Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day 14: Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights

If you can't tell, I'm on a run, discussing livestock, issues, and care.  One very important thing that must be discussed in regards to animal production and handling is the very distinct difference between animal welfare and animal rights.  These are most definitely not the same thing. 

Animal welfare is the approach of caring for animals in a way that reduces their stress and discomfort.  With animal welfare, we strive to provide for the Five Freedoms laid out by Professor John Webster.
The Five Freedoms are:
  • Freedom from thirst and hunger – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
  • Freedom from discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
  • Freedom from pain, injury, and disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
  • Freedom to express most normal behavior – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities, and company of the animal's own kind
  • Freedom from fear and distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering
Animal rights is a highly varying, very gray area.  Often, animal rights activists are those who view animal production in a whole as "wrong." 

Why do they feel this is wrong?  In many cases, this has to do with the humanization of animals in society.  Humanization?  Horses are a perfect example of issues with the humanization.  There was a day in the distant past, where horses were used for work on farms for example.  When the horse was too old to be an efficient worker, and was no longer able to be of use for anything else, it was taken to the glue factory.  What has happened with horses in the United States today?  Well, horses are pets now.  You wouldn't send your dog to the slaughterhouse, would you?  This is what led to the laws that prohibited the legal slaughter of horses in the United States.  Orion Samuelson, an agricultural news broadcaster for WGN and RFD-TV, spent a section in his memoir discussing the "Unwanted Horse Problem."  The United States is at a point where horse slaughter across the nation had been outlawed until very recently.  What happens to those old, or sick horses that nobody either wants, or can afford anymore?  They all too often get left somewhere to perish.  It has gotten so bad that many state parks that allow people to come in and ride trails on their horse, count how many horses you bring in and check to make sure you leave with the same number.  This is a sad situation.  With numerous states trying to rewrite laws to legalize horse slaughter, this is a hot topic, but it is an animal rights versus animal welfare issue.  Many animal rights activists say we should give the horse a life until the day of its natural death.  This becomes a painful situation for the horse as it spends the end of its days in a barn or pasture, unable to do much of anything, as well as the owner continuing to pour money into an animal that is doing absolutely nothing for them.  If a horse is taken to a USDA approved packing plant, the unwanted horse problem is bypassed, and the meat is exported to other countries, since horse meat is not something consumed in the United States, but it is highly consumed in many other countries. 

Animal Rights and Animal Welfare are touchy topics, but definitely ones that need to be discussed.  Much like other issues I have discussed, I bring them up because I find them important.  Like always, I encourage you to make sure you are well read and knowledgeable about topics you wish to speak about and debate with others.  The best way to make yourself look bad in an argument is to speak before you have any knowledge about a topic.  It is always a better idea to admit that you don't know much about a topic, rather than to speak ignorantly on a topic.  If I don't know, I'll tell you.  I forget who said this quote, but I really love it.  "It is better to be silent and look ignorant than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." 

Thank you all for continuing to read my blogs!

Linking up with Holly Spangler's 30 Days Challenge here.

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