Monday, November 8, 2010

Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare - Revisited

I usually don't blog about my blog but since there was so much feedback posted in various places on my last entry I thought I'd try to clear up a few misunderstandings.

A few people thought I was anti-vegan, and anti-vegetarian. Not true at all! Some of my best friends are vegetarians and vegans. They are also smart enough to know that in the world of politics there are times to flaunt it and times to not flaunt it.

Some people commented that my definitions were too general or too simplistic. Agreed. That was my goal. It's a blog. I don't have a lot of time to capture people's attention and make a point. I ended the paragraph with one sentence that I thought covered the bases pretty well. "There are also varying levels of extremism within the groups. "

To any moderate animal rights advocates that would like a different definition - please come up with one, plus a new name and then educate the media, the politicians and the lobbyists on the difference between you and the extremists. That would help immensely. Because - let me make one thing perfectly clear - when even the hint of the phrase "animal rights" appears on the radar screen of the lobby groups that oppose us - they spring into action to squash our well-intentioned bills.

If you don't believe me, read the KC Dog Blog last week. Whether you were for or against Proposition B in Missouri, the effect that the lobbyists and special interest groups had on the bill was humbling. One glance at the map shows that they were able to convince the rural population of Missouri to vote no on Proposition B. It passed with 51.6 percent of the vote, but only because the urban population pulled it through. I saw a copy of an "action alert" that was circulated by opposition to the bill a few weeks ago. The phrase "animal rights" was mentioned no less than five times. The people that voted "no" are not dog-hating people that are "for" puppy mills. These are people that have been convinced that their farming lifestyle and individual rights will be taken away from them.

When it is not a ballot initiative - it's the legislators that vote on the bill. And they want to please the majority of their constituents. In states where the economy relies heavily on agriculture, like here in Wisconsin, we'd better not be aligned with a vegetarian or vegan agenda. Just ain't gonna happen in the land of milk and cheese.

That doesn't mean we can't get good positive animal welfare laws passed. We just have to be smart about it.

Another point I was trying to make - as the holiday season approaches - our mailboxes are full of requests for donations - many with pictures of cute kittens and puppies on the front. I was hoping to educate readers on making sure they are giving to organizations whose beliefs align with their own- whatever they may be. It can be hard to navigate through the hype. But credible organizations will clearly state their intent - whether it be animal welfare, animal protection or animal rights. If you can't find their intent in an "about us" or "mission statement" it should raise a red flag.

Thanks for all the comments - good and bad. Creative thinking and lively discussion produces new ideas which can save lives.  And that's what I'm trying to do. I do appreciate names, and usually won't reply to anonymous comments.


  1. Kathy - I do enjoy reading your posts. One thought I want to add is this: if we let the opposition dictate who can and cannot advocate for animal-friendly legislation, they have already won. That is a great tactic, isn't it? At Heartland Farm Sanctuary, we have friends who are animal farmers, who eat meat, who are vegetarian, who are vegan, who have worked for PETA, and who are at the farthest end of the animal rights spectrum. Let's embrace everyone and the resources they can offer to help animals!

  2. I didn't read the first entry on this blog...but I must say after reading this...I perfectly understand what you are saying, and it makes A LOT of sense....! I never thought about the "Animal Rights" and how people may perceive that differently than helping dogs in a puppy mill..because how could only 51 percent vote for that bill ?? The other 49 percent certainly didn't understand what it truly was, or that bill would have passed with flying colors! You have already educated ME on the importance of being educated ~ it does take a little more time and effort, but NOTHING that really matters comes easily!!! Thanks Kathy :)

  3. It was an incredible week to say the least! A small / large milestone on a very hard path - hard if we try to dictate rather than appeal to the broader good. As you say, there is probably not ONE member of the rural community in Missouri who would support the horrors that are puppy mills. But the language we use is key - and allowed the opposition to paint the Proposition as threatening their livelihoods.
    My dad, a cattle rancher in Alberta, was 100% for animal welfare - he raised his Herefords with love and kindness. Hard to fathom, I'm sure, when viewed from the extreme edges of our animal advocacy movements. It is his example that is largely responsible for me becoming first a vegetarian and then a vegan.
    You are absolutely right in letting us know that we need to listen and position our arguments for the best possible success.
    I also heartily second Dana's comment that we need to work together for our animal companions - the dog in the shelter who is at risk does not care if someone from the HSUS, ASPCA or another animal agency saves his life and provides a home for him.
    Incredible when our goals are EXACTLY THE SAME [saving lives] that we'd allow language and posturing to impede our progress.
    Keep up the awesome work, Kathy! And [to quote Billy Bragg] take the crunchy w. the smooth! ;)