Animal Rights vs Animal Welfare

More and more I see the pro-slaughter proponent bandying about the words “activist” and “terrorist” to describe anyone who goes against their agenda.  While I laugh at the fact that they like to try to subtly paint all welfare advocates with the PETA brush – implying we are crazy and only want the complete freedom of all animals – it does worry me that people who are not quite as “aware” of the issues surrounding horse slaughter will see the word “activist” and immediately brush us all off as crazy.  This would make the pro-slaughter opinions seem more sane.

There are several main differences between someone who is pushing the animal rights agenda versus someone who is pushing the animal welfare agenda.  While I am sure there are many completely sane and intelligent “animal rights activists”, the more crazy of the bunch have enabled the view that they’re all crazy.  That being said, if I had to choose between there being NO animal rights activists or the noteworthy acts of the “crazies”, I would choose the crazies.  Why?  Because at least they care enough about the animals to go to any length to secure humane treatment of all animals.  That’s better than nothing.

All that being said, I thought I would try to explain the difference between an “animal rights activist” and an “animal welfare advocate”.  I need to start with a couple of word definitions


  1. Having sense perception; conscious
  2. Experiencing sensation or feeling

Why is this definition important?  Well, when people refer to animals as sentient beings, they are not trying to say they deserve to be treated as well as or better than humans (or rather, how humans should be treated).  What they are saying is that animals feel things, and therefore deserve to be treated humanely.  Anyone, and I mean anyone, who disagrees with the idea/fact that animals have feelings has never spent time with an animal.  Every day I see a range of emotions from my pets – from needing love, to fear, embarrassment, guilt, silliness, etc.  This range of emotion is apparent in my dogs, cats, and horses.

As an aside here, I want to state that anyone who has been involved in rescue knows animals can show they are grateful for the humane treatment they are receiving.  I have three horses, as well as one I recently rescued from a very neglectful situation.  After only two days, the rescue horse “hugged” me.  She showed such gratefulness within two days, for things my horses take for granted every day.  My horses don’t realize how good they have it.  This same gratefulness has been exhibited in all other species of animals as well.

Another point to make on this matter is the fact that the definition of sentient does not point to emotional feeling in particular.  Just “feeling”.  That could include sensitivity to hot or cold, amongst other concerns.


  1. A proponent or practitioner of activism
  2. Militant, partisan, organizer, warrior


  1. health, happiness, prosperity, and well-being in general


  1. An individual who uses violence, terror, and intimidation to achieve a result.

As for the activist and welfare definitions, I wanted to show the difference in thinking and actions between the two.  While the actual definition of the word “activist” does not denote any form of “terrorism”,  it does use the word “militant” which means “Having a combative character; aggressive, especially in the service of a cause.”  Meaning someone is willing to be aggressive and combative.

Many pro-slaughter proponents are also using the word “terrorist” when describing people who speak up against their agenda.  Without going too far into this issue, I will note that I suspect the victims of 9-11, their families and friends, and the nation in general would take issue with anyone using the term “terrorist” in regards to this agenda.

The word welfare does not denote any of those more aggressive tendencies.

And therein lies the main difference between an activist and a welfare advocate; the willingness to be militant.

Note the difference in the style of protesting being done between activists (top photos) and welfare advocates (bottom photos)!


  1. characterized by kindness, mercy, sympathy, etc.
  2. inflicting as little pain as possible

What welfare advocates desire is the view that all animals, whether wild, domestic, pet or food-chain, be treated humanely.  They need room to move, appropriate feed, veterinary treatment when necessary, freedom from pain, and a kind touch.  We would also like to point out that what works for one species does not necessarily work for another species.  For example, you can’t treat a horse and a cow the exact same.  You don’t feed them the same food, as they have different digestive and nutritive needs.  Horses and cows both have hooves, and both need attention – but the requirements are different!  Yet both species deserve and respond well to kind treatment.

Another big difference between cows and horses is their response to fear.  Cattle are not nearly as flighty as horses.  Dr. Temple Grandin (this will be the only quote I ever use from her on this blog) equated a horses temperament to a deers for the flight response.  Because horses are more like deer than cattle when it comes to a fear response, horses just can not be slaughtered the same way cows are.

Bottom Line

An activist is willing to break the law to “save” animals.  Welfare advocates want tocreate laws to ensure the animals are treated humanely.


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