One of the biggest misunderstandings I come across in my daily travels is with the definitions of animal welfare and animal rights. I'm going to share with you an easy explanation that was given to me over twenty years ago and has stuck with me ever since.
Animal welfare advocates are concerned about the physical and psychological well-being of animals whether they are used for food, profit or pets. They want to ensure that animals are treated in a humane, compassionate manner.
Animal rights advocates would like to see the rights of animals elevated to the same status as humans. They do not believe that animals should be used for food or profit and would like to see the liberation of domesticated species. They often do not believe in the keeping of animals as pets.
Best Friends Animal Society is an example of an animal welfare organization.
PETA is an example of an animal rights organization.
There are many other groups and organizations that may or may not clearly state their intent and/or agenda. There are also varying levels of extremism within the groups.
I am an animal welfare advocate. I believe that all animals, including livestock and those raised for other profit-driven industries, should be treated compassionately and we should continually strive to improve their living conditions. This is one of the signs of a progressive society.
Many journalists do not know the difference and will lump all animal groups under one umbrella. This makes it increasingly difficult to present a fair and reasonable argument for anti-cruelty laws - especially when farming and hunting lobby groups can portray that you are leading them down the slippery slope to vegetarianism (no meat) and vegan ism (no meat, dairy or any animal products). It is always a good idea to make a phone call or write a polite letter to the editor if you see the term misused in the media.
I urge you to read any literature soliciting donations that comes to your mailbox carefully. Read between the lines, check the mission statements of the organizations and make sure that you are sending your hard-earned money to a group that matches your beliefs.
Whatever you believe , do it with passion - you are the voice of the animals we love.
The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
- Mohandas Gandhi