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The subject of animal rights is hotly contested, with much confusion between the subject of animal rights and animal welfare. The concept of animal rights states that all non-human animals should be considered persons rather than possessions. Animal rights also include the right to an animal’s own fundamental rights, such as being able to have control over their own lives.
In many countries around the world, animals are considered to be sentient beings that have no rights of their own and are continuously objectified. This legally allows things like animal testing and unbearably cruel farming practices to continue. Animal rights activists have launched controversial movements to ban zoos, commercial animal farming, hunting, etc., by rejecting any form of animal ownership or suffering of any kind. Animal rights activists strongly abhor the use animals for anything, regardless of whether certain practices are humane or not.
Animal welfare is an entirely different matter but is frequently confused where it overlaps with animal rights. Animal welfare is the protection of animals, a movement which protects all animals from mistreatment and abuse. Consequently, animal rights activists and animal welfare movements do not always agree with each other. This is particularly evident with animal rights activists accusing animal welfare organisations, like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), for making the public feel uncomfortable with sometimes harsh and brutal ad campaigns.
Worldwide awareness about humane animal treatment has brought about many changes in the last few decades with many countries passing laws concerning the legalities associated with certain practices. Inhumane practices have undergone and continue to undergo massive scrutiny, with great pressure from the public and animal protection agencies that fight for their abolishment.
Naming and Shaming
A number of movements have started to brazenly name and shame organisations and individuals who are known for abusive and inhumane practices towards animals. In the 1980’s, international pressure from the media forced cosmetics companies to stop animal testing practices. Animal rights activists took out full page ads in newspapers with graphic photographic images of animal testing that had the cosmetics companies’ names splashed across the pages.
This kind of practice caused a revolution in the cosmetic and beauty industry, with large corporations re-evaluating their inhumane testing practices. As a result, many companies funnelled some of their profits into welfare protection agencies they set up for the protection of animals. Since 1999, New Zealand has set a great example by passing the Animal Welfare Act that comprehensively banned animal testing. Since then, many countries have started implementing laws that protect the rights of animals by banning the use of them in zoos, testing, fighting, among other inhumane practices.
Major campaigns continue to fight for the rights of animals, costing billions of dollars every year. And while not all of the cases end up in court or in parliamentary legislation, animal rights activists are gaining momentum with a massive worldwide following and increasing awareness.
Animal Rights in the 21st Century
Animal rights and animal welfare are movements that are continuously evolving, with many celebrities and respected scholars joining and supporting them worldwide. This has added to their credibility and more countries taking steps to pass laws that protect the rights of animals.
In the US, animal rights law is a subject that is actively taught in respected educational institutions. Societies all over the world are constantly fighting for the passing of ethical animal rights laws and are causing people to consider alternatives to things like circuses, cosmetic testing on animals, factory farming, as well as vegan and vegetarian lifestyles.
Attitudes to animal rights differ according to religious and cultural beliefs, age, practices, geographical location, and education. As humans and animals are required to live together, a balance of harmony and humanity are needed in order to sustain our planet. This will ensure that future generations will all be able to benefit from the healthy and flourishing communities and eco systems that we have built and protected around us.