[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Defining ‘animal welfare’

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[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Defining ‘animal welfare’

In response to Brian O’Connor’s letter, “Terminology is important in animal treatment debate,” it is true that there are philosophical differences between advocates of “animal rights” and “animal welfare.” I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. O’Connor that it is important to recognize the distinction.
He is right to point out, for example, that the steps the Korean government is considering fall into the category of animal welfare and not animal rights.
So, by the way, does all existing legislation elsewhere ― it is incorrect to state, as one of your recent editorials did, that “Germany grants the same constitutional rights to animals as it does to its human constituency.” If this were the case, eating meat in Germany would be illegal.
In general, animal welfarists tend to focus their efforts on reducing the suffering of animals while those animals continue to be exploited. It is this position, and not the animal rights stance, that seems “full of contradictions” to my mind.
However, Mr. O’Connor is overgeneralizing: Not all “animal welfarists” agree on what constitutes the “responsible” use of nonhuman animals, or what he calls “ethical dominion” over them.
While some of these people do indeed approve of meat eating, breeding animals as “pets” while homeless animals continue to be discarded like trash, hunting, vivisection, eating eggs and drinking milk, attending rodeos, zoos, etc., not all of us do.
It is more accurate to say that some animal welfarists accept some of these activities; many others try to avoid supporting one or more of the items on his list.
Whether he likes it or not, Mr. O’Connor doesn’t own the term “animal welfare” and not all those who work to improve conditions for animals subscribe to his ultraconservative vision. I personally consider myself a supporter of both animal welfare and animal rights.
Here in Korea, there is a range of opinions among animal advocates regarding what reforms will make a meaningful difference for animals.
I hope the media will do a better job of hearing those people out and presenting more intelligent and detailed coverage to help readers decide which steps they can support in good conscience.

by Eileen Cahill
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