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How Do You Define Animal Rights?

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Animal rights or “animal welfare” is the ethical responsibility of ensuring animal well-being. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “Animal well-being is the condition in which animals experience good health, are able to effectively cope with their environment, and are able to express a diversity of species-typical behaviors. Protecting an animal’s welfare means providing for its physical and mental needs. Ensuring animal welfare is a human responsibility that includes consideration for all aspects of animal well-being, including proper housing, management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane {cruelty free} euthanasia.”

The average vegan and strict vegans, as well as vegetarians do not consume animal flesh for sustenance. Vegetarians may eat dairy products and vegans do not consume foods that contain any animal byproducts whatsoever. According to the AVMA, animals may be used responsibly for human purposes such as food and fiber. So, animal products such as eggs, cheese, and milk (if produced humanely) are considered cruelty-free and safe for consumption by the average vegetarian. The AVMA offers the following set of animal rights/animal welfare principles:

  • The AVMA, as a medical authority for the health and welfare of animals, offers the following eight integrated principles for developing and evaluating animal welfare policies, resolutions, and actions.
  • The responsible use of animals for human purposes, such as companionship, food, fiber, recreation, work, education, exhibition, and research conducted for the benefit of both humans and animals, is consistent with the Veterinarian’s Oath.
  • Decisions regarding animal care, use, and welfare shall be made by balancing scientific knowledge and professional judgment with consideration of ethical and societal values.
  • Animals must be provided water, food, proper handling, health care, and an environment appropriate to their care and use, with thoughtful consideration for their species-typical biology and behavior.
    Animals should be cared for in ways that minimize fear, pain, stress, and suffering.

  • Procedures related to animal housing, management, care, and use should be continuously evaluated, and when indicated, refined or replaced.
  • Conservation and management of animal populations should be humane, socially responsible, and scientifically prudent.
  • Animals shall be treated with respect and dignity throughout their lives and, when necessary, provided a humane death.
  • The veterinary profession shall continually strive to improve animal health and welfare through scientific research, education, collaboration, advocacy, and the development of legislation and regulations. —www.avma.org

Note from the AVMA: Within the AVMA, issues related to animal welfare are considered by the Animal Welfare Committee with staff support from the Animal Welfare Division. The American Veterinary Medical Association has adopted a range of policies that relate to animal welfare. Questions about any of these policies may be directed to animalwelfare@avma.org.


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