The Top 11 Animal Rights Issues

Edited by Michelle A. Rivera

The top 10 animals rights issues, based on effects on animals, the numbers of animals affected, and the numbers of people involved. 

Central, rush time at Des Voeux Road
Maremagnum/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Human overpopulation is the number one threat to wild and domestic animals worldwide. Whatever humans do to use, abuse, kill or displace animals, the effect is magnified by the number of people on the planet, which is now approaching seven billion. While third world countries are experiencing the most population growth, those of us in the first world, who consume the most, are the ones who have the most impact.

Price Board for Cattle Futures
Scott Olson / Getty Images

Every animal use and abuse stems from the treatment of animals as human property - to be used and killed for human purposes, no matter how trivial. From a current, practical standpoint, changing the property status of animals would benefit both pets and their human guardians. We could start by referring to the domestic animals living with us as "companion animals" instead of pets, and referring to those who are caring for them as "guardians," not owners. Most dog and cat guardians even refer to them as their "fur children" and consider them members of the family.

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Pasta & Vegetables
John Foxx / Stockbyte

Veganism is more than a diet. It's about abstaining from all animal use and animal products, whether it's meat, milk, leather, wool or silk. People who follow a plant-based diet may be doing it for ethical or nutritional reasons. Those who adopt a vegan diet for nutritional reasons may not necessarily abstain from buying or wearing leather or even fur. They are not vegan because they love animals, but because they want to life a healthier lifestyle.  

hens in battery cages
Photo courtesy of Farm Sanctuary

Although factory farming involves many cruel practices, it is not just those practices that are objectionable. The very use of animals and animal products for food is antithetical to animal rights.

Sardines at a fish market.
David Silverman / Getty Images

Many people have a hard time understanding objections to eating fish, but fish do feel pain. Also, overfishing threatens the survival of the countless individuals who make up the entire marine ecosystem, in addition to the species targeted by commercial fisheries. And fish farms are not the answer.

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Free Range Cattle
David Silverman / Getty Images
While some animal protection organizations promote "humane" meat, others believe that the term is an oxymoron. Both sides argue that their position helps animals.
China Photos

Some animal advocates argue that the results of experiments on animals are invalid when applied to humans, but regardless of whether the data applies to humans, performing experiments on them violates their rights. And don't expect the Animal Welfare Act to protect them, many species used in experiments are not covered under the AWA

Obama with dog
Robert Sebree

With millions of cats and dogs killed in shelters every year, just about all activists agree that people should spay and neuter their pets. Some activists do oppose keeping pets, but no one wants to take your dog away from you. A very small number of activists oppose sterilization because they believe it infringes on the individual animal's right to be free from human intervention. 

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deer trophy
Ichiro / Getty Images
Animal rights activists oppose any killing of an animal for meat whether it is done in a slaughterhouse or a forest, but there are arguments specifically against hunting that are important to understand.
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seal pup
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Whether captured in a trap, raised on a fur farm, or bludgeoned to death on an ice floe, animals suffer and die for fur. Although fur coats have fallen out of fashion, fur trim is still widely available and sometimes isn't even labeled as real fur.

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Animals In Entertainment

Bucking bronco
Animals used in rodeos can be injured or killed. Getty Images

Greyhound racing, horse racing, rodeos, marine mammals and animals  used in movies and television are treated as chattel and where their is exploitation for money, the potential for abuse is a constant problem. In order to accomplish the behavior necessary to appear in movies or commercials, the animals are often mistreated into submission. In other instances, just the fact that they are not allowed to follow their natural behavior, can result in catastrophic consequences, as was the case with Travis the chimp.

But changes occur every day to help stop that exploitation. For example, Grey2KUSA Worldwide announced on May 13, 2016 that Arizona became the 40th state to ban greyhound racing. 

Animal Rights Can Be A Daunting Subject

Many issues concerning animal rights are fluid and evolutionary. Legislation changes occur every day at both the state and federal level. Trying to understand and take on "animal rights" as a whole can be daunting. If you want to help, choose an issue or a few issues about which you are truly passionate and find other activists who share your concerns.