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 — although there are more supporters of the use of animals for medical purposes), or entertainment (including circuses, zoos, aquariums, sports, etc.) They believe that using animals for these purposes is exploitation and cruelty.
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 advocate who supports animal rights; but I’ve also described myself as an activist because I’ve taken action by choosing to work toward veganism, only purchase cruelty-free products, and I also sign petitions every day. I will always speak up for animals because they’re not able to do it themselves. I also believe that animals should have rights; 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.
And on another note, I just want to add that many times animal rights activists/advocates get a bad rap because of the choices of various individuals. There are animal rights activists who assault and harass others, and commit crimes to try to make a point about animal abuse and exploitation. This is not the right thing to do at all. Ultimately, providing education is the best way of working toward more animal rights. It’s completely unacceptable to commit crimes in the name of animal rights. This will only turn people away.