The fundamental principle that the Animal Rights issue is based on is that animals deserve to live according to their own nature, free from harm, abuse, and exploitation. This goes further than just saying that we should treat animals well while we exploit them, or before we kill and eat them. It says animals have the RIGHT to be free from human cruelty and exploitation, just as humans possess this right. Animal rights activists try to extend the human circle of respect and compassion beyond the human species to include other animals, who are also capable of feeling pain, fear, hunger, thirst, loneliness, and kinship.
There is a lot of difference between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare. The Animal Welfare movement acknowledges the suffering of non humans and attempts to reduce that suffering through “humane” treatment, but it does not have as a goal, the prevention of killing and exploitation of animals. The Animal Rights movement goes significantly further by rejecting the exploitation of animals and according them rights in that regard.
Ancient Hindu, Buddhist and Jain scriptures are forerunners to the Animal Rights movement, for they advocated vegetarianism for ethical purposes. The ideology has evolved continuously over millennia, but many animal activists point to the publication of “Animal Liberation” in 1975 as the catalyst for the modern animal rights movement. Mahatma Gandhi believed that the greatness of a nation and its moral progress could be judged by the way the animals in that nation were treated. In the end we only need to understand that an animal is also a being with life and can suffer terribly from the brutality of humans.