Domesticated animals deserve respect and care. That’s animal welfare – and a priority of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA), an organization comprised of livestock, equine, poultry and aquaculture producers, producer organizations, veterinarians, extension personnel, academicians, scientists, federal and state regulatory agencies and allied industry.

Jim Fraley, Livestock Program Director for Illinois Farm Bureau and co-chair of NIAA’s Animal Care Council, stresses that animal welfare and animal rights, however, are not the same.

Significant discussion was devoted to this topic during NIAA’s annual conference in Louisville, KY, April 15-17. In the end, NIAA’s membership agreed on two key items: 1) NIAA believes in animal welfare and does not believe in animal rights; and 2) Today’s children and future generations should understand the importance of animal welfare and not confuse animal welfare with animal rights.

“We believe in and support animal welfare as these practices focus on the prevention of suffering and cruelty to animals,” Fraley explains. “NIAA does not believe in animal rights as the animal rights philosophy advocates an end to all ‘human use of animals.’

“NIAA members believe human societies require and accept the use of animals as sources of food and fiber, as well as for scientific research, sport, companionship, entertainment and clothing. It is the obligation of animal caretakers to provide the best care possible of animals throughout their lifetime, and NIAA’s membership takes this obligation very seriously.”

During its annual conference, NIAA members adopted a position that public schools should not stir confusion regarding the difference between animal welfare and animal rights by allowing extremist animal rights groups to present their views which can be erroneously perceived as facts.

Concern about what public schools should or should not allow regarding animal welfare and animal rights education arose when NIAA members learned about a California school system that allowed a movie involving animals to be shown and followed up the movie with a discussion focusing on how cruel it is to eat fish.

“Those of us in animal agriculture do not believe that extremist animal rights groups should be allowed to dictate information children are exposed to – or will be exposed to –at our public schools regarding animal welfare,” Fraley states. “Animal rights groups led by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Institute of Humane Education (IHE) do not reflect balanced views and are campaigning across the United States to implement what they refer to as ‘humane education,’ a program of extreme ideological material they aspire to teach in our school systems.

“They have been successful in a few cities, but up to now have not been successful at the state or federal levels, despite repeated efforts to introduce legislation.”

Fraley emphasizes that emotional, subliminal vegan messages replacing animal care based on accepted, proven animal husbandry practices is “not education, but indoctrination.”