SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Spot the difference - animal welfare or animal rights?

The terms ‘animal welfare’ and ‘animal rights’ are often used interchangeably. But they’re actually two different things. Read more about SPCA’s view of what we have in common and what our differences are here.

At the end of the day, both animal welfare and animal rights groups believe in improving the lives of animals. We are sometimes asked why SPCA advocates for improved welfare for animals reared for food in New Zealand, rather than calling for an end to all farming of animals. This is because, as an animal welfare organisation, we believe that asking Kiwis to end all use of animals is not the most effective way to improve the lives of animals.

Let's explain a little more...

  • Animal welfare is a philosophical approach which accepts some uses of animals by humans, provided negative welfare is minimised and opportunities for positive welfare are maximised. An animal welfare approach favours evidence-based, continuous improvements to improve welfare of animals. For example, advocating for farming systems that provide animals with a Good Life, where their physical, health and behavioural needs are met.
  • Animal rights is a philosophical approach that argues that animals have rights and must not be used by humans. Animal rights seeks the elimination of the use of animals. For example, by advocating for an end to animal farming.

While some people align strongly with either animal rights or animal welfare philosophies, some people agree with aspects of both approaches. Where you sit may differ depending on the topic or the species considered, for example use of animals for farming vs. use of animals for companionship.

Some advocacy organisations support animal rights, while others, including SPCA, support animal welfare.

SPCA is an evidence-based animal welfare organisation

SPCA is the oldest and largest animal welfare organisation in New Zealand and has been working to improve the lives of animals in this country for more than 150 years. We advocate for improved welfare standards for all animals.

As an animal welfare organisation, we use animal welfare science to inform our advocacy positions and actions. Animal welfare science is an evidence-based approach which assesses the quality of life experienced by an animal and how well the animal is coping with their current situation and surroundings.

At SPCA we use the Five Domains Model of Animal Welfare to assess animal welfare. This approach acknowledges that each of the four physical domains (physical environment, health, nutrition and behavioural interactions) impact how an animal feels (their mental state). The Five Domains model also goes beyond minimising suffering by acknowledging that welfare can be both positive and negative.

Human-Animal relationships span thousands of years. SPCA supports a One Welfare approach which acknowledges the interconnectedness of animal welfare, human wellbeing and environmental sustainability. Animal welfare is impacted by the relationships we have with animals and we have a duty to continuously seek to improve the welfare of animals directly or indirectly impacted by human actions.

The Five Domains Model
The Five Domains Model

Why does SPCA support higher welfare farming?

SPCA advocates for improving the welfare of farmed animals, rather than calling for an end to the farming of animals. This is because, as an animal welfare organisation, we acknowledge the reality that a large proportion of New Zealanders currently choose to consume animal products. We aim to meet people where they are and support incremental human behaviour changes, such as consuming fewer but higher welfare animal products. SPCA respects that some of our supporters choose to consume animals or animal products, but also recognises that many of our supporters choose not to.

While animals are farmed, SPCA will always be there to advocate for their welfare.

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