Animal Welfare - Our Right and Responsibility

Taken from On Wings, March 1997 Vol 3:3

Most rational and reasonable people do not condone the deliberate abuse or harm of any domestic or wild animal, reptile or bird. We do not kick, beat or starve our pets or companion animals. We try to provide them with good homes and creature comforts. We are angered when we see or read about pets or strays that are mistreated, unloved or not properly cared for. We believe and support animal welfare. As an animal wefarist, I would report animal abuse to the proper authority. I may even decide to find the animal a more suitable home. Animals should be treated humanely and not be subjected to unnecessary suffering.

Most Americans are appalled to read of evil-minded and mean-spirited youth who torture animals for a thrill or who sacrifice them in sick rituals. We demanded justice for the female dog whose puppies were buried alive and for the dog that was dragged from a car by a chain until half dead because his owner was mad at it. We love animals and do not want them to be abused.

However, we can be pro-animal without being anti-human. Humans have complex language, sophisticated reasoning and a highly evolved culture. We are self-conscious and aware of our own existence which means we can anticipate pain and death. Though animals are not the moral equivalent of humans; animals are capable of pleasure and pain. Animal welfare is a moral imperative. Prevention of cruelty to animals and humane care of animals is responsible stewardship.

Under the laws, animals are considered the property of their owner. Even so, an owner may be accountable under law regarding how they care for and use their property. As property, animals have no legal rights. One major goal of the animal rights fundamentalists is to eradicate the property status of animals so they will have legal rights.

The animal rights crusade has attracted many individuals from many walks of life. There are the conservative "welfarists", the moderate "pragmatists" and the radical "fundamentalists." We live in a time when social problems including homelessness, drugs, child abuse, domestic violence, AIDS, crime, racial tensions and distrust of our entire political and justice systems are pulling apart the very fabric of our society.

Unlike the mentally deranged on city streets who shout obscenities, or those selfish and irresponsible individuals who spread AIDS, or the desperate and lost who get high on crack, or those unable to control their anger and so beat their children or spouses, etc., etc. -- animals, in comparison, are in a natural and innocent state of being. They are grateful for our care and give us unconditional love.

The AR's philosophy embraces the idea of granting rights to those creatures viewed as more deserving than the human beast. They have little compassion or understanding of their fellow creatures and have seemed to lost all hope in man's redemption. Perhaps because they cannot change human nature, they focus on a cause they can control. An animal rightist can help end animal suffering simply by making a choice to not eat meat or wear fur.
The modern animal rights movement of today understands that a fundamental "animal rights" philosophy is an ideal state that can be achieved only through continued adherence to animal welfare measures. The hybrid position of the pragmatists is that the long-term animal rights agenda will result after many short-term animal welfare reforms. This is known by scholars as the "new welfarism."

Do not be fooled -- the true animals rights philosophy goes beyond legitimate animal welfare issues. The long term goal of the AR fundamentalists is that humans and animals will have equivalent rights under the law.

According to a true believer's convoluted logic, if you can eat a cow then why won't you eat your dog? What is the difference? If you can eat a chicken, why not eat your macaw? Conversely, if humans and animals are considered equal and have the same rights, then why not eat people? If it makes sense to kill 100 baboons to save the life of one human, it also makes sense to kill 100 humans to save a life of one baboon. Why not use human skin to make coats, or hunt humans for sport or use humans in lab experiments?

Animal rightists often claim that pets are like slaves. However, in movements for liberation and equality, the political momentum has historically come from the oppressed themselves. Obviously, the animals will need human help to achieve the goals of an entirely human-created cause. What is the bargaining position of the animals? What is the trade-off? What is the motivation?

Nearly everything the ARFs want to put an end to is now legal, traditional and socially acceptable and in many cases, necessary. The extremist politics, opinions and intolerant self-righteousness of the fundamentalist ARFs are counterproductive and have alienated the majority of Americans. That is why PETA is not above presenting a new, improved image that is empathetic and supportive to those with more conservative and reasonable views concerning animal welfare.

Ingrid E. Newkirk, director of PETA, has admitted that the "all or nothing" position of the AR movement is unrealistic and, so therefore, PETA publicly embraces the animal welfare causes. Alex Pacheco of PETA adds that just as long as people care about animals, it doesn't matter if they adopt the entire AR philosophy. In fact, PETA's mission statement contains no mention of animal rights.

For instance, PETA has favored legislation that allowed shooting Hawaiian boars since shooting was considered far more humane than snaring. What happened to their THOU SHALT NOT hunt, trap or fish party line? The Ark Trust which is opposed to animal abuse in any form, now takes the position that working with animals in films and TV does not in itself constitute animal abuse. These hypocrites will compromise their own sacred commandments in order to keep a large membership - a membership that donates time, influence and great amounts of money.

Celebrities generate a great deal of publicity for animal rights causes. Again, PETA will allow these spokespeople their human foibles, just as long as the animal rights cause is promoted. Kathleen Turner admitted she actually wears furs, but adds that they are never furs from animals on the endangered species list. Bea Arthur is neither a vegan nor an opponent of laboratory use of animals. She believes that the animal who is slaughtered for food must be well cared for and that animal research is acceptable if humanely done. Alec Baldwin arrived at Saturday Night Live in a leather jacket and was reminded by PETA member Linda McCartney (Paul was that night's musical guest) that wearing leather is a no-no. Other celebrities who support animal rights are k.d. Lang, Chrissie Hynde, Cassandra "Elvira, Mistress of the Dark" and Peterson and Lindsay Wagner. In 1991, Great White and George Thorogood were among the rock acts scheduled to release a compilation album on Rhino records entitled "Tame Yourself" with money from sales to benefit PETA.

Do not be lulled into a false sense of security. PETA, HSUS and other groups actively support welfarist legislation such as the Animal Welfare Act. They believe that by instigating all manner of "welfare reforms", one day all "institutionalized animal exploitation" will be a thing of the past. Their goal is to regulate all these businesses out of existence.

Their true agenda has not changed. The hard-core animal rights people convince and win converts with intellectual persuasion, sympathy and empathy. Propaganda is an important tool for recruitment and peer reinforcement helps further group mandates. For instance, a choice not to wear fur often is based on fear of social rejection or fear of being politically incorrect more than for lack of desire to own one. Membership provides political power for the individual as well as the group.

It is ironic that the human animal is being manipulated into a herd mentality while learning to parrot the tenets of a philosophy that will be used to destroy his own welfare. We must learn to think for ourselves, to question the logic of such movements and to use our common sense when confronted with these issues.

Further Reading:
Gary L. Francione. Animal Rights and Animal Welfare: The Ideology of a Social Protest Movement. Temple University Press. 1995.; Animals, Property and the Law (1995).; Animals, Property and Legal Welfarism: Unnecessary Suffering and the "Humane" Treatment of Animals. 46 Rutgers L. Rev. 721 (1994)

James M. Jasper and Dorothy Nelkin. The Animal Rights Crusade: The Growth of a Moral Protest. Free Press (Macmillan), New York, 1991.

Robert Wright. Are Animals People Too? The New Republic. March 12, 1990. P. 20-27

author: Sue Beaulieu