal Welfare. The point I’m making is that rarely is anything so black and white. One can advocate for certain animal rights — such as stricter punishment for animal abusers — that is animal rights according to my own definition — and not support the point of view of PETA, for example (which I don’t).

    1. This is where your confusion shows. By advocating for better treatment of animals and punishment for abusers you are supporting ANIMAL WELFARE. Entities like HSUS confuse the issue. In some areas they give support for better animal welfare practices. At the same time they advance the Animal Rights agenda by pushing for laws that make it harder and harder to have animals in our lives. I agree with some things they support but I also say that if HSUS is pushing for any new law, examine it carefully in terms of the actual effect rather than the feel-good sound bite.

  11. Stricter punishment for animal abusers can STILL be under the animal welfare umbrella of advocacy. It doesn’t have to be under animal “rights”. As someone who is totally for animal welfare, I sure as hell want abusers punished and punished strongly. I’m so sick of people who say “it’s ‘just’ an animal.” It doesn’t matter, it’s still a living, feeling being and if you don’t think it doesn’t translate to future HUMAN abuse, think again.

  12. Thank you so much for this article. I was also clearly confused between the two and didn’t realise there was such a difference. I guess that means I am all for animal welfare. I believe that animals should have the same rights as humans in that they deserve not to be tied up in a yard all day, kept in cages for our amusement or strapped to a medical table and systematically tortured over the course of their short lives so that we can wear a new colour of lipstick or rub a new improve lotion into our skin. I think it is taking it to far to suggest that no one should have companion animals though. I live for my two dogs – they have added so much to my life and I would like to believe that they also enjoy their lives with us – I don’t think this is exploitation of the animals at all as both animal and human can gain so much from this bond.

    As for service dogs – I guess it is true that they don’t have a choice in the ‘work’ the will end up doing but I strongly believe that the dogs get to use the skills inherent in their genetic make up and again they love to please the humans they work with – its a partnership not some sort of slavery as these radical animal rights groups would have us believe. I think there has to be a fine line between working for the good of the animals and wanting to do away with all animal-human relationships.

    I’ve been learning so much about these issues recently becoming vegan in the process as it horrified me to finally remove the blinkers of ignorance from my eyes and learn just what exactly goes on for us to eat meat or wear leather or wool. I am very passionate about the rights of animals but having read your post, I guess I am more about their welfare if that’s how it has been defined.

    I look forward to reading the next instalment.

    1. Animal rights activists don’t want to do away with animal-human interaction but we do want to see the animal’s rights respected. If you use the word “human” for service animal, it takes on a different tone. To believe that we’re somehow better than animals is ridiculous. It isn’t based on logic. I’m glad that you’re a vegan and I see no reason to stop working with rescue groups or fostering or adopting animals. Our companion animals cannot survive without us so I’m all for helping them but I want people to stop mentally throwing up a divider between us and them (non human animals). Have you read Animal Liberation by Peter Singer? He isn’t radical although animal welfare people will tell you that he is. He’s radical only because he uses logic to counter the arguments used to continue to eat animals and do research using animals.

  13. Thank you for posting these distinctions. I think all of us who care about animals need to know the difference. Whether you are a vegan or someone who hunts for their annual freezer full of venison, you can still care for the well-being of animals. However, when someone tells me that my couch-hog, spoiled dogs are being exploited because I “own” them, now you are not interested in the welfare of animals, but in imposing YOUR will and agenda on others. Look at the true motivation behind these people and you usually find some odd world view or money.

  14. Extremism is rarely if ever good in my opinion. The animal rights definition is extreme. I DO think we should stop having performing animals in circuses and marine parks, the wild ones anyway, but to not own an animal? I cannot fathom not having animals around me. And they own ME, not the other way around! If you can’t care for an animal, don’t get it, but dogs love to belong to people as do cats in most cases. Yes all the way to animal welfare. Too much cruelty goes on in this world to helpless things and I think violators should be severely punished. But I will have to violate animal rights as I could not live without my pets!

  15. PETA founder, Ingrid Newkirk, has stated “A boy is a pig is a rat is a dog.” Meaning, all animals, human and non-human, are equivalent. I suppose there are some people who genuinely believe that. I do not happen to be one of them, and I’m sure not even Newkirk herself REALLY does. Has she eschewed every aspect of advancement that’s been made through animal research? Has she forgone surgeries and medications and vaccines that would not exist but for animal research? Does she allow her home to become infested with vermin because they have as much right to be there as she does?

    That is the crux of animal rights vs. animal welfare. To say that animals have rights is to say that they are our equals. Fine if you believe that, but you’d better walk the walk.

    1. PETA Senior Vice President MaryBeth Sweetland is an insulin-dependent diabetic. Insulin was developed through animal testing and, until fairly recently, produced using animals. She justifies her use of the drug because of the ‘good’ she has done for animals, but would deny such life-saving drugs to the rest of us. Can you say hypocrite?

      Ingrid Newkirk explains how killing more than a thousand animals PETA accepted for shelter in 1999 is “ethical,” because it frees up more money to mount press campaigns (she has described herself as a “press slut”):

      “We could become a no-kill shelter immediately. It means we wouldn’t do as much work.”
      –The Virginian-Pilot, August 1, 2000

      I wonder why they take animals into their “shelter” if they just plan to kill them (more than 90% – in some years as much as 97%). A nearby shelter in Norfolk, VA adopts out more than 70% of the animals it takes in.

      In 2005 PETA employees were killing animals they had said they would have no trouble placing in good homes and tossing them into a dumpster. They killed them in their van right after picking them up – never taking them to the shelter. Did PETA punish them for this duplicity. No, PETA paid for their legal defense,

      Some AR leaders say advances in animal welfare are counter-productive for the AR agenda. They want to be able to show shocking pictures and exaggerated stories of cruelty to convince people their Draconian beliefs offer the only solution. More than once PETA employees have been caught falsifying evidence, even paying people to commit cruel acts so they can get shocking photographs.

  16. erinaceaous: animal rights advocates do not think that animals and humans are equal any more than all humans are equal. Before you disagree with me, think about people who have acquired brain injury that has left them unable to participate at all in their own welfare. Someone else makes their decisions for them. They are NOT equal to all other humans who are able to make their own decisions for their own welfare. No matter how much someone might love and care for them, they are unable to make their loved one truly equal.

    Where do you get the definition that animals are less than human (remembering that we are animals?). If an animal is used for research b/c they have the same CNS as us, that means that they feel the same things we do and react physiologically in the same way. So…why should they be treated so inhumanely? Why not do the research on the John Wayne Gacy’s of this world? Before you start to talk about all the good that has come from animal research, please read some of the research articles. You will see time and time and time again that the results are inconclusive and “more testing is needed”. A lot of the research is done by psych depts, NOT medical testing. The tests are cruel and inhumane and do not improve the lives of humans or animals so what is the point?

    I want you to show me where you can find evidence that says unequivocally that animals are worth less than humans. You’ll have to go back to ancient Greek philosophy and German philosophy that sees animals as automatons. The Greek position was adopted by early Christians and so the great chain of being came into existence. Medical testing can now be done on tissue or using computer models. There is no need to stick mascara into the eyes of animals or to stick detergent into their eyes and tape them shut. There is no need for the lethal dose 50 tests.

    Animal welfare is a joke. It *might* look after companion animals but it cares very little about farm animals, animals used in the military for testing of poisons and bullets, etc. In fact, most of those animals and animals in research facilities are exempt from animal welfare laws. It’s nice and neat for you to think about only your companion animals but it leaves millions and millions of other animals at the mercy of those rather ruthless animals: humans.

    Think of the language that you use to talk about your companion animals: you own them. In the same way that you would own a slave. And service animals…substitute the word human and then think of a human working all those hours, every day, every week, every month, every year without a day off. The only time they have off is when their owner is sleeping. They are not allowed to be stroked or petted when they’re working and they’re nearly always working. They have no say in that…they were chosen for the task by humans. They *might* enjoy it but the decision is never theirs. All I’m saying to you is don’t be so quick to dismiss animal rights. You’re working on a faulty premise that we are somehow superior to animals. Show me how and show me where you came to that knowledge. If we are not superior to animals, do we really have the right to treat them the way that we do? You might love and adore your animals (I know that I love the companion animals that share my life) but I know that other animals have no life other than a life in a pen or a cage and then to slaughter or a life in a cage and test and after test. Some animals NEVER see the light of day until the day they die. Why? How is that morally right? And why should we eat animals? Hindus don’t and they survive just fine. It’s nature right..the strong eat the weak? But do they set up battery farms? And do they have alternatives? We have alternatives and we have the means to live without killing and caging and sending animals into war zones. We justify our horrendous treatment of animals so that we are not inconvenienced.

  17. An interesting piece and an important clarification that needs to be addressed, but I wish you had cited your sources for the two definitions. In the comments, you say that the definitions come from “their own web sites”. Can you provide links to the sites, please? Or at least say which group sites you got the quotes from? I’m guessing that the animal rights definition came at least in part from PETA, but any further information would be helpful.

    As far as the debate, much of my disenchantment with groups like PETA comes from their arrogant dismissal of pet owners as somehow exploiting their domestic animals. I think that the best way to build empathy with animals is to spend time in close proximity with them and I wouldn’t trade the time I’ve had with any of my companions (all cats in my case) for the world.

  18. I recognize this as the debate between PETA and HSUS on the one hand, and ASPCA, MSPCA, and AHA on the other hand.

    It is an interesting debate. And it is an outcome of the “civilized” state of humanity.

    I believe that in order to determine where you stand in this debate, you must first define what your intrinsic belief is about these other beings on the planet (“animals”). Are they partners with us on this earth? Are you capable of being humble enough to acknowledge that an animal (dog, rat, dolphin, orangutan) may possess a strength that you do not? Or are they subordinate to us? What is your belief about the proper flow of life and the food chain? Is it shaped and formed by your ability (or inability) to meet the living being that is now just a slab of meat wrapped in plastic in the grocery store? Is your belief complex and conflicting? Do you favor “domesticated” animals over “wild” animals? Will you allocate more rights and welfare to a domesticated animal than a wild animal?

    The goals of animal rights and animal welfare are just that … goals. The application of these goals is inconsistent at best. The real question is: what are your beliefs and do you allow different circumstances and situations to play a role in setting your beliefs?

    I have pets. And I scuba dive. Short of travelling to an unpopulated section of Africa or South America, scuba diving is the easiest way to place yourself among wild creatures. You see Darwinism at its best, and realize how much we human beings with our communication and thought processes have influenced our view of what “should” be. My view of my role on land and in the water is consistent … I am here to be at peace and harmony with the living creatures around me. I trust and respect them, and (somewhat naively) I expect them to trust and respect me. If that respect is not present, I believe it can be fostered and earned. The sheep crab in the ocean simply wants to be left alone, to do its thing. If I allow him that, he will not threaten me (or try to steal my flashlight) and we are at peace. The pet rat in my condo simply wants to run, jump, climb, and eat. If I allow him that (and set up parameters to protect my computer cords), he will respond positively to me and we are at peace. In both instances, I am altering my actions for the mutual benefit of myself and the animal. Is this right? Is it fair? If I view these creatures as having the same rights as myself, why do I believe that the pet rat is content with this arrangement? Wouldn’t he rather be finding his own food, living in danger, and avoiding rat traps that humans have set up for him? Hmmm ….

    The fact is, we are on this earth together. And the fact is, in some environments we are more antagonistic than we synergistic. And this is reality. In order to work through this, compromise is essential. And the universe is large. If, in exchange for our respect, compassion and care there are some animals that find themselves willingly serving as guide dogs, police dogs, or search and rescue dogs, then I believe the universe has found balance.

    1. Michelle, you expressed this so well and i completely agree- we SHARE the planet with every other animal that we haven’t already hunted into extinction and i think that mankind needs to realise that we aren’t the superior species and learn to respect the infinite intricacies of life on this planet before we completely destroy it. As a species, mankind has so much to learn from other creatures, right down to the littlest ant.

  19. When it comes to the humane treatment of animals – all animals – there is no debate about “Animal Rights” vs “Animal Welfare”. Animals have a right to humane welfare; it’s as simple as that.

    This is an artificial distinction that has been created and is being exploited by PR hacks working on behalf of ANTI-animal activists . That group includes puppy millers, factory farming corporations, exotic canned hunt operations, and the like.

    The sole purpose of creating this distinction is to split the community of people who care about the welfare of animals and the right of animals to be treated humanely, into “Us” vs “Them”. By splitting our community – by trying to impose artificial categorizations between us – the groups whose sole interest in animals is to profit from their suffering, win.

    The goal is to cause dissension and disunity. This is particularly important to those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, when it comes to animal welfare.

    These groups do NOT want concerned animal advocates to have a united voice, especially when it comes to passing humane legislation that will improve living conditions for animals. Factory farms and puppy mills have NO interest in making changes that will mean improved conditions for the animals under their care. Not if such changes impact their profits (and they usually do).

    Please do NOT get suckered into defining yourself as animal abusers choose to define you. Do NOT accept the stereotype of some well-paid PR schill whose sole mission is to destroy and silence the humane community.

    1. I don’t think this is true at all. What I have seen is that the AR activists label anyone who doesn’t agree with them on any issue as animal abusers, puppy millers, etc. There are some genuine differences in philosophy between people who support animal welfare and people who support animal rights, though many people don’t understand the difference and say they are for Animal Rights when what they really want is animal welfare.

      1. On the flip side, I’ve noticed that those who use terms like “activists” to describe people who support the rights of animals to be treated humanely, typically use black-and-white generalizations to describe anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

        On the other hand, those who are genuinely interested in protecting animal welfare rarely do so. You’d probably be surprised to learn that some of those people include dog breeders, farmers, horse trainers, and exotic animal owners.

        I’ve also found that those who use terms like “AR activists” do, in fact, turn out to be puppy millers, and animal abusers of some stripe or other.

        LOTS of people don’t make the fine distinctions that you apparently feel the need to make. Some things are inherently and obviously cruel, and most compassionate folk can spot those from a considerable distance.

  20. You both, Alexandra and Berksbound, bring up some good points, however, you offer no solution to the dissention. This is part of the upcoming debate this week. Do we, as animal lovers, pet owners and concerned people with the welfare of animals have to fall on one side or the other? Do we have other choices? And how do we advocate for what we believe? Can we be concerned for the ethical treatment of animals and still own pets, which is exceedingly important to the people who visit this website? If you disagree with the disparate sides of this discussion what is your solution to the problem? That the debate is bogus is clearly incorrect. Most of the readers here weren’t aware of the unethical way PETA treats animals, the true agenda they follow and the difference between welfare and rights. With rights come responsibility. To be treated ‘humanely’ as you say Alexandra denotes the human element of the issue – therefore instilling a superiority inherent with the label. We do need a united voice, but to be united we have to agree, something humans rarely do, thus back to the circular part of this argument, two different points of view with lots of gray area in between.

    1. Susan – A major step toward quelling the dissension is to remove the divisive labels.

      PETA does not represent all who care about animal rights. All animal rights supporters are not supporters of PETA. When people make facile assumptions in order to slap a convenient stereotype and relieve themselves of intelligent inquiry, it does not further the debate; it creates a stalemate.

      You see “a problem”. I, on the other hand, see a skillfully engineered Wag the Dog “war”. The only “problem” arises when certain people keep insisting that there is – by golly! – such a WIDE difference between “animal rights” and “animal welfare” – and other, gullible people believe this fiction. Or that protecting animal rights to humane welfare somehow also conveys upon animals the right to vote – another ridiculous straw-man argument that is usually advanced by “animal-welfare-not-animal-rights” hairsplitters.

      As for: “… To be treated ‘humanely’ as you say Alexandra denotes the human element of the issue – therefore instilling a superiority inherent with the label….” – there is no evading “the human element”. After all, isn’t that what all the kerfuffle is about – the bogus argument that, if we treat animals with humane compassion, care, and respect, that humans somehow “lose” THEIR “rights”?

      Which begs the question: What “rights do animal lovers (or humans, in general) lose if puppy mills cease to exist?

      What “rights” do we lose if a farm animal is raised with ample room to move, stand, and lay down?

      What “human rights” do we lose if we deny those who would wilfully and cruelly abuse animals for their personal greed and gain, that “right” to do so?

      And, more to the point, what do we, as humans, GAIN by standing up for the helpless and the vulnerable?

      THAT is the question that we should be debating, rather than what handy divisive label we should be meekly donning at the bidding of some industry-driven PR hack.

  21. Good article!
    Some things the animal rights people have never answered to my satisfaction, if animals have rights why do they not have the right to reproduce, to defend themselves against human actins by biting, or to run free at large at their own will?
    I find it awfully strange that for the AR folks the only ‘rights’ animals have are to become extinct or for starters for individual breeds to be wiped out through forced euthanasia for acting like ‘animals’… It seems equally as strange to hear people talking about rights on the one hand and then casually destroying the right to reproduce and never ever allowing freedom of movement or normal interactions with their own species.
    I also wonder why a pet produced by people who couldn’t care less about their animals and who raise them under the worst circumstances are intrinsicially better than ones produce by people who dedicate their lives to producing the best pets possible in a careful and loving environment that is considered best suted to making the resulting animals good human companions.
    While I think humans have a responsibility to do well by all in their care I do not think that animals have rights – as if they did no one could justify fences, s/n, leashes, obedience training, euthanasia, laws against biting or even chasing other animals, controlled breeding etc.

  22. Alexandra,
    I guess I missed the post where someone said that “All animal rights supporters are supporters of PETA” this thread is getting pretty long, could you tell me who said that so that I may go and read it for myself, because I certainly missed it, and cannot seem to find it!
    Now you made the statement in your next post “On the other hand, those who are genuinely interested in protecting animal welfare rarely do so. You’d probably be surprised to learn that some of those people include dog breeders, farmers, horse trainers, and exotic animal owners.” Some of them might indeed do so, but the majority of the group that I am in DO NOT. Some will read into it and assume as you did with the “PETA” supporters that all of these ‘groups” are against animals and do not do their part to help, even though you did say “some”. As I stated I am a member of one of those groups and we do more to help with animals than you or the general public could possibly imagine, from rescue, to research in trying to find genes that carry the horrible diseases that affect certain animals and to try to find their cures to educating the public etc….. We have started and supported some of the biggest rescue organizations there are and pour money into these organizations that support animals and their caregivers (oh geeeeez, please tell me this is a “politically correct term” or else it’s going to start another tantrum!). We give money to help those who otherwise would not get the help they need and would end up facing the euthansia needle instead. This is only one of the reasons why I have a personal problem with PETA and HSUS, they spend more of their money on personal retirement packages and on politics than they actually give to help the animals. Our organizations give 100% of the money in those accounts to help animals! I stated before that I live very close to PETAs main headquarters. They have a multi million dollar facility on the waterfront, and I DO mean ON the waterfront, walk out their door and there it is just a few feet away. Large, new, top-of-the-line buliding, not a purchased renovated, but brand new, built for them facility in THE MOST expensive part of town. All of this courteousy of the good hearted people they have no trouble lying to! Now they could have done miraculous things for a whole heck of a lot of animals with THAT kind of money but NO, they wanted the best for their comfort, all of this “for themselves” while the animals still suffer. Does this sound reasonable to you?
    When I made my statement about PETA it was directed at the person (s) that are bowing down to them, these people have been fooled to believe that they are good organizations and spend their money doing good for animals when they actually do nothing more than harm them. They have refused to purchase hay for a herd of wild mustangs that were trapped in a canyon (snowed in) and had no food, they would have starved to death. A person had donated his time and helicopter to deliver the hay if it could be supplied to him, so PETA and HSUS were aproached and you know what their answer was………it was “NO”, they were going to let them starve. HSUS doesn’t run one single shelter, with all of the money they have a report said they could afford to care for every shelter animal in most of N.C. and all of Virginia. HSUS was offered a facility by the government it was going to be built for them on a nice piece of land so they could finally REALLY help the animals! You know what they wanted………….to know if that building and land would be given to them, would it be “theirs”, would they “own it”. When they were told “No”, then HSUS said they weren’t interested. Justify this sort of thinking to me. They are money hungry, extremists that do nothing to help animals. They hide behind their masks and they know how to play on the human heart and to make promises they never intend to keep so that they can just keep getting richer and richer as they suck good hearted people dry and continue to let animals suffer!
    So, my post about PETA and HSUS was to bring some information to those who really think they are good. They are part of the problem. If you are that good hearted and you have money to donate then donate to your LOCAL shelters, that way you are really helping the animals and not padding someones pocket that promises to help animals but instead uses the money for personal use or to buy political favors!
    Anyway, I believe that you have been asked a couple of times as to what your ideas are to help this apparent “divide” and all it seems that you want to do is to be combative and condemning…..still you have supplied no answer to the question asked of you.

    1. @ Anonymous – A lot of statements have been made here about PETA. How would I know which one is yours, since you remain anonymous?

      Also, you (apparently) didn’t bother to read my comment above. Let me help you out: I began by stating, “A major step toward quelling the dissension is to remove the divisive labels.”

      Additionally, I have been asked ONE time, by the author, for a suggestion that would help quell the divisiveness. I answered. You chose to ignore my answer, presumably because it did not suit your personal dichotomy.

      As for your “personal problem(s)” with PETA and HSUS:

      (a) I suggest you refer to both organizations’ respective mission statements. Neither one has a mission mandate to run, or fund, local shelters. I am not defending either organization; merely stating the obvious.
      (b) This article did not single out either PETA or HSUS, and your diatribe against both, while passionate, is not germane to this discussion.

      Furthermore, please note that considering a response that – obviously – does not agree with yours to be “combative and condemning”, and making assumptions about the personal state of my heart, only served to illustrate my point made above re: name-calling. You have no idea what I do to further animal welfare, nor where I donate my money.

  23. I appologize for the Anonymous, I do keep forgetting to log my name in! I just get to the writting, sorry to everyone for that.
    Alexandra, I also appologize for not seeing your answer to the question that was asked of you, it is not on the page that I am viewing, was it posted directly or posted only to the person who asked you under “reply”. I still can’t find it. But there are post showing up here that I have not been made aware of through my notifications either, and vice versa.
    As far as my PETA and HSUS statements, you’re correct they are not really a part of the content of this, but as I stated earlier, it was done to let another on this posting know of their true nature and not to be fooled by them. I would rather she send her money where it would be of good use. I don’t have her personal email so I used this as the venue. should have posted a reply back to her personally I suppose!
    As to the mission statements, they hold no value to me because these organizations have proven time and time again that the only things you can count on is lies and deceipt. When they put their comercials on air telling people all the work that they do and are misleading to everyone that is watching, that right there is means to discredit anything that comes from their mouths or anything that they put on paper.
    Did I make a personal assumption about your heart? I don’t think so. And I also did not question where you personally put your money, THAT is none of my business! But to those that would like the truth and that really care and want to do better by the animals then donating to your local animal shelter is the way to go. PLEASE see that last sentence as it was meant to be, for the “people” this WAS NOT meant to tell you what to do!
    How do we remove these devisive labels, simply saying they are gone won’t do it, tearing up paper that they’re printed on won’t do it so how is this accomplished. Is that what your answer was, simply to remove the devisive labels? The question was HOW? That’s why discussions are good, many views, many suggestions, people trying to work together towards a better end!
    But so many want to speak big words, act tough, take offense, be combative and this gets us nowhere. AGAIN, don’t take that personally, it WAS NOT meant that way!

    1. “Alexandra, I also apologize for not seeing your answer to the question that was asked of you”

      – Apology accepted.

      “As to the mission statements, they hold no value to me because these organizations have proven time and time again that the only things you can count on is lies and deceipt. When they put their comercials on air telling people all the work that they do and are misleading to everyone that is watching, that right there is means to discredit anything that comes from their mouths or anything that they put on paper.”

      – Doesn’t that depend on how each of us defines “really care and want to do better by the animals”?

      For those who support stronger, protective, humane legislation, the legislative work that HSUS does IS important. For those who support, say, an end to fur farms, PETA’s extreme tactics may seem perfectly in sync with “really care and want to do better by the animals”.

      Characterizing someone’s position as invalid simply because it doesn’t precisely match yours, is no way to begin a dialogue that seeks to find common ground.

      “Did I make a personal assumption about your heart? I don’t think so. And I also did not question where “you” define you personally put your money, THAT is none of my business! ”

      – You wrote “If you are that good hearted and you have money to donate then donate to your LOCAL shelters, that way you are really helping the animals…”. Your words appeared to be directed to me. If they were not, and were meant in a more general sense of “you”, then I retract my statement. You are still passing judgement though, about what it means to be “that goodhearted”. Again, each of us has our own definition of what that means TO US. I happen to donate to both national organizations AND several of my local rescue groups. I believe both do good for animals, and both are needed.

      “How do we remove these devisive labels, simply saying they are gone won’t do it, tearing up paper that they’re printed on won’t do it so how is this accomplished. Is that what your answer was, simply to remove the devisive labels? The question was HOW? ”

      – Stop using them. It’s really THAT simple. Deal with the issues that matter in the lives of animals. Squabbling about how we can narrowly define people and confine them to stereotypes, doesn’t help resolve anything. And it certainly doesn’t help animals.

  24. Yes, my “you” was meant as a general, not directed at you, because I do not know you and do not know where you send your money and, again, it is none of my business.
    I don’t think that I am that narrow minded to believe that my way is the ONLY way, that is certainly NOT ture. I have learned from the past, from personal experiences and from others experiences, from endless research and I hope that I will never, ever think that I know all there is to know about anything. I hope that I can always learn something whether it is a new topic or from something that has been “old news” to me.
    But I do stand strong on the PETA issue, and supporting them is wrong, not just because they don’t share my views but because of their actions, because of the horrid things they do to animals to further their agendas. Believe me, I live so close to their main headquarters and what the people in this area see isn’t seen by most of the world. They are animal abusers, they lie and cheat and really do not care for animals. I won’t take up the space here telling you what has been found on their property, what they have gone to court for doing, the things they say and preach, these things would turn your stomach (unless you are an animal hater) ***The “you” is general here….not meaning you, yourself.***** I just wish everyone could see what they really are and stop sending them money, because the money goes to buy euthanasia fluids, commercial sized freezers for all of the dead bodies, money spent to further their ultimate goal of no one every being able to own any kind of animals ever. Kiss your dogs, cats, ferrets, cows, sheep, horses etc…. goodbye forever. I just can’t imagine my life without my dogs or horse, it wouldn’t be much of a life for me! The kill shelters certainly don’t please me and don’t go along with what my personal beliefs are BUT I do bring them food quite often, donate money and supplies because they are doing their part to help the helpless, the money goes for the animals. I won’t fight that! I will donate and try to help them to help the ones that cannot help themselves!

  25. About donating to those ‘local shelters’ you might want to check facts. I have ceased supporting any local animal shelters though it makes me sad to have to do so.
    See where I live the shelters buy dogs from other areas to resell them and then refuse to take in local animals in need, they charge local people fees to surrender an animal and make them wait months before they will take in certain selected ones only and the rest can be killed or dumped on the street for all anyone cares because the shelters are too busy being pet stores to help local animals. Its really horrid to see.
    When a shelter makes 2-4 HUNDRED THOUSAND dollars a year profits as reported on their 990 forms by selling dogs they BUY from other areas and those same shelters refuse to take in local pets found abandoned or whose owners are in desperate straits and need a safe place for their pets to go you know something is seriously wrong in how the local shelter system is working.
    Same shelters are busy blaming breeders for the number of dogs in the area when thousands are being imported by shelters that simply get dumped in another shelter when they don’t work out or something happensin the owner’s life.
    So any locally donated money or goods simply helps the shelters with their anti breeder and anti multi pet owner campaigns (animal rights agendas) and not to helping animals at all. 🙁
    I remember when breeders were among the main supporters and helpers of shelters, when dog clubs regularly donated to shelters from funds raised at shows or pet food drives, when breed rescuers were welcomed as helpers, and shelters referred people who wanted specific breeds to local good breeders etc. Now the shelters are all AR oriented and oh so suprised their supporters are vanishing…

  26. @Lotta D,
    Well, this will just open up another can of worms BUT I COMPLETELY agree with you on that fact also! We have one here in our area that hides purebred dogs until their time is up and then they euthanize them, if they don’t have a place to keep these out of the publics view then they post a sign on the run “aggressive dog” to scare people away AND I even heard of them buying pregnant dogs so they could sell the puppies and took deposits on them before they were born. These puppies are spayed/neutered at 6 weeks of age (YES, I said 6 weeks) because their policy is that NO dog leave the property “in tact”. So, yes, you have educated yourself on this nightmare, GOOD FOR YOU! One of the reasons my veterinarian says that the people involved with shelters of this kind hate the ethical breeders so much is simply because the breeders take money away from the shelters. SO they bash the breeders (ethical or not) for being exactly what they are, profit driven! And unfortunately it is all too true!
    With this thread being what it is, however, I did not want to open up another can of worms to confuse those that do not know and would blame those of us who do as being “animal haters” not willing to help out anywhere at all. So my advise is to do your research before you donate your hard earned money to ANYTHING at all! There are still fabulous shelters out there doing things for the right reasons and I don’t believe they should suffer because of the “bad guys”. So the bottom line is research, research, research until there isn’t a question in your mind about where your money is going and what it is being used for!
    Good point, thank you for sharing! We need to open up the eyes of everyone who cares so that we can make a difference for the better, truly better and not just “thinking/claiming” we are doing better!

  27. We have to speak for those who cant speak for themselves,Right?!
    I mean what did they ever do to us!

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