For years I've considered the animal rights movement to be entirely distinct and separate from the animal welfare movement. To my mind, animal rights was about making posters and sloganeering and animal welfare was about fund raising and getting your hands filthy, says Derek Fry.
Further more, I've considered the animal rights movement to be detrimental to the public perception of what I believed to be the more legitimate cause of animal welfare. For every campaign against the practice of keeping pets, I saw lost public support for other, more worthy campaigns, such as anti-puppy farming or anti-irresponsible breeding. Essentially, I thought animal rights was for idealists and animal welfare was for realists. Both equally well intentioned (if you take PETA out of the equation) but one with its feet more firmly rooted in the real world and better positioned to do more good than the other.
But that has changed. Recent events have caused me to reconsider my position quite radically. I now see animal rights as a part of animal welfare. An essential part of animal welfare. The reason? Before, I saw us humans as adequate guardians for the animals of this Earth. Specifically and selfishly, I thought in terms of dogs. Dogs don't have rights per se, I thought. What's best for them is for us humans to decide. However, I now seriously doubt our capabilities to provide a fair and safe world for dogs without the provision for inalienable rights for dogs and animals, set out now while we still have some idea of how to care for them.
This isn't because of the actions of the majority, the responsible dog owners, those that care, it's because of an influential minority. We'll call those people 'idiots'.
Last year, there was a court case involving a Rottweiler. The Rottweiler had knocked over a small child. The child's mother wanted the dog destroyed, the dog's owner claimed that it was an accident and certainly not an act of aggression on the part of the dog. It went to court and one so-called dog expert sided with the mother. She provided evidence as an 'expert' that the dog was dangerous and should be destroyed. Fair enough you may think. Until you learn that this so-called behaviourist had never met the dog in question. Fortunately, the judge saw sense and chalked it up as an accident, returning the dog to his owner.
It's people like this who have caused me to think that rights are now an important, yet missing part of animal welfare. Dogs have the right not to have the good name of their species tarnished by idiots looking to make a name for themselves. Look at dogs as a species, you see guide dogs, police dogs, dogs in war zones protecting soldiers. If people like this idiot behaviour expert are allowed to talk nonsense in a court of law, then animal welfare becomes an issue. There's a knock on effect isn't there? Give a dog a bad name…
We need to protect the rights of dogs to be treated fairly, not because we're all new age idealists, but because if we don't, their welfare will suffer. How many times do you think public perception has lead to the mistreatment of a dog? How many dogs do you reckon have been confiscated because of the collective efforts of the anti-dog brigade, idiots like the witness mentioned above, and sensationalist, lying tabloid newspapers who see demonising a species of animal (a species to whom we owe a lot) as a fair way of upping circulation? How many bad dog owners have got away with that particular crime because of the skewed public perception of the breed in question?
When that contemptible thug strangled his dog in the Birmingham park, why wasn't there more moral outrage? Because it was a pit bull type. Had it been a Labrador, I think we'd have shown something approaching the correct level of public outrage. Why didn't that dog, so callously disposed of tug on the heart strings of the public? Because they're 'evil' and 'dangerous' – that's why. What will happen if another unpopular breed is mistreated? Dogs as a species have the right not be segregated into a two tier system. Dogs that escape the wrath of imbeciles such as the behaviourist mentioned above (I'm dying to name and shame) will be ok, but what about the lower order of dogs, the 'prole' dogs, the 'common thug' dogs?
I'm sorry that I didn't take animal rights seriously until recently, but I'm happy to admit when I've been wrong. Animal rights are essential to uphold and continue to support the welfare work that is being done for dogs. Even if that means those who support animal rights will sometimes have to bear the brunt of negative opinion thanks to the extremists who are more interested in self promotion and do not seem to care how much damage they do to the overall aim of making the world a more animal friendly place.
–What's your view? Agree with Derek, disagree? Have your say below…
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