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Struggling With the Concept of Animal Rights

A thought occurred to me while I was arguing with someone regarding the damage of Blackfish in regards to our fight for the right to have and breed animals.  (Really this post has nothing to do with marine mammals. I’m a dog person and have no real knowledge about marine mammal care. So if you came here to fight with me about it, leave now.)

The thought is that in general, the argument against Animals Rights with our fellow breeders, animal fanciers, and animal lovers is due to the struggle people have with cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is defined by Merriam-Webster as “psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously.”

Although honestly, I find that Wikipedia does a better job at explaining it in layman’s terms: “In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the excessive mental stress and discomfort [1] experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time. This stress and discomfort may also arise within an individual who holds a belief and performs a contradictory action or reaction. [2] For example, an individual is likely to experience dissonance if he or she is addicted to smoking cigarettes and continues to smoke despite believing it is unhealthy.[3]

Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. When inconsistency (dissonance) is experienced, individuals largely become psychologically distressed. His basic hypotheses are listed below:

“The existence of dissonance, being psychologically uncomfortable, will motivate the person to try to reduce the dissonance and achieve consonance”

“When dissonance is present, in addition to trying to reduce it, the person will actively avoid situations and information which would likely increase the dissonance” [1]”
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance)

Now what does this cognitive dissonance have to do with the argument against Animals Rights with our fellow breeders, animal fanciers and animal lovers?  The answer is EVERYTHING. Fellow breeders, animal fanciers and animal lovers that we argue with generally love animals. They care for the animals in their life. Some of them see them as children, some see them as an extension of their own being, and some even see them as their entire life. These beliefs and feelings toward other animals cause our fellows to want the best for their own animals, and for other animals to be treated well as well.

The idea of neglect, torture and harm to animals is painful for our fellows, just as it is painful for most of us. So in walks the concept of Animal Rights. It is a feel good, one-size-fits-all-species, idea supported by propaganda showing torture, inhumane treatment and death of animals. This movement simply strives to give all animals the rights that humans have.

This idea of Animal Rights feels good at first. We mostly treat our dogs like family, like little furry people. We want the best for other dogs too. So if others are required, by law, to treat animals like little furry people, then all would be good.  Right?

In walks someone like me. I simply say “No, that is not a good idea. I can tell you why, but if you intend to keep your rights as a human to own pets, giving those pets rights as people is a bad idea. You see, this isn’t about welfare, or proper species appropriate care. This is about literal, basic rights.  When you give the dog rights, it means that you cannot own it.  You can be a guardian, but you cannot be its owner.”

Wait, this still sounds good to you? How about this, “The animal rights movement, at its core, believes that animals should not be impacted by humans at ALL. First they will target the ability for breeders to keep their animals.  Then they will establish the idea that animals are not owned, and that they are persons. Then they will establish that because they are persons, humans should not impact their decisions and should not hold them captive.”  You say that is impossible?  Guess what?  IT’S ALREADY HAPPENING.

So, I made a point with you, fellow breeder, animal fancier, and animal lover. You are starting to get it. In walks cognitive dissonance. You have spent your entire life trying to make animals’ lives better. You want to support the idea that animals should be well cared for in species appropriate manners. You want those that hurt, harm and torture animals to be punished.  The easiest way is to jump on the Animal Rights bandwagon because they are accomplishing this in a backwards way. But you now feel you can’t. It hurts your psyche because you feel you have to go AGAINST Animal Rights, which makes you feel, because of those commercials, movies, and advertisements that you are AGAINST basic, quality care for animals.

Instead of heeding my advice and turning against Animal Rights, you decide to bury your head in the sand due to cognitive dissonance. You decide that you would rather continue watching those commercials, feeling validated that you are at least fighting for something, with someone who has some power.  You argue with me, citing the same old examples, and the same old arguments.  You continue to ignore that your rights as a pet owner are going to be abolished.  But it is easier cognitively, psychologically, and emotionally to ignore it all. “When dissonance is present, in addition to trying to reduce it, the person will actively avoid situations and information which would likely increase the dissonance”

I am challenging you, fellow breeder, animal fancier, and animal lover to face that dissonance.  Realize, on the other side of it is something much more powerful. On the other side is the ability to stand up with all of us and fight for our animals.  We fight to keep them. We fight to have them treated fairly. We fight for their welfare.  We fight for their lives, their futures, and their offspring.  But we also fight for a society where pets, working animals, food, and other animal goods are produced humanely and with care.  We fight for our rights, as humans, to be able to respectfully utilize what animals have to offer.  We fight for those that torture and neglect animals to actually be prosecuted under the laws that currently in effect.

We are against having those that are responsibly caring for their animals targeted and restricted to the point we cannot produce quality animals.  We are against having our pets and animals taken away. We are against the idea that animals do not, and cannot, have a good life with humans.  We are against Animal Rights. And I sincerely hope you will join us.

Food for thought:

Written by

Andrea Dunkle of ArticCross Samoyeds began training and handling Samoyeds 18 years ago at the age of 7. She started in AKC all breed conformation with Samoyeds, then proceeded to show in juniors, obedience and agility. Along the way she has earned multiple championships, titles, Best in Specialties, High in Trials, High Scoring and other top awards with her dogs and dogs she handles for others. Her dog career is something she has devoted her life to.
  • Margaret Van Cleave
    Margaret March 3, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    Wonderful article! It seems that buying from a breeder has become politically incorrect. We all have a long fight ahead of us and must learn the talking points in order to reverse this trend.

  • Lenzie March 3, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    I kind of agree but at the same time disagree with this article. It’s difficult to explain really, but let’s see how this goes.

    I think everyone here can agree that any sentient being has the right to life; a life that is plentiful and full of happiness. I am a dog fancier myself and nothing makes me happier than being around dogs or at dog shows in general; the atmosphere of being around not just dogs but being around the people who put their time and money into providing the best for their four-legged kids so that they perform in the ring to the best of their ability. But at the same time I am against circuses and most zoos/aquariums. Why? Well, circuses are more than obvious; animals, especially wild animals, are not on this planet for our entertainment. I don’t agree with a tiger jumping through flaming hoops or lions being whipped at to hop from podium to podium to please and audience. I don’t think bears belong on bikes wearing stupid uniforms, monkeys walking tightropes, or elephants balancing on pedestals. Wild animals belong in their natural habitats without human interference unless it is for their protection or to aid in preservation of the species. I favor conservations over zoos because zoos are more of an attraction that favors revenue over the well being of the animals in their “care.” Wild animals cannot thrive in artificial environments, like Polar Bears living in small enclosures with rocks painted white to appear as snow or killer whales living in cramped pools when the animal has evolved to live in the vast oceans.

    Animals rights is very important, there is no doubt about that, but what seems to be the problem is that while there is good intentions from animal rights activists they are just trying to take things too far too fast. Not to mention that the wrong people are being blamed. I would know because I used to be one of those people who was stuck on the idea of “no such thing as reputable breeders.” But after taking a look through websites like Craigslist where people sell litters after litters of puppies or kittens and they stud out unfit dogs for profit, I learned who really is to blame for the millions of animals euthanized in shelters every year. It is a horrible atrocity, the many lives lost because of greed and lack of education. My heart breaks remembering the faces of the dozens of dogs I trained and socialized in the few shelters I worked in, the same dogs that were put down a short time later because there just wasn’t enough room or money to take care of them. I see the idiots studding out unhealthy dogs online and that is who I am angry with.

    As said before; animals rights activists have good intentions, they are just sometimes pointing their fingers at the wrong people. Animal rights should not be seen as a negative thing, and I think we all need to figure this out. Not for people but for the animals.

  • Blkwhtbcs March 4, 2014 at 6:10 AM

    Lenzie , I think you should rethink the use of the term animal rights and use the term animal welfare. Very different ideas.
    Animal welfare makes sure animals are taken care of and Animal rights gives them the same rights as you and I . My dog will never be able to care for himself , ever, I am not his guardian , I paid for him. He will never earn a wage, pay taxes, or be a contributing member of society. Unless p****** on mail box posts counts.
    There are no good intentions when it comes to animal rights, Peta just killed oh about 90% percent of the animals they took in . What’s right about that?

    • Robin March 4, 2014 at 3:41 PM

      Precisely, there is a HUGE difference between Animal Welfare (insuring that all animals are correctly cared for and not abused) and Animal Rights (seeking to put animals on the same legal plane as humans).
      My hope is for the former, not the latter – and I don’t see where HSUS, PETA, etc. are seeking to make the distinction when appealing to the Public for money. They certainly don’t practice what they preach!

  • Jen Proud
    Jen Proud March 6, 2014 at 4:49 PM

    Thank you for taking the time to publish a well-thought and coherent article! As a veterinary technician, breeder & exhibitor, I spend much of my days figuring out how to tactfully explain the difference between animal welfare and what John Q. Public thinks animal rights is- how do I keep a job by saying- ya if the ARO whackos have their way, you’d be in big trouble for dragging your dog places with you and on a leash of the horrid things or for you having your cat in that lock-box (kitty carrier) is illegal when the AROs are done!!
    Most Americans & people the world over truly care about their companion animals & do have a concern with general animal welfare- but somehow the words “rights” & “welfare” have become synonymous to the general public. (Thanks to those AROs)
    I am interested in reprinting this article in my informational section of my website (and probably the work place too); of course with proper credits included. Please do excuse me, but I couldn’t find a private link/email to ask privately, and really want to include this so here I am asking!
    Thank you for your time & efforts!
    Jen P & “the Pack”

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