Monday, 16 March 2015

Animal Rights vs Animal Welfare

I've obviously been living under a rock for the whole of my life – because it wasn't until recently, during an online debate regarding this article that the issue came up. I've written this I suppose as a reference source for when it comes up again and I can just link to it, it's simpler that way.

I have always had a deep love and respect for animals – and over the past ten years or so, that love has extended to me becoming what I would describe as an Animal Welfare Advocate.

In the article above, I said “Even one dog suffering is one dog too many.”

When the article was posted on a popular canine welfare Facebook Page that one phrase was interpreted by a few as “extremist”.

In fact I was bombarded with:

“"Even one dog suffering is one too many" is a noble sentiment, but it's also the mantra of organizations who would like to see the end of dog ownership, period.”


“I detect an ‘animal rights’ gist in it.”


“…seen nature lately? While we do not need to be cruel to our domestic animals, there are plenty of things that are routinely done that would most likely bother you - like docking, restraining for vaccination, clipping hooves/nails.... what does twig off your cruelty meter? Do you eat meat? Do you have a problem with a dog on a leash? What is your agenda?”


“…I don't like extremism and fairy-tale stupidity informing people on real world issues. This post smacked of an AR agenda and stupid idealism, and oh, guess what, the author is of that ilk.”

Woah! Slow down cowgirl!

I had never once made any real distinction between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare. Rather naïve of me I suppose – but, there’s never been a need. I didn't slot myself into any one category, and I’m far too busy actually getting on with it, to sit and worry about who is and isn't a militant. I’m just a person who gives a shit.

The issue has never arisen with my colleagues either, or my friends – and, as I am not a member of any activist organisation or network, I hadn't really thought about it. I just do what I do.

In that same conversation, I was asked if I am ‘Animal Rights’ – and my response is yes. Yes I am for animal rights - the rights of animals. That doesn't make me an Animal Rights Activist (per se)  I am neither a militant or saboteur  – but I am someone who doesn't want to see animals suffer and do a good deal of work to help lessen the suffering when I can (and happily do it, I’m not looking for praise - let’s just stop that train right there.)

The BBC (for wont of any other place to go) defines Animal Rights activists as those who:

“…believe that it is morally wrong to use or exploit animals in any way and that human beings should not do so.”

It defines Animal Welfarists as those who:

“…believe that it can be morally acceptable for human beings to use or exploit animals, as long as: the suffering of the animals is either eliminated or reduced to the minimum and there is no practicable way of achieving the same end without using animals.”

Well, for the purposes of clarification, I’m neither one nor the other.

I do not believe any animal should suffer for human gain –  but, I’m not opposed to us working with animals to achieve a goal, as long as that animal doesn't suffer.

Yes, that is an idealistic hope – and I’m very well aware it is not possible. But I’d rather set the bar high and work towards it.

However (let’s just run with this example) - had I been around in the First World War; whilst it would have broken my heart to see the horses to suffer as they did, I’m not naïve enough to believe that we would have gotten through that war without them.

I believe that yes, they had rights to be treated fairly, humanely, have shelter, and proper welfare in place – but, when the people weren't getting that either – then there was no hope was there? It sticks in my throat to say it, but of course the horses had to suffer – we needed them.

Do I condone it? Given a choice, no. Do I understand it was necessary? Yes.

And of course I don’t want to see the end of companion animals – what a ludicrous thought! Why on earth would I write a blog called ‘Pet Chronicles’ and claim that it celebrates them, if I thought that companion animals shouldn't be part of daily life?

Yes I do understand there are times when animals do suffer for human gain.

I am not an entire moron!

"Animal welfare celebrates the bond between animals and humans; animal rights wants to sever that bond." 

I think it's pretty clear where I stand on the subject.

So, if you’re here to figure out what my “agenda” is – I'm sorry to disappoint, but there really isn't one. I’m just not clever enough to play games. All I’d like is to see the end of cruelty – for all animals (humans included). I don’t really believe that is achievable, I might have idealist aspirations, but I most definitely live in the real world.

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  1. Oh, blinkin' well said there! Surely, anyone with half a brain cell can read and see what side of the debate you are on. Also, those who KNOW you, and of the work you do, KNOW you dream of a pain-free world for ALL animals.

  2. Cora, I just think you stumbled into a sea of sensitivity because of what's happening in the US where the animal rights lobby is really strong - notably led be PeTA which has publicly stated that it believes dog ownership is "slavery". They might be laughed out of the room here in the UK, but they have traction in the US and breeders there - even good ones - feel very threatened.

    So within the dog world, there is a distinction. I was labelled an "animal rightsist" by many for Pedigree Dogs Exposed, with many people convinced that I wanted to get rid of purebred dogs - whereas in reality I think many (if not all) of our dog breeds are something to celebrate; it's just that we need them a LOT healthier.

    I wouldn't take it too personally; you just weren't aware of the depth of feeling - and particular the fear that animal rights, ultimately, will lead to us losing dogs as the amazing, beautiful, treasured companions they are.

    1. Hi Jemima, thanks for your thoughts. You were right in the post to say that I might not be aware of the distinction between US vs UK and Animal Rights. I really wasn't. I suppose I was a little dumbfounded by the diatribe that ensued - and disappointed I suppose that the gist of the original post had been lost to make way for mud-slinging.

      I say it often - opinion is wonderful and debate crucial. But we'll just be spinning in circles if we can't get some kind of balance going on. All it showed me is that there are extremists on both sides.

      I've dipped a toe into your world - and cor it aint 'alf icy! But, I happen to agree with you and what you're trying to achieve. I don't really care what title I'm tagged with, but the tagging has to be based on some truth, or even evidence.

      It seems we're (by that I mean those who have a real interest in animal welfare) are going to continue chasing our tails - with so many willing to put on the boxing gloves whilst blinding themselves to the fact that maybe, some of those they're fighting are actually on the same side.

      It's all good learning though :)

  3. I think some people are suffering from a fondness for the straw man fallacy.


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