We recently ran an article on PorkNetwork called, NIAA supports animal welfare, not activists’ “humane education.” In the release, Jim Fraley, Livestock Program Director for Illinois Farm Bureau and co-chair of National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) Animal Care Council, stresses that animal welfare and animal rights are not the same.

From the standpoint of animal care, it’s an easy differentiation, but animal rights groups vigorously work to blur the lines. Animal welfare is about following best-management practices so animals are treated humanely throughout their lives. On the other hand, the animal rights movement is just what it implies. It wants to give “rights” to animals, often on the same level as humans, and to transfer human emotions and feelings to animals. Many of those involved in animal rights activism are vegetarian or vegan, believing that animals should not be used by man for any purpose.

According to a news release from NIAA, members recently 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 erroneously be perceived as facts.

“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), PETA 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.”

It’s a matter of choosing education over indoctrination. The meaning of “indoctrinate” is: to teach somebody a belief, doctrine, or ideology thoroughly and systematically, especially with the goal of discouraging independent thought or the acceptance of other opinions.

That is exactly what the animal rights groups hope to accomplish. Carefully crafted, tightly-focused messages are designed to indoctrinate listeners with a single viewpoint: theirs. They plant images of abused, “unhappy” (their words, not mine) animals that aren’t allowed to “express their natural instincts,” whatever they may be. The message they spout is that modern agriculture is evil and you should be wary of the food you eat. Unfortunately, they infiltrate schools and deliver their one-sided doctrine to impressionable young people. While Ag in the Classroom has helped educate many children, agriculture doesn’t have the vast resources of groups like HSUS. As a result, too many students aren’t exposed to a realistic, honest view of production agriculture.

In 2010, the HSUS have total revenues of more than $148 million. It gives less than one percent of its massive donations to local pet shelters, but it has socked away more than $17 million dollars to its pension fund. No wonder staff members are so rabidly enthusiastic in promoting their ideologies. Self-preservation is a strong incentive.

Animal welfare and best management practices are bylines of responsible livestock producers. After all, contented, well-cared-for animals are more productive. It’s important that consumers of all ages understand the difference between animal welfare and animal rights.

Maybe everything depends on your point of view, your background and history, and your experiences. Most of the people I know have a healthy skepticism of “fast talkers.” We don’t accept everything we’re told. We’d rather base our beliefs on facts than on popular opinion or biased propaganda. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone did?