What is Animal Rights Compared to Animal Welfare?
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What is Animal Rights Compared to Animal Welfare?

What is Animal Welfare, what is animal rights? What is the difference between animal rights and animal welfare? Is PETA an animal rights group. Is the SPCA an animal welfare group. What do animal welfare activists believe? What do animal rights activists believe? Which is better, animal rights or animal welfare?

Many people, when asked, will proudly say they support Animal Rights, but not everyone knows what animal rights is. To understand exactly what is meant by animal rights, we must agree and acknowledge that humans are animals (mammals) and basically those who support animal rights are saying the same rights and laws that apply to humans, should apply to all other animals too. 

Sounds harmless enough until you start looking at it in depth. This means that if a cat kills a mouse, the cat should be tried for murder. Animal rights activists are saying that all other animals should be considered as persons under the law, in this case, the cat, and the mouse.  Animal rights groups insist that animals not be kept as pets (they have the right not to be owned).  To an extent they view all domestic animals as not legitimate, since human breeding and selection engineered most of them, (example: house dogs came from selective breeding of wild dogs), they consider them to be invalid lifeforms. 

So, what is the difference between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare?

Animal Welfare people want to ensure that animals do not suffer needlessly. They want people to be able to own animals, pets, and livestock, but not treat them with undue cruelty.  Animal Rights activists will tell you eating meat is wrong (even though humans are omnivores) and owning pets is wrong. Even owning seeing-eye dogs are wrong (because it is against the dog's rights to be owned). Feeding meat to another animal is wrong.

Good Animal Welfare Ideas (most of which are also supported by Animal Rights people)

1.  Spaying and Neutering Pets. Thus reducing the number of unwanted pets that will be euthanized, currently, millions in the USA alone every year.

2.  Free range chickens. Produce healthier eggs, and happier birds. I am talking about TRUE Free Range Chicken. Be aware that there needs to be stricter laws regarding labeling as “Free Range”.

3.  Better enclosures for zoo animals, with species specific natural settings, and more space per animal.

4.  Enacting laws against cruel cosmetic surgeries of pets (declawing cats), or use for cruel entertainment (eg. Dog fighting).

5.  Education on needs of specific animals. So that people may care for these animals properly or preserve these animals from extinction if that need exists.

6.  Animal rescues and shelters. Helping those in need, and even humanely euthanizing animals when there are more animals than there are homes for.

7.  Educating people about proper pet care and why some common practices, such as chaining dogs, is cruel. 

8.  Establishing laws regarding the space and care requirements of pets and livestock animals.

A typical farm cat.

Bad Animal Rights Ideas (None of which are supported by Animal Welfare people)

1.  Making house cats eat vegan diets. Cats are true carnivores, this will cause health issues. Punishing some animals, for simply being animals and doing what is natural to them.

2.  Calling for releasing all animals into the wild. There is no way millions of cattle would survive on what little land is left natural for them. There is no way the chickens would survive the cold winters without shelter. Cats would soon out number their food source.

3.  Trying to force changes in laws through acts of minor terrorism. This not only hurts the cause of “Animal Rights” in the public perception, it also does no good for the animals. Some times these acts include actively setting animals loose, to which many animals die, or are killed.

4.  More time and funds are spent, promoting, or proselytizing for, intolerant ideologies, rather than actually helping animals.

5.  Deceptive or ill informed media manipulation and/or fund raising. This is another area that hurts the cause of “Animal Rights”and another action that hurts innocent “Animal Welfare” workers and organizations as well as animals.

6.  Irrational “No Kill” Shelters. Ones that keep animals alive at any cost, even old animals that are suffering, so they can serve as symbols for these shelters. I am sure that if some of these animals could have written a “Living Will” they would have taken the option of “End my suffering” just as many Humans do.

7.  Suggesting that man made animals be exterminated as being unnatural.  This being most domesticated species.

8.  Pushing people to become Vegans or Vegetarians. True, people should eat less meat, but millions of cattle, pigs, etc. would be slaughtered NOW if we were all to suddenly stop eating meat.


It should be said that animal rights groups do have many positive traits and have done a lot to reduce cruelty to animals, but they should not be confused with animal welfare groups.

An example of an Animal Rights group is PETA however there are more extreme animal rights groups, and example of an Animal Welfare group is the SPCA or Humane Society.

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Comments (3)

Great points Brenda. Too bad I ran out of votes but I buzzed it up :)

All great points. I think the hardest thing that I crapple with is the spay/neuter concept. I mean, what bothers me about it, is that we are altering their natural biological systems and it very clearly changes their characteristics, natural instincts and bodies. Is that not as bad as declawing? Not to mention they don't get the choice of it in that matter. It'd be like taking your kids to the doctors to get them fixed without considering that they might not want or need to have that done. Then again, I am also on the other side of the fence that way pets are bred and mistreated, as are there way to many of the offspring of those animals that are left to die or be euthenized when there isn't enough room for them. It's a double edged sword. Like it's okay to own a pet, but not a person? If it weren't for the cars and people, I'd let my dogs out like the cats. To roam as they please, and stay if they like, not because they have to. But since that's not possible these days, I at least try to make sure my animal companions are safe, happy and loved. They seem to be pretty happy with it (I hope). Very interesting article! I love your points, to the best that we can get at this point in time. It'll have to be left up to time travel to fix the rest, lol.

one thing about spaying or neutering is that pets also do not have the choice TO BE spayed or neutered, not all want to be parents, some kill, or abandon, their offspring, and some are bred so many times their lives are shortened. Many animals are FORCED to breed. Female and male animals are ruled by hormones driving them to do things they dont know the result of. Because spaying and neutering reduces some cancer risks and other problems I dont think my cats minded it one bit!