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Animal welfare verses animal rights-very different viewpoints

Carrie Underwood's self-title of "practical vegan" means different things to different animal activists.
Carrie Underwood's self-title of "practical vegan" means different things to different animal activists.Photo by Ben Gabbe

Many in Denver and the rest of the USA say animals have rights. There’s a difference between animal right and animal welfare, say activists. Activist Jonathan Safran Foer, author of the famous book “Eating Animals” stresses that animal rights doesn’t mean campaigning to register our dogs to vote. Foer’s approach is very practical.

Foer once helped a turkey farmer devise mobile slaughter houses so that truly free-range “heritage turkeys” can be slaughtered by the farmer who raised them instead of in a factory-style slaughterhouse where the birds might be hung alive by their legs to have their throats cut. The idea of less traumatic slaughter is an example of an effort in animal welfare. Heritage turkeys are very rare-heritage, in this case, is defined as birds that existed as an original species before breeding practices changed them for the purpose of meat production.

Other activists who support animal rights say any use of animals, no matter how humane the methods of raising them and slaughtering them, is fundamentally wrong. The nation’s largest anima rights group, People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, states on its own web page that: “animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.”

PETA gets plenty of scrutiny from other animal rights activists, however, and the pro-animal movement has been increasingly divided into factions as it becomes more popular in mainstream America. The decisions by individuals to be advocates of animal welfare verses animal rights will shape the future of the animal movement. Hollywood celebrities have made vegan diets fashionable, but some stars view it more as a matter of convenience.

Country singing sensation Carrie Underwood says she’s vegetarian, but isn’t strict about it. She notes that “in Oklahoma (her home state) it’s tough to be a vegetarian”, and last fall, said she’s “practical” about the whole idea. Underwood was criticized last year by some activists for saying she may not always demand vegetarian or vegan food in a restaurant when she’s traveling. Underwood is one of many celebrity women who have made statements about animal welfare. She cited her own parents’ pig farm in Oklahoma as the reason that prompted her to go veggie because she objects to how pigs are treated, but has seldom elaborated about the details.

The natural food movement will has increased demand for locally-raised meat and may has aided the growth of grass-fed, hormone free farming of animals for meat. OF course, this is considered a score for animal welfare but not animal rights. Denver groups targeted the popular restaurant chain Chipotle for protests late last year. They were joined by groups from Fort Collins. Chipotle has made significant efforts to use natural, free-range meats as well as introducing vegan entrees. Animal rights groups worry that animal welfare efforts could weaken the effort for animal rights. The only certainty in this debate, in Denver and elsewhere, is that it will continue for a long time to come.