Dog News

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

by Susan R. Stoltz

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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!