Are animal rights activists making things better or worse for animals?

Feb 2012
To get back to OP, animal rights activist were not originally really environmentally motivated, and definitely not climate change orientated. The theory of global warming came decades after the animal rights movement.
Maybe even centuries. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals precedes the creation of the British police. Also there was animal wealthare advocacy in the Ancient world. Several Platonists and the Neopythagorean Apollonius of Tyana wrote advocating abstaining from eating of flesh based also on animal suffering among other reasons, and the latter advocated replacing animal sacrifices by agricultural offerings instead. Pythagoreans were also said to dress in linen only and to walk barefoot so as not to have the skin of dead animals in contact with their body.


Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
Italy, Lago Maggiore
The cute ones. Why do you think the Panda is *literally* the poster boy for the world wild life organisation?

To get back to OP, animal rights activist were not originally really environmentally motivated, and definitely not climate change orientated. The theory of global warming came decades after the animal rights movement. You can care about animal suffering while not even believing in man-made climate change, or that deforestation is a huge problem. They are all different things.

Even saying that the top priority should be doing good for the environment is vague to be meaningless. Do you mean good for maintaining the status quo, or good for some species? We can cut down on plastic in the ocean by using cotton bags, but that has a huge water cost, causing problems for other eco systems. Which one of those is the "good for the environment option"? How do you balance one species against another? Do you value the health of a species as a whole or the welfare (i.e., lack of suffering) of its individuals? If we killed all domesticated cattle we would be committing genocide but alleviating a lot of suffering.

Traditionally, animal rights activists would focus on the welfare of individual animals (especially large mammals) above all. That made some gains in the west but just not that many people care all that much about it. Now that a lot of people care a lot about global warming, there has been a partial change of tactics. Animal farming is branded as "bad" not just because it makes animals suffer, but because it produces lots of CO2/Methane. This is thus another argument used to curb meat production: the end goal is the same but the reason drastically different. In same cases they even clash: Battery farmed chickens surely suffer more than free ranged ones, but have a smaller carbon footprint.

Of course, trying to get activists, or even the general public to understand this is hopeless. Most of these issues are not decided rationally in terms of compromise. Rather, people who think of themselves as environmentalists jump on the bandwagon of whatever issue is currently in the press (Plastic bags are evil! Straws are evil! Eat less cheese!) and run with it, mentally isolating it from all the other issues. It's a gut emotional reaction, or virtue signalling, more than anything else.
It has been scientifically demonstrated that Cow's farts accelerate the Global Warming. So that, when you eat beans you should be aware that after some hours you will cause a little climatic disaster contributing to the Global Warming.

Now, jokes a part, it's possible to make the general public understand a bit the reality. In Italy there was a tremendous campaign against hunting activity and there was even a referendum to make hunting illegal [I say immediately that I'm a hunter with a little arsenal at home ...]. The left was sure to win that referendum, but ... not enough Italian electors voted [here to have a valid result the 50% + 1 of the electors has to vote a referendum]. This meant that the majority of Italians was indifferent.

Because hunting activity has got a motivation: to manage fauna. In Italy wolves live only in little parks in the Appennini and the bear is well rear to meat. Which predator will control the population of wild boars, deer, Alpine ibexes ... and so on? Human hunters.


Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
Crows nest
I believe that the hard line activists such as PETA are bad for animal welfare as they are so loony that they bring the entire concept into disrepute.

I cannot link as it is behind a paywall, but in today's Daily Telegraph there is an article about PETA telling the residents of the Dorset village of Wool to change it's name, as, according to them, "wool" stands for cruelty to sheep. Just at face value this is very arrogant of PETA, but that organisation of course is blind to it's own faults, but it also shows now blinkered and narrow they are, for the village name "Wool" is nothing to do with sheep, but derives from an Old English word for "well". I know this part of the country quite well, and am familiar with the River Piddle, so I wonder in this brave new age of stupidity and neo puritanism if the name of the river will have to be change to avoid "hurting peoples feelings and in the interest of public decency". Few decades back this would all have been laughed at, but these days, no, no laughing matter at all, as people may be "harmed", and that is "bad".
Feb 2012
By the way green house gas is not the only problem with meat production at the environmental level there is also the amount of water it involves, deforestation and soil degradation (which also involve green house gas emissions), the social impact of increased cost of grains and of course at the moral level animal wealther.
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Aug 2014
Few decades back this would all have been laughed at, but these days, no, no laughing matter at all, as people may be "harmed", and that is "bad".
It would have been a laughing matter a few decades ago and it is still a laughing matter today. Nobody except the Murdoch tabloids takes these actions seriously. PETA is good for animal welfare; its ridiculous behaviour makes the actions of more moderate groups seem reasonable in comparison. Every movement needs its radical fringe wingnuts for this reason.
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Ad Honorem
Oct 2011
It's a question that defies a simple, unified answer, as some animal rights activists seem to promote policies which could be fairly said to improve the lot of animals (e.g. promoting methods of raising chickens for consumption which induce less stress), while others (especially "vegan" activism) simply demonstrate an emotional discomfort with the idea of "animal suffering," meaning their brand of "animal rights" is "my right to not be emotionally disturbed by the existence of those animals in a state I dislike" rather than the animal's right to anything in particular. For example, opposition to bull fighting is an example of massive emotionality triumphing over reasonable consideration: the life of a fighting bull is comfortable enough for almost its entirety, it gives joy to a large number of people, its meat is still consumed in the end if it dies, and unlike almost any other animal raised for consumption, it has at least some chance of "success" in its own terms, slight though it is. Yes, the bull fight itself is brutal: I have no interest in watching one at all, and can completely understand why others would not care to watch it. And yet, viewed in the bulls own terms, it seems preferable to the course of life as a steer, so how can "animal rights" be invoked to deny an animal a course of life which it would probably prefer were it capable of comprehending the choice? Only by taking the actual animal out of the equation and lending primacy to the emotions of the rights activist. Pursuing "animal rights" through emotionalist vegan methodology is akin to pursuing "human rights" through massive promotion of abortion, attempting to eliminate suffering by eliminating potential sufferers, which is the exact opposite of genuine humane concern. For example, in some countries, the abortion rate of babies afflicted by Down's Syndrome is nearly 100 percent. Whether that's reasonable or not is open to discussion, but framing that as "human rights" would be to suggest that the only "right" one had to offer to these infants -- infants who, while they would often struggle with life, not uncommonly grow up into humans capable of experiencing lives they themselves describe as positive -- is the right to non-existence. Yes, that might be much easier for their parents, but doing what is easy for oneself is not really a "right" so much as pragmatic expedience.

To the extent that there is an intersection between human interests, animal interests, and environmental concerns, it can be found in the continued integration of animals into human society (i.e. continued cultivation of animals as pets and food) coupled with mandatory living standards which reasonably reduce needless suffering. This should logically pay secondary environmental benefits insofar as mandatory standards will increase the price of consumption, which will bring about moderation naturally, at least on a collective scale. If an animal rights activist pursues this end, then it seems reasonable enough to suggest that they are acting in order to make things better for animals (and humans, at least on a collective scale). An enduring, mutually-beneficial harmony between humans and domestic animals is the best way to preserve animal welfare in our society. That's not to say one cannot adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle for health or religious reasons, of course, or even upon a purely environmentalist basis should one sincerely believe that environmentalism essentially demands the extinction of domestic animals. But if we are going to speak about animal rights in its own terms, then that needs to include a coherent, stable place in the world, and for domestic animals, we know what that place is and what it must be for their continued existence.

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