Cyndi's Two Cents

Rights or welfare for animals?


In December of 2017, my commentary centered around the difference between animal rights and animal welfare and a particular group whose work is to “secure legally recognized fundamental rights for nonhuman animals through litigation, advocacy, and education.”

The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), founded in 1996 by attorney Steven M. Wise, works to change the legal status “of at least some nonhuman animals from mere ‘things’, which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to ‘persons’, who possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty and those other legal rights to which evolving standards of morality, scientific discovery, and human experience entitle them.”

This group considers that their clients (referred to by NhRP as plaintiffs) have many of the same rights as humans. NhRP claims their plaintiffs, which include great apes, elephants, dolphins and whales have been scientifically proven to be autonomous.

In the commentary, I wrote “In my worldview, an autonomous being is either a human being or an entity (like a country) comprised of human beings. I do not believe that any animal should have the same rights as human beings. Most humans have the capability to contemplate their actions and character. Animals do not.”

That column I wrote a little over five years ago is among the top five most-viewed “posts” on the Brownfield Ag News website. The comments that have come in over the years range from troubling to hilarious, common-sensical to non-sensical. The fact that people continue to comment on this post reinforces my belief that for many people, the line between animal rights and animal welfare is blurred.

I am a proponent of animal welfare. We practice it on our farm. My husband and I have a deep-rooted passion for raising livestock that began when we were children. We share a commitment to raising cattle and poultry while maintaining the solid ethical standards with which we were raised. Practicing animal welfare is an integral part of our philosophy. It is an inherent part of who we are.

An Asian elephant named Happy has lived at the Bronx Zoo for more than 45 years. The NhRP first took legal action in October of 2018, demanding recognition of Happy’s legal personhood and fundamental right to bodily liberty to release and relocate the pachyderm to an elephant sanctuary. After 4 years of legal back-and-forth the case landed in the New York Court of Appeals.

The decision, written by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said, “While no one disputes that elephants are intelligent beings deserving of proper care and compassion,” a writ of habeus corpus is intended to protect the liberty of human beings and does not apply to a nonhuman animal like Happy.

In December of 2022, a motion filed by NhRP for reargument was denied by that court.

I firmly believe animal welfare is a responsibility for all who own livestock, poultry or pets. I do not believe that any animal has the same rights as any human being.

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