Animal rights vs Animal welfare: Highlighting the Differences

Animal rights vs animal welfare

Table of Contents

The terms animal welfare and animal rights hold different definitions. The majority of people confuse them with one another and use it interchangeably. It is essential to know how these terms describe entirely different sets of ideas.

Animal rights vs Animal welfare

This debate is under the spotlight since forever. Thinking about the welfare of animals, which we use as a source of food and for other purposes, is different from preserving animals’ rights.

Let’s understand it this way, if you agree that animals humans should treat animals in the right way, without making them suffer from any kind of cruelty then you are a supporter of animal welfare.

On the contrary to what advocates of animal welfare say, animal right supporters say that humans hold absolutely no right to use animals for anything at all, not even as a source of food. According to them, livestock production businesses should be shut down once and for all.

Understanding the difference between these two and knowing how some aspects of animal welfare can contribute to the end-goals of human rights proponents.

What is Animal Welfare?

It encompasses all the responsibilities that we, humans, have while treating animals, whether it is a stray animal or is in captivity. Zoos, farms, laboratories, they all keep animals for different purposes.

Animal welfare is all about how humans make sure that animals get good care such as food, shelter, health treatment, and good living conditions free from sufferings. Animal rights activists are strong opponents of animal consumption by humans in any way and this is where the issue arises.

Animal rights activists have a specific end goal in mind. They believe that humans do not have the right to use animals for food, entertainment, testing, or anything in between.

Animal rights vs animal welfare

Animal welfare supporters hold the view that animals deserve humane treatment while they are in captivity. In addition to this, they also stand with the fact that there are certain areas where use of animals by humans is justified.

According to some theories of animal welfare, the use of animals by humans is acceptable until the animals are treated humanely. There is a large number of people who are proponents of treating animals humanely and sparing them unnecessary suffering.

There are many people who can be extremists when it comes to preserving animal rights and the same happens with animal welfare proponents.

Most animal rights supporters strongly believe that putting a complete stop on the consumption of animals by humans is the only way to preserve the rights of animals as they deserve the same rights as humans.

Whereas, supporters of animal welfare believe that as long as animals get good treatment, free from any cruelty, there is nothing wrong with their use and consumption.

An animal welfare activist is concerned about how the living conditions of zoo and farm animals can be improved, while an animal right proponent argues why we should have zoos.

Why Animal Welfare Exists?

We live in a world where people use animals as tools for transportation or for entertainment which is why the existence of animal welfare is necessary.

In old times, people used animals primarily for survival. But now the time has changed and using animals as a source of food, or for transportation and protection is not necessary for survival.

However, there are still large markets where they sell animal products. Indeed it requires a large sum of money in making people believe that they still need animal products in today’s age.

Marketing the use in today’s world manipulates people into thinking that animal protein is what they need, and that’s not right. Whereas fashion and automobile industries are telling people that they need leather, which is again, not true.

We are witnessing the downfall of animal-themed parks and circuses but the truth is that they are still there, and they, in fact, attract visitors and supporters. Whereas, there is a hue number of animals that remain captive and get slaughtered for the use of humans, every year. It includes the consumption of animals as clothing, food, and for experimental purposes in laboratories.

Change isn’t something that happens overnight and regularizing the practice of treating animals humanely is a process not an event so it will take time. However, the percentage of people who are following a lifestyle that includes cruelty-free products and is vegan is still very low.

The concerns of animal welfare activists are all about improving the living standards of animals that are in captivity. No matter how much we would love to see a world where animals are not used as mere products or tools, the reality shows us otherwise.

Is It Possible for Animal Rights Proponents to Support Animal Welfare?

Of course, an animal right advocate would prefer that a hen stays cage-free its whole life rather than being put in a cage where it cannot even move properly. But there are many reasons why human rights proponents can possibly support animal welfare.

The animals, these advocates fight for, are already living in poor conditions so it is better to improve those conditions and give the animals a better and healthy environment. However, accepting them as a replacement for what is supposed to be the end goal, is not fair. It is where the conflict arises.

When something is wrong, improving the conditions and making the process better won’t make the wrong an acceptable thing, according to the animal rights activists.

The Support of Cost-Benefit Analysis

This analysis was brought in by utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham who focused precisely on the question of suffering. He gave yet another turn to this whole debate and introduced to people the cost-benefit analysis.

Of course, the activities of humans affect animals and their well-being to some extent. So people follow Bentham’s cost-benefit analysis to know whether what they are doing is right or not. Such as the treatments for diabetic patients were found in animal laboratories.

The animals that were worked on paid the cost, with their lives to save the lives of millions of people. Even today, people are benefitting from these treatments.

A human welfare scientist has to make sure that the cost is minimized as much as possible and benefits are maximized greatly to ensure that animals get less affected by human activities.

This supports and justifies the use of animals by humans in the form of food, or for research or entertainment purposes.


 What are the examples of animal rights?

Animal rights encompass things that are morally wrong to do to animals. These things are unacceptable even if done in a humane way. For example:

  • Not using them for experimental purposes
  • Not killing and breeding them for medicine, clothes, or food
  • Not hunting them
  • Not using them for hard labor
  • Not using them for entertainment purposes

What does it mean by animal rights?

Animal rights favor the freedom of animals from human consumption. These rights are to protect animals from exploitation. This certainly does not mean that animals are somewhat superior to humans or that they have the same rights as humans. Moreover, animal rights are not as same as animal welfare.

Why are animal rights important?

Humans have rights in order to protect themselves from unjustified acts and sufferings. Animal rights proponents demand the same for animals to protect them from cruelty, exploitation, and to give them the freedom to live as freely as humans do.

Do animals have rights?

Animal right supporters strongly believe that animals also have worth, a value that is independent of their uses for human consumption. According to animal rights proponents, every animal holds a right to live a life that is free from suffering, pain, and captivity. The challenge the view that animals exist only to be consumed by humans.

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