Animals like dogs, cats, and hamsters, get federal protection, whereas the vastly more numerous pigs, cows, chickens, and turkeys have equivalent rights to a microwave or a speck of dust.
MATTHEW CHALMERS: The belief that animals should be accorded some form of rights is an ancient one. In its modern form, the list of basic animal rights is becoming more concrete. For example, because animals desire to live free from suffering, confinement, and death humanity should take these relatable interests into account, and defend their right to enjoy an existence free from these cruelties.
Animal rights are sometimes put up as an oppositional concept to the more widely acknowledged and legislated idea of animal welfare. Some animal rights advocates posit that animal welfare is an insufficient idea which, in simply seeking to improve the wellbeing of animals, fails to challenge the implicit premise that animals are resources for human exploitation. Improving animal welfare means people will try (and often fail) to exploit animals more humanely, whereas establishing animal rights will result in the abandonment of animal exploitation altogether, allowing animals to live on their own terms.
However, there is room for the two perspectives to complement each other. Animal welfare demands imply that animals have a right to be free from severe violence, and therefore seed the idea that animals are distinct from automata or mere commodities. In this sense, they could provide a stepping stone towards the acceptance of full animal rights. However, animal rights campaigners suggest that there is far more work to be done. SOURCE…