Sunday Commentary: Understanding Animal Rights

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I often read comments or commentary about this notion of animal rights vs. animal welfare. The depiction often suggests people pushing for animal rights are extremist. The term has been warped – wrongly – into meaning animal rights equals human rights.

So in an effort to twist, wrangle and shut down the movement for better laws to protect animals from cruelty, one side is trying to make sure the message that gets out is one where animals will be given all the rights and privileges of humans. That is clearly a wild pile of what my dogs leave for me to scoop in the backyard.

Because the word ‘rights’ is used in the phrase ‘animal rights,’ suddenly it’s made out to mean animals will get every human right imaginable. No one is suggesting this on the animal-lover side of the room, at least as far as I’ve heard. No one is calling for animals to be able to get married. No one is calling for animals to be able to register to vote or own cars or get drivers licenses.

No one is suggesting animals should be able to own guns or receive equal pay or join unions. (Wildlife owning guns would, I guess, make hunting interesting.) But what we really want to see are laws enacted that protect animals from cruelty and neglect. Yes, we want animals to have rights. The kind of rights that ensure they can live without facing brutality at the hands of the species that is supposed to be the most advanced on the planet.

It really is not too much to ask. It really is not extreme. It is reasonable and logical and compassionate. It’s not ‘animal welfare’ vs. ‘animal rights.’ It is animal rights from animal welfare.