It’s pretty hard not to retaliate when someone attacks you on social media. Because, just like them, you feel emboldened by the anonymity of it all. I mean, sure, that person could look you up, drive to your house, and scream in your face, or worse. But chances are they won’t. So even though they know who you are, it’s much easier to clap back online than it is in real life. And believe me, I’ve been virtually attacked enough to understand the temptation. There aren’t many things more satisfying than replying to a rude comment and feeling like you’ve finally bested them . . . at least until the reply.
But when it comes to animal activists, is that really the best way to respond?
In my opinion, the answer is a hard and swift “no” It gets you nowhere. It just leads to more arguing and fewer real questions from people who are actually curious. So, I’ve begun talking more about the differences in the people than the opinions. I’m talking about animal rights versus animal welfare.
To most people, the difference really isn’t that obvious. They’re two words that should mean the same thing, right? But the practices, thoughts, and opinions behind them are drastically different.
Let’s talk about animal rights first. People who believe in animal rights believe that animals have the same rights as humans. They believe that they should be treated equally to, at least, the same basic rights we do. They believe that animals shouldn’t be used by humans in any way. Not for food, entertainment, service, or even companionship. People who fall into this category often employ extreme measures to get their point across. Organizations like PETA, the Animal Sanctuary, and the Humane Society of the US (HSUS) believe in animal rights.
Animal welfare is different. It means believing that animals can be used by humans as long as it’s done responsibly. These people don’t believe that animals have the same rights as humans because they don’t share the same cognitive reasoning or awareness. They believe it’s okay to use them for nourishment, entertainment, and companionship as long as they’re being respected and cared for while in service. Groups that believe in animal welfare include veterinarians, farmers, and all agricultural organizations.
People's life experiences lead them to what they believe. The chances are that one post from me on Facebook isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. That means fighting about it in the comment section doesn’t change minds either. I’m not telling you never to fight back or stand up for what you love; just think about it before you take it too far.
Every rational person knows that animal welfare is more realistic than animal rights. I just think it’s our job to make sure they know the difference between the two.
The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.