Looking at the title I wondered if I should have called this blog animal activist or conservationist but from some of the arguments I see take place on the interweb I decided to leave it as it is. Not because I think the two are opposed but because I believe people have a tendency to confuse them as being the same thing….and they’re not! I have had many conversations around this topic and after giving it some consideration I felt the need to put my thoughts into written word….maybe for my benefit more than anyone else to be honest.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a middle ground here, without a doubt but depending on your motivation and passion there is a much bigger difference than similarity. There is a cross over between the two definitions, conservationists don’t like seeing an endangered species hunted or killed in any form and an animal activist doesn’t like to see any animal hunted or killed full stop, here lies the middle ground. No one in their right mind wants to see a seal clubbed to death for its fur or a whale harpooned for its meat or a sea turtle butchered under traditional hunting rights but the reasons for the dislike will vary. One thing both will agree on is that of animal cruelty, from either side, it’s just not on! But a conservationist is less concerned about farmed animals being dispatched in an abattoir than what an animal activist is as would an animal activist be less concerned about a critically endangered species dying out from natural circumstances than a conservationist would.
From here we see a divergence of the two paths. A conservationist is primarily concerned with the protection of a specific species, be it animal or plant. An animal rights activist is concerned with the protection of all animals regardless of their status. Neither one is less important and I certainly don’t want to be accused of dismissing one over the other, that is not my intent. It is all about individual priorities from here on and what is not fair is to impose one set of beliefs on the other. Although there is certainly some middle ground, fundamentally there are huge differences in the structure of the two pursuits. There is no doubt that you can be both, but at some point if you are dedicated to the cause one will become more important than the other, in my opinion. I believe this due to my own personal experience, I have an interest in animal rights and do put energy into helping those that I can but my passion is in marine conservation and my focus, time and resources go here first and foremost.
I guess it would be hard to avoid the carnivore/herbivore thing at this point, though I would like to try and not turn this into a meat/vege/vegan debate. I know plenty of people on all sides of this three way fence and in my opinion an individual has the right to decide how they manage this. I always encourage people to eat ethically and let them decide what that entails. Most of the staunch animal rights people I know are strictly vegan, many conservationists and animal rights friends are vegetarian and a lot of my conservationists circle are meat eaters. I am not saying this is true in all cases but rather what I have experienced personally. I have also seen the conflict that this has caused along the way and as I mentioned earlier I feel this comes from confusion between the definitions of animal activist and conservationist. As a member of Earthrace Conservation I know we have no rules on what individuals can eat but we do encourage our members to eat ethically. This can mean a number of things depending on your point of view, whatever your take on this is, it is your choice.
Both animal rights and conservation are equally important in the world we live in. It is important to remember that they are not the same thing and although there is some middle ground the fundamentals are very different.
I commend the people and organisations that work in both fields and have huge respect for everyone that dedicates time and energy to either.