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Animal Rights Versus Animal Welfare: How Different are They?

Ellen Yacobi

Tarleton State University



Animal rights and animal welfare share some of the same ideals but are under their own umbrella

of meaning. Animal rights are the belief that all animals should live a pain free, abusive free life.

The belief of animal rights stretches across all aspects of the animal community to include farm

and livestock animals, as well as slaughter houses, and laboratory settings. Animal rights

activists do not wish to give any animal the right to vote but just simply the right to live a pain

and stress free life. Animal welfare carries the same message but in a smaller setting. Animal

welfare is the idea that all these farm and livestock, slaughter, and laboratory animals are in an

environment that is conducive and meets their needs. That it allows the animals to live and be as

pain free as possible. Both animal rights and animal welfare feed off each other and both ideas

have the best interest of the animal. Though they have different definitions, they are based on the

same theory.

Animal welfare is defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association as an animal

living comfortably and healthy in its living environment while being treated fair (AVMA, 2017).

Scientific evidence has proved that animals live in a respectable form of welfare if the animal is

in good health, content, well fed, safe, able to express natural breed and species behavior, and

under no forms of misery from unpleasant situations such as agony, terror, and distress (AVMA,

2017). It is the idea that animals used for farming or human consumption still live in an

environment conducive to their needs and allows them to stay clean and express animalistic

behaviors that come natural to the animal. This idea is even carrying out in slaughter houses and

industrial farming. Animal welfare understands the need for animals to be used for consumption

of the population and wants these animals to live comfortably until they are no longer alive. The

concept of animal welfare even allows their umbrella to reach over onto laboratory animals.

Most of these animals are used to test medical advances, techniques, and equipment to progress

our populations health. But with this, these animals have the potential to experience different

levels of pain and mental depression. Through the state of animal welfare, laboratory settings

now include enrichment items and activities and that animals are anesthetized for painful

procedures. These animals are also to be humanly euthanized after experimentation to prevent

any potential suffering. Like most states such as Indiana, the state veterinary associations

adopted the idea of animal welfare. Indiana Veterinary Medical Association states that have

access to adequate and necessary nutrition and water, and live in an environment that meets their

upkeep and use but still considering their behavior, wellbeing, and care (INVMA, 2013).

INVMA considers the idea that regardless of the animals purpose whether it be for

companionship, scientific discovery, meat production, transportation, or work, the need for the

animal should be level and compared against greater good it can provide to other animals,

people, science (INVMA, 2013). This theory is where the ideas of animal rights activist step in

and disagree with the concept.

Animal rights are taking a step further than animal welfare and carries the idea that no

animal should be used to benefit the human cause (Lin, 2017). Meaning animals could not be

used in a laboratory setting with the use of using the them to test make up and cleaning products,

but also that there is no true form of humane euthanasia for animals used for human consumption

and with that animals should not be killed in the name of providing food to humans. The

misconception that most animal rights activists want animal rights to mean that animals are

allowed to vote, have free speech, and a right to bear arms as people do under the amendments of

the constitution. Contrary to that belief, that is not the idea or intention of the movement. The

idea of animal rights is further expressed as giving the animals legal rights allow them to be

more protected and unharmed (Duhaime, 2011) But more that the animals be allowed to live as

free as we do and undergo no pain what so ever, not to be used in painful situations and to live as

natural as possible. According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, animal rights

are founded on moral and ethical viewpoints (PETAUK, 2017). They believe that all animals

have the capability of suffering the same way and degree as people do and that they experience

pain, desire, terror, hindrance, isolation, and love as people do (PETAUK, 2017). To distinguish

their ideas from animal welfare, animal rights helps prevent the exploitation of animals for any

human pleasure and need (Lin, 2017).

Thought most public and internet forums express that animal welfare and animal rights

are two completely different ideas, they still have the same meaning. Both ideas are attempting to

protect the life of the animals and ensure their safety and health. Both ideas have a different

versus of success or a win but both do want to see animal species live on in the future. They want

animals to live pain free and under stress free atmospheres. Animal rights wants animals to live

as free as they choose and not to live for the humans. Animal Welfare wants animals that live and

work for animals be treated with as much respect as possible and protected from any form of

harm. One day, a need for either one of these ideas will hopefully be unnecessary.


American Veterinary Medical Association (2017). Animal Welfare: What is it. Retrieved from


Duhaime's Law Dictionary (2017). Animal Rights Definition. Retrieved from

Indiana Veterinary Medical Association (2013). INVMA One Welfare Principles. Retrieved


Lin, D (2017). What are Animal Rights. ThoughtCo. Retrieved from

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: United Kingdom (2017). What is Animal Rights.

retrieved from