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Chapter 3 Development of animal protection.


He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.

--Immanuel Kant


animal protection

Society for the

Prevention of Cruelty

to Animals (SPCA)

animal sheltering

humane movement

animal welfare

animal rights

new welfarism

Our current animal protection structures and practices can be clearly traced to the Victorian era in England. However, developments during that time were influenced by a variety of preceding elements. There is no clear linear narrative that connects these influences until they coalesce into a well-defined effort to provide animals with legal protection in the early 1820s. These elements included an expanding interest in nature, a prevailing sense of reformism, a desire to establish and promote civilizing influences on society, and a preoccupation with pain and its elimination in Victorian society (Turner, 1980). These early elements put as much emphasis on the damage that cruelty to animals did to the people as it did on the pain and suffering that it caused to animals.


The nineteenth century saw a steady change in the relationship between humans and the balance of the natural world. Dating back to Aristotle was the assumption that nature was organized in a clear hierarchy with lesser animals at the base progressing upward to the more sophisticated and complex animals. Humans held a place above the animals and just below deities. This scala naturae, or great chain of being, not only defined the natural order of things, it also provided the rationale for the treatment of animals. The position of humans as above and distinct from animals was alternately interpreted as giving license for the treatment and use of animals in whatever way desired, or imposing upon humans the obligation to be the stewards and caretakers of the world and other living things. It presumed that all living things were created in their current forms and were unchanging. A critical change occurred when Linnaeus introduced a new taxonomy for the organization of the natural world in the eighteenth century. Discarding previous assumptions about the subjective value or perfection of animals, Linnaeus based his structure on objective, observed similarities in anatomical structure. Most important was that he also placed humans into this structure based on the obvious shared characters with the other mammals and primates. This trend continued and in England was taken up by Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin. Erasmus Darwin was a successful physician who took an interest in more general aspects of zoology. He wrote a lengthy poem, Zoonomia, in 1794 that hinted at some aspects of evolution. His ideas were radical for the time but anticipated further developments.

Interest in these ideas about animals and the natural world was strongly influenced in England by the many voyages of discovery taking place. As the British Empire stretched around the world, its sailors, merchants, soldiers, and scientists returned with specimens of plants and animals, alive and dead, from exotic and faraway places. Charles Darwin was part of one such expedition, circumnavigating the globe on the HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836. Twenty years before he published his treatise on evolution, his Voyage of the Beagle in 1839 was a well-received contribution to this genre. When Origin of Species was published in 1859, it had an immediate impact. He had marshaled an extraordinary amount of evidence into a cogent and compelling argument that the biological world was not static, and that the observed similarities between living things was the result of a shared evolutionary history. Most important was the fact that Darwin's reasoning went beyond the physical similarities of anatomy and physiology. He included behavioral similarities in his analyses, an argument that he extended in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals in 1872. This extension of the argument fit well with another preoccupation of Victorian England, pain and suffering.

The Victorian era saw a remarkable transition in society's tolerance and acceptance of pain and suffering. James Turner (1980) points out that the human desire to avoid pain is so pervasive that in our current time it may be too obvious to contemplate. However, to the Victorian mind it was something to avoid and prevent. It was during this era that the practice of medicine changed from a profession where the practitioner required the highest intolerance to the evidence or even the imposition of pain in a patient to one that sought to relieve pain. Many potential physicians chose other fields of endeavor due to their inability to tolerate the presence of pain found in the work. One of the reasons that Charles Darwin did not follow in the professional footsteps of his father and grandfather (both physicians) was because he was revolted by the sight of suffering patients and was unable to stomach the gruesome procedures common in medical practice at that time. This was when the physical strength and dexterity of a physician were highly prized. When surgical procedures, including amputation, were conducted without the benefit of anesthetics, speed was the only way to control the amount of pain inflicted by the cure! Introduction of morphine and other pain relieving medicines in the nineteenth century saw rapid acceptance. At the same time, it stimulated further the urge to eliminate pain and suffering where and when possible. If pain was anathema to the Victorian mind, then cruelty, the deliberate infliction of pain, must be stopped. The strength and influence of this conviction has been memorialized in the names of the first organizations formed to protect animals, Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

When the concern about pain was combined with the changing understanding of similarities between humans and animals, it became obvious that animals were also capable of suffering and feeling pain. Thinking on this had come full circle from the Cartesian assertion that animals were automatons incapable of feeling pain. Their squeals and thrashing were not just reflexive actions; this was evidence that they were suffering pain just as people would. This led to Jeremy Benthem's oft-repeated quote, "The question is not, Can they reason? Nor, Can they talk? But, Can they suffer?" Causing an animal unnecessary pain was the measure of animal cruelty. Overworking or beating a horse, bull and bear baiting, and many other practices came under scrutiny. However, vivisection, the experimentation on live, conscious animals, was considered the ultimate evil by many. The developing field of experimental physiology was practiced by educated men. Unlike members of the lower classes who might beat an animal in frustration or anger, or delight in the bloody display of two animals fighting, vivisectors performed acts of abject cruelty in a cold deliberate fashion. This would be the fundamental issue that would drive a wedge between animal protection advocates and scientists until our own time.

All of the above concerns happened within the context of a social era bent on reform. Abolition of slavery, temperance, and changing roles for women in society all reflected a time when significant attention was being placed on perfecting the social order. Among the issues considered were the activities and behaviors that resulted in unlawful or immoral behavior. There were numerous allusions to the observation that being cruel to animals when young would presage an adult life of crime and violence. One of the most dramatic depictions of this concept was a series of woodcut illustrations created by William Hogarth in 1751. His Four Stages of Cruelty depict the life of a young man that begins with the torture of animals as his entry into a life of moral depravity that included crimes that result in his eventual execution (Figure 3-1). This theme was reflected in the thoughts of numerous philosophers and social critics of the era. John Locke pointed out that children should be taught to not mistreat animals. The newly developing field of children's literature was strongly influenced by this thinking. Many of the earliest stories and books written for children included animals as part of the narrative and encouraged their proper treatment (Zawistowski, 1998). This literary tradition would reach its zenith in the publication of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty in 1877.

The first book published with animal protection as its explicit theme was The Duty of Mercy and the Sin of Cruelty to Brute Animals by Humphrey Primatt in 1776 (Linzey, 1998). Until this time, the question of animal treatment was typically mentioned within a larger work dedicated to the discussion of human rights and responsibilities. Following the theme illustrated by William Hogarth, the primary concern was the fact that the cruel treatment of animals coarsened the nature of the man perpetrating the act and predisposed him to other still more heinous crimes. The brutal mistreatment of animals was wrong, but there was no consistent theory of how to deal with the issue.


Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals All of these threads would finally begin to coalesce in 1800 with the first introduction of a bill to ban bull baiting in England. A common market day diversion, bull baiting was a boisterous and rowdy pastime. A bull would typically be tethered to a stake and bull dogs would be set upon it. The dogs were bred and trained to target the head of the bull, often grabbing the bull's nose in a tenacious bite. The bull suffered greatly and many dogs died gored or stomped by the bull. Local peasants would delight in the spectacle as an infrequent diversion in a life of hard work with limited reward and pleasure. Pressure to eliminate the practice hinged as much or more on the desire to deny the peasants their rowdy pleasure as it was to protect the animals. That bill failed, as did another bill presented in 1809 that would have prohibited cruelty to all domestic animals (Turner, 1980). In 1822, Richard Martin, a member of parliament representing Galway, secured passage of the Ill-Treatment of Cattle Act, the first codification of law to prohibit cruelty to animals (Unti, 1998c). The act's primary result was to eliminate the sport of bull baiting. The bill did not cover dogs or other non-livestock animals. An unintended consequence of the bill was that the owners of dogs looking for another pastime began to fight the dogs against one another, giving rise to the sport of dogfighting. Martin would succeed in passing a bill to prevent the cruel and improper treatment of dogs in 1826.

Once a law was in place, the effort was directed to the development of a structure to ensure enforcement of the law. In June 1824 Arthur Broome, an Anglican priest, called a meeting of like-minded individuals that resulted in the formation of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) (Linzey, 1998). Richard Martin, along with a number of highly respectable members of society, was counted among the founders and early supporters of the SPCA. Among the early priorities was the investigation and enforcement of anticruelty laws championed by Martin in Parliament. The SPCA provided the financial resources needed to ensure that a cadre of constables was available to ensure that these laws were implemented. It rapidly became part of the respectable social order, and this was clearly demonstrated when Queen Victoria's patronage allowed for the addition of the prefix Royal in 1840.

ASPCA and Other U.S. Groups

The SPCA movement would be brought to America by a most unlikely candidate. Henry Bergh was the son of a wealthy New York City shipbuilder, Christian Bergh (Figure 3-2). Until midlife, it seemed that the younger Bergh had inherited none of his father's drive or ambition. When his father died and Henry inherited a substantial fortune, he and his wife idled away their time attending plays, parties, and traveling frequently. He was well connected socially and politically, and eventually secured a diplomatic posting to the court of the Czar in St. Petersburg, Russia. While there in 1865 he experienced a transformation that would change his life and the lives of animals in the United States. While some of his early diaries suggested that Bergh was concerned about the mistreatment of animals, he had not yet made any move to act on their behalf. This all changed when he came across a Russian peasant beating his fallen horse along the road. Bergh had his driver stop his own carriage and he physically intervened to stop the peasant from beating the horse. This became a habit for him. When he left his post later that year, he stopped in England on his return to the United States. While there, he attended a meeting of the RSPCA and spoke at length with Lord Harrowsby, who was the head of the Society at that time. Bergh returned to the United States with the information and the will required to start a similar organization in New York City.


On February 8, 1866, Henry Bergh delivered a lecture to a packed assembly of politicians, publishers, business leaders, and social reform advocates. He detailed the many atrocities committed against animals and then described his plan to form an American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He quickly circulated a petition calling for the formation of such an organization. The signatories were a who's who of the politically powerful and social elite, including John Jacob Astor, Horace Greeley, and many others. He traveled to Albany, NY, with the petition in hand and on April 10, 1866, the New York State legislature granted a special charter for the formation of The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Just nine days later Bergh secured the passage of a new anticruelty law in New York State that granted his fledgling organization the legal powers to enforce the law.

Henry Bergh was active immediately, stalking the streets of New York with a badge in one hand and a copy of the law in the other. The early cases prosecuted by Bergh and his agents were dominated by the mistreatment of the many horses that worked to pull the carriages, carts, and trolleys in the city. One early case was a teamster caught beating his fallen horse with a spoke from one of the wheels. This event was memorialized by the publisher Frank Leslie, who designed the ASPCA seal depicting the scene with an avenging angel rising up, sword in hand, to stop the beating (Figure 3-3). In addition to the mistreatment of horses, the early cases of the Society included the transport of calves and other livestock to slaughter, sea turtles brought in for the restaurant trade, and companion animals. Dogfighting was common and Bergh engaged in an extended series of skirmishes with Kit Burns, an impresario of the fighting pit. Burns would arrange dogfights, ratting contests, and the occasional fight between bears and dogs, and other similar special events. Bergh enlisted the aid of the New York City police and once went so far as to drop through a skylight to surprise Burns and his patrons. Bergh and the ASPCA would prevail in this battle, eventually putting Kit Burns and his pit out of business.


The papers of the day provided extensive coverage of Bergh's exploits, along with frequent editorials lauding his efforts or criticizing him for exerting such an effort for animals and causing trouble for businesses and people looking to enjoy themselves. Bergh responded in kind and sent out a torrent of letters to the papers pointing out where animals were being mistreated and action was required, while at the same time defending himself and the ASPCA. Bergh engaged in a long-running contest with P. T. Barnum about the treatment of the animals in his menagerie and various shows and exhibitions. Barnum, the master showman, used these disputes to create even greater interest in his exhibitions. Bergh's earnest persistence would eventually win the grudging respect of Barnum, who would later serve as a pallbearer at Bergh's funeral and erect a statue in his honor in Bridgeport, CT, where he helped to start an SPCA.

The attention paid to Bergh's efforts stimulated the creation of additional SPCAs around the country in rapid order. The latent concern for animal treatment in this country would see its outlet in following the example of Henry Bergh and the ASPCA. The first to step forward was Marjorie Lord in 1867. She was the catalyst to gather the social elite of Buffalo, NY, including Millard Filmore, Henry Wells, and William Fargo to form a Buffalo branch of the ASPCA. This organization would eventually become the SPCA Serving Erie County. Bergh was already in communication with Mrs. William Appleton in Boston when a cross-country race between two horses in Massachusetts resulted in the death of both horses in February 1868. George Angell, a Boston attorney, read an account of the race and immediately responded with a letter to the paper calling for help starting a society to protect animals. Appleton and Angell soon combined their efforts, and with the information provided by Bergh formed the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA). Philadelphia was also among the first, largely because of the efforts of Carolyn Earle White (Unti, 1998b) with the formation of the Pennsylvania SPCA (Figure 3-4). Lord, Appleton, and White, despite their critical roles in the formation of these SPCAs, fell victim to the social conventions of the time and as women were unable to serve on the board of directors of the societies they helped to create. White would go on, however, to form a women's auxiliary that would open the first humane animal shelter in the United States.


The SPCA concept struck fertile ground throughout the country and by 1873 twenty-five states and territories had formed their own societies. Unlike the RSPCA in England, which was organized as a single national organization, each of these SPCAs in the United States was an independent organization with its own charter. While they were often explicit in their effort to follow the example of the ASPCA, using the original charter as a model and even making use of the image from the ASPCA seal, they did tend to focus their efforts and organizational structure to reflect local demands and resources.

The early work of these societies was typically focused on the protection of horses, cattle, and livestock. While dogs, cats, and other companion animals fell within their purview, they appear less frequently in their work and records for several reasons. Horses dominated the scene at the time. They were the primary source of transportation, and their mistreatment more often than not happened in public where it was easily observed. Companion animals were still uncommon and often limited to those people with enough money to engage in the extravagant luxury of feeding an animal that did not work or provide any other tangible benefit. Those companion animals that did exist may not have been readily visible if they were kept in the home, so their treatment would be more difficult to judge. The dogs and cats that were seen in public were often the strays that seemed to be everywhere in the urban landscape. Strays were rounded up occasionally and killed by a variety of horrific practices. One of the most emotional and explosive areas where dogs and cats turned up was in the laboratories of scientists. Vivisection at this time was practiced without the use of anesthetics or analgesics. Following the example of their colleagues in England, American animal protectionists mounted loud and vigorous campaigns against the use of animals in experiments. Bergh made frequent trips to Albany where he would introduce legislation to outlaw or severely limit the practice of vivisection. While Bergh and his colleagues were never able to overcome the objections of the medical establishment in this area, it was part of a history that still frequently divides the fields of science and animal protection.

Other cats and dogs were kept and used for work of some sort or another. Cats and terriers were relied upon to kill rats and mice in stables and warehouses. Larger dogs might be used to pull carts and medium-size dogs were used to turn the rotisserie spits of eating establishments. When evidence of cruelty was observed in these various cases, SPCA representatives would attempt to intervene, often with mixed results. Bergh engaged in a long-term criticism of the New York City pound where strays were killed by drowning them in an iron cage plunged into the East River. In response to his criticism, City officials tried to have the ASPCA take over the management of the pound in New York. Bergh refused for years, believing that the City would not fulfill its promise to provide the financial resources required to do the job in a proper, humane fashion. It was not until six years after his death in 1894 that the ASPCA finally agreed to take on this task. At the same time, many of the other SPCAs around the country were also picking up the animal sheltering role. The introduction of electricity to power trolleys, and then the internal combustion engine resulted in the steady decline of the role horses played in the urban environment in the early twentieth century. By midcentury the animal sheltering role came to dominate the work of the SPCAs and Humane Societies.

American Humane Association

In 1877 John G. Shortall of the Illinois Humane Society called together leaders from the major SPCAs and humane societies to meet in Cleveland and consider issues related to the welfare of livestock being shipped by rail. This became the first meeting of what became the American Humane Association (AHA). The group sought to overcome the difficulties that arose from the independent origin and activities of the many animal protection groups formed around the country. Its role would be to coordinate the work of the various regional organizations on issues that had a national significance. As its first priority the AHA concentrated on the care and treatment of livestock being transported by rail. In 1873, following on the advocacy of the American Humane Association and its member groups, combined with the literary efforts of Upton Sinclair and others, Congress passed a law that prohibited the shipment of animals for more than 28 hours without a rest stop.

Influenced by Henry Bergh's rescue of Mary Ellen in 1874, a number of the animal protection organizations began to add the protection of children to their work (see Mary Ellen sidebar). As a result, AHA would also assume a child protection role in its work. At this time, it was not unusual for groups to provide direct care services for both animals and children. Some facilities would have a single lobby with separate doors on either end for admission of animals or children. In the early 1880s, reflecting this dual role for children and animals, the AHA became an active advocate for humane education in the nation's schools.

The work of theAHA, and its materials, programs, and conventions, reflected a continued emphasis on the protection of animals being transported and slaughtered and the protection of children until the end of the 1800s. By the early 1900s, child labor law advocacy was added to the AHA's portfolio of activities. When World War I started, AHA joined with other American groups to provide aid and express concern about the treatment of horses and dogs that were used in combat and those that were victims of the fighting. In May 1915, the American Humane Association sponsored the first Be Kind to Animals Week, an event that continues to this day. The ensuing decades saw an extraordinary potpourri of topics appear in AHA publications and conferences, including ear cropping of dogs, lynching, cats being blamed for the decline of birds in the cities, giving children toy guns to play with, and the treatment of animals in the making of films. In 1941 the AHA came to agreement with the movie industry to be on the set and oversee the treatment of animals. This activity continues and the AHA will be acknowledged at the end of films indicating that no animals were harmed in the filming of the movie. Through its Red Star Animal Relief efforts, it also helped to rescue animals during natural disasters. At the start of World War II, Red Star Animal Relief issued recommendations for the care of animals during air raids. It recommended coordinating with Civil Defense to ensure that animals receive needed aid during wartime crises (Douglas, 1998).

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

In the 1950s a group within AHA saw that the organization was so caught up in the dog and cat animal sheltering issues that it no longer fulfilled its broader mission, especially when it came to opposition of vivisection and blood sports. In particular, they felt that AHA was ineffective in organizing national campaigns against rodeos, trapping, and vivisection, among other concerns. The period from World War I to World War II had seen a general decline in the vitality of the humane movement. By the early 1900s the original founders had passed away, along with their vision and energy. The early humane efforts had been part of reform attitude that had permeated the nation in the years following the Civil War. This synergy had also waned. A small group within AHA, led by Fred Myers, a former journalist, attempted to rekindle what they felt was a lost sense of urgency. The crux in this internal controversy was what they thought was the tepid response by AHA to the growing demand by the biomedical community for pound seizure--the release of animals in pounds and shelters for research purposes. When they were unable to stimulate the change they desired within AHA, they broke off to form a new group in 1954. The original name was the National Humane Society, but it was soon changed to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) when AHA objected to the similarity of the original name to their own. The HSUS deliberately chose Washington, DC, as its base of operations to exert the greatest possible influence on national issues.

The HSUS would begin with a strong connection to local humane organizations, helping them with their sheltering work, but also encouraging them to reclaim their role in other animal issues. Eventually the HSUS would eclipse the size and influence of the AHA, and add substantial staff to address the full range of animal welfare issues, including wildlife, vivisection, and agriculture in addition to companion animals (Unti, 2004).

Other Animal Groups

The formation of the HSUS presaged a flurry of activity in the animal protection field with many new organizations forming to address the concerns that led to the original development of the humane movement in Victorian England (Unti, 2004). While most of these groups place a substantial amount of their advocacy and campaign efforts on areas other than companion animals, they do continue to have an influence on companion animal issues.

* Animal Welfare Institute

Founded in 1951 by Christine Stevens, the Animal Welfare Institute had a strong influence on early federal legislation related to the care and use of animals in laboratories. It was a key player in legislation related to preventing the theft of pets for use in experiments. This would later evolve into the Animal Welfare Act.

* Friends of Animals

Founded in 1957, Friends of Animals is well known for its program promoting spaying and neutering of pets through certificates that subsidize the procedure.

* Fund for Animals

Cleveland Amory, the author and commentator started the Fund for Animals in 1967. In 2005 it merged with the Humane Society of the United States.

* Animal Legal Defense Fund

An organization of attorneys founded in 1979 by Joyce Tischler, the Animal Legal Defense Fund provides legal assistance to prosecutors handling cruelty cases, and can assist pet guardians fighting unfair laws targeting companion animals.

* People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Perhaps the best known of the recent groups, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was founded in 1980. It has launched a number of campaigns related to the use of companion animals used in research.


While it is true that it is unlikely that you will find someone who supports the cruel treatment of animals, it is also true that there are other opinions and that the animal protection movement has faced significant opposition dating back to its origins. This opposition has come from a variety of different perspectives and will vary depending on the issue at hand. In some cases, animal protection advocates may differ with other people on whether a particular practice or treatment of animals is actually cruel, causing unnecessary suffering to animals. For example, animal protection advocates oppose the practice of docking tails and cropping the ears of dogs. They claim that this is a surgical procedure that is not needed for the welfare of the dogs and is painful. Dog breeders, on the other hand, indicate that the procedures are not painful and they are performed by veterinarians under anesthesia and are essential to maintaining the integrity of the breeds that are typically docked and/or cropped (Figures 3-5). In other cases, the opposition may be based on economic arguments. While animal protection advocates are concerned about the treatment of animals raised for food in intensive confinement systems or factory farming, farmers and livestock managers who use confinement systems may counter with an argument that these systems allow for efficient animal husbandry and contribute to the low cost of food. They may also point out that these systems protect the animals from environmental extremes and disease. Protecting a traditional lifestyle can also be used to defend current practices opposed by animal protection advocates. This is a common argument used in response to opposition to hunting. These differences can be framed and debated within an animal welfare context. If the practice can be modified to limit or eliminate animal pain and suffering, it will be acceptable to some animal protection advocates. For example, agriculture practices that permit animals' greater freedom of movement, reduced population densities, and humane slaughter would be acceptable. In some cases, two groups that one would expect to disagree on nearly everything may end up in the same place on a specific issue. While animal protection groups typically oppose hunting, there is usually greater emphasis placed on efforts to eliminate "canned hunts" where wild animals are held in enclosures. In this case, traditional hunting groups that support a "fair chase" philosophy would also oppose the practice. Sportsmen's groups also joined with animal protection groups to support legislation that would prohibit hunting over the Internet, where a "hunter" can use a remote controlled gun to shoot animals.


National Animal Interest Alliance and Other Groups

The National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) represents a variety of groups that have come into conflict with animal protection groups at one time or another. The NAIA (<>) opposes the abuse and cruel treatment of animals and supports animal welfare. NAIA draws a very distinct line separating animal rights from animal welfare. The NAIA defines animal welfare as the humane treatment and responsible use of animals. This use can include raising animals for food and fiber, research, circuses, and wildlife management by hunting. They describe animal rights as the opposition to most traditional uses of animals, including eating, owning pets, and hunting or for research. In addition to the NAIA, a number of other groups have been involved in the issues related to animal protection. The National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR; <>) has supported the humane treatment and use of animals in medical and basic scientific research. The National Rifle Association (NRA; <>) is often at odds with animal groups over hunting issues and the American Kennel Club (AKC; <>) over dog-related issues. It is sometimes surprising to see that animal protection groups will on occasion be at odds with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) on some topics. These would include the docking and cropping of dogs, livestock management practices, and the use of animals in research or similar questions.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that there are many questions related to animals, and they exist within complex social and political environments. While animal protection groups may differ with the groups listed above on some topics, they may also agree on others. For example, animal protection groups, the NAIA, and the AKC are all opposed to laws that limit or restrict the ownership of particular breeds of dogs. It is probably true that most of the differences of opinion and position exist around a handful of issues and that there is general support across the board for a moderate animal welfare perspective.


On the surface, the modern animal rights movement would appear to have more in common with the early years of animal protection than the organizations and structures that developed over the past century and a half. Henry Stephens Salt anticipated many of the concepts that underlie animal rights philosophy in his work Animal Rights in 1892. His arguments and actions, forming the Humanitarian League in 1891 (Unti, 1998a), placed animal rights into the expanded context of human rights as expressed in concerns related to prisons, warfare, and social justice. However, while these early pioneers are frequently quoted and serve to inspire modern animal rights proponents, these heirs of Salt and others have expanded the philosophical reasoning they inherited as well as the tactics and methods they have adopted to promote their ideals. Just as the early animal protectionists were influenced by the prevailing social reform activities of their era, so too the modern animal rights proponents have adopted the tactics and practices honed by the social activists of the post-World War II time frame. Marches, protests, letter-writing campaigns, and numerous other strategies are now employed to put pressure on the government, corporations, and other entities identified as mistreating animals. While all of these had been used by activists of earlier time frames, they have now been adapted to make the best possible use of mass media opportunities that did not exist a century before.

A frequent question, and concern, is how does animal welfare differ from animal rights? Most frequently this distinction is delineated in the following fashion. Animal welfare is about limiting or preventing the cruel treatment of animals--that the human use of animals for food, research, and entertainment, among others is permissible if animal suffering is prevented, or kept to a minimum. Hence, animal welfare laws focus on humane slaughter methods, not the elimination of animal slaughter for food. A true animal rights orientation would argue that a humane slaughter law would be superfluous if animals were not killed for food at all. The animal rights position would be opposition to all use of animals by humans (Sunstein, 2004). In practice, however, it is not always that simple to make this distinction between animal rights and animal welfare positions. In many cases, organizations or individuals who describe themselves as animal rights advocates may support animal welfare efforts as an intermediate step on the path to a true animal rights solution. For example, while People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is a strong advocate for the adoption of a vegan diet, they also support the development of improved animal husbandry standards for animals raised for slaughter. There have been a number of other areas where animal welfare and animal rights positions have converged. It should be noted that Gary Francione (1998) has argued that this approach to animal rights should be called new welfarism. While this position will accept bigger cages as an intermediate step on the way to no cages, that is an improvement to reduce the suffering of animals until their use is completely abolished or otherwise eliminated; it is not a true animal rights position. In general, debate in this area typically centers on the best ways to reduce animal suffering, and how far this process should go.

Current animal rights philosophy is dominated by two primary lines of argument. The Utilitarian position, generally associated with Peter Singer (1975), expands upon Bentham's original proposition that every effort should be made to reduce or eliminate suffering and create opportunities for pleasure or well-being. Human use or interaction with animals could be endorsed if the overall benefit outweighed any pain or suffering that was caused. In most cases, however, the weight of the pain and suffering in the use of animals is presumed to greatly outweigh any expected benefit. The second line of argument arises from Moral Rights. The historical precedent to this reasoning arises from Immanuel Kant's supposition that strict limits be placed on individuals in the name of benefiting others (Regan, 1998). Tom Regan (1983) extended Kant's reasoning to animals. Animals have a basic moral right to be treated with respect, and this right is violated if we inflict harm on them to benefit humans.

The implications of these philosophical positions for companion animals are sometimes difficult to discern. In a very strict interpretation of animal rights, owning pets is questionable since it could involve the exploitation of animals for the benefit of humans. On the other hand, the proper care and guardianship of companion animals is beneficial to both sides of the human-animal bond. Complicating the picture is that the domestication of dogs, cats, and other companion animals, their extensive integration into society as pets, and their dependence on people for their care is such that denying this continued role would likely result in the extinction of these species. This would be contrary to the desires of many people who care greatly about animals and take great comfort in the relationships they share with their animal companions. In many cases animal rights and animal welfare groups utilize the bond that members of the public have with their companion animals as a bridge to appreciate the pain and suffering endured by animals used in experimentation or raised for food. At the same time it is difficult to overlook the pain and suffering that many companion animals suffer through irresponsible and negligent care, outright cruelty, and mistreatment and the problems that result from their commercial exploitation. There is broad agreement among both animal welfare and animal rights advocates that given the current circumstances, animals kept as companions should receive responsible care, efforts must be made to limit the production of unwanted progeny, and cruel treatment must be prohibited and punished. In addition to the specific question of whether animals should be kept as companions, there are a number of activities or uses of companion animals that come under criticism. Racing and other competitions, hunting with dogs, and many other activities go beyond simply keeping animals as companions. In these cases, the dogs, cats, and other animals may be exploited in ways that could bring harm to them or to other animals and raise significant animal rights concerns.

In what has been an influential book, Matthew Scully, a conservative political writer, has refashioned in Dominion (2002) many of the arguments originally brought forth by the early proponents of animal protection. The mistreatment of animals is wrong because it is a violation of the duty humans have to serve as stewards of animals and the natural world. His book is subtitled The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy. It is not difficult to hear the echo of Henry Bergh's statement that "Mercy to animals is essentially mercy to Mankind." While much of his discussion is focused on animals raised for food, those used in research, or hunted, he does offer some insight into human relationships with pets. Regardless of philosophical underpinnings, pets "look to us only for creaturely respect and whatever scraps of love we have to offer" (p. 22).
Mary Ellen Wilson

In the late winter of 1873, Marietta "Etta" Angell Wheeler, a
missionary and social worker in Hell's Kitchen, New York City, came
to an elderly woman living alone in a tenement building. While the
intent was to comfort and care for the woman, what she found
instead was an appalling story of neglect and cruelty. The woman
told her about a small child named Mary Ellen Wilson, who was kept
confined in the apartment across the hall. She was haunted by the
child's crying. She asked Wheeler if something might be done for
the child. Wheeler went across the hall and was rebuffed by a woman
there, but not before she caught a glimpse of a waif, disheveled
and dressed in a tattered dress providing little protection against
the cold December drafts. Wheeler went to the police and other
authorities, but at the time no one was willing to take the bold
step and intervene in the treatment of a child by her parents.
While there were laws protecting children from mistreatment, there
was no effective system in place to remove a child from an abusive
home. In the midst of her despair, Wheeler's niece suggested that
she ask Henry Bergh for help. Bergh was already well known for his
work on behalf of animals. He was kind, but also bold, and willing
to act when others would not.

Etta Wheeler did visit Bergh in the spring of 1874. She described
little Mary Ellen and her condition to Bergh and asked if in some
way he might be able to help. Bergh asked that she might provide
him with a written account of her observations, and Wheeler readily
assented. When Wheeler's documentation arrived at his offices,
Bergh immediately sent them along to his attorney, Elbridge T.
Gerry. Gerry was prepared. He requested a warrant under section 65
of the Habeas Corpus Act. This rare application of the Act relates
to relieving someone of illegal confinement if there is reason to
believe the individual may be carried out of the state or suffer
significant injury. An ASPCA agent and two New York City
detectives, writ in hand, seized Mary Ellen and brought her to the
court on April 9, 1874. Bergh had already alerted the press, and
they were on hand to see Mary Ellen arrive, still dressed in the
simple, shabby garment she was wearing when first seen by Etta
Wheeler. Since that time, Mary Ellen had "earned" a vicious cut
across her face when struck with a pair of scissors by the woman
who turned out to be her foster mother (Figure 3-6). The agents had
wrapped her in a lap blanket from the carriage and carried her into
the courthouse. The case worked its way through the court, and in
the press. It became a bellwether for a pent-up movement to protect
children from beatings, abuse, and hard and dangerous labor. When
Mary Connolly, Mary Ellen's foster mother, was found guilty of
assault and battery and sentenced to a year of hard labor, custody
of the child fell to the courts. Eventually, Mary Ellen would live
with Etta Wheeler's sister in upstate New York, and live to a
comfortable old age.

As a result of Bergh's involvement in the case, a myth developed
that Mary Ellen's rescue was the result of Bergh's declaring that
if nothing else she would be protected under the same law used to
outlaw cruelty to animals. Bergh was in fact so determined to keep
the work of protecting animals and children separate that, along
with Gerry and John D. Wright, he formed the Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Children (Shelman & Lazoritz, 2005).



1. Describe three elements of the Victorian era that contributed to our modern concepts of animal protection.

2. What is bull baiting? What impact did this activity have on the sport of dog fighting?

3. When was the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) established? When was the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) established? What was the relationship between the two societies?

4. How did Henry Bergh use his social and political connections to establish and grow the ASPCA?

5. What is the significance of the horse in the establishment and early years of the ASPCA?

6. How did the actions of Henry Bergh influence subsequent animal protection efforts in the United States?

7. On what types of animals did the early Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) focus? How is that different from modern SPCAs? What factors were/are involved in these differences?

8. As SPCAs developed throughout the United States, how were they connected to the ASPCA?

9. What factors influenced SPCAs to gradually take on a role in animal sheltering?

10. When and why was the American Humane Association (AHA) formed?

11. How did the work of the AHA influence the animal protection movement throughout the twentieth century?

12. When and why was the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) formed?

13. What are two major issues that have brought opposition to the animal protection movement? Describe the opposing viewpoints. Provide at least one additional example not described in the text.

14. Explain the concept of new welfarism and its relevance to animal rights and animal welfare.


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Author:Zawistowski, Stephen
Publication:Companion Animals in Society
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Previous Article:Chapter 2 Development of companion animals.
Next Article:Chapter 4 Animal shelters and rescue.

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