The terms “animal rights” and “animal welfare” are often used interchangeably in literature and common language. There is a distinct difference however that must be noted. According to the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) animal rights supporters are “People who support animal rights believe that animals are not ours to use for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, or any other purpose and that animals deserve consideration of their best interests regardless of whether they are cute, useful to humans, or endangered and regardless of whether any human cares about them at all.” Often animal rights are defined as a philosophical view. The philosophy being that human beings and animals are equal in rights and entitlements. This means banning the use of all animals for any human use (food, research, clothing, etc)
On the other side of the coin is animal welfare, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, animal welfare is defined as “ a humans responsibility that encompasses all aspects of animal well-being, including proper housing, management, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane euthanasia.” This means that animals can be used for human benefits but every regard must be given to ensure the animal’s well-being.
These two schools of thought weigh greatly upon actions taken by each group. Animal welfare on one hand has always been there. When our country was mostly agriculturally based, animals were used for human benefits constantly. We used them for not only food and clothing, but also animal power. Animals were how humans covered long distances with ease.
While scholars, such as Dr. David Walls, believe the ‘modern animal rights movement’ began in 1970 with philosophers Peter Singer and Tom Regan, the very beginning of the concept of animal rights can be traced back to the 1800’s in England when the first anti-cruelty bill was passed by Parliament in 1800. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was established in 1822. The American version of the RSPCA, ASPCA was established in New York City by Henry Bergh in 1866.
With this information it can be seen that the animal rights versus animal welfare discussion has been going on for a long time. This discussion is often heated with emotion and it is important to realize there are two different sides when discussing it. This article was to serve as a brief overview of the terms/issues and the citations included may serve for more information. It is important however to remember that because the world-wide-web is open to any postings that people desire you must ensure that information gathered is from a reliable source, and if there is a ‘side’ it is noted.