Animal Rights vs Animal Welfare: What you should know


Animal Welfare supports humane treatment and use of animals and believes that humans have a responsibility for their care. Animal Welfare includes responsible care of animals used by humans for service, research, food, education, those kept in zoos or sanctuaries, and especially those animals kept by pet owners. Animal welfare is based on a principle of ownership of animals, a common sense approach that animals should be treated well and that animal cruelty is wrong. Animal welfare sets standards and guidelines for animal use and management based on sound veterinary and animal husbandry research and practices.

Animal Rights (AR) is a radical ideology that attempts to elevate species of animals to equality with humans by applying human interpretations of morality. A core tenet of animal rights philosophy is that no species on this planet is better than another; therefore, humans have no right to dominate over, use, breed, or eat nonhuman species.

Basic principles of animal rights philosophy are:

bulletblackThe ability of animals to feel pain and pleasure puts them on a plane of moral equivalence with humans. This moral significance of animals necessitates that we reject the use and treatment of animals as resources or as property. Use of animals for food, research, and entertainment must be abolished and not merely regulated. (Peter Singer) (1)
bulletblackAnimals have a life of their own that is of importance to them apart from their utility to us; therefore, logic implies that animals have the same right as humans to pursue their life without human interference.
bulletblackThe line between human and non-human animals is an artificial construct designed to facilitate and justify the exploitation of non-human animals. (2)

This philosophy was modernized by controversial Australian-born utilitarian ethicist Peter Singer (Princeton University). Singer coined the phrase speciesism meaning a prejudicial or biased attitude of members of one’s own species against those members of another species. Central to understanding his philosophy are two points: Singer believes conservative mainstream fundamentalist views that separate humans and animals are the most harmful to the concept of animal liberation. Singer rejects as false Judeo-Christian beliefs in the sanctity of life and that man was created in the image of God, and urges his followers [to] extend to other species the basic principle of equality that most of us recognize should be extended to all members of our own species. (3)

Differentiating between these two definitions certainly seems to be no problem, then why are the terms often used interchangeably, and why does confusion exist in the public eye?

In a speech to the Animal Agriculture Alliance, Wes Jamison, PhD, an associate professor of agriculture at Dordt College said the animal rights movement, which has its roots in Europe, is here to stay. Dr Jamison says four social conditions cause the movement: urbanization, humanization of animals (anthropomorphism), acceptance of evolutionary theory, and affinity for equal rights among species (egalitarianism). Today’s urban society, whose main contact with animals is pets that they view as family members, creates a ready-made audience for animal rights activists. In the late 1990s many animal rights groups started using legislative, regulatory, and judicial processes to work toward their goals. According to Dr. Jamison, this is where animal rights groups are having a quiet and very significant impact on the way people use and view animals. They have advantages. They have better organization, they have intense activism, and they have local civic support. (4)

Many modern animal advocates see the abolition of animal exploitation as a long-term goal, but they see welfarist reform, which seeks to reduce animal suffering, as setting the course for the interim strategy. (5)

In other words, it is easy to identify the extreme elements within the movement, such as Animal Liberation Front members who set fires, bomb buildings, release animals and destroy property. What is not easy to identify are the majority of rightists working incrementally through non-profit organizations toward the goal of animal liberation. By publicly identifying themselves as champions to end animal cruelty, these groups are able to raise tremendous amounts of money from the animal-loving public. In turn these funds can be used to further the underlying agenda of philosophical indoctrination.

Animal Rights groups routinely use false and unsubstantiated allegations of animal abuse or non-existent problems to raise funds, attract media attention, and bring supporters into the movement.

An example of this is the continuing campaign against breeding of dogs due to an “overpopulation crisis”. The public is told repeatedly never buy animals from pet stores or breeders — with millions of animals dying in shelters, there is no reason for any animal to be bred –don’t breed, don’t buy while shelter animals die.

The real truth about animal abandonment is that it has dramatically decreased since 1973 and only a small portion of the total owned animal population are abandoned and euthanized.

Total Pet Population
# Euthanized in Shelters***
% of Pet Population
65 million
13.5 million
92 million
8-10 million
110 million
5-6 million
120 million
4-6 million
141 million
4.4 million

*From HSUS State of the Animals 2001
**American Pet Products Manufacturers Assoc. National Pet Owners Survey & Animal People Shelter Survey
***Shelters include owner requested euthanasia in their statistics which is not a part of abandoned animals euthanized.

According to HSUS State of the Animals 2001, “There was, however, general consensus among most animal related organizations that the term pet overpopulation was not only difficult to define, but that it was also probably no longer an accurate catchphrase to describe the reasons for animals leaving their original homes, especially for dogs.”

Animal rights groups choose to ignore facts for the purpose of framing an overpopulation issue to their advantage in the public eye in order to raise sympathy dollars and convince legislators that anti-breeding legislation is required. Eventually facts and truth become irrelevant in the discussion and increasingly difficult to present to counter the anti-breeding campaign.


According to the Animals & Society Institute, which calls itself a think tank for the animal rights movement, there are five stages to a social movement. Stage 1-Public education; Stage 2-Public Policy Development; Stage 3-Legislation; Stage 4-Litigation; Stage 5-Acceptance. As a movement, many activists teach their followers to: equate human discrimination and slavery issues with use and ownership of animals and propagandize connections between the exploitation and abuse of women and animals under a male dominated society.

Does the movement have the hallmark of being a cult? One would think the answer to this would be a definitive yes by looking at the subject matter for lectures at annual Animal Rights Conferences. A short list of topics from AR2005 includes:

bulletgrnThe Making of an Activist (getting rid of emotional garbage and becoming who you want to be) – Alex Hershaft, Scott Smith;
bulletgrnWaging Effective Campaigns (defining objectives, scope, resources, tactics, action plan, review process) – David Hayden, Kevin Jonas, Lauren Ornelas, Barbara Stagno;
bulletgrnEngaging Religion (Christian, Jewish, Moslem, and minor religious denominations) – Cassandra Flechsig, Roberta Kalechofsky, Rick Kump, Scott Smith; and
bulletgrnWinning Hearts and Minds – (changing behavior by altering feelings and beliefs) – Alex Hershaft, Lawrence Carter-Long (6)
bulletgrnEngaging Youth (school groups, cafeteria vegan options, rock concerts, literature distribution) – Rick Kump, George Matejka, Jack Norris

The animal rightists with blind conviction in their belief and desire to convert the world to veganism work tirelessly to impose their doctrine on the public. Can this then be considered a religion? In The False Philosophy-Peter Singer, Jenny Teichman writes: “Even if Singer is not religious, he does have a kind of theology. His ideas resemble those of religions that say that one has to belong to a special group — the baptized, the circumcised, the elect, or whatever.”

What is crucial to understand about the animal rights ideology is the determination of believers to force their doctrine onto the public at all costs, and the legal system is the new arena.


Animal rightists believe that animals should no longer be regarded legally or morally as property or as resources for human use. To accomplish this animal rights advocates believe either a change in legal status is needed or animals should outright be regarded as persons. Abolishing the property status of animals within the legal system is considered by many animal rights philosophers and advocates as the means to achieve their goal of liberation for animals.

Professor Gary Francione (Rutgers School of Law) states “I argue that animals should have one right: the right not to be our property. Indeed, I argue that a “person” is any being who is entitled to this one right and all sentient beings should be regarded as “persons”, or as holders of this one right not to be property. If we accepted that animals have this one right, we would be committed to abolishing animal exploitation because our use of animals for food, experiments, product testing, entertainment and clothing assumes that animals are nothing but property. If we accepted that animals have this one right, we would stop, completely, bringing domestic animals into existence.” (7)

The current property status of animals is generally considered the biggest stumbling block, and there are several routes discussed by animal rights groups as a means to overcome this and obtain animal-human equality. One is to elevate the legal interests of animals that are of special importance to people. For example, establishing pet trusts within the legal system and awarding large sums of money in veterinary malpractice suits demonstrating that certain pets hold more value to people than other owned property.

The legal system changes through the decision of judges or by legislatures enacting statutes. Viewpoints and values in society also influence changes in the law. For example, changing the language of the law, i.e. owner to guardian reflects a belief that animals are not property. The Guardianship Campaign initiated by In Defense of Animals founder Elliott Katz pledges – “I believe that animals are not commodities or property to be bought, sold, disposed of, or discarded”. While being hailed as merely a means to allow people to express their deep commitment to their pets, in reality this language may legally remove ownership rights and have far reaching effects into other areas of law and government. (8) (9)


Established in 1954, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) began as an animal welfare organization. Over the years HSUS assimilated leaders and ideas from the animal rights movement, moving closer to the complete animal rights ideology it maintains today. Through effective marketing and campaigns directed at the public’s natural love of animals to solicit funds, HSUS has grown to be a household word and an industry giant worth close to $120 million. What drives this mammoth organization? Is it animal welfare goals of humane treatment and stewardship or animal rights philosophy which would eliminate from our lives the use of animals in any fashion?

To understand the goals, you must examine the beliefs of the leaders, not the campaigns that claim to be for the protection of animals.

Wayne Pacelle. President, Humane Society of the United States; former Executive Dir. & National Dir., the Fund For Animals; former president, Animal Rights Alliance; former chairman, Animal Rights Network Inc.; former editor, The Animals Agenda magazine. Pacelle, a strict vegan who converted to the animal rights philosophy after reading Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, joined HSUS in 1994 after working at the anti-hunting group the Fund for Animals for six years. There he helped Paul Watson and his violent Sea Shepherd Conservation Society raise money for ships, and assisted Alex Pacheco and PETA as they ran an undercover investigation of a primate research lab.

Miyun Park. Staffer. Washington, DC activist hired by HSUS in 2005, was acknowledged in 1999 as a financial benefactor of No Compromise magazine, a self-described militant, direct action magazine for Animal Liberation Front (ALF) supporters. In the investigation leading to the 2005 animal-enterprise terrorism trial of six SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) activists, Park was among those named in at least six federal wiretap warrants.

Leslie Alexander. HSUS board member. In 1998 the Alexanders were guests of honor at PETA headquarters. Quoting PETA: “This year, the Alexanders helped PETA with one of the most generous gifts we have ever received. The gift came when we were facing a lawsuit from Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS); their generosity enabled PETA to persevere and win our battle against HLS, as well as making other victories possible. The Alexanders have our deepest appreciation.” Leslie and wife Nanci are owners of the Houston Rockets; wife Nanci also runs the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida.

John P Goodwin. HSUS grassroots coordinator. Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade; former Animal Liberation Front member arrested and convicted for arson and vandalism of fur retailers in multiple states during the 1990s.

Quoting Paul Shapiro, HSUS staffer, Compassion Over Killing co-founder, “nothing is more important than promoting veganism.”, 2004 National Student Animal Rights Conference.

Finally quoting Michael Markarian. Executive VP Humane Society of the United States; Past President, Fund for Animals; Board member Institute for Animals and Society: “…your everyday meat-eaters and cosmetics users; they are not vivisectors, they are not slaughterhouse operators, and they have basic feelings of compassion. But they are accustomed to eating, wearing, and using animal products, and they need to be convinced to give them up. They can be won over; slowly but surely they are being won over …”

The goals of HSUS are definable by reading their position statements which can be accessed from their website:

~ [The HSUS] supports the enactment and enforcement of animal control ordinances designed to regulate, deter, and reduce companion animal breeding,
~ The HSUS opposes the sale of dogs, cats, and other animals through pet stores and other commercial operations
~ The HSUS opposes rodeos as they are commonly organized
~ The HSUS opposes the use of captive wild animals as performers in circuses, film and television, and commercials
~ The HSUS opposes the hunting of any living creature for fun, trophy, or sport because of the animal trauma, suffering, and death that result.

The HSUS Animal Protection Litigation Section has a staff of eight full-time lawyers, numerous law clerks, administrative staff, outside counsel, and pro-bono attorneys, making their section the largest in-house animal protection litigation department in the country. The Animal Protection Litigation Section also serves as a training ground for the next generation of animal lawyers and law students. As part of that mission, the section operates the Animal Law Litigation Project in Washington, DC — a joint-venture with George Washington University School of Law. The project, the first such joint animal law clinic in the country, offers highly qualified law students a chance to work with HSUS’s legal staff.

HSUS is currently working on over 3 dozen animal cases throughout the U.S., including suits against Ringling Brothers, the California State Board of Equalization, the State of New Jersey Department of Agriculture, U.S. Park Service, and 5 suits against USDA.

HSUS was victorious in the November 7th Arizona ballot initiative Proposition 204 which banned gestation crates for breeding pigs and confinement of veal calves. Interestingly, there is only one large pig farm in Arizona and no calves are raised for veal making the state an easy target for waging war against this husbandry practice. The ballot measure was opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and led to a break in negotiations between AVMA and HSUS on any future welfare initiatives.

The unanimous decision came during AVMA’s Executive Board meeting in April, when group leaders nixed plans to send Congress a joint letter pushing issues ranging from a stance against animal fighting to promoting animal welfare in the United States. The deal breaker: HSUS’ support of an Arizona ballot initiative to ban sow gestation stalls, a move that crosses many allied veterinarians. Although HSUS commands a powerful lobbying force in Washington, AVMA ended its budding partnership with the $100-million association in response to concern from food animal counterparts, Executive Board Chairman Dr. Bud Hertzog says. (10)

The ballot initiative technique was used in 2002 in Florida to ban use of gestation crates by Floridaˇ¦s two pork producers. HSUS and partner Farm Sanctuary unloaded in excess of $1M flooding the media in support of the proposal; included in the expenditures was payment to a firm in Nevada to collect signatures. Money, propaganda and little opposition (since only 2 farmers raised pigs) resulted in urban voters – with no concept of animal management – approving a constitutional amendment “protecting” pigs.

Final result – Florida lawmakers are embarrassedly looking at the ease with which pigs gained rights in the state constitution. Florida state Senate President Jim King (R) told United Press International that, “The pregnant pig issue was the straw that broke the camel’s back for most of us.” That feeling was helped along by the fact that rather than try to comply with the bill, the two farmers who actually would have been covered by the new requirement chose instead to slaughter all of their pigs and get out of the business.

Surprisingly, some people still believe that HSUS helps animals by operating and/or supporting animal shelters when in reality that is not the case.

In 2003, in revenue, additions and transfers, HSUS made $76,923,670. Of that amount, sheltering programs received $10,551,527 and it was shared with animal habitat and wildlife programs. Now, assuming it was an even split, sheltering programs received $3,517,175.66.

That’s a lot of money, but not when you consider a good sized shelter can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to run, three million is really a drop in the bucket. They spent $21,145,769.00 in fundraising and membership development. Six times what they put into their shelter programs, which is what most people think HSUS does with money donated to them. (11)

According to HSUS 2004 financials, 20.6% of their direct donation income of $78.5 million is spent on management and fundraising. The largest expenditure, 65.6% or $51.5 million is in a broad category labeled program services. Under program services expenses include salaries accounting for $9 million and benefits, taxes $2.4 million.

Working through the 45-page statement, finally is a narrative on the activities comprising program services: Public education funds of $34.5 million are spent on their media department, magazine, and the animal channel, while only twenty-eight thousand dollars is spent in direct grants. (12)


On September 1, 2006 a merger was announced between HSUS and Doris Day Animal League (DDAL), expanding again the size, strength and expertise of HSUS – already a giant in the animal rights world.

The HSUS press release states the merger “will result in increased public policy activity and coordination on animal welfare issues and further streamline operations among national animal advocacy groups.” Sara Amundson, DDAL legislative director, is slated to be executive director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

HSUS and DDAL have worked together in the past on several issues such as ending greyhound racing, opposing use of animals in testing, and on laws to regulate breeding and sales of dogs and cats.

The press release on the merger quotes HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle as saying, “Our members often wonder why groups and individuals with a common purpose do not join together, and we are heeding their call to do just that.” Although DDAL is small in comparison (2005 Form 990 lists $3.5 million income), the merger adds a well known face, experienced staff, and legislative connections for the use of HSUS management.

How similar are the goals and views of HSUS and DDAL?

HSUS and DDAL worked jointly on federal legislation to regulate dog and cat breeding by lobbying for Senator Rick Santorum’s Puppy Protection (PPA) Act in 2001. The PPA had three main points: mandating how often breeding could be done; writing engineering standards to cover veterinary care, housing facilities, socialization, and training; and a license revocation clause. This extreme legislation failed twice in the Senate.

Not to be deterred, the bill was re-introduced in 2005 as the Pet Animal Welfare Statue (aka PAWS) labeled the Puppy Mill bill to gain sympathy support. This radical, controversial, unfunded, and poorly thought out legislation succeeded only in eventually dividing support even among the sponsors when the idea of having USDA outsource the inspection process was publicized.

DDAL’s aim through the initial anti-breeder legislation was to mandate licensing for every person in the US that even bred a single litter of dogs and cats. Their passion was so intense to regulate (thereby diminishing or eliminating breeding) that they filed suit against USDA (DDAL vs Venemen, Anne) claiming the intent of the Animal Welfare Act was to regulate retail sellers as well as commercial dealers. The USDA prevailed in this litigation.

It is unconscionable that HSUS / DDAL leaders and lobbyists sitting in a sterile, vegan environment theorizing and issuing propaganda should have credible input with the federal government to suggest regulations and conditions that impact the future of dog, cat, and small animal breeding within private citizens homes.

In-home small animal breeders are already under siege from local and state laws due in part by increased urbanization, but also as a result of grassroots efforts by local anti-breeding HSUS and PETA affiliates. Federal oversight, an additional layer of regulation and increased burden on USDA funding is both unnecessary and wasteful of government resources.

DDAL’s website contains various campaigns against use of animals in research, racing, and entertainment, links to vegan dining and cruelty-free shopping, as well as their mission statements. One of the mission statements is to network with other animal protection groups to promote common goals. The PPA and PAWS are examples of this networking, as is working against use of animals in medical research and against use of animals for entertainment.

HSUS and DDAL were joint sponsors along with the Animal Protection Institute, and others for the Taking Action for Animals Conference (September 2005). Keynote presenter at the conference was ethicist, Peter Singer, founder of The Great Ape Project (GAP), who is well known for his statements and beliefs on animal equality.

“Surely there will be some nonhuman animals whose lives, by any standards, are more valuable than the lives of some humans.” — Peter Singer, , Animal Liberation: A New Ethic for Our Treatment of Animals, 2nd edition, 1990.

Another example of networking with animal rights/protection groups is DDAL’s partnering with the Chimp Collaboratory, founded in 2000 with a grant from the Glaser Foundation. Quoting from the Chimp Collaboratory website, Glaser Foundation Director Martin Collier states, “The chimpanzee is an especially compelling yet imperiled species. Because of our genetic similarity and unique relationship to chimpanzees, they can lead the way in breaking down barriers that separate us from them, human from non-human animals.” (13)

It can only be assumed that DDAL will continue to work on rights and personhood for apes under the HSUS banner and bank account.


With the massive funding behind HSUS, teams of attorneys, campaign contributions to sympathetic legislators, the ability to entrench their animal rights ideology in universities across America and enormous outpouring of propaganda to the public through the media, it is imperative that animal owners, legislators and the general public learn to thoroughly examine and understand animal related legislation proposed at all levels of government.

If questions arise when animal-related legislation is proposed by animal protection groups, seek the advice of hands-on professionals within that particular industry — not philosophers and ethicists.

Simply stated, if your car engine was knocking would you ask a chemist or a mechanic for advice? If your dog is ill, would you seek out a philosopher or a veterinarian?

The animal rights movement is about control not animal welfare. Supporting legislation based on emotion and philosophical interpretation provides a platform in our legal system for incremental increases toward animal status changes.

Daniel T. Oliver in Animal Rights: The Inhumane Crusade, writes: “The animal rights movement is, quite simply, an animal non-use movement. Unlike traditional humane organizations, which seek to prevent cruelty and improve the treatment of animals, animal rights organizations seek to end the use and ownership of animals. Some people mistakenly believe that animal rights groups are just humane organizations that have gone overboard in their concern for animals – that they care so deeply for animals that they overlook human welfare.” According to Oliver, “the animal rights movement will continue to harm both people and animals as long as Americans fail to understand its actual agenda.”


1. Animal Liberation. Peter Singer, 1975
2. Toward total animal liberation. Pattrice Le-Muire Jones, Founder Eastern Shore Chicken Sanctuary. Address delivered at the Animal Rights 2002 Conference Plenary session on Engaging Other Communities
3. Peter Singer: Architect of the Culture of Death. Donald Demarco.
4. The Animal Rights Struggle. Journal of the American Veterinary Association May 2004
5. Animal Rights and Animal Welfare. Three Different View of The Rights/Welfare Relationship. Professor Gary Francione, Rutgers University School of Law
6. Winning hearts and minds. Animal Rights 2005
7. Interview with Gary Francione first published in Vegan Voice
8. Ownership of Animals vs Guardianship of Animals. American Veterinary Law Association White Paper 2002
9. Council of State Governments Resolution on Animal Guardianship and Liability Legislation
10. Executive Board sinks HSUS joint venture. DVM June 2006.
11. What is the Humane Society of the United States? Christopher Aust, August 2004
12. HSUS website
13. Martin Collier, Director The Chimpanzee Collaboratory – The Face Of Change

Additional Resources

Where Animal Rights Went Wrong. Dr. Jo-Anne Pontone. HPR, March 2002
Scientists Brace for Animal Activism. The Scientist, Nov. 2002

Suggested Reading

Animal Rights: the Inhumane Crusade by Daniel T. Oliver
The Hijacking of the Humane Movement: Animal Extremism by Patti Strand
Animal Rights: History and Scope of a Radical Social Movement by Harold D. Guither

National Canine Research Association of America