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The Many Shades Of Animal Rights

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Animal Rights

Animal rights are a big deal to most vegans, at least in a big picture kinda way. But many of us get lost when we hear folks getting hot and bothered about whether single issue campaigns are effective or a waste of time. And why do abolitionist vegans so vehemently oppose supporting animal welfare campaigns? We’re going to take a brief look at these issues so you’ll have fighting chance to understand these arguments when you stumble into the middle of them.

Animal Rights

Photo Credit Farm Sanctuary

Animal Rights refers to the notion that even though non-human animals  are not exactly equal to humans (we’ll let you dive into the argument over whether they are equal to us or not) they still should be treated much same as humans in practice and under the law. When animals are considered in this light it becomes obvious that at the very least people shouldn’t put them in situations that cause them pain, suffering or an early death.

By extension animals should not be considered property or food, have their habitat destroyed or be used for our entertainment. Obviously this includes dog, cock and bull fighting but also more controversial entertainments as circuses and zoos should be abolished.

Because animals, like children or the mentally impaired, cannot advocate for themselves it is our duty to speak for them when needed. What is odd to me is that not all animal activists are vegan or see the double standard they are living when it’s pointed out to them. But that is a topic for another day.


Photo Credit Huffington Post

Speciesism refers to the belief that one’s species (in this case being human) entitles you to superior moral rights. Folks who condemn speciesism paint it with the same brush as racism and sexism. Both things most folks in industrialized nations can agree, at least in theory, are wrong.

It should be noted that those who fight against bigotry like racism and sexism are often offended to have speciesism compared with their issues.

Pure speciesism takes the notion of human superiority to the extreme.  Pure speciesist believe that ANY human desire is more important than any vital animal need. They will argue that it is just fine to treat an animal cruelly if it brings a human pleasure in some way. A case in point, to Michael Vick it was just fine to force dogs to fight to the death because he found it enjoyable to watch.

Single Issue Campaigns

Photo Credit Farm Sanctuary

Single Issue Animal Rights Campaigns are just what they sound like. Animal rights campaigns that target one single thing such as opposition to wearing fur or the “Save The Whales” campaign.

Many vegans (especially abolitionist vegans) will not support any single issue animal rights campaigns because they believe all efforts should be focused on veganism as it is the ultimate answer to animal rights (as well as many other issues such as climate change) and the best way to advocate for animals.

Others believe that these single rights campaigns are a good way to introduce people to the animal rights movement and open their eyes to veganism.

Welfare Campaigns

Photo Credit Farm Sanctuary

Animal Welfare Campaigns are movements to improve the welfare of animals. In other words their goal is to get people to treat animals better but not stop using them. They are also almost always single issue campaigns as well. Examples are efforts to make gestation crates for pigs illegal and to make battery cages for egg laying hens illegal.

Many vegans oppose animal welfare campaigns because they do nothing to address the underlying problem that we shouldn’t be using animals in such a way in the first place.

And they argue that such campaigns often lead to prolonged suffering of only a slightly lesser or different kind because people assume they have “done good” by the animal in question and forget about them. “Cagefree” or “Free Range” eggs comes to mind.

Well there you go, that’s our overview of the most talked about and often confusing terms the average vegan will encounter when entering the animal rights arena. At least now you’ll know some of the terms the professors and philosophers are throwing around so carelessly.  If the plight of animals such as these distresses you PLEASE GO VEGAN!  It is the single most powerful thing you can do to improve the treatment of animals the world over.

Did we get it right? Let us know in the comments below. And if we missed anything be sure to let us know that too!

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  1. Sean T.
    | Reply

    Excellent article! I would add to this that since vegans are the only true vegetarians, that is what we should be called. Lacto- and ovo-vegetarians are clearly not fully vegetarian, so they should not be called vegetarians.

    Also, there are two types of true vegetarians (vegans) — ethical and dietary. The dietary vegans do it for their own health only, with little or no awareness of the ethical issues.

    Among those who consider themselves “ethical” vegans, there are two types: the genuinely ethical, and the fake-ethical.

    Ironically, the fake-ethical vegans are the ones who make the most noise about ethics. These include the subtly or overtly arrogant “better-than-you” types, and also the rabid haters of all humanity, viciously attacking and insulting everyone who does not precisely agree with them, even fellow vegans. Both types of fake-ethical vegans make so many enemies of the vegan-vegetarian cause that they are actually unwitting saboteurs. As such, they cannot be considered genuinely ethical vegans.

    Genuinely ethical vegans do their best to make friends of the cause, not enemies. Their compassion is universal, and they remember what they were like before they became true vegetarians (vegans). They realize that by interacting negatively with meat-eaters and semi-vegetarians, they are only hardening those people’s attitudes.

    Thank you for the good work you do as genuinely ethical vegans!

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