The issue concerning the philosophies of both animal welfare and animal rights are best known to people who make use of animals in the entertainment industry, recreation as well as sports. As the world is fast migrating from agricultural roots to an existence that is more urban, it has become imperative to create a clear distinction between animal rights and animal welfare. There have been several public debates on animal produce like fur which have been greatly distorted by the two concepts. The two terms have similar sounds and have been frequently used interchangeably but they represent two profoundly distinct ideas.
Taking care of the welfare of the livestock we use for food and many other needs is quite different from assigning them the rights to certain things as many activist groups are currently proposing. If you are of the belief that domestic animals deserve to be treated kindly and spared unnecessary suffering, then that makes you an advocate of animal welfare. On the other hand, animal rights activists are of the opinion that animals should not be used by humans in any way at all, neither for food, sports, clothing, entertainment or anything at all. They propose that every form of livestock breeding should be completely closed down and animals should not be caged under any circumstances.
The concept of Animal Welfare can be explained as the need to apply gentle care as well as employ standard for animals in areas like research teaching, testing, and exhibition. Proponents of animal welfare believe that livestock is for the benefit of man as it provides humans with food, work, fiber, entertainment, companionship or by being used for education or biomedical research and thus human beings are charged with the moral obligations of making provisions for the well being of livestock.
Animal well-being includes such things like animal management, proper housing, disease prevention, control and treatment, gentle handling, responsible care and when it becomes absolutely necessary, humane mercy killing or euthanasia. It is clear that animal welfare advocates agree that humans have the right to use animals, seek to improve their treatment as well as well-being.
On the other hand, Animal Rights is based on the philosophical view saying that animals should have similar, if not the same rights with human beings. Thus, the advocates of animal rights do not place any distinction between animals and humans. They are of the belief that human beings have no right whatsoever to make use of animals and this includes the use of such domestic animals like cats and dogs as pets and companions. No matter how kind a human might be to an animal, animal rights activists totally reject every form of animal use, tagging it as some kind of exploitation and thus calls for the immediate prohibition of all use of animals by humans. According to the submissions of one prominent animal rights activist, he does not even believe humans have more rights to life than animals.
The Distinction Between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare
We will further look at a few examples that distinguish animal rights from animal welfare:
- Consuming animal produce
Supporters of animal welfare have been hard at work for the past century to make sure that livestock provides humanity with good nourishment in the form of meat, eggs, dairy products and many more. Their efforts have given rise to humane-slaughter policies as well as many other provisions targeted at minimizing suffering and stress for animals. It is still a continuing procedure, for instance, while modern methods of production have succeeded in making animal protein a bit more affordable for consumers, advancing healthy brain development in the younger generation, they have also gone ahead to raise new animal-welfare challenges.
Conversely, animal-rights activists are not interested in seeking better conditions for livestock; instead, they are vehemently opposed to all forms of killings and consumption of animal produce irrespective of how gently the killing is done. They have their goals openly stated out and it includes the closing down of every animal farm and to put a stop to the consumption of meat, eggs, fish, dairy and every other animal produce – even the honey we get from bees. Their demand is for everyone to go the vegetarian way, arguing that the so-called animal-welfare improvements only functions to justify, what according to them, is not justifiable (Killing of animals).
- Wearing garments made from Fur, Leather, Silk as well as Wool
Supporters of animal welfare work to make sure that those animals which provide us with feather, fur, skin and many other raw materials are handled as gently as possible and their suffering should be reduced to the barest minimum. Their efforts have given rise to a global-leading trap-study or research program of North America as well as the development of other aspects like regulations of practice for livestock breeders who operate fur farms.
In opposition, campaigners for animal rights totally reject the use of any form of animal products for clothing and accessories. In many of their campaigns, they frequently exhibit instances of shocking abuse against leather, fur, silk, wool and the likes – which sometimes look as if they care about animal welfare – whereas this major goal is neither better standards nor regulations. Their belief is that human beings shouldn’t have the right to make use of animals at all, which in essence, means no more furs, leather, cashmere, silk or down.
- Owning or keeping Pets and animal companion
Proponents of animal welfare are of the opinion that owning or keeping an animal as a pet is a privilege which comes with a plethora of responsibilities. Those who love to keep animals as companions have to provide them with shelter, food and proper care which ensure a good level of well-being.
On the opposing side, activists for animal rights see any form of pet ownership as blatant slavery. In the activist’s Brave New World, we will see no more dogs, cats, bunnies, hamsters, or any other pets. Besides, kill-rate currently experienced at the PETA’s shelter is rather shocking as it has been revealed that they choose to euthanize pets as opposed to getting new homes for them. They prefer to do this in spite of the fact that they receive above $50 million yearly from donors who care for the well being of those animals.
- Using Animals for Entertainment
Arrangements like circuses, zoos, racetracks and other related activities that make use of animals for entertainment are under obligation by the law to ensure that they respect the welfare of the animals they use by providing them with appropriate shelter, nutrition, and care.
In contrast, animal-rights activists believe that all such activities should be banned. If they are given a leeway, then animals will be immediately removed from the zoos, circuses and the racetracks. Activities like horseback riding and dog shows will come to an immediate end. They don’t even seem to acknowledge the work undertaken by zoos that advocate breeding programs for those species that are fast going into extinction.
- Using Animals for Medical Research
Over the years, animal welfare supporters have been making efforts to ensure that the animals used for medical research are responsibly cared for. The “3-Rs” entails that whenever it becomes possible, animals should be replaced with other techniques in the research process, and researchers should reduce the number of animals used to achieve their research objectives to the barest minimum and also refine their experimenting methods to reduce suffering. Researches must show justifications that the benefits of any experiment they conduct using animals cannot be obtained any other way.
Despite the benefits of using animals for medical research, the proponents of animal rights want an immediate ban to be placed on the practice. They also do not acknowledge the implications of their position which is very broad, considering that (whether good or bad) animal research plays a role in nearly all medical advancement we have experienced in the last century both for human and vet health. Practically all recent protocols for preventing, treating, curing and control of pain, disease, and suffering are based on knowledge obtained via research with lab animals. However, this does not seem to impress the animal-rights advocates in any way, according to Ingrid Newkirk who is the founder of PETA, they would still be against the use of animals in research even if it produces a cure for HIV.
- Animals at Work
It has been an age-old practice for people to put animals to work in different ways – oxen and horses have been used to work the field as well as pull loads, pigs are used to uproot truffles, and there are services dogs put to several functions like sniffing out explosives like bombs. Also, donkeys are used in some countries for dragging sleds and falcons can be used to take down any meddling drones. Animal welfare demands that people who work with such animals take care of their daily needs and these concerns are all codified in policies. However, the goal of the animal-rights activist is to stop this relationship that human beings have long-established and enjoyed with animals.
In conclusion, while “animal welfare supporters are of the opinion that animals enrich lives in many ways, animal-rights activist denies that human beings have any right whatsoever to use animals for their own ends.