In all of the media monitoring we do at the Alliance – which is quite a bit – I am constantly seeing the terms “animal rights” and “animal welfare” treated interchangeably, even sometimes within trade media. I’m really not trying to be pedantic here, but the difference between these two terms is much more than just a few letters.

On one hand, we have animal welfare, or how animals are raised and cared for. The AVMA explains “animal welfare” as “how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives.” Also according to the AVMA, “an animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress.”

Farmers and ranchers who dedicate their careers and lives to caring for livestock and poultry are the biggest examples of animal welfare advocates I can think of.

The term “animal rights” is on the other end of the spectrum. Organizations and individuals lobbying for animal rights do not support the consumption or use of animals by humans, regardless of how well the animals are cared for.

Many high-profile animal rights activist organizations represent themselves as concerned with animal welfare, hiding their true agendas of ending meat consumption and animal agriculture. Hiding their true beliefs aids activist organizations in connecting with the general public to spread misinformation and fear about modern food production.

If we aren’t diligent in differentiating between “animal rights” and “animal welfare,” we’re helping these organizations continue to mislead and misinform. If we want to help preserve the future of animal agriculture, we have to work to explain to the media and consumers the world of difference between these two terms.

What does ‘animal welfare’ mean to you? How would you explain the concept to friends and family outside of the industry?