Well, this is something that has been weighing on my mind for a while now and I’ve kept meaning to write about but put off. By now most people reading my blog know that I eat meat and have my own reasons for what and why I eat it. But part of coming to that conclusion was a thorough study of animal rights and ecology. I researched groups like HSUS, PETA, farmers unions, private shelters, animal rehabilitation centers and sanctuaries, protected animal reserves etc. I watched countless documentaries, videos, read papers and articles on the care and keeping of animals and I studied natural behaviors. It’s taken a while but I have come to a conclusion.
I support animal welfare. I do NOT support animal “rights”.
Now let’s examine the difference between these two things.
Animal welfare is simple in concept. It means providing for an animal in a way that is satisfying to the animal’s needs and natural behaviors. It means making sure your animal is free of disease, pain, parasites and excessive stress. It means making sure they have shelter, toys, are well-fed and watered appropriate to their species and live in an appropriate enclosure for safety and satisfaction. In short; Animal welfare means caring for your animals with a focus on mental and physical wellbeing.
Animal Rights is a different monster entirely. Animal rights supposes that all creatures are created equal with equal rights and equal say as humans do. It states that a life has an immeasurable value that we cannot perceive. This concept is almost religious in its nature and equates to the soul of a creature and its sacred-ness. This means that no creature may exploit another creature for its own benefits (because everything has a right to live and life is of immeasurable worth) and that all creatures have a right to live in their most natural way.
This runs into a problem. Nature has one goal for everything; the propagation of itself and the elimination of competition. This is the idea behind Natural Selection in Evolution and less popularly The Selfish Gene Theory. Right now humans are living by those very principles. We slaughtered wolves to keep them from eating our perceived prey in our perceived territories. We eat the diet we naturally evolved to eat consisting of meat, dairy and vegetables. We propagate madly and attempt to spread our offspring far and wide. We even kill herbivores that take away from the land that could feed us and house us. If you look back to the dawn of what we could call modern man this is the way things were. There is nothing in our genetics and natural life cycle that say “be kind to animals and each other”. Quite the opposite in fact.
Some people argue that this selfishness is a purely human trait and that all of nature co-exists peacefully. This is not true at all. Wolves have been shown to chase out, even kill and eat coyotes that are competition for territory and prey. It is called Intraspecific Competition. Almost every animal maintains a territory for this very reason, whether in groups or alone. If there is no intraspecific competition a group of organisms can live in the same territory. For example, a tree does not compete to try to consume the population of deer in a forest with the wolves that also live there, but the coyotes do. When the deer become scarce the wolves fight to benefit themselves before the coyotes (who do the same) by driving away and killing competition. Wolves have even been shown to drive off wild cats and bears. So it is rather the idea that this selfishness is unnatural that is incorrect. This selfishness is a basis for life and in fact takes place on even a minute scale through sponges eating bacteria, or more largely through animals eating plants and other animals. This is simply how life evolved. Letting other animals process your food for you gives you more time and energy to spread your own genetic code.
Consider for a moment your household cat which evolved from Wildcats in the Middle East. They are desert based animals and do not normally drink lots of water. Instead they get about 75% of their water from their food intake of raw meat and feeding a diet with a 75% water content is proven to improve the health of cats. They also have a need for taurine, a nutrient most commonly found in whole meats and hard to supplement. Cats are so efficient at getting their necessary nutrients from their main food source that they have become reliant on this process. Without meat they can fall very ill.
If all animals have equal rights as humans cats can’t exist. For starters, their only natural diet is meat which is the direct exploitation of another creature…a creature that has just as much a right to live as the cat, since all creatures are equal and life has immeasurable value. In addition, any cat owner will tell you about how cats react to their prey: taunting it, torturing it and playing with it until such a time as it dies from exhaustion or the cat gets hungry. I saw it myself on many occasions when we owned cats. This is a cat’s right as it is the most natural behavior for a cat. But to fulfill that behavior it must torture an animal and kill it.
The torturing an animal for anything is an issue addressed more heavily in animal welfare. Animal welfare expresses a desire for the animals that go into food to live good lives free of stress and die peacefully and quickly rather than endure fear and pain at the hands of the carnivore regardless of species.
The death of an animal is an issue addressed more heavily by animal rights, condemning it. This is strangely contradictory, as animal rights also express a desire for all animals to live naturally. To some, the solution to this is to feed an animal a vegan diet and provide alternate non-living hunting targets. However, vegan diets cause even more health issues for some animals than feeding dry food VS wet. The diet is completely inedible for very old or very young cats. In addition, there are currently no toys that properly imitate a bird or a rodent, so the hunt is still denied.
In this moment, Animal Rights and Animal Welfare are in complete opposition of each other. Animal welfare calls for the cat to be kept in good health, which means killing other animals. It calls for the cat’s feed to be killed humanely, which means denying the cat the nature of the hunt. Animal rights calls for the cat to be kept “free and natural” which means allowing it to hunt and play, but then calls for no animals to be killed. As a result, the cat is still denied its right to hunt and is kept in a condition of perpetual malnutrition.
Some animal-rights groups may argue “Well, we will make exceptions for animals that are meant to eat meat. THEY can have humanely killed animals,”. But remember, we are referring to treating animals as equal to humans. This means if some sets of animals should be given allowances for their natural diets, then ALL animals should. Including humans who evolved to drink milk and eat meat.
Which brings up an issue I have with animal rights beyond the illogical idea that animals should not die to provide for each other in a natural cycle. To achieve animal welfare in our current animal rights society, we must be placed BELOW the animals. We must be denied our own natural rights (to territory, to diet, to our sense of order) in order to provide both welfare and rights to animals. If you ask people “Is your life worth more than a mouses’ life?”, most people will say yes. And even if they say no, everyone ultimately has a price. If you offer a vegan ten billion dollars to kill a mouse humanely, I can’t think of many who would actually say “no”. If they were extremely altruistic, they would be able to start as many no-kill shelters as they’d like… But in a more practical world they will likely think of the same things we all do; relatives drowning in debt, a lack of healthcare for their family, providing comfort and stability to loved ones and paying off their own debt and healthcare troubles. And while it’s nice for someone to say they would say no anyhow on principle, when faced with the choice in reality, that situation could easily change. When that kind of money and power sits on the table, equal rights becomes questionable. Does that mouse really have the EXACT same right to live as humans do? Does it really have this immeasurable value as long as its neurons are firing? Because if its neurons aren’t actually of immeasurable worth…then the death of that mouse could save countless other creatures.
And therein lies the catch to animal rights. Animals are NOT all created equal because time and time again we will consistently favor our own species. This does not mean we should not offer them respect and concern. But this follows the concerns of, again, Animal Welfare.
There is another game going on in the animal rights affairs and it’s a political one. The foundation for the animal rights movement is the 12-step plan from “Politics of Animal Liberation by Kim Bartlett. This was written in November of 1987 and was the forefather of all modern animal rights efforts.
1. Abolish by law all animal research
2. Outlaw the use of animals for cosmetic and product testing, classroom demonstration and in weapons development
3. Vegetarian meals should be made available at all public institutions, including schools
4. Eliminate all animal agriculture
5. No herbicides, pesticides or other agricultural chemicals. Outlaw predator control.
6. Transfer enforcement of animal welfare legislation away from the Department of Agriculture
7. Eliminate fur ranching and the use of furs.
8. Prohibit hunting, trapping and fishing.
9. End the international trade in wildlife goods
10. Stop any further breeding of companion animals, including purebred dogs and cats. Spaying and neutering should be subsidized by state and municipal governments. Abolish commerce in animals for the pet trade.
11. End the use of animals in entertainment and sports.
12. Prohibit the genetic manipulation of species.
Now let’s look at this list. This list calls for the following changes be made; No more pets, every human being be vegetarian, Non-chemical agricultural products (I.E. fertilizer) WITHOUT animal agriculture (I.E. manure). No killing wild animals, even ones that encroach on human settlements or threaten life. No using animals for medicinal testing, which could save lives. The problems with this list are obvious to many people when viewed with a stable mind. But this is the agenda that animal rights groups push. All it takes is a little digging to find out just what animal rights groups believe.
- PETA believes that No-Kill shelters should be abolished, and they run a shelter in Virginia with a kill rate of over 85% of their intake, including owner-surrenders. They actively seek euthanasiation over other options.
- Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of PETA, openly encourages the abolishment of ALL domestic animals, proclaiming they should one day live their lives in the wild. She also openly supports and has been tried in cases related to the ALF.
- The Animal Liberation Front (or ALF) is a terrorist organization that breaks into farms and private residences to “free” the animals, often then taking them to shelters to receive unnecessary and life-threatening surgeries, be kept in tiny cages, and be adopted to unsuitable or uneducated “pet-only” homes. They have even been known to burn down buildings on occasion.
- The president of the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) has plenty of sordid dirt about his own animals rights beliefs, including the abolishment of pets, the forcing of vegan diets, and his own personal efforts to openly destroy farmers. In fact…
- The HSUS does not even give over 1% of its annual earnings to actual shelters. HSUS is NOT a shelter. Instead they spend many millions each year on politics and salaries. The millions they raise proclaiming they will save your puppies and kittens actually go towards laws, and their eventual goal is to keep you from ever owning a dog or a cat.
The list goes on. And on. And it does make me wonder why. There is no achievable end-goal for many of these people. Animal rights in its current form CANNOT work. The cat example above is not the only contradiction in animal-to-animal rights. Bears, birds, dogs, cows, cheetahs, pandas, red wolves… These animals all have trouble existing in the current animal rights mindset.
And animals’ lives certainly will not improve as a result of animal rights. Would your life improve if someone took away your constant food, fresh water, healthcare, security, heat and home and chased you away screaming at you; “Run! Be free! Live as nature intended!”? You would end up starving, cold, diseased, covered in parasites and miserable. This is the why people in 3rd world countries are so eager to live our padded life.
So if animals’ lives do not improve from the pursuit of animal rights, why chase it? I have no doubt that there are people who believe firmly in the radical viewpoints listed above. I also don’t doubt that these people would gladly place themselves, and everyone in the whole world, below the life of the aforementioned ten-billion-dollar mouse. But irrational people exist everywhere and are rarely as successful as these organizations. So the only remaining reason to pursue this form of animal rights is money and political power. What a better way to get it than through a tug on the heartstrings towards animals? Especially in the name of pursuits better categorized under Animal Welfare such as better regulations on factory farms.
The best part of this is there is another option in pursuit of animal rights. One much more selfless than this egotistical pursuit to try to bring animals “up to our level” as if we were ever above animals in the first place. Rights are a human idea and we have just as many as animals do RIGHT NOW. And to see that first-hand, the best way to do it is to re-enter the food chain. When we die our bodies go into lead-lined coffins in the ground. What if our dead bodies went on to feed hungry animals like animal carcasses go on to feed hungry humans? What if we acknowledged our place in the selfish circle and gave back to it the way every other animal does? Suddenly our place is equal to animals. We, too, die ultimately to feed and provide for other living things. And our goals in life are still the same as every animals’; to spread our genes and life as comfortably as possible.
But that is politically and socially unappealing. We would rather feel that we are bringing animals up to their rightful place with us rather than see that we are the wayward string and step back in line. It makes us seem more important when we drag nature onto our pedestal, kicking and screaming the whole way. And while re-joining the food chain closes the bridge between animals and humans quite nicely, there is almost no money in it.
And so, in conclusion I support animal welfare. Because the pursuit of health and happiness in an animal (in all animals) is NOT always the pursuit of nature and rights. I believe that all creatures are entitled to a safe shelter, fresh water, appropriate food, a low-stress and pain-free environment and such facilities as to keep them busy and fulfilled. And that is the basis of animal welfare.
I cannot support a concept of animal rights that says that I am less than an ant, a mouse or any other animal and that my rightful place as a natural being is not mine to have. I cannot support an idea of animal rights that places carnivores and endangered species as being impossible to maintain. I cannot support an idea of animal rights where animals suffer severely to appease a natural function just because it is “natural”.
And I hope I’ve made you think a little bit about what animal rights means to you.