Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Animal Welfare - AR Lite?

Most of us are familiar with groups that consider themselves to be “Animal Rights” groups. PETA, HSUS, and the like. But most animal groups consider themselves to be concerned with animal welfare, not animal rights. These groups include ASPCAs, local humane societies, "rescues" and other groups

I propose that the difference between animal rights and animal welfare is merely a matter of degree.

Animal rightists don’t believe that people should have any involvement with animals in any way. No animal agriculture, no hunting or fishing, not even any pets. They don’t want to see people adversely affecting animals.

Animal welfare is a more insidious threat because the ideas are presented as more mainstream. No one wants animals to “suffer”, right? Therefore, we need a few laws on the books to prevent that. The animal welfarists, just like the animal rightists, wish to prevent people from adversely affecting animals

Animal welfare has been defined through any of the following concepts:

• Prohibition of dog fighting, and banning of breeds deemed "dangerous"

• Prohibition of tail docking

• Prohibition of ear cropping

• Prohibition of vocal cordectomy (commonly called “debarking”)

• Prescriptive care standards for housing, food, water, exercise and grooming

• Promotion of spay/neuter

• In my case, avoidance of spay/neuter!

• Prohibition of dewclaw removal

• Establishment of breed standards

• Kind treatment in animal shelters

• Euthanasia in shelters as a necessary evil

• Establishment of breeding criteria (age, number of litters, and the like)

• Limiting how many animals one can legally own

• Expectation of health testing of breeding stock

• Prohibition of crossbreeding

• Prohibition of inbreeding

• Limiting registrations, whether for cause or arbitrarily

• Tethering limits

Even such activities as dog racing, dog sledding, and other traditional pursuits are sometimes considered abusive and contrary to animal welfare.

So, exactly how far should the tenets of animal welfare extend into our lives? How much outsider intervention in animal husbandry is acceptable?

While I am sympathetic to many of the above “animal welfare” proposals, I am adamantly opposed to the government or anyone else attempting to force their ideals regarding care standards on the rest of society.

Dogs and cats are what’s for dinner in some countries. That’s not an appetizing picture to me, but I’m sure some people in other countries feel differently. When you consider that the overwhelming majority of people in western culture revere and adore their dogs and cats, we're really not hard-hearted and bereft of animal welfare concerns after all is said and done.


  1. I've noticed how people like to define animal rights and animal welfare and to draw a distinction between the two. It's rubbish! Animals are deserving of some rights. Different people believe in different rights, so really there is a huge spectrum of what animal welfare and animal rights means.

    1. You are correct, drawing a distinction is rubbish; however, animals are not "deserving of some rights". Rights are a human concept and reserved for people. Check out my post "Why Animals Don't Have Rights".