In an age of media sound bites, the distinction between animal welfare vs animal rights is often lost. Many people who think that animal rights is a reasonable belief system often fail to understand it and all of its implications to people, the environment and the animals. This mini essay is an attempt to help people distinguish between the two opposed ideologies.
Animal Welfare proponents believe that humans have the right to utilize animals for their own purposes. This means that animals can be eaten, trapped, hunted, fished, ranched, used as pets, taken for zoos and used in medical research. Animal welfare proponents care about how the animal is being treated. They wish to see humans use animals with due care and diligence. They don't believe that animals should be tortured nor caused undue suffering. This perspective understands that not all forms of animal harvest is painless.
Nevertheless, it does argue that if a harvest method is efficient (both practically and economically), safe, and causes less pain and suffering, then humans should adopt the new technique or equipment.
However, we must understand that animals are different than humans. Animal welfare believes that racing dogs in the Iditerod race is morally acceptable provided the dogs receive due attention to their health needs. Another tendency with those who accept this philosophy is the belief that animals in nature are better understood from a species perspective. Thus animal welfare proponents ask how does a particular action affect the species rather than this particular animal.
Animal welfare proponents also don't believe that Native American Hunting Culture is evil. Animal welfare proponents believe the hunting/gathering culture is something that should be cherished and enjoyed. Animal rights activists, truly can't say this as demonstrated by their protests of Indian whale hunts etc.
There are many different kinds of philosophies under the animal rights banner. On the conservative end you have traditional animal rights. Animal rights proponents believe that animals have as many rights or similar rights to humans. They believe that animal rights logically flows from acceptance of human rights. One of their mottos is, don't ask if they reason but ask only if they suffer. Since animals can feel pain, AR believes that it is unjust for humans to inflict that pain unless there are extreme and substantial justification for causing that pain, suffering and death. For example, humans are allowed to kill animals for self-preservation, as in a grizzly bear attacking you. Humans also can eat animals if there is no other food available.
But beyond those types of extreme exceptions, AR considers it immoral to utilize animals for humans even if the animal can be captured and killed without it suffering. Nor do they believe that some animals can be killed, or used and others can't. Thus, you can't kill rats any more than you can kill your dog. They believe that making differences between animals commits the moral sin of speciesism, which is a corollary in their view of racism. In specific terms this means that humans cannot morally eat, ranch, hunt, fish, trap, or experiment on animals. While there are varying stripes of animal rights activists, they will agree with these principles. Also, animal activists tend to see an animal as an individual. The question of what happens to the species is secondary to what happens to this particular creature. Just as humans are seen as individuals, AR activists believe animals should be accorded the same perspective. It is this belief that makes AR activists picket selective hunts where deer herds and reduced to prevent over grazing. AR activists believe that this is tantamount to murder.
At the extreme liberal end of the movement are the animal equalists who believe that in many ways animals are superior to humans and should take precedence over humans in all considerations. Many thanks to Wayne for this information.
Consider this quote from the HSUS booklet entitled Learn the Facts about Hunting: Answers to Commonly Asked Questions published in 1997.
On page 23, They respond to the question "Q. Don't hunters attempt to use
"humane" killing methods? A. The Humane Society of the United States believes
that causing needless suffering and death is by definition inhumane regardless
This quote demonstrates that the issues of suffering and pain are irrelevant even by their standards. For the HSUS, sport hunting will always be inhumane regardless of whether or not the animal suffers when being killed. This is classic animal rights talk. Animal rights activists will always claim that hunting is not necessary because we don't need to hunt for food anymore. They totally neglect the role that hunting has in human culture and attachment to the earth.
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Stephen M. Vantassel is a Certified Wildlife Control Professional and Academy Certified Professional. He is a nationally known writer including having been an assistant editor for Wildlife Control Technology magazine, author of numerous animal damage control articles as well as The Wildlife Removal Handbook 3rd ed. rev. and the Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook rev. ed. Dr. Vantassel is also a vocal critic of the growing animal rights movement. He has exposed the fallacies and deceptions of the animal rights protest industry through debate, lecture and publications. Dr. Vantassel is available for interviews, stories, debates, lectures, phone and on-site consultation and training, as well as expert testimony.
Animal rights activists protesting against those attending a trapping convention.