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Norwich Bulletin - 8/20/2006


Everyone believes that animal cruelty is wrong and should be punished. It doesnít matter if you are part of an animal rescue group or an active member of PETA Ė itís easy to agree on this one point. However, thatís about the only thing that is easy to agree upon between animal welfare people and animal rights activists.

Animal welfare fosters responsible pet ownership and promotes altering and immunization programs, pet owner education and dog obedience, supporting local shelters and rescues and promoting humane animal use. Animal welfare people believe that we, as humans, have a moral and religious obligation to care for the animals.

The Bible tells us that in the garden of Eden, God gave us dominion over all the beasts but also stipulated that we are to protect these creatures. The American Veterinary Medical Association describes animal welfare as ďa human responsibility that encompasses all aspects of animal well being, including proper housing, management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling and, when necessary, humane euthanasia.Ē Animal welfarists believe that animals are valuable for many different reasons (both practical and emotional), and worth protecting and nurturing.

Animal rights puts animals and humans on the same moral and ethical scale. They believe that animals should not be considered a food source, used for fur or leather goods, scientific experiments , entertainment acts, zoos or aquariums. Animal rights followers believe that humans donít get more rights or respect simply because they are human and that both should be judged the same. The biggest difference for the animal rights folks is the belief that animals should not be viewed as property. That would mean that we canít own our dogs and cats and farm animals. And this is where the difference really sets in and becomes very complicated.

Most people have their own ethics when it comes to animals and are generally a little bit of both groups. There are some animal welfare workers that do not eat meat or wear fur; there are some that eat meat but do not wear fur. There are some animal rights activists that will boycott a circus, but have no objection to the use of guide or assistance dogs. However, a ďrealĒ activist is against using guide dogs or assistance animals. There are some welfarists that believe animals should not be used in scientific experiments but have a great time vacationing at Sea World. So it ends up being a very complex issue with no black and white categories.

In general, if you believe that animals can be humanely used for the benefit of man (and that includes companion animals), then you will fall under the animal welfare title. And if you are interested in taking more of a stand that animals deserve the same treatment as humans, you are tipping more on the side of the activistís scale.

As a rescue person, I believe that the animals I save deserve to be placed into good homes where they will receive the care they deserve. I do wear leather, but not fur. I am against raising animals in small areas, using chemicals and cheap food to fatten them up and then slaughtering them for food. But I do eat meat and I believe that we were given the gift of animals for food and should treat them humanely, even if they are being raised for food.

I am against any cruel forms of animal testing in which animals are mistreated and even killed in the name of science, but I believe in DNA testing and other forms of benign testing that may help us discover cures to both animal and human diseases. I think guide dogs and assistance animals and therapy dogs and cats are amazing, and bring special meaning, as well as fill a need, in their humansí lives.

believe anyone who harms an animal on purpose should be held accountable and severely punished. I donít believe this because I am especially moral or religious, but because they are living, breathing creatures that feel pain. I personally do not hunt, but I understand hunting and if someone eats what they hunt, I accept it. I am against big game hunters who go to game preserves and kill wild animals in order to put a stuffed head in their den.

So here I am, just one person, and totally complex, in what I believe. And each one of my readers will agree on some of the things I believe in, and will be on the opposite side of the spectrum on others. No matter where we all stand on individual choices between animal welfare and animal rights, as long as we are working towards the betterment of animals lives, we are deserving of the word, human.

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