A recent episode in Great Britain is a good indicator of the split between traditional “animal welfare” advocates and the more recent aberration, “animal ‘rights'” activists. This split is present in the United States as well. While the animal welfare movement seeks only to protect animals from unnecessary cruelty (as with your local SPCA), animal “rights” leaders (such as those nannies at PETA) want all animals, even those raised expressly for food, afforded the same rights as human beings. This includes the “right” to avoid winding up on your plate.
England’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), a close analog to our ASPCA, has until recent years been all about animal welfare. Not any more. In a pair of recent decisions that stunned the UK, the RSPCA has publicized its desire to sever ties with two prominent spokespersons. One is Richard Meade, a nationally celebrated three-time equestrian gold medallist. The other is Her Majesty the Queen. Their grave sin? Endorsing the centuries-old tradition of fox hunting. The RSPCA claims that fox hunting should be abolished, and suggests that wild foxes even provide a valuable service to farmers, who otherwise would have to spend good money to remove crop-munching rabbits from their fields. No word, though, on the “right” of the rabbits to avoid the foxes.

In yesterday’s London Times, Meade spoke out against the animal-rights trend in the RSPCA: “I think I am most critical of the animal rights movement because it stands in the way of reason and appears to be implacably opposed to freedom of expression. It stifles debate and shouts down opposing views, relying upon fear and coercion rather than persuasion.”