Buddhism offers a religious vision at three levels. At the ultimate level, the Dharma refers to our existing in the midst of a limitless ocean of grace called the Dharmakaya that is beyond our understanding. This then appears in spiritual experience at the level called sambhogakaya - the "enjoyment body" - which corresponds with the mystical centring of our being upon the influx of spirit - the enjoying of the bliss of samadhi. Samadhi is the consummate vision, the light that illumines one's life when one dwells in the fullness of faith, setting before one the remembrance of those things that are sacred. This then appears in lived life as wholesome action, transforming oneself and transforming the world through right words, deeds and activities: the level of the nirmanakaya or transformations. Loosely, therefore, there is correspondence between dharmakaya and prajna (wisdom), sambhogakaya and samadhi (contemplation), and between nirmanakaya and sila (moral action). These three levels of manifestation must always all be taken into account in a Buddhistic approach.
In social life, the Dharmic level is indicated by the deep mythic structure that, mostly unperceived, underpins the society's collective life; and this manifests at the level of spirit as the mood or morale of that social group expressed in its potent symbols and the narratives that express the hidden underlying mythic structure. All this gives depth and meaning to the actual social acts carried out by individuals and groups. Those acts, in turn, feed back into the spiritual level and move the society toward or away from wholesomeness at the ultimate level.
If we consider the specific case of a society's treatment of animals, therefore, we need to think about the deep mythology of the society as well as the merits of specific acts. If we are intent upon improving the lot of animals, then we will want to act in ways that have impact at all three levels consistently. This means ideally that we ourselves must be integrated at these three levels. If our concern is grounded in our whole spiritual life then it will not burn out or get defeated by the inevitable frustrations at the level of practical action because one will not be inwardly conflicted. Further, our mode of action will not just take into account the righting of a local wrong by any immediate means, but will naturally choose means that tend toward the transformation of society as a whole.