Do You Know the Difference Between Animal Rights & Animal Welfare?

Recently, a woman I admire in the animal welfare community was invited to be on an internet radio show where they were going to discuss human rights vs animal rights. They had invited her because some of the rescues she had attempted to perform had gotten controversial press coverage. The conversation never actually got to what it was advertised to be before I shut it off.

The host of the show had invited too many guests and everybody wanted to talk at once, and all of them wanted to talk about different things. (Except for the person I had tuned in to listen to. She politely offered her opinion when it was asked of her, and she answered questions about her cause.)  I tried, but couldn’t listen to the whole thing, because after about a half an hour of mostly incomprehensible blabbering, (where ultimately almost everyone on the show actually agreed with the woman I had tuned in for)  the host began blatantly attempting  to bait her and discredit her.

One of the interesting things that came through to me during the time I did listen, however, was that the radio host clearly had this woman lumped into the category of “Animal Rights” when she is obviously all about Animal Welfare. I’d like to explain the difference for those of you who don’t know.

Animal Rights activists subscribe to the belief that animals have the same rights as humans. Proponents believe that animals and humans should not really interact. That animals shouldn’t even be kept as pets, because that’s a form of slavery.  Proponents of the philosophy would ban the raising of livestock, petting zoos, marine parks, breeding of purebred pets and any use of animals for entertainment. (Imagine!  No Lassie!  No Benjy!  No National Velvet!)

Animal Welfare advocates subscribe to the belief that animals should be well cared for. The philosophy encompasses all aspects of animal well-being, including proper housing, management, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane euthanasia.

If you are a regular donor to humane causes, with the knowledge of this distinction, you can make a better decision as to which camp you prefer to support. A lot of animal lovers donate to the biggest animal organizations in the country because their names are well known. But before you decide on a humane charity, please consider the following.

PETA:  Animal Rights. Incidentally, they just released their kill statistics for 2010. PETA took in 4569 animals, of which 838 were adopted out, 3,630 were killed, and 63 were transferred out of the shelter. PETA’s kill rate in 2010 was 80%. Most people don’t know what a high kill rate they have. PETA believes that an animal is better off dead than a pet.

HSUS:  Animal Welfare. While the Humane Society of the United States has the clout to perform large scale animal rescues like puppy mills and horse farms, they do not have a shelter. Animals rescued go to whatever local shelters have room to house them, and not all of them are no-kills. While HSUS is doing great work getting animals out of bad situations, they do not subsidize the shelters that take in the animals they’ve rescued. HSUS uses the largest percentage of the monetary donations they receive to buy advertising and marketing that asks for more donations.

It’s a little disconcerting, isn’t it? You love animals and you want to donate to a reputable organization that helps them, yet the two most well known organizations in the country are using your dollars for dubious pursuits.

I suggest that if you want to donate to a humane group, that you donate your dollars to small local 501(c )3 organizations, that are staffed by volunteers and rely on donations to operate. Here are some of my recommendations.

PAWS: Animal Welfare. No Kill, free roam shelter. Volunteer organization.

DOGS DESERVE BETTER: Animal Welfare. No Kill.

Bella: the blind cocker spaniel that was rescued from a chain in Akron this February by the local chapter of Dogs Deserve Better.

Volunteer organization. Rescuing, fostering, rehabbing and rehoming formerly chained dogs.

VALLEY SAVE-A-PET: Animal Welfare. No Kill. Volunteer organization.  Rescuing, fostering, rehoming.  Low cost spay and neuter. (new website under construction)

SANCTUARY FOR SENIOR DOGS:  Animal Welfare. No Kill. Rescuing, fostering, rehoming senior dogs that have been abandoned in shelters.

THE GENTLE BARN: Animal Welfare. No Kill. Rescue, rehabilitation and sanctuary for animals. (focus on farm animals)

I hope you will add your own favorite small, local rescue group(s) below in the comments section.

About yelodoggie

Ariel C. Wulff is an author, artist and animal advocate. They have been involved in pet rescue for over twenty-five years. They have written two books about their true-life adventures living with an ever-changing house full of pets: Born Without a Tail, and Circling the Waggins, and a guide to animal advocacy using the Internet as a tool: How to Change the World in 30 Seconds". Wulff also wrote a pet column and book review column for the Examiner, and was a contributing editor for They attribute their love of animals to having been raised by Wulffs.
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10 Responses to Do You Know the Difference Between Animal Rights & Animal Welfare?

  1. Lu says:

    I support my local shelters, but I also support the Humane Society in the U.S. because of their legislative work. Laws need to be changed regarding animal welfare. I’m thinking of puppy mill enforcement laws, laws regarding the treatment of farm animals, laws about the use of animals for fighting, etc. I think we need both the “hands on” care and rescue of animals and the legislative work.


  2. Lori Willick says:

    Greyhound Pets of America/Greater Orlando is a member of a national non-profit organization dedicated to finding responsible loving homes for Greyhounds who fail to qualify (or no longer qualify) to race. GPA educates the public on how ex-racers make excellent loving pets & how they are available for adoption to qualified homes. GPA/GO is run by volunteers that want to help these loving dogs.


  3. nancy says:

    Ok, Cayr, I’m still learning. Rescuing “chained pets”…seriously, a pet left out of doors on a chain??? Or does it mean something else. Thanks for the heads up on HSUS and PETA


    • yelodoggie says:

      Yes, pets left out of doors on a chain. Many communities don’t have restrictions on this, and people chain their pets out 24/7/365. The pet that is chained outdoors alone doesn’t become properly socialized. Most dog bites in the US are from dogs not properly socialized. Additionally, a dog that is chained 24/7/365 is often not vetted and forgotten. You wouldn’t believe how many of them starve to death or dehydrate, or freeze to death in frigid temperatures.


  4. Ammonia and other gases from manure irritate animals lungs to the point where over 80 of US pigs have pneumonia upon slaughter . ………………Little Bacon is a factory farm nursery in Nebraska.The piglets never come outside…..Every year hundreds of thousands of animals raised for food experience terrible living conditions because the majority of meat dairy and poultry production in the U.S.


  5. jennifer says:

    i live 2000 miles away but i donate to lucky dog rescue and i volunteer/foster for new life boxer rescue…both 501(c)3 non profit…ashley hill from lucky dog rescue is doing amazing things!


  6. Alex D says:

    Your definition of animal rights refers to the abolitionist beliefs of a small fringe group in the animal rights movement. Pointing to an extreme philosophy and calling it animal rights only helps to marginalize and demonize all animal advocates, as well as their goals, which are to protect animals from cruelty. I personally don’t know any advocates who are against having pets!
    Also, just to clear up some of misconceptions about HSUS: They have 2 sanctuaries and 3 wildlife rehabilitation centers. They give millions to shelters and rescues every year – more than any other group, even though their mission is national rescue, passing humane laws. (The TNR group I work with received close to a $2,000 grant from HSUS.)
    HSUS also does so much more than pass humane laws to protect animals from cruelty.
    They rescued over 6000 pit bulls since their anti-dog fighting campaign began, last year they saved more than 8000 animals from disasters and life threatening cruelty, and provided hands-on care for over 60,000 animals. This is just the tip of the iceberg of HSUS’s work in 2011. I encourage you to take a look at their awesome 2011 accomplishments:
    HSUS does not spend most of their donations on advertising! These are lies created by Humane Watch, NAIA, Center for Consumer Freedom, ActivistCash – front groups that lobby on behalf of the animal abusing industries.

    Shelters help the victims of abuse and HSUS gets to the root cause of that abuse – and both are important to the welfare of the animals.
    Thank you for all your rescue work.


  7. yelodoggie says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the animal welfare and animal rights movements. Alex….if you look into Peta, you will find that their stance is very anti-pet, their kill numbers are as high as the worst kill shelters and they have a peculiar stance on no-kill shelters. There is a documentary about (and endorsed) by PETA that shows them getting people to surrender their pets (which admittedly were not being treated well) but there’s no attempt to vet and rehome those pets…they are “better off dead”.
    I agree that the HSUS does a lot of great work. The spending link you listed is from 2008, and you’ll note that it does not list ‘advertising’ anywhere. However, if you read the description of Outreach and Campaigns (which together total 43% of their funds) you will see that both of those areas would include advertising. There is also no mention of salaries in the spend chart you cited. Here are their own records from that year itemized: which indicates almost 38M paid in salaries and benefits alone.Almost 16M was spent on advertising, and an additional 4-5M in fundraising. While this report is on a non-profit consumer watchdog site, you’ll see that the document I’m citing is the public record of the HSUS’s 2008 tax return.
    While I think that a good portion of the money spent on advertising and salaries could be trimmed, I am glad to know that the organization has the clout necessary to lobby for better laws.


  8. Alex D says:

    Your source of information, The Center for Consumer Freedom, is a front group that is funded by the animal using industry (puppy mills, factory farms, research labs, etc). They were exposed on 60 Minutes a few years ago for their unethical, dishonest tactics and outright lying. They twist the facts in such a way that they appear believable. (Other front groups that represent the animal abuse industries are Humane Watch, Humane Society of Shelter Pets, NAIA and ActivistCash.)

    The CCF has greatly distorted the facts about HSUS. They do not spend most of their money on advertising for donations. Outreach and Campaigns are legitimate categories where HSUS spends part of their funds, and include:
    HSUS investigations which expose and prosecute animal cruelty, public awareness campaigns (puppy mills, factory farming, fur-free, wildlife abuse, anti-dog fighting, etc), public service announcements, shelter promotion (including The Pet Shelter Project partnering HSUS with Maddies Fund).

    As far as salaries, with an average employee compensation of 68K, HSUS falls in the middle of the scale as shown here. Both salaries and benefits are not excessive for educated HSUS employees. The same goes for CEO compensation. See below.

    I agree with you 100% about PETA and find that very upsetting.
    I think most advocates just want the animals to have the right to live free from pain and suffering. It’s obvious from your writing and rescue efforts that you do. And I look forward to reading more as I recently became a first time dog owner 🙂


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