Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare 101: A Crash Course for Legislators

I recently wrote a letter to Congresswoman Karen Bass (CA) explaining my reasons for opposing the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act.  Either a failure to read or understand the content of my letter, led her to reply as follows:

Karen Bass, Great Ape Protection and Savings Act, animal rights, animal research, animal welfare
Letter from Rep. Karen Bass

I am not sure if the congresswoman is indeed an advocate of animal rights, or if she simply does not understand the difference between the animal rights and animal welfare positions. I would surely like to know. But before she explains her position, and for the benefit of all legislators out there, let me clarify again what the terms mean.

Animal rights is based on the notion humans owe equal moral concern for all sentient, living beings, from a worm, to a mouse, to a human.  It insists all living beings have the same basic right to live in freedom. The position holds that species membership is not morally relevant, meaning that we must be prepared to treat a mouse in the same way as a mentally impaired human being with similar capacities. According to the animal rights position, animals have a right not to be used by humans for any purpose whatsoever.

Animal welfare is based on the notion that we owe moral consideration to all living beings, but not equally.  That our moral concern ought to be graded according to each species’ capacity for suffering.  That all living beings must be treated humanely and without unnecessary suffering.  In this view, there are cases where the interests of humans and non-human animals conflict where it is morally permissible to decide in favor of human beings.  Such as their use to advance medical knowledge and human (and non-human) health.

Are you an animal rights proponent?

Now, with these brief definitions at hand, here is a quick test to determine if you are an animal rights advocate.

Does a mouse deserve the same moral consideration as any other member of your family?  If not, why not?  (Animal rights answer: Yes)

Are there any situations where you may justify any harm to an animal based on the benefits it produces to the human and non-human animal population? (Example: the development and production of vaccines.) (Animal rights answer: No)

Do you consider your ownership of a dog equivalent to owning a slave? (Animal rights answer: Yes)

Do you consider Jonas Salk’s experiments leading to the development of the Polio vaccine to be morally equivalent to the experiments of Nazi doctors on Jews in concentration camps?  (Animal rights answer: Yes)

Do you support the use of animals to advance medical knowledge and human health funded by the National Institutes of Health? (Animal rights answer: No)

Do you believe rights arise from mutually agreed responsibilities and obligations that result from a social contract among members of a society of equals? (Animal rights answer: No)

If so, do you think all living beings can participate as members of our moral community?  (Animal rights answer: Well…  but what about the mentally disabled?)

Are you a vegan? (Animal rights answer: Yes, of course. After all, all animals have the same right to life and freedom as we do. Eating a chicken would be the same as eating my neighbor.)

Did your answers match those of the animal rights position? If so, you can declare yourself an animal rights proponent and present yourself as such to your constituents.  If not, you probably recognize there are ethical dilemmas in life that are complex and not so easily resolved by declaring all animals to have the same basic rights as humans. You are an animal welfarist and you should make that clear to your voters as well.

One last point — these positions are mutually exclusive; they are not philosophical positions that can be reconciled in any meaningful way.  You cannot pretend to be an animal welfarist one day and an animal rights proponent another. You have to make up your mind.

19 thoughts on “Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare 101: A Crash Course for Legislators

  1. I read this above about animal welfare:

    “Animal welfare is based on the notion that we owe moral consideration to all living beings, but not equally.
    That our moral concern ought to be graded according to each species’ capacity for suffering.
    That all living beings must be treated humanely and without unnecessary suffering.
    In this view, there are cases where the interests of humans and non-human animals conflict where it is morally permissible to decide in favor of human beings.
    Such as their use to advance medical knowledge and human (and non-human) health.”

    I think these premises are scandalous. Moral concern is here made dependent of one’s capacity of suffering! This is an abuse of Jeremy Bentham’s statement that all living beings have the capacity to suffer. He meant to say that for example not one’s intelligence is distinctive, as was and is held by many uneducated people.

    Having said this, to my opinion the leading principle furthermore should be caring, doing well. At least respecting.
    Animals should not be abused for human purposes. As PETA formulates: “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any way.”

    A criminal person should be punished all right. But (s)he should not be taken to death.
    Even more so the suspect should not be tortured, as we (almost) all agree.

    Civilisation sets limits to our emotions. Disease is as much a threat as is crime.
    However serious and defying it may be, it cannot justify sacrificing living beings for it. Neither people whatever their status may be, nor animals.
    We have to cope with it in an intelligent, civilised way. I believe we are able to it.

  2. Another point to consider is that animal rights leaders like Peter Singer advocate the reason for giving animals rights is that we too are animals and we are just another animal in the world. But this then means we should act like animals and eat what we want as all living things eat other living things. But rights are not given they are assumed by those who are willing to reciprocate those rights to others, thus, we have laws that we abide by in dealing with other human beings even from different cultures. But no animal can ever reciprocate that agreement. The lion will never not kill to eat and a house cat will never stop killing and torturing wildlife. So the idea of giving rights is a false premise. You cannot give rights you can only take your rights by agreeing to reciprocate those rights to others. No reciprocation and society falls apart and we become animals in the means of protecting ourselves and our food. A lion cannot reciprocate those rights neither can any animal. As for the mentally disabled human being we extend those rights only because they are human. We extend those rights under the agreement that if we as individuals become disabled we will not be eaten by other human beings. It does not mean that these human beings must be able to reciprocate those rights, but that some human beings got together to decide how they wanted to be treated as human beings should they become disabled. Giving those rights to animals who never could reciprocate and in actuality are a food source for human beings is in fact going against the rights we human beings agreed to reciprocate to each other. We as individuals may extend our own feelings toward other species but that does not mean we all do or should because then you are working against the rights of other human beings to their food source. By saying there is some omnivores dilemma regarding food choice is taking away the rights of all human beings to a biologically required food source that cannot be duplicated by another food source. Active VB12 is only found in meat products and cannot be manufactured except from those meat products. Inactive VB12 comes from a few plants but it is called inactive because the human body cannot use it to move nutrients into brain cells. In the past two years 16 infants from vegan parents died of malnutrition because their parents were so irrational they refused to follow their Doctor’s advice to feed these children milk. Many of these parents are sitting in jail. This new philosophy is extremely dangerous to all and even worse you have vegan researchers putting out fake studies to support this extreme diet. You have animal rights groups making up quotes from famous dead people to support their point of view. Being a vegetarian is different as some meat products are consumed. Variation and Moderation in eating is the key to health not extreme diet restrictions which can cause a host of problems. Our brains require ACTIVE VB12 in order to bring other nutrients into our cells. Remember a cult is identified by the very act of denying you high quality protein as a food source.

  3. I think another good question to ask is: Do you believe animals require an environment cleaner and more sanitary than that required for your child/children to live in and that animals be required to live in air conditioned buildings when many humans don’t? The animal rights answer is “Yes”

    Example: If a cobweb, a piece of kibble in the water or on the floor or your kennel building is not air conditioned, a lid left off a food storage container while feeding animals, etc., are reasons to be cited, fined and have animals seized. Your children and family are safe with a cobweb in the corner of your home, if your toddler mixes food in their drink and drops it on the floor while eating, you leave lids off containers while preparing food, or can’t afford air conditioning in hot weather. In this sense, animal rights groups have pushed legislation to raise the rights of animals ABOVE those of humans.

  4. OK, it looks like I have something to fix because this thing is calling me “animalculture” in replies and “Thomas Kirby” when I start a topic.I don’t use this account very often and I don’t how to get it to stop doing that.

  5. Animal rights oriented groups are also suing federal agencies and if the agency doesn’t have the manpower or time to properly deal with these lawsuits, the ARs win and then claim our tax dollars as a payout for their win. One example of a frivolous lawsuit brought by one group is the lawsuit to force USFWS to re-introduce into Arizona and other parts of the Southwest Thickbilled parrots. Many hundreds of years ago the Thickbilled parrot was found there. It does not matter that the parrot is likely not in the area now due to severe changes in the environment which now does not provide the habitat which would include appropriate food items, so the parrot has left those areas.

  6. Further questions for you

    “Should blind people be able to get assistance from guide/seeing eye dogs?” Animal rights answer: No.

    “What should happen to a wild animal receiving a serious injury?” Animal rights answer: “It should get the same care as a human, including tax payer funded care if that’s what humans get”.

    “Should animals get the vote?” Animal rights answer…ermmm…maybe, errm, but if animals can’t vote, humans shouldn’t be able to vote, errr, I think”.

    1. True on the first couple of points… In fairness, nobody is asking animals to vote, but to exercise what they believe are their same basic rights we (humans) agree we have by means of social contract. The point is that animals cannot participate as moral agents in a community of equals.

      1. They are asking that various groups such as ALDF be allowed to sue on behalf of animals. That would be disastrous for any animal user who you care to name. Such groups are already filing frivolous suits and private prosecutions that have devastated families and businesses.

        1. True. There are many efforts to give legal standing to animals. I guess it will be all over when your dog can sue you… or when the bees will sue you for taking away their honey. Or the trees will sue you…

    1. No groups are targeted here. This is a simple explanation for legislators to understand the what the terms mean and explain what their position is to their constituents.

      1. I don’t think I said that you were targeting any groups. The animal rights people, and a lot of people who use the phrases “animal welfare” and “animal protection” are into pedaling power by hurting people. That’s the difference between animal extremism and animal welfare.

  7. I’m betting you just got a standard form letter from some staff member. As a child I sent a letter to President Reagan complaining about crime in my neighborhood (not that the LA neighborhood of Westchester was high in crime at that time), but I got back a letter explaining his commitment to world peace through reduction of nuclear weapons. I didn’t care about the whole world! Just my little corner of it.

    1. I don’t doubt this is a standard form letter, but it is supposed to represent the views of the Congresswoman. Thus, it is important for her (for us) to understand where she stands on the issue. Is she an animal rights advocate as she writes or not?

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