You know that trite old characterization of something particularly annoying - the "it's like fingernails on the blackboard" characterization? Well, here's an article (reproduced here and here) that is just as annoying as that sound. No, more so - at least to me.
At issue is this: the author (Lizette Alvarez) writes an otherwise acceptable article, but clearly hasn't a clue about the differences between "animal rights" and "animal welfare" groups. Frankly, it's a little like confusing "libertarians" and "liberals."
By confusing AR and AW, she unfairly paints the AW people with a brush that should be reserved for the violent AR thugs, and camoflages the extremist AR people behind the moderate, reasonable AW banner:
OXFORD, England—Construction had barely begun in February on a research laboratory at Oxford University — one scheduled to experiment with animals — when the string of violent incidents began.
In the months that followed, the offices and trucks of a major concrete supplier to the site were vandalized a dozen times. Animal welfare guerrillas with axes and bolt cutters sliced through brake lines and contaminated fuel tanks. A factory and several trucks were set on fire.
An anonymous posting on an animal welfare website called Arkangel, which described the raids, attributed the violence to a radical group called the Animal Liberation Front, which was formed in the 1970s. . . .
Arrrrrrgh ... Arkangel an animal welfare site! Ah-oooooogah! Ah-ooooogah! Dive! Dive!
Montpellier's withdrawal was the second major victory in Britain this year for emboldened animal welfare groups, which have proved to be more militant, better organized and better financed than ever. In January, after months of pressure, intimidation and protests from the groups, Cambridge University abandoned plans to build a major primate research centre.
"It has been an incredible year for us," said Greg Avery, a spokesman for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, a group that wages a continuing campaign against Britain's largest research lab, owned by Huntingdon Life Sciences, near Cambridge. "The animal rights movement is bigger and stronger than it has ever been."
At least Greg Avery gets is right. But even with this unsubtle cue, the author marches intrepidly ahead:
As the animal welfare groups have grown more militant, they have often intruded on home and family. Blaring alarms have been tossed into gardens, cars have been stripped of paint, voice mail services have been flooded with menacing calls and children have been followed.
The militants' successes have alarmed investors, scientists and drug manufacturers, who warn that Britain could face a serious drop in biomedical investment if the campaigns are not curtailed. They have urged the British government to crack down on the people responsible.
[ . . . ]
The animal welfare movement here and elsewhere is mainly peaceful. It is particularly beloved and powerful in Britain, a nation that has the most highly regulated animal-welfare system in the world.
In a newspaper interview in July, Jean-Pierre Garnier, the chief executive of the multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, said his British employees were being "terrorized" by the militant animal welfare groups.
I can guarantee Mr. Garnier didn't refer to the AR thugs as being "a militant animal welfare group ..."
"I take it very personally," he told The Daily Telegraph, adding that several unnamed companies looking to invest had decided against Britain because of the intensity of the animal welfare campaigns.
[ . . . ]
The attacks can also be personal. The managing director of the Huntingdon lab, Brian Cass, was beaten by men with baseball bats, and the cars and homes of company employees have been vandalized in attacks linked to animal welfare advocates.
(All emphases added)
It's vitally important that we distinguish between "Animal Rights" groups and "Animal Welfare" groups. The animal rights people, of course, like to blur the distinction between their goals and those of the welfarists because it gives them (the AR crowd) an air of legitimacy, which masks their real intentions. (The situation is complicated enough, given that the two groups share some of the same prohibitions: both groups oppose torching an animal, for example).
For those who are unclear about the AR/AW distinction, my rule of thumb is this: Animal Rights people believe that animals have an intrinsic natural right not to be controlled in any way by humans. So - if you wouldn't do it to a human being, you shouldn't do it to an animal. So - animals are not to be kept as pets, eaten, caged, kept in zoos, ridden, killed for sport, used in research, hunted, made fun of, raced, bought, altered (tail and ears cut are forbidden), walked on a leash, or bred for characteristics that humans think desirable. Any person who engages in any of these practices is fair game for being branded an animal abuser, torturer, or murderer by the AR crowd.
For some unstated - or unstatable - reason, Animal Rights people are strong advocates of spaying and neutering dogs and cats. I am mystified why this practice doesn't qualify as a violation of an animal's right to enjoy the act of sex and his/her right to reproduce. I don't understand why AR's don't consider spaying and neutering an unnecessary surgery that places an animal's life at risk and is frivolously undertaken for the convenience of human beings, and why, because of it's mood- and behavior-altering sequelae, it isn't condemned outright as psychological abuse. Go figure ... lopping off testicles is okay, snipping ears is not ...
Animal welfare is much different. Spaying and neutering are consistent with the welfarist position, as are all the practices enumerated above that the AR people find abhorrent.
I've written about the distinction between AR vs AW before, but the Alvarez article reminds me that the subject needs to be revisited, if for no other reason than writing corrective letters to our local papers.