Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights: Do You Know the Difference?

I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, and a huge animal lover; and I support zoological institutions for their contribution to conservation and research, assistance with species preservation, and public education.  I also support Animal Welfare, not Animal Rights; although the two sound relatively similar.  You may think, well of course I would want to support Animal Rights; the word “rights” just sounds so legit.  But, do you truly know the difference?


What is Animal Welfare?

Let’s start with Animal Welfare. “Animal welfare means how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives. An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress. Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter, management, nutrition, humane handling and humane slaughter. Animal welfare refers to the state of the animal; the treatment that an animal receives is covered by other terms such as animal care, animal husbandry, and humane treatment. Protecting an animal’s welfare means providing for its physical and mental needs” (   I support the humane care of animals, I eat meat, own pets, and support zoos (as long as they are serving a purpose).  I never ate veal due to the way the baby cows were raised (AW) and I would take in every stray if I could; I care about their well-being.



Animal Rights is a different, more radical approach in its reference to animals.  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” (  So how exactly do they differ?  Well, AR activists aim to halt all human care of animals; including household pets.  They believe animals have a right to live a life of their own and should never be in control by a human.  They also do not believe there is a difference between human and non-human animals; household pets and slavery are considered the same and an ant and your child endure the same amount of pain and both lives should be looked at equally.


PETA and The HSUS are huge AR activists; which is why PETA euthanizes most its animals.  The HSUS is worth $120 million and donates a very small amount of money, maybe 4% of its profits, to animal shelters each year.  Because, in reality, their goal is not to rehome animals. Their goal, as an AR group is to end all human care of animals; from your pet goldfish to all agricultural and zoo animals.  No animals should be used for research or food or any other purpose; no human intervention whatsoever.

I, personally, will not buy anything made by the HSUS; dog beds, toys, treats, no way!  I would never support a company that would rather see my dogs kidnapped and euthanized than sleeping safely in their beds.  While I do not agree with horse racing, I would never attempt to burn down a stable to prove my point.  Please understand I am not portraying my opinion of how the two differ; I am presenting the facts.  Please feel free to google “animal welfare vs. animal rights” to see what you find.  This is also a great article:


Why do I support zoos?

It was not until a couple years ago, while taking Captive Biology at NC State University with Dr. Campbell, I truly learned what zoos can do for animals.  She was not a huge fan of SeaWorld, but she understood the dangers of attempting to release the animals and not allowing them to engage in species typical behavior; breeding, playing, socializing, etc.  ***We would not have the same appreciation for animals if we were unable to see and interact with them on a more personal level.  And that appreciation leads to beach clean ups, stranding assistance, and other amazing efforts from the public.  Those efforts help animals; signing online petitions for their release to the wild (an unknown place without their lifelong social structure) does not.

I truly suggest going behind the scenes and learning what zoos and aquariums do for their wild counterparts.  Research habitat loss and wild population status; I read the other day a 42 year old female from the JPod has, sadly, been reported missing.  Take a look for yourself and refrain from reading articles from “The Dodo”, “Peta”, “The HSUS”, and other animal rights activists;  they do much more harm than good, honestly.  I am not trying to convince you to support SeaWorld or even zoos, but to understand the purpose of these institutions and the ramifications of captive release and boycotting.  There are so many more environmental issues that could use your attention; global warming, the tiger problem (this is a huge and extremely depressing issue), habitat destruction, the pollution of our oceans, etc.  Engage in these problems and fight a cause worth fighting.  What do you have to gain by shutting down a reputable zoo?


***Please know, I do not believe orcas are better off in captivity, but I know the orcas at SeaWorld are not mistreated and give us research we would never, ever get otherwise.  I am unhappy with their decision to end breeding, but happy they are moving the orca show to a more naturalistic theme.


Do you support zoos as well?  Do you believe in animal welfare?  Share your comments below, but please keep them family friendly :).


Thank you for reading!!



About The Author


Nicole lives with her husband and son in North Carolina. They have another bundle of joy on the way as well! Nicole enjoys cooking, traveling, spending time as a family, and working with animals. She also loves dance parties, red wine, Disney movies, and dolphins.

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