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Protecting Animals

- July 13, 2018
Should they have rights similar to those of humans?
Featured Report

The animal-rights movement, once considered a fringe political cause, has become a significant force in American culture, with advocacy groups claiming millions of members and public-opinion polls showing growing popular support for animal welfare. Activists argue that all creatures have a right to live free from pain and exploitation and that humans should give animals' needs greater consideration. Some believe animals should have legal rights similar to those accorded humans, and many oppose eating meat or using animal products of any kind. The issue pits animal-rights activists against modern, large-scale agricultural and livestock producers, biomedical researchers, hunters and the operators of some zoos and wildlife parks. Critics of the movement say it ignores meaningful differences between humans and animals, including the higher thought processes and ability to make moral choices that distinguish the human race from the animal kingdom. They reject the notions that animals should have rights and that people have no right to use animals for the benefit of humankind.

Federal Action

The Trump administration has moved to weaken animal protection.

State Legislation

Some states are banning puppy mills.

Court Decisions

Animal-protection groups want legal personhood for some animals.

1200s–1700sWestern thought largely dismisses animals as lesser creatures put on Earth for human benefit.
1800sConcern about cruelty to animals leads to early legal action and the first animal-protection groups.
1950s–1970sNew laws seek to protect both domesticated and wild animals.
1980sConcern for animal suffering spurs activism.
1990s–PresentAnimal rights continue to advance; states begin protecting meat producers; the Trump administration weakens some federal standards.

Are zoos and public aquariums harmful to animals?


Rachel Mathews
Deputy Director, Captive Animal Law Enforcement Division, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Foundation.


Dan Ashe
President and CEO, Association of Zoos and Aquariums.


Superbug Threat
Will antibiotics continue to work?
Global Population Pressures
Will conflicts over resources spill across borders?
Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence
Are they being used in harmful ways?