Opinions on animal issues vary. There are three different camps; absolute animal rights on one end, animal welfare in the middle, and at the opposite end, the conviction that animals do not deserve any moral consideration. Many people may find that their views do not fit completely within one category or the other, or may find that their positions vary depending on the issues.
Proponents of animal rights, believe that animals have an intrinsic value separate from any value they have to humans, and are worthy of moral consideration. They have a right to be free of oppression, confinement, use, and exploitation by humans. Also referred to as Abolitionists, they argue that humans do not have the right to use and exploit animals, under any circumstances, which include food, clothing, entertainment, and vivisection.
Animal rights fundamentalists propose the total abolition of the use of animals. They claim that the moral value of human beings is not determined based on their utility and value to other humans. Humans are not created equal among each other. Steven Hawking has a higher IQ than Lindsay Lohan. Paul McCartney is a better singer/songwriter than Queen Elizabeth. Shaquille O-Neil is taller than Jon Stewart. Keanu Reeves is more attractive than Iggy Pop.
The social standard is that it is morally wrong to treat humans unjustly on account of their differences. They are all protected by the same fundamental human rights despite the inequalities and dissimilarities among them. Those differences are morally irrelevant. Animal rights advocates argue that the same principles should be applied to animals in relation to humans. Humans share basic moral rights with non-humans but on a practical level, these rights differ. They make it amply clear that chickens should not have the right to vote, nor should zebras have the right to alimony. The issue is not whether animals should have the same rights as people but whether humans have a right to use and exploit them without limitations.
When an injustice is extreme, it must be rectified in an extreme manner. It does not make sense to advocate “reformed” slavery or “reformed” oppression of women or children. Equally, it does not make sense to “reform” the use and exploitation of animals. Reforming an injustice is just an amendment to the existing injustice. Additionally, the animal protection laws currently in place have proven to be remarkably ineffective in the safeguard of animals. These animals continue to be subjugated and tortured despite these protection laws.
The Animal Welfarist platform is less rigid and less transparent. Welfarists do not oppose the many uses of animals by humans. Their view is that humans may use animals as long as the animals are humanely treated. Their policy is the best possible reduction of suffering that these animals endure and the highest possible standards of care.
The focus is on compassionate and humane treatment, These concerns include how animals are raised and slaughtered for food, their use and value in scientific research, and how they are cared for in other areas. The animal welfare position does not object to the consumption of animals, but would seek the elimination of gruesome factory farming practices.
To many supporters of the animal welfare position, some uses of animals are unacceptable because the human benefit is minimal compared to the degree of animal suffering involved. For example, many proponents of animal welfare demand the total elimination of the fur industry, animals in cosmetics testing, and circus animals, among other similarly cruel practices.
Welfarists lobby for stricter laws and stricter enforcement of laws for the protection of animals. Abolitionists lobby for absolute rights.