Animal protection encyclopedia

This encyclopedia provides definitions for key terms, issues, and concepts featured in Voiceless Animal Protection Education (APE) resources.

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A-Z index of glossary

  • A
  • Agenda

    A person or entity’s motivation or intention.

  • Agriculture

    Growing plant crops and rearing and managing livestock to produce a variety of products for commercial sale.

  • Animal cruelty

    Causing an animal pain that, in the circumstances, is unjustifiable, unnecessary or unreasonable. 

  • Animal intelligence

    The ability of an animal to learn, acquire knowledge and process information.

  • Animal rights

    Moral and legal entitlements of animals.

  • Animal rights advocate

    A person or organisation adopting an ‘animal rights’ approach to animal protection.

    Many rights advocates believe that animals are entitled to enjoy fundamental rights such as the rights to life, health and liberty. An animal rights advocate would challenge the property status of animals, and disagree with the idea that it is morally acceptable for humans to use animals for human purposes.

  • Animal welfare

    How an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives.

  • Animal welfarist

    A person or organisation adopting an ‘animal welfare’ approach to animal protection.

    Animal welfarists are concerned with how well animals are coping with their environment, i.e. whether they are experiencing positive or negative wellbeing. For welfarists, it is morally acceptable for humans to use animals for human purposes, so long as that use does not cause unjustifiable or unreasonable pain or suffering.

  • Aquaculture

    The growing or farming of aquatic animals and plants, including fish farming.

  • Autonomy

    The ability to engage in independent thought and decision-making.

  • B
  • Battery cages

    A series of cages in which hens are confined for laying eggs.

  • Bildungsroman

    A literary genre which focuses on the development of an adolescent protagonist.

  • Bio-security

    Steps taken to prevent the spread of infectious disease among humans and animals, or from one place to another.

  • Biomass

    The mass of living organisms in an ecosystem at a particular point in time.

  • Broiler chicken

    Chickens bred for meat production.

  • By-catch

    Animals unintentionally caught in commercial fishing, such as dolphins, turtles, sea birds and non-target fishes.

  • C
  • Call to action

    A statement, advertisement or instruction which encourages someone to do something, or to act in a certain way.

  • Captivity

    A state where a living being is confined in a particular area and prevented from escaping.

  • Chimpanzee

    A mammal, part of the family Hominidae (the Great Apes). These animals share approximately 99% of their DNA with human beings.

  • Cognitively affected

    A mental state where usual thought patterns and brain activity may be interrupted, disturbed or unusual.

  • Conscious

    To be aware and able to respond to one’s surroundings.

  • Corporation

    One type of entity created by law which can act as a legal person. These entities can sue and be sued, own property and be held legally accountable for their actions.

  • Culture

    Non-biological information or traditions transferred across generations.

  • D
  • Deceit

    To mislead or conceal the truth.

  • Discrimination

    The differential treatment of people, without a good reason. Unacceptable reasons include treating someone differently purely because of their race, skin, colour, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity.

  • Dramatic monologue

    A poetic reading or performance of a character’s thoughts and feelings as though they are alone.

  • E
  • Ecosystem

    A community of biological and non-living components interacting as a natural system.

  • Electroreception abilities

    The ability to detect and emit electric signals, sometimes as a form of communication.

  • Environmental conservation

    Actions that seek to preserve the state of the planet, including the management of natural resources and the protection of the natural environment.

  • Epigraph

    A short quotation or inscription at the start of a text, or chapter of a novel, which may imply its theme.

  • Ethical

    Adhering to moral principles concerning beliefs on what is morally ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

  • Ethics

    The moral principles which determine how a person conducts themselves.

  • Ethologist

    A scientist who studies animal behaviour.

  • Euphemism

    A phrase or word used in place of another which would be considered more unpleasant.

  • F
  • Factory farming

    A system of large-scale intensive animal agriculture, where animals are generally confined indoors, and unable to perform most natural behaviours.

  • Free-range

    A system of animal farming where animals are housed at lower stocking densities than intensive systems and are permitted some degree of access to an outdoor area.

  • G
  • Group memory

    The shared knowledge and information held by a social group of animals, often passed on between generations.

  • H
  • Habeas corpus

    A type of legal remedy which can be used to bring prisoners before a court to make a ruling on whether they have been lawfully imprisoned.

  • Humane

    To be kind and compassionate towards others, particularly those who may be suffering.

  • I
  • Inherent Cruelties

    The negative animal welfare impacts that are an intrinsic and inevitable part of intensive animal agriculture processes.

  • Intact

    Something which remains complete, undamaged or untouched.

  • Intelligence

    An ability to learn, acquire knowledge and process information.

  • Inter-species communication

    When animals of different species exchange information.

  • Inter-species cooperation

    When animals of different species work together to achieve a common goal.

  • L
  • Lament

    An act or expression which conveys an intense form of grief or sorrow.

  • Law

    A rule-based system adhered to within a certain jurisdiction, in which the rules agreed to by the community are used to regulate the behaviour of community members.

  • Legal obligation

    A duty which one is bound to uphold by law.

  • Legal person

    An entity which is the holder of legal rights. The entity is most commonly a human being, but also may be a corporation, ship or natural entity (such as a river).

  • Legal right

    A legal entitlement to something protected by law.

  • M
  • Mammals

    A class of vertebrate animals that give birth to live young and produce milk for their young, including humans.

  • Mirror self-recognition test

    A method of determining whether an animal is self-aware, by observing whether or not the animal recognises themselves in a mirror.

  • Misconception

    An opinion or view that is flawed.

  • Morals

    The individual values that a person holds in relation to what that person feels is right or wrong.

  • N
  • Natural behaviours

    The actions and conduct animals usually exhibit under natural conditions.

  • Neocortex

    A part of the brain in mammals that is responsible for various functions, including pain perception.

  • Non-confrontational

    A peaceful and level-headed approach to a situation or conversation.

  • Nonhuman Rights Project

    An organisation established by US lawyer Steven Wise, which aims to change the legal status of certain animals (such as Great Apes, elephants, dolphins and whales) from ‘property’ to ‘legal persons’.

  • P
  • Pain perception

    The ability to feel and process painful experiences.

  • Paleocortex

    A part of the brain in birds that is responsible for various functions, including pain perception.

  • Pallium

    A part of the brain in fishes that is responsible for various functions, including pain perception.

  • Paradox

    A contradictory statement or expression.

  • Perspective

    Point of view.

  • Positive cognitive states

    A desirable mental state, such as contentment or happiness.

  • Poultry

    A term used to group a variety of domesticated birds such as chickens, geese, ducks or quail.

  • Predator

    An animal that hunts and eats other animals.

  • Prey

    An animal that is hunted and eaten by other animals.

  • Primates

    An order of mammals that includes chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys and humans.

  • Principles

    A set of guidelines a person lives by which determines their behaviour.

  • Property

    A thing owned by a legal person. Things do not have legal rights. Owners have various rights with respect to the things they own – including the rights to sell and destroy.

  • Protagonist

    The central character of a text.

  • Provincialism

    Old-fashioned, or narrow-minded attitudes and opinions of people who live outside big cities.

  • R
  • Recreational hunting

    The act of pursuing and killing animals for sport.

  • Recreational trophy hunting

    The act of pursuing and killing animals for sport, with the purpose of keeping the body or bodily parts for display.

  • Reflex

    An automatic response that is performed unconsciously.

  • Revolutionary

    An act, person or idea, which rebels against the norm and/or brings about significant change.

  • S
  • Schooling

    The action of fishes swimming together in a coordinated way.

  • Selective breeding

    A process where humans breed together animals with specific characteristics, in order to produce offspring with those characteristics.

  • Self-awareness

    The ability to identify a separate sense of ‘self’, distinct from other entities. It is the understanding of one’s individual character.

  • Sentience

    The ability to subjectively perceive the environment, and experience pain and suffering or pleasure and comfort.

  • Shoaling

    The action of fishes staying in a specific group for social reasons.

  • Singer

    A philosopher who argued that anything that could be used to justify treating humans differently from animals could also be used to justify treating some humans differently from other humans, and that since we are committed to treating all humans equally, it would be hypocritical and irrational not to treat animals as having equal moral status to humans.

  • Slaughterhouse

    A place where humans kill animals for their meat and bodily parts.

  • Social justice activism

    Efforts to change political or social issues through public protest or action.

  • Sow stalls

    Small metal and concrete crates used to house mother pigs (sows) during pregnancy, which prevent them from turning around.

  • Speciesism

    A form of discrimination against non-human animals by humans, stemming from the presumption that human beings are superior to all other species on earth. It involves treating non-human animals differently to human beings purely because they are not human.

  • Stimuli

    Things that cause a reaction (for example, sharp objects are stimuli that may cause pain when touched).

  • Stocking density

    Refers to the concentration of animals within a particular area.

  • Subsistence hunting

    The act of pursuing and killing animals for the purpose of obtaining food for the hunter and their family and/or community.

  • U
  • Unconscious

    To not be awake, lacking awareness and responsiveness to one’s surroundings.

  • Untrammelled

    Not to be confined or controlled in any way.

  • V
  • Veganism

    The practice of abstaining from anything which involves the use of animals for human purposes, especially food and clothing derived from animal bodies.

  • Voiceless Animal Cruelty Index

    An index used to measure the animal welfare performance and levels of animal cruelty across fifty countries.