Tag Archives: philosophy

Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare [TNR = Trap, Neuter, Re-Abandon]

11 Aug

Last time, we talked about semantics.  The Humane Society (HSUS), is not associated with your local shelter, and a very small amount of their money is granted to any shelter.  The vast majority of HSUS funds are kept for its own agenda (27).  I told you we would discuss what the primary agenda of HSUS is if it’s not the rescue of dogs and cats. 

Before we get into that, lets review animal rights vs. animal welfare, because the difference will become pertinent to this discussion, and the following posts as well.  Important note:  These terms are politically and emotionally charged so I tried to get (extra!)-valid sources, and I also tried to find a source aligned with each respective side for their own definition.  Because both sides of the ethical divide believe their philosophy is the most sensical and humane, there was a decided slant when they defined the opposing view.  I also tried to do very minimal editing, just changing slight things so the sentences flow, but never the meaning.

An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress. Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter, management, nutrition, humane handling, and humane slaughter. Animal welfare refers to the state of the animal; the treatment that an animal receives is covered by other terms such as animal care, animal husbandry, and humane treatment.1 Protecting an animal’s welfare means providing for its physical and mental needs.

  1. https://www.avma.org/resources/animal-health-welfare/animal-welfare-what-it

I think it’s fair to say that many people believe that animal welfare and animal rights are one and the same. And while there is definitely some overlap, from a technical perspective, as I alluded to above, they are actually opposing viewpoints.

Believe it or not, the definition of animal rights is actually very difficult to nail down, depending on if you ask a lawyer, an animal rights advocate, or a philosopher.

But we can stick to defining it at one core principle any person would agree with- animal rights concerns itself, in large part, with the notion of the legal entitlements of [non-human] animals that pertain to giving that animal:

  • An independent life and thus the freedom to pursue its activities as it chooses to do so within a set legal framework.
  • At the very least, basic considerations and rights (on par with similar human ones) that would allow them to avoid needless suffering.

Affording rights to animals is not about letting them do whatever they want or allowing them every single right a person has, but it is about allowing them to have the possession of their own life and the avoidance of suffering that may be imposed upon them by humans.

With respect to this and current law, an animal is not a legal person. Your dog is technically a piece of property and not its own legal entity, as a human would be. In other words, your pet dog is closer to having the legal status of the chair you sit on than it does a person.  [Animal rights activists] are for the right of an animal to choose its own destiny much like a person can. Animal rights is about ensuring humans cannot use animals in many of the same ways they once did (and still do) use slaves. It’s about giving animals the right to their own destiny, a destiny that’s not chosen, by and large, by someone or something else.

                       28). https://study.com/academy/lesson/animal-rights-ethics-arguments.html

My takeaway points:

Animal welfare is observable, measurable, and evidence-based.  It is (supposed to be) practiced by all entities that work with animals in any capacity.

Animal rights is a philosophy, and it is difficult to implement or measure because historically that is not how our system has been built.  Animal rights is more of an ideal and future goal.

In my opinion, the largest difference between animal welfare and rights is the use of animals.  The animal rights side does not believe humans should be engaging with animals for research, work, entertainment, food–nothing. Animal welfare proponents acknowledges that society already uses animals for a multitude of things.

It’s a judgement call where you stand, and your decision has implications for the rest of our discussion.  So next time (promise!) we will talk about what HSUS wants to accomplish as an organization.