Guest blogger, Jessica Peters, is a 5th generation dairy farmer in northwest Pennsylvania.
A look at animal rights vs. animal welfare.
I’ve never met a person who thought animal abuse was ok. Even though they don’t have the range of emotions that humans do, they still feel, and most people would agree that animals should be treated with love and respect. Unfortunately, for all the good people in the world who believe that animals shouldn’t be abused, it still happens. And when it does, it brings up a lot of emotions from a lot of different people. Then it brings up a whole new argument. Animal rights versus animal welfare, which should you believe? Do you even know the difference? Though the wording is only slightly different, the difference in beliefs is huge. And what each group stands for is even bigger.
Animal rights is the term most often used. Though it may not be exactly what you think. Those who believe in animal rights, believe that animals should have the same rights as humans. That they shouldn’t be used by humans in any way.
They believe that animals shouldn’t be used for companionship, entertainment, sport or food. In other words, we shouldn’t have animals as pets, watch them on T.V. or movies, hunt or eat animals. Animal rights groups believe that animals should be free to live their lives however they want with absolutely no interference from humans. The belief that no human should be able to domesticate or control an animal stems from the fact that they think animals should have the same rights as humans, no matter the consequence. They believe that an animal’s life is worth the same as a human’s life.
These are the types of groups that you often see or hear of using extreme measures to get their point across, sometimes even violence. They release or steal animals from farms, will set fire to facilities, harass businesses and people, or use aggressive visual demonstrations in public arenas to spread their message. A few examples of these kinds of groups would be People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Humane Society of the US (HSUS), Mercy for Animals (MFA), or Farm Sanctuary. Though many of these groups will lead you to believe they take donations to fund your local humane societies or to help save locally abused animals, much of their budget goes to trying to end animal agriculture. If you want to make sure your donation goes to your local shelter, donate it directly. Or you could consider donating pet food or your time, or simply ask them what they need!
On the other end of the spectrum you have those who believe in animal welfare. These people believe that human lives are worth more than animals and that animals are here for us to use responsibly. They are groups that often include meat eaters, hunters, farmers, and pet owners.
Though they may use animals for food, sport and/or entertainment, this group of people also believes that it is their responsibility, as the more evolved species, to treat them with care, respect and love while they are in their care. They use scientific and observational evidence to continuously improve animal care and handling techniques to make sure their animals are safe, healthy and happy. And they’re sharing their stories, too.
Using social media, and blogs like this one, more and more, farmers, and other animal welfare minded groups, are working to share how they care for their animals. Examples of groups who support animal welfare are animal agricultural groups, the Animal Welfare Council, the American Veterinary Academy, and American farmers.
As a dairy farmer, I fall on the side of animal welfare. I love my cows, I really do, and losing one will put me in a funk for weeks. If I’m being completely honest with you, I like my cows more than I like most people. But they are not human. If my barn were on a fire and my favorite cow, Patsy, were standing next to a person I hated, and I could only save one, my choice would be clear. With tears streaming down my face I’d pick the person every time. With any luck, Patsy would follow us out and save herself, but the fact that she lacks the reasoning to understand that’s what she should do, is why they aren’t equal humans.
If you fall on the animal rights side of this issue, chances are that this article didn’t change your mind. Typically, you’re going to come to a conclusion on this issue via your own personal experiences. But if you haven’t had any experiences, how do you know what to believe? Most people know how they feel about their pets, but what about farm animals? Do you know how they’re raised? Do you know what they eat? Or how they’re taken care of? If the answer is no, then how can you be expected to decide where you fall on this issue?
My advice to you would be to ask a farmer. There are lots of farmers on social media nowadays telling their story. They’ll take you through their farm and share their farm, animals, family, and life with you. Most farmers are more than willing to answer your questions and answer them honestly. If you can, visit a farm! Seeing how the animals actually live, firsthand, would really cement your opinion. I could fill another ten pages telling you how happy and healthy my cows are, but until you’re standing in my barn quiet, cool barn watching my calm, happy cows curiously surround you, words are just that – words.