Proposed pet crackdown confused animal welfare with animal rights

Read the original article by David Leyonhjelm at here.

There is an important distinction between animal welfare and animal rights. One is about treating animals humanely, because we are civilised people. The other is about assigning rights and protections to animals on comparable terms to humans.

The proposition that animals have rights leads to claims that we shouldn’t use animals for our own benefit. It means not eating them, not using their skins for shoes, not using them for recreational purposes such as riding, and not keeping them as pets. The organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals makes no secret of this agenda; most other animal rights advocates are a little more coy about it.

Animal rights advocates deliberately blur the distinction between welfare and rights. For example, many calling for the cessation of all live exports of sheep, rather than proper regulation and the prosecution of individuals that mistreat sheep, believe that sheep have a right to not be slaughtered and eaten.

Now the NSW Department of Primary Industries has proposed new welfare standards for pet shops and breeders based on the assumption that the breeding and selling of pets is inherently immoral and should therefore be heavily regulated.

Fortunately the minister, Niall Blair, saw through this and ordered the process to start again with priority given to the welfare of pets rather than disapproval of keeping them. Hopefully the focus will be on owners who mistreat or abandon pets, rather than on imposing unwarranted red tape on pet owners who breed their pets as a hobby or pet shop owners and professional breeders.

Most people are not vegetarians, are happy to wear leather shoes, enjoy sport involving animals, and love their pets. As long as that remains the case, the animal rights advocates will always be a fringe group.

But we cannot afford complacency. Animal rights fanatics are like the Fabian socialists – they work by stealth, infiltrating institutions and transforming laws. We need to promote the benefits of pets.

The RSPCA, itself now infiltrated by animal rights advocates, points out that pet ownership has physical and psychological benefits. It refers to studies showing that pets improve cardiovascular health, lower cholesterol, increase physical activity, reduce visits to the doctor,and strengthen children’s immune systems. One study found that Australian ownership of cats and dogs saved about $3.86 billion in health expenditure over one year.

Pet owners also report less depression and can cope with grief, stress and loss better than non-pet owners. Among school children, pet owners are more popular, more empathetic, have higher self-esteem and are less lonely, restless, despairing or bored. Pets are also popular in hospitals and nursing homes to lift spirits.

Keeping native animals as pets would also be a sure way of ensuring they never become extinct.

It is important to know the difference between caring about the welfare of animals and assigning them rights. One demonstrates our superiority to animals; the other suggests we are no better than them.

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