Understanding the Difference between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare

Girl and Sheltie

In last November’s election, we saw a fair amount of misuse of the term “animal rights” and even outright support for “animal rights” by candidates that otherwise seemed to support the human-animal connection, kindness to animals, and proper care of animals based on sound science.

Policymakers know semantics matter. We urge every policymaker and their advisers to take the time to acquaint themselves with the difference between animal rights and animal welfare. For responsible policy, and the future wellbeing of animals, this distinction is simply too important to get wrong. Consider the following:

Animal Rights posits that humans should not use or own animals in any way, even as companions, and seeks to ultimately make that grim agenda a reality. For animal rights groups, the ultimate goal is not to improve the wellbeing of animals, but to stop breeding and human interaction with animals. Animal rights groups typically utilize media and legislation to incrementally change perceptions about the human use of animals, and to advance the goal of ending animal use and ownership.

The most radical animal rights groups advocate violence to achieve this goal. The federal government recognizes such activities as animal terror- ism. The federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) (18 U.S.C ss.43), outlaws activities for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise (including educational, agricultural, breeding, and other activities) and cause damage or loss of real or personal property, or places a person in reasonable fear of injury.

Animal Welfare, is pro-animal ownership. It recognizes the human-animal bond, recognizes the value of quality animal care and purposeful breeding, and supports advancing science to ensure the health and wellbeing of animals.

Animal Welfare supports the practical and legal concept of animal ownership. In practice, we love animals, share our lives with them, and want to provide the best possible care for them. Legally, as “owners” of animals we are responsible for their care and we have the right to make appropriate care decisions for them.
 
However, putting regulated U.S. breeders out of business in favor of animals from undocumented sources with unknown health and temperament histories has the potential to create enormous public health risks, reduce overall oversight of canine health and welfare, weaken consumer protections available for purpose-bred dogs, and undermine breeders who provide purpose-bred dogs that play an unparalleled role in protecting national security from threats at home and overseas.

At the American Kennel Club, we love all dogs. AKC is dedicated to ensuring the health and wellbeing of all dogs and to preserving each unique breed.  Breeds of dogs, each developed them and serve as a testament to our ongoing relationship.  Our beautiful purebred dogs are constant reminders of the special connection between humans and their dogs – a relationship that predates recorded history – and shows that by working together, even across species, we all benefit.  
 

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