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What exactly does 'animal welfare' mean? An education:

Hemi was rescued by animal welfare advocates - people who care about animals
Hemi was rescued by animal welfare advocates - people who care about animals
Melissa McMillin collection

In the world of animals, there is an attitude continuum. I have one attitude about animals, my brother-in-law who is a farmer has another attitude about animals. My friend Melissa has her own attitude about animals and my friend Kate has another attitude about animals. My sister and brother both have dogs and both have completely different attitudes about their dogs than I do. My husband doesn't eat meat yet its for completely different reasons than my reasons for not eating meat. Some of my animal activist friends eat meat, some don't. Some wear leather, some don't. That's what makes the world go round - different opinions.

Here are the following categories taken directly from The Animal Welfare Information Center, United States Department of Agriculture:

Animal Exploitation

Animal exploitation attitude: Humans have absolute dominion over animals. They can be used or abused for any purpose without restriction. Killing, however painful or protracted, is of no concern. People with this attitude are willing to break laws. In my opinion, some farmers, slaughterhouses, commercial breeders, dogfighters, furriers, zoos and circuses fit within this continuum. Years ago, an artist in Mexico City, where there are no humane regulations, starved a dog to death in a gallery while people watched. This is animal exploitation.

Animal Use

People with the "animal use" attitude are groups who might promote animal experimentation, animals used for food, biomedial research, entertainment (elephants used to transport guests at Katy Perry's wedding) labor (elephants used for logging), hunting, trapping and the fur industry.

People who fit into this attitude continuum believe they can police themselves and don't need laws. In my opinion, commercial breeders, breeders and farmers who don't fit into the animal exploitation category, fit into the animal use attitude continuum.

Animal Welfare

The attitude of people under the "animal welfare" umbrella might be to protect animals from harm. Animal welfare advocates want limits on animal use for human purposes and want these limits enforced by the law.

Animal welfare advocates are commonly found involved with animal shelters and environmental protection groups. Many also work to control pet over population through spay and neuter programs. These people also oppose blood sports, factory farming, and animals used for research.

Animal Rights

Animal rights attitude is the continuum I consider myself to be a part of. Animal rights advocates believe animals should not be eaten, used for sport or research, abused or killed. I do believe it is okay to eat animals however, just that they should be treated well, not abused and killed humanely. So that is one area I differ from this continuum. However I am more radical than just animal welfare advocates because I do feel animals have rights, not that they should simply be protected from the cruel and evil hand of humans. Animal rights advocates are commonly found involved with anti-vivisection campaigns. Vivisection is a cruel and disturbing type of 'research' that has been banned in many countries.

Animal Liberation

Animal liberation is considered to be an extreme end of the continuum. People with this opinion believe animals should not work and that we should eliminate animal use all together. Some animal liberation advocates believe animals should not be kept as pets.


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