Struggling with the Concept of Animal Rights

Posted By on February 25, 2014

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]”


Now what does this cognitive dissonance have to do with 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 their 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 it’s 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?  ITS 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 care for animals.

Instead of heeding my advice and turning against Animal Rights.  You decide to bury your head in the sand because of this 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 can not, have a good life with humans.  We are against Animal Rights.

And I sincerely hope you will join us.

Food for thought:

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7 Responses to “Struggling with the Concept of Animal Rights”

  1. Charlotte says:

    Wow. I can hardly find words to express my gratitude for this piece. In the last few years I have been in this argument almost word for word constantly. I’m legislative liaison for my parent breed club, and although we are a small population breed club, we are an inclusive one, with many members considered average pet owners, an audience that needs to hear what you have said, loud and clear! Many of our breeder members encourage their puppy buyers to join the parent club, yet we still have a few “traditional” members (a euphemism) who disparage “pet” people, so sad. And so short sighted!

    I will be sharing your message on my personal Facebook page, where I focus on animal issues almost exclusively, and recently links on Blackfish and the proposed ban on carriage horses in NYC have dominated that space, in hopes that people will start to understand the value of unity and open minded discourse. What happens to agriculture, hunting, horses and marine animals happens to all of us who love and respect and value our relationships with animals. The carriage horse fight is highly significant, as an example of how these animal rights groups work to take us down. They pick a relatively small target, like the only two hog farms in Florida, and the 200 carriage horses and their drivers in NYC, turn the public against their normal practices, and force them out of existence. They set a precedent, and go on from there, and people have begun to see what’s really happening. The PeTA activists protesting the horses have made some missteps, said a little too much, and folks are aware now that these groups ARE really after their dogs and cats. They have expanded their protests to Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey in the last week or so. It looks like NYCLASS (the real estate PAC in Manhattan) is running scared now, they may have lost this battle. We need to keep swinging, never let up, and your post here will be another round of ammunition – THANK YOU!

    • Drea says:

      Thank you for your kind words. This post was one that just kind of hit me like a ton of bricks this morning and I had to get it out there for the world. I struggled with cognitive dissonance within myself for a while and didn’t understand why. I just hope that this will make sense to those that are struggling as well.

  2. Amanda says:

    I really enjoyed the article. I will share this with my friends on Facebook.

  3. Beth says:

    EXCELLENT discussion of the issues and why we are all hurt so much emotionally/psychologically by this false “truth” they’re trying to sell…

    I only wish there was a way to have the world of appropriate dog breeders lead the way, instead of feeling the need to be reactive/defensive, in resolving some of the issues about the standards of care permitted under USDA laws. The minimum standards are truly inadequate in some ways and need revision, but without the extremes offered by the AR folks. Active vs Reactive…. But that’s a discussion for another day….

  4. Marcy says:

    Fantastic piece. I have long thought that “cognitive dissonance” has played a large part in the inability of people to wrap their heads around the sociopathic “animal rights” movement and how destructive to society it truly is. I’ve shared on Facebook too, where I share AR-exposing pieces to hopefully educate!

  5. Kim says:

    Very nice article.

    The main question remaining is whether the opposite side of the spectrum is the answer, or that we should work actively on a Middle-of-the-Road organization. I for example will NEVER be able to support NAIA because they support what I see as animal cruelty.

    A Middle-of-the-Road organization would have as an advantage that it would take away the cognitive dissonance that people experience without forcing them to choose. When people with cognitive dissonance are forced to choose, they will go with what feels emotionally best, regardless of the facts.

  6. J Bailey says:

    Thankyou for this thoughtful and well said message. It should be required reading for anyone considering joining the animal”rights” movement.

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