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Animals enrich our lives in many ways. They provide food, clothing and companionship. Animals used for medical research have given us important advances in medicine that have saved millions of lives. Most people today recognize that the use of animals under humane circumstances is important. Animal welfare organizations also support the wise use of animals under humane conditions.

The animal welfare ethic has been promoted over the past century by many groups, including the fur industry. Working with the government and the veterinary community, industries that involve animal use have adopted high standards for the treatment of animals. For instance, today there are strict regulations governing livestock; guidelines have been implemented for the care of animals used in medical research; and humane care standards have been implemented by the fur industry.

In the past few years, however, new organizations called "animal rights" or "animal activist" groups have emerged. The basic philosophy of these groups is that humans have no right to use animals for any purpose whatsoever. These groups oppose the use of animals for food, clothing, medical research, and in zoos and circuses, or as pets. Some even believe that animals should be given the same rights as human beings.

This philosophy raises a number of puzzling questions. Should animals really have the SAME rights as humans? Does this mean that rats and cockroaches have equal status with humans? Should we eliminate leather for shoes or wool for sweaters? Would meat, poultry and dairy products be eliminated from our diets? What about medical research? If it were eliminated, wouldn't the efforts of scientists to find a cure for cancer and AIDS be hindered?

With a little thought, it becomes obvious that the animal activists' position is very unrealistic. The elimination of animal use would impact our lives tremendously.

The information provided by animal activists is often misleading and, in many cases, inaccurate.

The animal rights movement is not interested in the complex task of improving standards which regulate our use of domestic and wild animals. They ignore the difficulties of balancing human needs with the habitat and other requirements of wildlife. Instead, they merely declare that using animals for food, clothing and medical research is exploitation, and that this is wrong. They demand that all use of animals somehow suddenly stop.

The philosophy of the animal activist movement is best described in the words of its leaders:

Ingrid Newkirk, Founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA):

"Animal liberationists do not separate out the human animal,
so there is no rational basis for saying that a human being
has special rights. A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They're all mammals." (Vogue, 9/89)

"Even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS,
we'd be against it." (Vogue, 9/89)

"Six million people died in concentration camps, but six
billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses."

Jeremy Rifkin, "Beyond Beef":

"Eating beef is an arcane, anachronistic tradition, a remnant
of our past. I predict the beef culture will be over by the end of the 21st century." (3/92)

Tom Regan, "March on Washington" leader and philosophy professor at North Carolina State University:

When asked which he would save, a dog or a baby, if a boat
capsized in the ocean, Regan responded, "If it were a retarded
baby and a bright dog, I'd save the dog." (A Q&A session following speech,
"Animal Rights, Human Wrongs", Univ. of Wisc-Madison, 10/27/89)

Tom Regan and Gary Francione, director of the Rutgers Animal Rights Law Clinic, "A Movement's Means Create Its Ends," (January/February, 1992):

"Not only are the philosophies of animal rights and animal
welfare separated by irreconcilable differences, and
not only are the practical reforms grounded in animal
welfare morally at odds with those sanctioned by the
philosophy of animal rights, but also the enactment
of animal welfare measures actually impedes the
achievement of animal rights."

Dan Mathews, director of International Campaigns, PETA

"A century of shameful and costly animal experiments for cancer
hasn't led us one step closer to a cure. Now AIDS is becoming as big
a business for opportunistic animal experimentation." (OUT, 9/93)

From these statements, it is clear that there are extremely radical positions within the animal activist movement. Unfortunately, some supporters of animal rights go beyond simply making extreme and impractical statements. There are numerous instances where animal activists have engaged in irresponsible and even illegal activities.

Under the banner of this radical cause, several medical research laboratories in the U.S. have been firebombed. Research animals have been stolen and millions of dollars worth of research has been destroyed. Meat-packing plants, farms, and fur stores have been attacked. In some instances, individuals employed in businesses and labs that involve the use of animals have been targeted personally, their homes and families victimized.

The actions of some of these groups have become so violent that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has classified them as terrorist acts and even includes one animal activist group, the Animal Liberation Front, on its list of terrorist organizations.

In response to growing concerns about animal extremists, the United States Congress directed the United States Departments of Justice and Agriculture to conduct a joint study on the extent and impact of their activities. This report, submitted to Congress in September 1993, confirmed that animal rights extremists are willing to use violent and destructive methods to advance their cause. The report indicated that, in attacks on medical research facilities and other enterprises involved in animal use, animal extremists have caused millions of dollars of damage.

Support for animal rights groups is minimal and shrinking steadily. Most Americans see the animal rights philosophy as unrealistic, counterproductive and detrimental to society as a whole. In fact, consumer surveys have confirmed that the majority of Americans do not support the animal rights philosophy however most, including the fur industry, support animal welfare ethics.. 96% of all Americans disapprove of the tactics used by animal rights activists. The majority of Americans do, however, support the individual's freedom of choice.

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