Today I want to talk about animal rights, welfare, advocacy, and activism. I find a lot of people (myself included) tend to use each of these four terms interchangeably but, really, there is a difference! I thought I’d talk a bit about what the differences are between these four terms.
Animal welfare, as defined by Oxford Dictionary, is “the welfare or proper treatment of animals”. Animal welfare enthusiasts support the use of animals in industries such as entertainment and sports, among others; however, they believe in the ethical treatment of animals — including proper housing, care, food, and humane handling.
In comparison, animal rights is defined by Oxford Dictionary as “the rights of animals to live free from human exploitation and abuse”. Animal rights supporters believe that animals should not be used for food, clothing (including fur, leather, down/feathers, wool, and more), experimentation (cosmetic and medical), or entertainment (including circuses, zoos, aquariums, sports, etc.) They believe that using animals for these purposes is exploitation, cruelty, and unjustified.
The difference between advocacy and activism is also quite vast. An animal advocate is someone who speaks on behalf of animals; whereas an animal activist is someone who takes action to create changes. Someone can be both an advocate and activist at the same time. Even though these two terms have different definitions, advocacy and activism go hand in hand.
Ultimately, whatever you’re doing to help animals is awesome! Does it really matter how you define your involvement in helping animals? Not at all! I, personally, choose to define myself as an animal rights advocate; but I’ve also described myself as an activist because I’ve taken action by transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, purchasing cruelty-free products, and signing petitions every day. I will always speak up for animals because they’re not able to do it themselves. I fully believe that animals should have the right to be free from human exploitation; I don’t believe they’re on this planet simply for humans to use. They’re smart, hard-working, beautiful creatures who deserve to be treated with respect and not be used for food, clothing, experimentation, or entertainment.
If you’re looking to get involved in animal rights activism, check out these groups in your area: