Why Animal Rights & Animal Welfare Can’t Co-Exist

Why Animal Rights & Animal Welfare Can’t Co-Exist

Why can’t we all get along?

That has to be one of the most frequently asked questions within this movement.

Along with that, is the line We are all on the same side.

Though are we really?

Can “animal welfare” coexist with “animal rights”?

And, more importantly, should it?

For Those Who Came In Late

When I am talking about “animal welfare”, I am talking about those who want improvements to the way that a particular industry treats the animals that it uses.

This would be things like asking for bigger cages for layer hens, pain relief when mulesing sheep, and so on.

This also includes things like CCTV cameras in slaughter houses, and transparency as they both seek to improve or reform current industry practices.

Whereas animal rights is the belief that other animals all have the same rights, and that these rights are based on the being’s sentience, rather than their perceived usefulness to a particular industry.

The most basic of these rights is the right not to be commodified, and considered someone’s property.

It Depends On Which Position You Are Coming From

Ultimately, whether you believe that animal rights and animal welfare can coexist depends on the position that you are starting from, not where you say you want to end.

Those who support animal welfare reforms frame their argument as being something that you can do now, and that animal rights is the end goal.

They frame animal rights as being something that is too hard to achieve today, so an improvement to animal welfare is viewed as progress.

The impossible goal position that those who promote welfare reform take, makes any step forward, no matter how small, look like something that helps “the animals”.

Welfare Legitimises Industry

As soon as you talk about something that is welfare related, such as “inherent cruelty”, “inhumane”, etc. you legitimise the industry’s existence.

By legitimising the industry, it gives them a better position to negotiate the reform, and to seek government (taxpayer) assistance in implementing the reforms.

It also makes it easier for the industry to present the “improved” item as a premium product. (Look at the price difference between “caged” eggs, “cage free” and “barn laid” eggs).

Most consumers are willing to pay more for something where the animal concerned was treated better.

Animal Welfare Commodifies Animals

The biggest issue with those who promote welfare reforms, is that by doing so, it is still commodifying animals.

It doesn’t matter how the reform is framed, by asking for it in the first place, relegates the particular animals to being property.

While the particular reform may help improve the industry, it won’t stop those animals from being commercially exploited.

Nor will it help animals of other species.

For example, asking for bigger or no cages for layer hens reaffirms the belief that it is acceptable to keep hens and consume their eggs.

It is how they are kept that needs to be improved.

It does nothing to stop the male chicks from being killed.

Nor does it do anything to stop people from consuming eggs in the first place.

Or, what if the campaign is to stop the male chicks from being shredded alive?

In 2015 it was discovered that you can tell the sex of chicken eggs by fluorescence and Raman spectroscopy through the shell membrane.

While this would reduce the number of male chicks killed, it may not take it to zero, and it won’t do anything to stop hens being kept in captivity to lay eggs.

And it won’t stop people from consuming eggs.

Impossible Reforms

It is said that those who appear in the media are asking for impossible reforms because they know that the “farmers” wouldn’t be able to implement them, and as a consequence, they would “go out of business”.

While it is true that some of the smaller businesses may close, (it depends on how much support they get from government and industry groups), the reality of things is that for every small farm that closes, a multi-national corporation expands to fill the void.

This will be worse for “the animals”. (Profits will have to be maximised, which leads to larger stocking densities, quicker processing rates, and/or automation).

And, all of these things will make the industry more profitable. (Larger employers are more likely to get government help to stay afloat because the loss of a large number of jobs is going to be bad PR).

And most importantly, these impossible reforms, do nothing to help people to understand that other animals have rights.

Rights which are being ignored by the industries that oppress them.

But It Helps The Animals Now!

Honestly, there isn’t anything that anyone can do to help the animals now.

Even going vegan doesn’t actually save any animals.

The only thing that “helps the animals” NOW! is going into a slaughterhouse or other environment and taking the animal(s) out.

Though that only helps the animal(s) that you are taking, not “the animals” as a whole.

Welfare reforms take years, if not decades to implement.

And it won’t reduce the commodification of other animals.

Nor will it get people to open up their eyes to veganism.

Whereas, even if it takes a few years to get someone to understand and follow an animal rights position, their participation in those industries ends.

The more people we can get to withdraw their support for these industries, the better it will be “for the animals”.

Don’t Get Hoodwinked

If you don’t take away anything from this article, take away this.

That animal welfare, and animal rights are two different things.

They don’t support each other, nor are they compatible with each other.

Those who promote animal welfare, are only promoting animal welfare.

They aren’t promoting animal rights.

Nor are they promoting abolition, unless you are talking about abolishing a particular practice.

Don’t take what people say at face value.

Learn to know what animal welfare related comments are, and how they are used.

The sooner you figure that one out, the better things will be “for the animals”.


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