The lawsuit pitting the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals against the New Jersey Department of Agriculture brings into sharp focus the issue of animal rights versus animal welfare that has been dividing animal activists, farmers, and society for decades. On one side are proponents of animal rights—a set of rights articulated by humans but granted to animals to govern how we treat them. For many believers this includes the right not to be owned and certainly not to be eaten. On the other side are proponents of animal welfare—also a set of human derived standards governing how we care for animals under our control. Animal welfare concerns are reflected in laws prohibiting cruelty and criminalizing certain abusive behavior. The debate as illustrated in the New Jersey litigation involves conflicting perspectives on what duties (or rights) we owe animals and on who should decide, using what standards. The contours of the debate have evolved, as reflected in the emergence of “Animal Law” in American legal education. Modern livestock production has also changed significantly, with an increase in confinement production. With these changes, the fundamental legal issues remain divisive, emotional, and elusive of clear resolution.
Neil D. Hamilton,
One Bad Day: Thoughts on the Difference Between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare,
Mich. L. Rev. First Impressions
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr_fi/vol106/iss1/3