Animal welfare can be described as how an animal is adapting and coping with their living conditions as controlled by humans. This is determined by: health of the animal, nourishment, safety, comfort, and its ability to still realize its instinctive behavior. Animal rights, by contrast, go further and usually establish higher moral standards for how animals ought to be treated.

Animal welfare is centered around the idea that animals are capable of suffering and other emotions. Another key component of this animal welfare is minimizing the harm and discomfort animals experience while in human care, regardless of their value economically or as instruments of production. Welfare requirements usually apply equally to all animals within the sphere of direct human influence, whether they are companion animals or used for food.

Animal rights is seen as a philosophical view that animals have the same legal and moral rights inherent to humans. Compared to a proponent of animal welfare, a proponent of animal rights may take a stricter view regarding the unethical treatment and use of animals for clothing, research, or food. Treating an animal as a tool or product for human means violates their intrinsic right, and is therefore unethical.

There may be variations in views both between proponents of animal welfare and proponents of animal rights, and also between individual proponents of the same concept.

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