Today's post started out as a simple roundup of April's animal-news-we-wish-we-had-more-time-to-cover. It spanned everything from service dogs in the classroom to the new animal care laws that were recently signed by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, and would have made for a fun little Tuesday Grab Bag.
But once word of upcoming HSUS-sponsored ballot initiatives in Oregon and Washington started making the rounds, a need to tighten the focus became evident.
Because clearly, when the newspapers are saying it's "animal welfare groups" pushing these initiatives, there is a pressing need to once again explain the difference between animal welfare and animal rights.
From the NAIA archives:
Animal welfare celebrates the bond between animals and humans; animal rights wants to sever that bond.
Animal welfare grows and improves as we learn more and more about animals, their behavior, and their management. Animal rights remains stagnant with its dogma of "no more animal use ever."
Animal welfare is inclusive; its belief in stewardship of species and individual animals embraces a human connection to the Earth through interaction with animals. Animal rights is divisive; by separating the destiny of man from the destiny of animals, the movement shows it cares nothing for the Earth.
Animal welfare makes room for a broad spectrum of animal relationships that include raising and using animals for food, fiber, labor, and medical and behavioral research; managing animal populations by hunting; keeping animals in zoos and other educational venues; and enjoying animal sports and animals in movies, circuses, and on stage.
Animal rights opposes all traditional relationships with animals, from eating meat and wearing leather and wool to biomedical research, pet ownership, dog and cat breeding, circuses, zoos, hunting, trapping, ranching, fishing, and learning about animals by hands-on experience.
Animal welfare requires humane treatment of animals on farms and ranches, in circuses and rodeos, and in homes, kennels, catteries, laboratories, and wherever else animals are kept. Animal welfare endorses a quick death when death is inevitable and a scientific approach to commercial use and management of wild populations.
Animal rights works for the day when we will have no interactions with animals but will view them from afar.
You can follow the link for the rest, though you probably get the point by now...
So why bring this up again? Well, given the nature of these HSUS-sponsored initiatives -- initiatives that would essentially force Oregon and Washington's egg producers to implement cage-free housing by 2019 -- it needs to be pointed out, frequently and at great volume, that they are coming not from a position of animal welfare, but animal rights.
Oregon egg farmer Greg Satrum has said “They’re really proposing a pretty extreme measure, I think, to try to put Oregon farmers out of business,” and he's exactly right.
After all, egg producers in both Oregon and Washington have already come together on their own* and agreed to modernize their facilities and improve the welfare of their egg-laying hens. And we're not talking about minor cosmetic changes here: we're talking about an investment requiring years of hard work, with a price tag of up to $65 million dollars. During economically difficult times.
Some of these changes include larger cages (from four square feet to forty-eight square feet), accommodations for the natural behavior of hens (enough room to fully extend wings and turn around, areas for scratching and perching, private space for laying eggs, etc.), and standards for sanitation that are higher than those of both older conventional egg facilities and modern "cage free" facilities. The Pacific Northwest's new "enriched colony housing" facilities will be as good or better than what egg producers in Europe have switched to -- but of course, that's not enough for HSUS.
But why? Why oppose a plan based upon science, hands-on experience, and a commitment to ethics that will improve the lives of their livestock?
You already know the answer if you understand the difference between animal welfare and animal rights. To paraphrase a well-worn quote, the issue for groups like HSUS is not larger cages, it is empty cages. For animal rights true believers, the welfare of animals in the here and now is less important than moving toward an end to human use of animals in the future.
And how better to stop the production of eggs and "ween" people off of animal products than by pushing legislation and ballot initiatives that force animal enterprises out of business while raising the price of animal products to consumers?
I sincerely hope you like hearing about chickens and eggs, folks, because this is an issue we will be following very closely in the months to come.
* This is why it is so annoying when the media reports the efforts to improve and modernize their facilities as some sort of "compromise" with various animal rights interests. It isn't a compromise; this is a direction egg producers in the Northwest were already moving in!