I, like most people who choose to homestead or have small farms, feel strongly that animals should be treated ethically and humanely. That is part of why I want to produce as much of my own food — especially animal-derived food — as possible. But that does not mean that I support “animal rights.”
I think it’s important that, when we discuss issues of caring for animals ethically, we don’t confuse animal rights with basic humane practices. Believing that animals should be treated with kindness, respect, and care does not mean that we believe in animal rights. If you think you are pro-animal rights, I encourage to read on to the end of the post and reconsider your stance. You may find that, like me, the animal rights agenda is something you cannot support.
While I don’t support the animal rights movement, I DO support animal welfare.
What’s the difference between animal rights and animal welfare, you ask? Well, there are several and they are very important. Here are some of the basic differences between animal rights and animal welfare practices and beliefs:
– is against the ownership of animals for any reason, including personal pets, livestock, or animals in zoos. This is a hidden agenda in some ways, and likely many animal rights activists would not believe this to be the case for themselves. However, the actions and statements of animal rights organizations proves it to be true. The ideal animal rights world view is one in which animals live in the wild uninterrupted by human interference, and humans live lives devoid of direct ownership of or interaction with animals.
– is against animals having jobs. This includes things like all-important livestock guardian dogs, police horses, seeing eye dogs, therapy animals, cattle horses, police dogs, and the like. This also includes hobby jobs such as horseback riding and rodeo.
– is against all uses of animal-derived products. This includes meat as well as dairy products, eggs, wool, fiber, leather, and other animal products. It does not believe that livestock agriculture can ever be a humane practice.
– uses lies and propaganda to further its agenda. This picture below of a fake “bloody” lamb is a prime example. Anyone with knowledge of sheep knows a few things to be true: 1. Sheep are in no way harmed during shearing. They are typically sheared once or twice a year and the process is no more harmful than shaving any other animal or human. 2. A lamb as young as the fake one pictured would not have enough wool to shear in the first place. Sheep are sheared only once their wool has grown for several months, and most are sheared for the first time around 1 year of age. 3. Damaging a lamb in such a way would not only damage the wool with blood stains and pieces of tissue, it would cause the animal to need additional time to heal, and would cost the farmer money as well. (This is all not to mention the exploitation of women in their ads as well, using the “sex sells” approach.)
– anthropomorphizes animals into having human emotions, thoughts, and needs beyond what animals actually experience.
– is against pro-animal ownership organizations such as the American Kennel Club and agricultural organizations, including beneficial youth programs such as the FFA and 4H.
– is against breeding animals for any reason and wants all animals to be spayed or neutered.
– condone unethical actions toward humans who disagree with them, such as harassment, theft, and destruction of property. If you don’t believe it, just head to Google. PETA is particularly fond of harassment, bullying tactics, and destroying furs…while people are wearing them.
– is against hunting for any reason, including legal hunting for food purposes, and is against wildlife management.
– supports the ownership of animals for a variety of different reasons.
– believes that animals should be treated in a humane and ethical fashion and is against all forms of true abuse and neglect. It does not, however, label normal management practices — such as appropriate use of crates for dogs — as inhumane.
– believes in allowing animals to have jobs — such as guardian animals, police dogs, therapy animals, herding dogs, etc — and that doing so can be fulfilling for the animals as well as beneficial to humans.
– supports ethically-derived animal products such as meat, eggs, dairy, wool, fiber, fur, leather, and other products. Those who believe in animal welfare understand that animals can be utilized for food and other products while still being treated humanely and are supportive of farms and individuals humanely raising animals for food or fiber.
– shares the truth about animal agriculture and responsible ownership without being dishonest or dramatizing in an attempt to garner more followers. Granted there are bad apples in every bunch, but the overall culture of animal welfare is one that encourages honesty.
– understands that animals are not human and as such do not experience all of the complex emotions and thoughts that humans have. While knowing that animals do feel simple emotions such as pain and fear, animal welfare supporters also understand that animals do not grasp complicated thought processes in the same way as humans.
– supports beneficial organizations such as FFA, 4H, the Livestock Conservancy, and animal registries and clubs.
– supports responsible breeding of animals with the intent to improve or maintain a particular breed, a rare or endangered breed, or function (such as guardianship or food production). Animal welfare does not condone indiscriminate breeding, irresponsible breeding for profit or any other reason, or unethical breeding practices.
– encourages spaying and neutering pet animals and animals not of breeding quality to prevent unwanted or unplanned litters, the genetic degradation of a breed or species, or pet overpopulation.
– is backed by small, local groups and individuals such as rescue groups, shelters, farmers, homesteaders, and other smaller-scale organizations.
I also recommend watching the video below as well, which gives a succinct overview of animal rights vs. animal welfare — and sharing it with your friends! (Video created by Real Animal Welfare.)
How to Support Animal Welfare
So, how do you support animal welfare? Thankfully, there are several easy ways:
– support small local rescues and shelters with common sense practices. Consider fostering or adopting rescue pets when possible, and spay and neuter your pets to prevent unwanted litters.
– support and purchase from your local farmers who will share with you their methods of care for their animals. The vast majority of farmers — large scale conventional to small organic — are not abusive or neglectful to their animals. Not only do they care for their animals, but it also makes no financial sense to neglect or abuse the source of your profits, thereby decreasing your income. But, that said, we don’t all agree on the best way to manage livestock — so find a local farmer whose ideas align with yours!
– only support responsible breeders when purchasing livestock or animals.Be sure you’re only giving your money to reputable breeders who care for their animals appropriately and do their best to only sell them to good homes.
– be a responsible breeder yourself when you choose to breed animals. Don’t indiscriminately breed purposeless or unhealthy animals. Breed with the goal of maintaining an endangered or rare breed, improving the stock according to the breed standard, or to increase productivity and maintain health and longevity. In short, breed with a purpose — not just because babies are cute.
– practice ethical and legal hunting if you choose to hunt.
– remain above reproach in your actions and statements — do be a vocal supporter of animal welfare and responsible use and care of animals, but don’t resort to the type of bullying, harassment, and generally unethical activities that the other side employs.
– support organizations such as breed clubs, FFA, 4H, and other groups that also support the ownership and ethical care of animals and responsible hunting and fishing activities.
Why support Animal Welfare?
If you choose not to own animals, use or eat animal products, or what have you, that is your personal choice and your right to make that decision. My personal belief is that, because humans are omnivores, we need to eat a traditional and varied diet including meat, dairy, eggs, and the like in their whole forms (along with other food groups, of course). We need the nutrition they provide such as omega 3 fatty acids, healthy fats, protein, and B vitamins among others. We can also have symbiotic relationships with animals in which we mutually benefit, where animals perform a job or a task for us and in return we house, feed, and care for them. We can raise animals for food which lead good lives and only have one “bad day” — and in the process we can prevent livestock breeds from going extinct because they have no useful job to do as well as nourish our bodies. If all breeding of domesticated animals stopped…where does that leave the animals? It leaves them extinct. There are livestock breeds literally dying for people to eat them. There is a time and place for responsible breeding as well as a time and place for spay/neuter.
This is a subject I could on and on about, but only because I’m so passionate about it. People are so far removed from the reality of food that many of them literally condemn humanely raising one’s own livestock for food (especially anything considered “cute” like meat rabbits) while simultaneously eating chicken from the store quite happily. Common sense, as they say, isn’t so common sometimes. Many people in our abundant society have stopped recognizing the purposes for which animals were created and have been selectively bred over centuries since the beginning of their domestication. Those of us who still understand the common sense of animal welfare — and not the farce of animal rights — need to openly and passionately share our side of the story. Throwing red paint on synthetic pleather is not a recommended approach.
In a perfect world bacon would grow on trees, gardens would plant themselves, and cheesecake wouldn’t be fattening. But our world is imperfect, and we have to make the best of what we’ve been given — not try to create something that doesn’t exist. To quote Temple Grandin, “I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we’ve got to do it right. We’ve got to give those animals a decent life and we’ve got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.”
While I don’t expect everyone to agree, I do feel that we need to share our side of the story.