A Chronology of Animal Protection
Part I: The Ancient World
c. 250,000 YBP (Years Before Present): The first animal known to have been killed
by a hominid, an elephant, dies of a spear wound in Germany.
c. 200,000 YBP: Modern human beings, homo sapiens, emerge in East Africa.
c. 10,000 YBP: The Neolithic Revolution. Human beings begin domesticating plants
and enslaving animals for food and labor. The invention of agriculture leads to a
food surplus which makes possible a division of labor that results in the creation of
c. 3000 BCE (Before the Common Era): The invention of writing. The historical era
c. 2000 BCE: A civilization rivaling ancient Egypt in its wealth and sophistication
flourishes along the banks of the Indus River and its tributaries in western India
(modern Pakistan). Although the evidence is not conclusive because its writing has
not yet been deciphered, it appears likely that the religion of this Indus Valley
Civilization teaches vegetarianism and compassion for nonhuman animals.
c. 1500 BCE: Aryan (Indo-European) invaders from the Caucasus region of Russia
conquer India, overrunning the Indus Valley Civilization, which may have already
been weakened by natural disasters. Their religion, which is similar to that of
classical Greece and Rome, blends with the Indus Valley religion to create
Hinduism, in which vegetarian and non-vegetarian themes exist side-by-side.
c. 750 - 450 BCE: In Israel, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea, and Micah
condemn animal sacrifice. Isaiah includes animals as members and beneficiaries of
the kingdom of heaven (Isaiah 11:6-9), a theme which will be taken up much later by
John Wesley, founder of Methodism. (Here and below, “Israel” is used in a general
sense and includes the area known more precisely as “Judah” or “Judea and
621 BCE: In Israel, the book of Deuteronomy (named from two Greek words
meaning “second law”and included in the Jewish Bible and the Christian Old
Testament) is discovered in the Temple at Jerusalem. It provides for animal
sacrifice, although emphasizing it less than the book of Leviticus, and permits the
use of animals for food, labor, and transportation. But it also lays down
requirements for showing animals kindness, including the statement “You shall not
muzzle the ox when it treads out the grain,” (Deut. 25:4), which later Jewish teachers
will make the basis for the doctrine of Tsaar ba’ale hayyim (“the suffering of living
beings”), which we know as “animal welfare”.
c. 557 BCE: In India, Vardamana Mahavira (599-527 BCE) founds the Jain religion
in an apparent effort to purify Hinduism of the elements which had been introduced
by the Aryan invaders and return to the original religion of the Indus Valley
Civilization. Jainism stresses the sanctity of all sentient life, teaches abstinence from
harming any sentient being, even for food, and bases its ethical system on the
principle that nonviolence is our highest obligation.
528 BCE: In India, Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 BCE), known as the Buddha (“the
enlightened one”) founds Buddhism. Like his older contemporary, Lord Mahavira,
the Buddha seems to be attempting to purify Hinduism by returning to the religion of
the Indus Valley Civilization. Although not always as consistent in their application
as Jainism, Buddhist ethics are based on the principle of universal compassion for
all living beings, both human and non-human, and nonviolence toward all sentient
c. 520 BCE: Influenced by Indian concepts such as reincarnation and the
transmigration of souls, the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras (c.
580-510 BCE) becomes the first Western teacher known to advocate vegetarianism
and compassion for non-human animals, and to oppose animal sacrifice. All
classical Greek and Roman authors who advocate a vegetarian diet and kindness to
animals will be influenced in their belief by Pythagoras, who is truly the founder of
animal protection in the western world.
c. 450 BCE: The poet Empedocles (c. 490-430 BCE), a disciple of Pythagoras,
opposes animal sacrifice and advocates a strict vegetarian diet.
c. 370 BCE: Plato (428-347 BCE) develops a comprehensive philosophical system
in which abstract logic is the fundamental tool of investigation, relegating the
meditation and intuition favored by Pythagoras to a secondary role, and setting the
future course of western philosophy. Plato, like his teacher, Socrates (c.470-399
BCE), seems to regard animals as being of little or no consequence. Nevertheless,
the citizens of the ideal state which he describes in The Republic and again in the
Laws are vegetarian, reflecting Plato’s belief that meat is a luxury, indulgence in
which leads to a breakdown in the civic virtues. (See Book II of The Republic.)
c. 340 BCE: In Greece, Aristotle (c. 384-322 BCE) completes the revolution started
by his teacher, Plato, by making observation and reason the only valid forms of
investigation, and, for the most part, denying the reality of anything that cannot be
observed or logically deduced from universal principles. Rebutting the claims of
Pythagoras, he teaches that less rational beings exist solely to serve the needs of the
more rational and formalizes the dominant assumption of societies since the
beginning of recorded history that animals exist for the benefit of humanity, and that
human beings may use animals as they see fit.
c. 270-230 BCE: In India, the emperor Ashoka converts to Buddhism and enacts the
first laws in the history of the world (so far as we know) that protect animals for
their own sakes rather than because they are useful or because of their value as
property or objects of worship. Ashoka bans (or curtails as far as he is able) hunting
and the slaughter of animals for food or sacrifice. This is the only known historical
instance of a large, powerful state protecting its human and nonhuman citizens on a
basis approaching equality.
55 BCE: In Rome, the screams of elephants being slaughtered in the arena for public
entertainment arouse the pity of the crowd to the point that they shout insults at
Pompey the Great, the popular military hero and politician who is sponsoring the
spectacle, accusing him of excessive cruelty. This is the first recorded instance in
history of a mass public protest against animal cruelty.
c. 10 BCE: The Roman poet Ovid (43 BCE-17 CE) publishes his long narrative
poem, Metamorphoses, which includes a section called “The Doctrines of
Pythagoras,” in which he advocates a vegetarian diet, and an end to animal sacrifice.
c. 28 CE (Common Era): In Israel, John the Baptist, regarded by Christians as the
divinely ordained forerunner of Jesus, teaches and practices a fundamentally
vegetarian diet. (There is uncertainty as to whether he ate locusts, as the gospels
appear to claim, some authorities believing that the seed pods of the carob tree are
c. 28-35 CE: In Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, known as the Christ (“the anointed one,”
“the savior”) opposes animal sacrifice (Matthew 9:13, 12:7), teaches that God is
concerned for the well being of both people and animals (Matthew 10:29-30), and
apparently practices a vegetarian diet (although there is testimony that fish may have
been an exception).
c. 35-62 CE: In Israel, James the Just, the brother (or, according to some, the
stepbrother or cousin) of Jesus, serves as the leader of the Christian community
from the execution of Jesus until his own assassination. James opposes animal
sacrifice and maintains a strict vegan regime even to the point of refusing to wear
c. 40-66 CE: Saint Paul, a Greek speaking Jew with a Greek as well as a Jewish
education, brings Christianity to the non-Jewish world. Ignoring the practices of John
the Baptist, Jesus, and James the Just, he teaches that human beings have no ethical
obligations to animals and may use them as they please, including for food. He
claims that the statement in Deuteronomy 25:4 “You shall not muzzle an ox when it
treads out the grain,” should not be taken literally, but rather interpreted as a
metaphor for allowing Christian missionaries to profit from their preaching. (ICor 9:8-
c. 50 CE: Roman playwright and essayist, Seneca (c. 5 - c. 65 CE), criticizes for
their cruelty gladiatorial games in which armed men pursue and kill wild animals.
(ad Fam. 7.1.3)
c. 75 CE: Greek essayist and biographer Plutarch (46-120 CE) advocates a
vegetarian diet on the grounds that people should view all sentient beings with
compassion and treat them with kindness. Although Plutarch is strongly influenced
by Pythagoras, his two essays “On Eating Meat” are the earliest known instances in
Europe of a philosophy of animal protection that is based entirely on the sentience
of nonhuman animals and does not rely at least in part upon the doctrine of
161 CE: Galen (129-199 CE), considered – along with Hippocrates (460-377 BCE)
– to be the founder of Western medical science, settles in Rome and begins
dissecting monkeys, pigs, goats and other animals, often while they are still alive, in
an effort to learn how the human body functions. (Vivisection of animals had
originated a century or so earlier with the so-called "Alexandrian School" of medical
researchers, but it never became a widespread practice in the ancient world, and it
was Galen's writings that survived and influenced the medical practice during the
Classical Age, the Middle Ages, and the early Renaissance.)
c. 170 CE: The Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius (121-180
CE; reigned 161-180) attempts, not very successfully, to ameliorate the cruelty of
gladiatorial contests to both human participants and animals by such means as
dulling the edges and points of the weapons.
c. 200-500 CE: Post Biblical Judaism is codified in the Talmud, which allows the
use of animals for food, labor, and transportation, but requires that they be treated
with kindness and consideration for their feelings, both physical and emotional, a
requirement incorporated in the doctrine known in Hebrew as Tsar ba’ale hayyim
(roughly TSAR bah-ah-LAY hi-YEEM; “the suffering of living creatures,” spelling
c. 250 CE: In the Roman Empire, the Neoplatonist philosopher, Plotinus (205-270
CE) advocates a vegetarian diet on the Pythagorean grounds that animals have both
sentience and souls. He refuses to take medicine made from animal parts.
c. 280 CE: Porphyry (232-304 CE), a student of Plotinus, advocates vegetarianism
and opposes animal sacrifice in an open letter to a former student of Plotinus, the
Roman Senator Castricius Firmus, who had resumed eating meat upon his
conversion to Christianity.
312 CE: The Roman Emperor Constantine converts to Christianity, which soon
becomes the official state religion of the Roman Empire. There will be no significant
animal advocacy in Christian Europe for more than a thousand years.
360 CE: Saint Basil (330-379 CE), the bishop of Caesarea in Israel, teaches that
human beings should “realize that animals do not live just for us, but for themselves
and for You [God] and that they love the sweetness of life.” (Petition)
c. 390 CE: Saint John Chrysostom (c. 347-407 CE) teaches that Christians have a
duty of kindness to animals “for many reasons, but above all, because they are of
the same origin as ourselves.” (Homilies)
c. 400 CE: Saint Augustine (354-430 CE), Christian bishop of the city of Hippo in
modern Algeria, combines Greek philosophy (primarily Plato) with Christian
doctrine to become Christianity’s most influential theologian until Saint Thomas
Aquinas. Following Saint Paul, Augustine believes that human beings have no direct
ethical duties to animals. A converted follower of Manichaeanism, a Persian religion
which advocates a strict vegetarian diet, Augustine actively opposes vegetarianism,
apparently in an effort to distance himself from his former faith.
Part II: The Middle Ages
476: Traditional date for the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the
622: The Prophet Mohammed (570-632) founds Islam. Regarding animals, he adopts
the welfarist compromise found in the Hebrew scriptures and the Talmud, teaching
that humans may use them for our convenience (for food, transportation, etc.), but
that we must treat them with kindness and consider their mental as well as their
c. 670: While hunting, the future Saint Hubert (650?-727 CE) sees a vision of a stag
with the crucified Christ hanging on his antlers. Hearing a voice tell him to abandon
his sins, Hubert throws down his bow and arrows and runs directly to a nearby
church, where he joins a monastic order, ultimately becoming bishop of Liege, in
modern Belgium. Ironically, Hubert is now recognized by the Catholic Church as the
patron saint of hunters, even though he abandoned hunting in the wake of his vision.
His feast day is celebrated November 3. A similar story is told of Saint Eustachius
– sometimes called Saint Eustace – (2nd cent., dates unknown), an officer in the
army of the Roman emperor Trajan who converted to Christianity after seeing a
vision of Christ crucified among the antlers of a stag. St. Eustachius is also
recognized as a patron of hunters; his feast day is celebrated September 20.
c. 1200: Saint Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) emphasizes animals’ role in reminding
us of the glory and goodness of God, but is not a vegetarian and seems to have little
concern for animals themselves. The best-known of the Catholic Church’s patron
saints of animals, his feast day is celebrated on October 4.
1265: Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) combines Christian teaching with the
philosophy of Aristotle to create the theological system known as Thomism that will
dominate Catholic thought down to the present day. Drawing on St. Paul’s claim that
God has no concern for the welfare of animals and Aristotle’s contention that
“lower” (i.e. less rational) forms of life exist entirely to serve “higher” forms,
Aquinas declares that human beings have no direct ethical duties to animals.
Part III: Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment
c. 1420-1600: The Renaissance breaks the monopoly of the Church over European
art and thought. Inspired by the example of Galen, Renaissance scholars such as
Paracelsus (1490-1541) and William Harvey (1578-1657) take up the practice of
vivisection, which had fallen into disuse during the Later Roman Empire and Middle
1517-c.1750: The Protestant Reformation, initiated by Martin Luther in 1517,
creates diversity of thought and practice within European Christianity. Although
Luther shows no concern for animals, some Protestant reformers are more caring.
John Calvin (1509-1564) and John Wesley (1703-1791) promote the Biblical
Compromise, i.e. animal welfare, and Wesley, in his sermon The General
Deliverance, teaches that animals will share in the resurrection of the dead and the
kingdom of Heaven. Although Wesley was a vegetarian for much of his life, it was
for reasons of health (he suffered from a digestive disorder) and he supported the
slaughter of animals for meat, arguing that an eternity in heaven would be the
animals’ “recompense” for their suffering on earth.
1567: Pope Pius V (reigned 1566-1572) issues a Papal Bull (decree) generally
referred to as De Salute Gregis Dominici (On the Welfare of the Members of the
Lord’s Flock) In it, he condemns bullfighting, threatens any Catholic ruler who
sponsors a bullfight with excommunication, forbids priests to attend bullfights, and
denies Christian burial to any bullfighter killed in the ring. The bull also forbids the
killing of animals for entertainment in connection with religious festivals with the
words, “It is mistaken to think that blood sports can honor a saint or a religious
event.” Although not enforced in countries where bullfighting is popular, this papal
decree – excepting the threat of excommunication – is still in effect.
1588: French philosopher and essayist, Michel de Montaigne, a precursor of the
Enlightenment and one of the creators of modern French literary style, expresses
great compassion for the suffering of animals in his essay "On Cruelties", then
concludes, “We are not above nor below the others [nonhuman animals]. Everything
under the canopy of heaven follows the same law and shares the same situation. . .
There are some differences, there are categories and degrees, but everything falls
under the purview of the selfsame nature.” Even so, Montaigne continues to eat meat
c. 1600-1789: The Age of Enlightenment in Europe, so called by contrast to the
“Dark Ages,” as the Middle Ages came to be known, features a critical examination
of long-held social values, focused on the radical idea that the goal of society should
be the welfare, freedom, and happiness of the individuals who comprise it.
Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Jeremy Bentham,
while concerned primarily with human beings, also begin to extend these values to
non-human animals. Like so many of the other ideas which shape our time, including
human rights, liberal democracy, limited government, and freedom of speech and
religion, our modern ideas of animal protection are an outgrowth of the
1637: French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes (1596-1650), one of
the founders of modern philosophical and scientific thought, publishes his Discourse
on Method, in which he claims that animals are nothing more than machines,
completely lacking in consciousness. Therefore, according to Descartes, it is as
inappropriate to feel compassion for an animal as for a clock or any other
mechanical device. Their cries, says Descartes, have no more meaning than the
squeaking of a hinge.
1641: The Massachusetts General Court (the legislature of the Massachusetts Bay
Colony) enacts into law the “Massachusetts Body of Liberties,” the first formal legal
code in New England. Drafted by Puritan minister Nathaniel Ward, it forbids cruelty
to animals and requires that animals being herded over a long distance be “rested
and refreshed” as needed.
c. 1650: In England, George Fox (1624-1691) founds The Religious Society of
Friends, better known as the Quakers. Fox is a vigorous opponent of cruelty to both
humans and animals.
c. 1683: In England, Thomas Tryon (1634-1703), a vegetarian best known as an
eloquent opponent of slavery, becomes the first person to ascribe natural rights to
animals when, in The Countryman’s Companion, he has a chicken say, “What law
have we broken, or what Cause given you, whereby you can pretend a Right to
invade and violate our part, and natural Rights, and to assault and destroy us, as if
we were the Aggressors and no better than Thieves, Robbers and Murderers, fit to
be extirpated out of Creation?”
1693: John Locke (1632-1704), the foremost English advocate of natural rights
philosophy, in his essay Thoughts on Education, argues that compassion for all
sentient beings is natural and cruelty is a distortion of human nature. “Indeed,” he
says, “I think people from their cradle should be tender to all sensible creatures.”
Nevertheless, he supports the imprisonment and slaughter of animals for human
1762: In his philosophical novel Emile, the French philosopher Jean-Jacques
Rousseau (1712-1778), citing Plutarch, (See Unit III, The Classical World, 75 CE)
advocates a vegetarian diet on the grounds that animals are sentient beings whom we
have an ethical obligation not to harm. In spite of this, Emile advocates hunting as an
essential part of a young nobleman’s education. Interestingly, Rousseau does not
follow a vegetarian diet himself.
1769: Scottish engineer James Watt (1736-1819) designs the first steam engine
suitable for a variety of practical applications, thereby accelerating the Industrial
Revolution (c. 1720-1900) and sharply reducing humanity’s age-old reliance upon
animals for labor and transportation.
1772: In his journal, John Woolman (1720-1772), the great Quaker crusader for
human rights and against war and slavery, condemns human actions that reduce “the
sweetness of life in the animal creation which the Great Creator intends for them
under our government.” (Quoted in Richard Ryder, Animal Revolution.)
1772: An Anglican priest, Reverend James Granger, delivers a sermon entitled “An
Apology for the Brute Creation, or Abuse of Animals Censured.” He later reports
that it was met with “disgust” and charges of profaning the pulpit by the two
congregations to which he delivered it.
1775: The French philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778), one of the great figures of the
Enlightenment, ridicules the Cartesian view of animals in his Philosophical
Dictionary, pointing out that both the behavior and the anatomy (brain, nervous
system, etc.) of animals indicates that they are fully capable of both physical and
1776: An Anglican clergyman, Dr. Humphrey Primatt, publishes A Dissertation on
the Duty of Mercy and Sin of Cruelty to Brute Animals in which he argues that the
Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you if you were in
their situation,” should govern our conduct toward animals. But like Rev. Granger
before him, Dr. Primatt also believes that we have a God-given right to slaughter
animals for food.
1780: The English Utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) publishes
An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, in which he states, “The
day may come when the rest of animal creation may acquire those rights which
could never have been withholden from them except by the hand of tyranny.” This is
the first statement in Western history (and perhaps the first in the world since the
reign of Ashoka, see Part I, 270 CE) that animals should have legal rights. He
specifically identifies sentience as the basis for granting animals moral consideration
and legal protection. Bentham, however, also defends using animals for food
provided they are killed quickly and painlessly.
Part IV: The Modern Era: Animal Welfare and Beyond
1793: Thomas Taylor, a philosopher and translator of classical literature, publishes,
anonymously, a parody of an essay entitled “A Vindication of the Rights of
Women,” by English feminist Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (1759-1797). Titled “A
Vindication of the Rights of Brutes,” and intended to ridicule the idea of legal rights
for women, Taylor’s parody actually draws public attention to the plight of animals.
1795: In England, the London Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends,
more commonly known as the Quakers, passes a resolution condemning hunting.
1800: Sir William Johnstone Pulteney (1729-1805), Scottish Member of Parliament,
introduces a bill to ban bull baiting. It is defeated by two votes (43-41). Apart from
the Massachusetts Body of Liberties, this is the first animal cruelty bill considered
by a modern legislature.
1809, May 15: Lord Erskine (Thomas Erskine, 1750-1823) introduces a bill before
the House of Lords to protect animals from human cruelty. Erskine’s bill passes the
House of Lords but is defeated in the Commons. When the Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is formed the year after Erskine’s death, a
reprint of his speech defending his bill will be among its first publications.
1813: Romantic poet Percy Shelley (1792-1822), an advocate of ethical
vegetarianism and husband of novelist and essayist Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
(1797-1851), publishes A Vindication of Natural Diet, a booklet advocating
vegetarianism based upon notes which he appended to his long poem “Queen Mab.”
In the essay, he refers to animals as our “kindred . . .[who] think, feel, and live like
man” and describes meat eating as humanity's cardinal sin.
1818: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly (1797-1851), daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft
Godwin (See 1793) and wife of Romantic poet Percy Shelley, publishes
Frankenstein, a pro-vegetarian and anti-vivisection novel. Like her husband, Mary
Shelley is an ethical vegetarian.
1822, July 22: “An Act to Prevent the Cruel and Improper Treatment of Cattle,”
more commonly known as “Martin’s Act” or “The Act of 1822,” is given assent by
King George IV and becomes law in the United Kingdom. Introduced and advocated
in Parliament by Lord Erskine (see above, 1809) and Richard Martin (1754-1834), a
member of the House of Commons who was popularly known as “Humanity Dick”
because of his tireless work on behalf of the poor, the homeless, and animals, this is
the first animal protection statute in the modern world apart from the Massachusetts
Body of Liberties.
1824, June 16: In London, Reverend Arthur Broome (1780-1837), influenced by the
writings of Humphrey Primatt (See Part III, 1776), founds the Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, (SPCA) which quickly secures the passage of
several important pieces of animal protection legislation and wins a number of
precedent-setting court cases. The SPCA becomes the model for animal protection
groups around the world, which adopt its strategy of legislation, litigation, and
education on behalf of animal welfare.
1828: Inspired by Martin’s Law (See above, 1822), the New York State legislature
passes America’s first animal protection act, outlawing cruelty against cattle, sheep,
c. 1830: French physiologist Francois Magendie (1783-1855) popularizes
vivisection on unanesthetized animals as the principle method of physiological
investigation. His public demonstrations are extremely popular in France and a
source of outrage in England as France becomes the vivisection capital of Europe.
1835: Great Britain outlaws cock fighting and dog fighting.
1838: James Piper, an investigator for the SPCA, becomes the first person to give
his life in an animal protection campaign when he is beaten to death by a gang of
cockfighters in Middlesex, England.
c. 1840: “Vegetarian” gradually comes into use to describe a meatless diet. Since
ancient times, such a diet had been called “Pythagorean.”
1840: In England, Queen Victoria grants royal patronage to the SPCA, which now
becomes the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).
1841: The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), influenced by
Hinduism and Buddhism, declares in his On the Foundations of Morality that “the
assumption that animals have no rights, and the illusion that our behavior toward
them is without moral significance, is an egregious example of Western brutality and
barbarity . . . Universal compassion is the only sure path to morality.”
1846: In France, the Societe Protectrice des Animaux (Animal Protection Society) is
formed on the model of the RSPCA.
1847: The Vegetarian Society of Great Britain is formed. Their adoption of
“Vegetarian” in place of “Pythagorean” is intended to disabuse the public of the
notion that a meatless diet marked adherence to a pagan religious cult.
1860: Pope Pius IX (reigned 1846-1878) denies a request to authorize the creation in
Rome of an SPCA modeled after the RSPCA (see 1824 and 1840) because papal
approval might lead people to believe that humans have moral duties to animals.
(Rome was ruled by the Pope until 1870, when it became the capital of a newly
1863: Outraged by the cruel experiments of Claude Bernard (see 1865), Frances
Power Cobbe, Anglo-Irish social worker, journalist and liberal social reformer,
publishes an article titled “The Rights of Man and the Claims of Brutes” in Fraser’s
Magazine for Town and Country, in which she argues that human beings have an
ethical duty to take the interests of animals into account, especially their interest in
not suffering unnecessary pain. She then circulates a petition—unsuccessfully—
against the German vivisector Moritz Schiff who was working at the time in
Florence, Italy. This is believed to be the first use of a petition drive to oppose
cruelty to animals.
1865: Claude Bernard (1813-1878), a student of Francois Magendie (See 1830) and
highly regarded advocate of the experimental method in science, publishes An
Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine, which advocates vivisection
upon unanesthetized animals as the principal method of medical research.
Throughout Europe, the public reacts vehemently against the cruelty of vivisection,
giving renewed impetus to the animal protection movement. Many animal protection
groups in Europe and North America still call themselves “anti-vivisection”
societies, even though their activities cover a much broader spectrum.
1865: The Union Stockyards, the world’s largest and first fully mechanized
slaughtering facility, opens in Chicago, ushering in the age of mechanized animal
slaughter and making large quantities of relatively cheap meat available on the
American market, thereby making possible a meat intensive diet unprecedented in
1866: Henry Bergh (1813-1888), a wealthy American shipbuilder and diplomat
founds the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in
New York, modeled on the RSPCA. Chartered by a special act of the New York
state legislature, the ASPCA is the first animal protection organization established in
the United States. By the 1890s, most major American cities have SPCA’s.
1867: Quaker activist Caroline White organizes the Pennsylvania Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals with headquarters in Philadelphia, modeled after
the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals founded the previous
year by Henry Bergh.
1871: Charles Darwin (1809-1882) publishes the second of his two major works on
evolution by natural selection. (The first, The Origin of Species, was published in
1859.) Titled The Descent of Man, it expresses Darwin’s view that “There is no
fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental
function.” This is followed in 1872 by The Expression of Emotions in Animals and
Man in which he contends that the more complex animals, including dogs and
monkeys, have rich and complex emotional lives.
1875: Dissatisfied with the cautious approach of the RSPCA, Frances Power Cobbe
(See 1863) forms the Victoria Street Society for the Protection of Animals from
1876: The British Parliament passes the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876, which
places some largely cosmetic restrictions on vivisection. Anti-vivisectionists are
enraged, viewing the Act as nothing more than an attempt to provide legal cover for
1876: German engineer Nikolaus August Otto designs a powerful, practical (four-
stroke) gasoline engine, which over the next three-quarters of a century will lead to
the elimination of the industrialized world’s remaining dependence on animals for
labor and transportation.
1877: In America, a number of local SPCA’s combine to form the American
Humane Association (AHA) for the immediate purpose of obtaining protection for
cattle, sheep, pigs and other animals forced to endure overcrowding and extremes of
heat and cold for days at a time without food or water while being transported to
slaughter by rail.
1877: In England, Anna Sewell publishes Black Beauty: the Autobiography of a
Horse. Intended to focus public attention on the suffering of horses and other
domestic animals, it is now regarded as children's book.
1878: The Victoria Street Society (See 1875) announces a campaign for the total
abolition of vivisection and severs relations with more moderate groups such as the
c. 1890: Celebrated Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) (Man and
Superman, Major Barbara, Pygmalion) campaigns ardently throughout his career
against vivisection and other forms of animal cruelty and in support of an ethical
vegetarian diet, which he himself follows strictly until his death at the age of 94.
1892: Henry Salt (1851-1939), English humanitarian, vegetarian and animal
protection activist, publishes Animals’ Rights Considered in Relation to Social
Progress, a book which foreshadows many of the arguments used by the modern
animal rights movement. A friend of most of the leading English intellectuals of his
day, the influence of Salt’s ideas was widespread. His 1886 booklet, A Plea for
Vegetarianism, was credited by Mohandas Gandhi with persuading him that
vegetarianism was essential to a nonviolent life. Gandhi also credited Salt’s Life of
Henry David Thoreau (1889) with introducing him to the ideas of the American
apostle of civil disobedience.
1894: Six years after Henry Bergh’s death, the ASPCA (See 1866) signs a contract
with the city of New York, to operate the city’s animal shelters, setting the precedent
for shelters to be operated by private animal protection groups (primarily local
SPCA’s and Humane Societies) that is followed around the country to the present
1892: Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), world renowned Russian novelist (War and Peace,
Anna Karenina), publishes an essay entitled "The First Step" in which he maintains
that a correct understanding of the gospel of Christ would move us to universal
compassion for all living beings, including animals. He advocates, and practices, a
life based on ethical vegetarianism and nonviolence, arguing that, “A man can live
and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he
participates in the killing of animals for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is
1896: In England, H. G. Wells (1866-1946) publishes the best-selling anti-
vivisection novel The Island of Doctor Moreau.
1898: The Victoria Street Society (See 1875 and 1878) removes Frances Power
Cobbe as president and announces it will pursue reduction and regulation of
vivisection rather than abolition. Cobbe resigns from the Society and founds the
British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) which remains one of the
world’s largest and most influential anti-vivisection organizations.
1906: Upton Sinclair (1878-1968), an American novelist and social critic who would
win the Pulitzer Prize in literature in 1943 for Dragon’s Teeth, a novel of Nazi
Germany, publishes The Jungle, a brutally realistic account of conditions in a
Chicago slaughterhouse. The Jungle becomes a nationwide best-seller and generates
public outrage against the meat packing industry for its lack of concern for public
1906: Following a federal investigation inspired by Upton Sinclair’s novel The
Jungle, Congress passes and President Theodore Roosevelt signs the Federal Meat
Inspection Act of 1906. While the act brought major improvements in public health,
it did little to improve conditions for slaughterhouse workers and nothing for the
animals being slaughtered.
1908: The International Vegetarian Union (IVU) is founded to serve as a clearing
house and coordinating body for vegetarian organizations around the world.
1923: Liberal theologian and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, who will win the 1958
Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a medical doctor among the indigenous people of
West Africa, publishes The Philosophy of Civilization, which describes his doctrine
of reverence for life, a concept which he first formulated in 1915.
c. 1930: Rabbi Avraham Kuk (1865-1935), the first chief rabbi of Israel in the
modern era, publishes a pamphlet titled A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace, in
which he argues that vegetarianism and animal rights can be found in “the deeper
layers of the Torah [Jewish law],” and that the Messianic Age will be vegetarian.
1939: Pope Pius XII (reigned 1939-1958) enforces the papal bull of 1567 by
forbidding priests to attend bullfights, denying audiences to bullfighters and rejecting
a gift presented by the Spanish bullfighters’ professional association. The Pope’s
order is widely disregarded (with impunity) by priests in Spain and Latin America.
1942: Walt Disney studios releases Bambi, an animated feature film based on the
1923 novel of the same name by Austrian novelist Felix Salten (1869-1945).
Portraying animals as sensitive, thinking creatures and hunters as cruel and
unfeeling, the immensely popular movie does much to promote the idea of kindness
toward animals and raise public awareness of the cruelty of hunting.
1944: In England, Donald Watson, his wife Dorothy, and Elsie Shigley found the
Vegan Society to promote abstinence from all animal products. The Watsons coin
the word vegan.
1946: The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling is signed in
Washington, D. C. on December 2. It creates the International Whaling Commission,
open to any nation that formally agrees to abide by the Convention, to regulate
whaling for the protection of dwindling whale populations.
1947 India, which has been part of the British Empire for more than 200 years,
receives its independence as the result of a decades long campaign led by British
educated lawyer Mohandas K. Gandhi. Known as Mahatma (“great soul”), Gandhi
finds in the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita the spiritual foundation for a
philosophy of nonviolent resistance, which he calls satyagraha (“truth force” or “the
power of truth”). Gandhi teaches that ahimsa, or nonviolence, is the essence of
morality and that ethical vegetarianism is the foundation of nonviolence. He said that
“A nation may be judged by the way it treats its animals.”
1948: Inspired by the Vegan Society in the UK, Dr. Catherine Nimmo and Rubin
Abramowitz found the first vegan society in the United States, in Oceano, California.
c. 1950 onward: The introduction of antibiotics makes it possible to raise livestock,
especially chickens, cattle, and pigs in conditions of intensive confinement that
without the new drugs would result in the decimation of flocks and herds by disease.
This leads to the creation of industrial agriculture in which animals are treated as
mere production units. This is a radical change in agriculture that will destroy the
traditional family farm and generate the most massive increase in the level of human
cruelty to animals since they were first enslaved around 8000 BCE.
1951: Christine Stevens, wife of the acclaimed Broadway producer, Roger Stevens,
founds the Animal Welfare Institute.
1954: Fred Myers, Helen Jones, and two other officers of the American Humane
Association (AHA) break away and organize the Humane Society of the United
States (HSUS) in order to more aggressively pursue a wide range of animal
c. 1955: The League Against Cruel Sports begins disrupting fox hunts in England,
usually by laying down false trails to mislead the dogs. In its issue of August 4,
1958, the London Daily Telegraph coins the term “hunt sabotage” to describe these
1957: Alice Herrington founds Friends of Animals. Led in recent years by Priscilla
Feral, FoA focuses on a broad range of animal rights issues.
1957: Helen Jones, one of the original founders of the Humane Society of the United
States (See 1954) founds the National Catholic Society for Animal Rights, which is
later extended beyond its denominational origins and renamed the International
Society for Animal Rights (ISAR).
1957: Six West European nations (Belgium, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, France,
Germany, and Italy) sign the Treaty of Rome, creating the European Economic
Community. In 1992, the Treaty of Maastricht will change the name to the European
Union. In 2009, the EU includes 25 countries throughout Europe and leads the world
in establishing and enforcing legal protections for animals.
1958: Congress enacts the Humane Slaughter Act, which requires that
slaughterhouses comply with federal standards for “humane” slaughter. Most animal
protection advocates consider the act ineffective and compliance haphazard at best.
1960: H. Jay Dinshah founds the American Vegan Society and begins publishing a
newsletter titled Ahimsa. Later that year, Dinshah marries British peace activist
Freya Smith. Under the leadership of Jay and Freya Dinshah, the American Vegan
Society becomes a major force promoting a way of life devoted to nonviolence.
1962: The word vegan, coined by Donald and Dorothy Watson (See 1944), appears
in the Oxford English Dictionary.
1963: Shocked by the cruelty of fox hunting, British journalist John Prestige forms
the Hunt Saboteurs Association. On Boxing Day (Dec. 26) the HSA conducts its
first hunt sabotage by luring the dogs to meat at the beginning of the hunt.
1964: English author and activist Ruth Harrison publishes Animal Machines, the first
expose of modern industrial agriculture, in which she coins the term “factory farms.”
This marks the beginning of the animal protection movement’s campaign against
1965: English novelist, playwright, feminist, and anti-war activist Brigid Brophy
publishes a long article in The Sunday Times entitled "The Rights of Animals"
arguing that human exploitation of animals is immoral and ought to be ended. This
marks the beginning of the modern animal rights movement.
1966: The U.S. Congress passes the Animal Welfare Act, regulating the sale,
transportation and treatment of some animals (primarily dogs and cats) used in
1967: Cleveland Amory (1917-1998), best selling author (The Proper Bostonians,
The Cat Who Came for Christmas), columnist, TV personality, and former Board
member of the Humane Society of the United States, founds The Fund for Animals
(FFA) to give the animal protection community a more aggressive vehicle for
effective action. Like HSUS and FoA, The Fund works on both animal rights issues
(e.g. opposition to sport hunting and vivisection) and animal welfare issues (e.g.
companion animal overpopulation).
1968: The Animal Protection Institute (API), which focuses on humane education
related primarily to companion animal, marine mammal, and wildlife issues, is
founded. The creation of organizations like HSUS, FoA, ISAR, FFA, and API
represents both a ratcheting up of the level of militancy of the animal protection
movement and a shift in focus from trying to mitigate the suffering of animals to
trying to eliminate the causes of that suffering. The period from 1950 until 1970 may
be regarded as a transition from the age of animal welfare to the era of animal rights.
1969: In Vancouver, British Columbia, three Quaker anti-war activists who are also
environmentalists -- James Bohlen, Paul Cote, and Irving Stowe -- form an
environmental protection organization called the Don’t Make a Wave Committee to
protest underground nuclear weapons testing in the Aleutian Islands, which they fear
will cause a highly destructive tidal wave in the Pacific basin. In 1971 they sail a
small ship into the test area in an effort, ultimately successful, to halt the tests. They
call the expedition Operation Greenpeace. In 1972, the group dissolves because of
internal dissention and reforms as Greenpeace.
Part V: The Era of Animal Rights
1970: Encouraged by Brigid Brophy (see 1965), clinical psychologist Richard Ryder
and several graduate and post-doctoral students at Oxford University including
Australian philosopher Peter Singer, theologian Andrew Linzey, and English
philosopher Steven R. L. Clarke form an informal association known as “the Oxford
Group” to discuss and promote animal liberation.
1970: Richard Ryder (see 1970, above) coins the term “speciesism” to describe the
view that animals are entitled to lesser moral consideration than humans and may be
used merely as means to serve human ends.
1971: Three members of the Oxford Group, Canadians Roslind and Stanley
Godlovich and Londoner John Harris, edit and publish a collection of essays titled
Animals, Men, and Morals, which presents arguments that animals are entitled to
full moral consideration from human beings.
1971: The European Convention on the Protection of Animals during International
Transports goes into effect, establishing minimum safety and comfort standards for
animals being transported into or out of an EU member country.
1972: The U. S. Congress passes the Marine Mammal Protection Act (reenacted in
1976), making it illegal to kill, trap or harass marine mammals without a federal
1972: In England, Ronnie Lee and Clifford Goodman form the Band of Mercy to
take covert direct action to free animals on farms and in laboratories and damage
buildings and equipment used in animal abuse. The name is taken from a children’s
auxiliary of the early RSPCA that is reputed to have sabotaged fox hunts by
damaging the firing pins of hunting rifles.
1973: The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna
and Flora, commonly known as CITES (pronounced SITE-ease), is signed in
Washington, D.C, banning or severely limiting the sale of members of endangered
species of plants and animals and of products made from endangered species.
1973: In The New York Review of Books, Utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer (See
1970) publishes a lengthy review of Animals, Men and Morals in which he sets
forth his view that human beings have a moral obligation to give equal consideration
to the interests of all sentient beings, regardless of species. This review introduces
the concept of animal rights to the broader intellectual community on both sides of
1973: At the urging of a broad coalition of environmental and animal protection
organizations, the U. S. Congress passes the Endangered Species Act, which
provides broad protection to plant and animal species, including protection of
habitat, which are in imminent danger of or are threatened with extinction.
1974: Ronnie Lee and Clifford Goodman conduct a Band of Mercy raid against the
Oxford Laboratory Animal Colonies, a research facility in Bicester, England. They
are arrested, tried, and sentenced to three years in prison. Released on parole after a
year, they are the first people to serve prison sentences for an illegal direct action on
behalf of animals. Goodman, who had allegedly turned police informer in prison, left
the movement, while Lee went on to re-form the Band of Mercy as the Animal
1974: Peter Singer teaches a continuing education course titled “Animal Liberation”
at New York University. This twelve-hour, non-credit course is the first academic
recognition of animal rights in the United States. It is attended by twenty students,
including Henry Spira, former merchant seaman, union organizer and civil rights
activist, who goes on to become an ethical vegan and animal rights leader (see 1976).
1974: Cleveland Amory (See 1967) publishes Mankind? Our Incredible War on
Wildlife, which exposes the cruel realities of sport hunting and fur trapping to the
general public and argues for the abolition of both. Mankind? becomes the basis for
“The Guns of Autumn,” a CBS Television documentary broadcast in 1975 that
carries Amory’s message to the general public. This marks the beginning of a
decline in both participation in sport hunting and public approval of sport hunting
that continues to the present.
1974: At the instigation of Jay and Freya Dinshah of the American Vegan Society
(See 1960), the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS) is created to serve as a
clearing house and coordinating body for vegetarian and vegan organizations in the
United States and Canada, modeled after Europe’s International Vegetarian Union
1975: Hosted by NAVS, the World Vegetarian Congress, a biennial event sponsored
by the IVU, meets for the first time in the western hemisphere, at the University of
Maine in Orono, providing new impetus to the vegetarian and vegan movements in
1975: Peter Singer publishes Animal Liberation, a book based on his 1974 lectures
at New York University. Based in the Utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham
(See above, 1780), Animal Liberation becomes an international cause celebre and
puts animal rights on the public agenda internationally.
1975: A Greenpeace ship confronts Soviet whaling vessels in the Pacific in a direct
action aimed at keeping whales from being hunted to extinction. Several activists,
including Canadian Paul Watson, sail zodiacs between a Soviet whaler and its prey
in an attempt to prevent the whaler from firing its harpoon cannon. Despite the risk
to the occupants of the zodiacs, the whaler fires directly over the zodiacs, mortally
wounding the whale. Watson finds himself staring into the eye of a dying whale who
he believes understands that Watson was trying to protect him. The experience
moves Watson to dedicate his life to the defense of marine mammals.
1976: The North American Vegetarian Society sponsors the first of the annual
conferences/seminars that will become the Vegetarian Summerfest, which remains, in
2005, the most extensive and influential gathering of vegetarians and vegans in the
1976: Amendments to the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 increase some protections
for some animals used in research.
1976: Henry Spira (see 1974) organizes the first sustained popular protest campaign
of the modern animal rights movement in America. Directed at New York’s
prestigious Museum of Natural History and using tactics Spira learned as a union
organizer and civil rights activist, the campaign utilizes letters to the editor,
advertising posters, leafleting and sidewalk picketing to protest invasive, painful,
and lethal experiments being conducted on cats in order to gain information about
the neurological basis of their sexual behavior. The campaign continues until
August, 1977, when the Museum capitulates and discontinues the experiments. This
and later Spira campaigns provide the model for the strategy and tactics that will be
used by most animal rights groups for the next two decades.
1976: A Greenpeace expedition led by Paul Watson goes onto the arctic ice floes
near Newfoundland to protect baby harp seals from sealers who club them to death
with ax handles in full view of their mothers for sale to furriers. The Greenpeace
strategy is to spray red dye on the baby seals white coats, a process which does no
harm to the seals but renders their pelts worthless to furriers. Well covered by the
news media, this campaign arouses worldwide sympathy for the seals and attracts
sympathetic public attention to animal rights movement.
1976: Anglican theologian and former Oxford Group member (See 1970) Rev.
Professor Andrew Linzey publishes Animal Rights: A Christian Assessment. This
and his subsequent books, Christianity and the Rights of Animals, and Animal
Theology establish animal theology as a recognized field of Christian academic
1977: Paul Watson is removed as a director of Greenpeace on the grounds that he is
too confrontational. He resigns from the group and forms the Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society, dedicated to the protection of marine animals through direct
action and public education.
1977: Two staff members, Ken LaVasseur and Steve Sipman, calling themselves the
Undersea Railway, release two dolphins from the University of Hawaii’s Kewalo
Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory in Honolulu. So far as is known, this is the first
animal liberation action in the United States.
1978: The Council of Europe approves the European Convention for the Protection
of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes, which establishes minimum standards of
welfare for farmed animals throughout the European Union.
1978: Yiddish novelist and short story writer, Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991) is
awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. An ethical vegetarian for most of his adult
life, Singer writes a Foreword to Vegetarianism: A Way of Life (1942) by Dudley
Giehl, in which he says, “. . . as long as human beings will go on shedding the blood
of animals, there will never be any peace.” In his story “The Letter Writer,” he says,
“In relation to them [animals], all men are Nazis; for them it is an eternal Treblinka.”
1979: Accompanied by Fund for Animals’ founder Cleveland Amory, Paul Watson
returns to the Newfoundland ice floes aboard the Sea Shepherd, a retired English
fishing trawler purchased with money provided by The Fund for Animals and the
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to paint baby harp seals.
Watson is nearly killed by angry sealers, and television footage of him being
dangled by a chain in the icy arctic waters generates a public outcry against the
sealers, ultimately leading the Canadian authorities to declare a moratorium on
killing baby harp seals.
1979: Under pressure from a coalition of animal protection groups led by Henry
Spira, New York becomes the first state to repeal its pound seizure act, which had
been in effect since 1953. (Pound seizure laws require publicly funded animal
shelters to turn over their unadopted animals to research laboratories for use in
1979: The Sea Shepherd rams the Sierra, a pirate whaling ship (i.e. operating in
violation of international treaties protecting whales) registered in Portugal and
operating under contract to a Japanese company, forcing it into port. The captain of
the Sea Shepherd is Paul Watson and among the crew, although not on board at the
time of the ramming, is a young former seminary student named Alex Pacheco, who
would soon become one of the founders of People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals. This is the first of numerous pirate whaling vessels that The Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society will harass, and in some cases ram, on the high seas in coming
1979: Henry Spira (See 1974 and 1976) organizes the Coalition to Stop the Draize
Rabbit Blinding Test and launches a national campaign against animal testing in the
cosmetics industry. The campaign leads to increased public awareness of cosmetics
testing, the growth of a “cruelty free” cosmetics industry and a sharp reduction in
product testing on animals.
1980: Influenced by Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, Ingrid Newkirk, Chief of
Animal Disease Control for Washington, D.C., and Alex Pacheco, a veteran of the
Sea Shepherd (See 1979), found People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
1980: Environmentalist Doug Moss and animal rights advocate Jim Mason found
The Animals’ Agenda, the first magazine (as opposed to a newsletter) to represent
the animal rights movement a whole rather than a particular group. The Agenda
continued to publish until 2002.
1980: Activists spray paint animal rights slogans on trailers belonging to the Ringling
Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus at its winter home in Venice, Florida. This is the
first known act of property destruction committed by animal rights activists in the
1981: PETA’s Alex Pacheco goes undercover and takes a job as a laboratory
assistant at the Institute of Behavioral Research (IBR), located in Silver Spring,
Maryland, headed by Dr. Edward Taub and funded by grants from the federal
government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH), to gain firsthand knowledge of
primate research. Appalled at the conditions in which the monkeys who are the
subjects of Dr. Taub’s experiments are being kept, Pacheco reports IBR to the
Montgomery County authorities, who obtain a search warrant and raid the laboratory
on September 11, confiscating seventeen monkeys. Under court order dated October
9, the monkeys are transferred to an NIH primate center in nearby Poolesville,
Maryland for temporary care and safekeeping. On December 2, 1981, Dr. Taub is
found guilty on six counts of cruelty to animals. This is the beginning of the case
that would become known as “The Silver Spring Monkeys,” which would catapult
PETA into national prominence and give new impetus to the animal rights
1981: Dr. Alex Hershaft founds the Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM, now
renamed the Farm Animal Rights Movement). FARM’s first campaign is National
Veal Ban Action Day, observed every year since 1981 on Mother’s Day, to point up
the cruelty inherent in veal production. Since its founding, FARM has been a pioneer
and a leader in the campaign against animal agriculture.
1981: Switzerland outlaws the full-time tethering of animals such as veal calves as
well as the iron deficient diet that veal calves are fed to produce the white flesh
characteristic of severe iron deficiency anemia that is prized by veal lovers.
1982: Forty-two rabbits are taken from the Animal Science Department of the
University of Maryland in College Park by anonymous rescuers.
1982: Carol Adams and Marti Kheel organize Feminists for Animal Rights (FAR),
which advocates the view that animal exploitation, environmental degradation, and
the oppression of women stem from a common source, dominionistic, patriarchal
modes of thought, and must be combated together.
1982: Cats being used as subjects in nerve gas experiments are taken from Howard
University in Washington, D.C. This is the first direct action for which the newly
inaugurated American Animal Liberation Front (ALF) claims responsibility.
1983: FARM (see 1981) organizes the first World Farm Animals Day, observed
every year on October 2, the anniversary of Mohandas Gandhi’s birth. World Farm
Animals Day seeks to educate the public to the suffering of animals on modern
factory farms and to the ethical, environmental, and health advantages of a
1983: In the Silver Spring Monkeys case (see 1981), Dr. Taub’s conviction on
animal cruelty charges is overturned by the Maryland Court of Appeals, which rules
that Maryland’s anti-cruelty statutes do not apply to research that is funded by the
federal government. Animal protection advocates want the monkeys turned over to
an animal protection group so they can live out their lives as naturally as possible
(most were severely crippled as a result of neglect and Dr. Taub’s research) in a
primate sanctuary. NIH refuses and keeps the animals (two of whom have already
died) in its custody.
1983: Tom Regan, professor of philosophy at North Carolina State University,
publishes The Case for Animal Rights, the first rigorous defense of animals based in
natural rights philosophy. It quickly becomes a seminal text of animal protection
1984: Members of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) raid the Head Injury
Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. They remove audio
and video tapes which document the cruelty of the experiments and show
researchers laughing at the suffering of the animals. Released to the media by PETA,
the tapes arouse widespread public indignation and give renewed impetus to the anti-
vivisection movement generated by the Silver Spring monkeys.
1984: Wayne Pacelle, a student at Yale and chair of the university’s Student Animal
Rights Committee, organizes and leads the first hunt sabotage in the United States,
against a deer hunt on property in Connecticut owned by the university’s school of
forestry. Several protestors are arrested for violating Connecticut’s hunter
harassment law, but on appeal, the law is declared unconstitutional.
1984: The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (See 1898) ends the
logistical support which it had been providing to the Animal Liberation Front
Support Group, marking a public break between advocates and opponents of illegal
1985: PETA activists occupy the office of the director of the National Institute for
Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke, one of the institutes of the
National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, to protest NIH funding of injury
experiments on primates at the University of Pennsylvania. NIH cancels the funding,
but the project continues.
1985: FARM (See 1981) organizes the first Great American Meatout, modeled on
the Great American Smokeout, in which anti-smoking organizations encourage
smokers to quit for one day as a way of encouraging them to stop smoking
altogether. Observed annually on March 20, by 1998, the Great American Meatout
features over 1000 events in all 50 states, making it the largest ongoing vegetarian
action in the world.
1986: A consortium which includes PETA, the International Primate Protection
League (IPPL, which maintains a privately funded and operated sanctuary for
primates), and Alex Hershaft of FARM (see 1981) sues NIH in federal court to
obtain custody of the Silver Spring Monkeys. The case drags on until 1990, but the
plaintiffs ultimately lose.
1986: Rod Coronado and David Howitt, members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society, slip on board two pirate whaling vessels, damage their refrigeration
systems, and scuttle them while they lie at berth in the harbor at Reykjavik, Iceland.
They leave Iceland undetected. Intense publicity focuses favorable international
attention on the plight of the whale, which has been hunted almost to extinction, and
leads to the formation of the first anti-whaling organization in a major whaling nation,
Iceland’s Friends of the Whale. In 1988, Paul Watson voluntarily travels to Iceland
and surrenders himself to authorities to face trial for the incident. Upon arrival in
Reykjavik, he is detained for 24 hours and deported. No formal charges are ever
lodged against Coronado, Howitt or Watson.
1986: Trans-Species Unlimited organizes the first “Sit Down for Animals”
Demonstration in New York City to protest fur. Later, the annual event will be
moved to the day after Thanksgiving, which is traditionally the biggest retail sales
day of the year for furriers, and renamed “Fur Free Friday.”
1986: Lori and Gene Bauston create Farm Sanctuary, a national organization which
provides a sanctuary for rescued farm animals, lobbies to improve living conditions
on farms and in slaughterhouses, and conducts public education campaigns urging an
end to animal agriculture.
1986: The International Whaling Commission (See 1946) establishes a moratorium
on commercial whaling.
1986: “Speciesism” appears in the Oxford English Dictionary for the first time.
1987: The United Kingdom outlaws veal crates and iron deficient diets for veal
1988: Sweden enacts sweeping animal agriculture reforms including a ban on
gestation crates, and requirements that cows and pigs have access to straw and litter
in their stalls and that cattle who are more than six months old be permitted to graze.
1990: A coalition of European animal welfare organizations forms The EuroGroup
for Animal Welfare. Cooperating closely with the major institutions and leaders of
the EU, The EuroGroup works for moderate, incremental reforms across the full
gamut of animal welfare issues.
1988: Fran Trutt, an animal activist who had been taking part in a campaign against
US Surgical Company’s dog lab, plants a homemade bomb under the car of US
Surgical’s president, Leon Hirsch, on the company parking lot in Norwalk,
Connecticut. The bomb fails to explode, and Trutt is arrested, convicted, and
sentenced to prison. During the trial, it is revealed that she had been encouraged to
plant the bomb by Mary Lou Sapone, an agent provocateur employed by Perceptions
International, a private security firm under contract to US Surgical.
1990: A ballot initiative supported by a coalition of local and national animal
protection groups is approved by California voters, making it illegal to kill mountain
lions in that state. Encouraged by this success, animal protection advocates in the
US turn to ballot initiatives as a major tool for the passage of animal protection
legislation, bypassing state legislatures where pro-animal bills can be blocked by
1990: The National Alliance for Animal Legislation, subsequently renamed The
National Alliance for Animals (NAA), an umbrella organization of animal protection
groups, organizes the International March for the Animals in Washington, D.C. More
than 25,000 marchers turn out to hear Peter Singer, Tom Regan, Cleveland Amory,
Ingrid Newkirk, Alex Pacheco, Alex Hershaft and others address the largest
demonstration in history on behalf of animals. Many observers consider this the high
point of the phase of the animal rights movement that began in 1975 with the
publication of Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation.
1990: Law professors and animal liberation advocates Gary Francione and Anna
Charlton (husband and wife) found the Rutgers Animal Rights Law Clinic, which
incorporates animal rights into a law school curriculum for the first time. The Clinic
is cancelled in 2000, but not before it has introduced the concept of animal rights
1991: Switzerland outlaws battery cages.
1992: The offices of a mink research team at the University of Michigan in East
Lansing are broken into and set afire. In 1995, Native American and environmental
activist Rod Coronado (See 1986) accepts a plea bargain agreement and serves 44
months in a federal penitentiary. He is released in 1999.
1992: Heidi Prescott, Outreach Director of The Fund for Animals, is convicted of
violating Maryland’s hunter harassment law for rustling leaves during a hunt
sabotage in 1991. She refuses to pay the fine and is sentenced to fourteen days in
jail. Released one day early for good behavior, she is the first person to spend time
in jail for violating an American hunter harassment law and the first woman in
America to receive a jail sentence for an animal rights activity.
1992: Congress enacts three major animal protection laws: The International Dolphin
Conservation Act endorses a multinational treaty to outlaw the deliberate killing of
dolphins; the Wild Bird Conservation Act bans the importation of many species of
exotic birds that are considered endangered or threatened; and the Driftnet
Enforcement Moratorium Act imposes limited sanctions on countries whose fishing
fleets continue to use driftnets.
1992: Congress enacts the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, which makes it a
federal offense to cause more than $10,000 damage to a farm or animal laboratory.
1992: Steve Hindi, a businessman and reformed shark hunter, forms the Chicago
Animal Rights Coalition (CHARK), later renamed Showing Animals Respect and
Kindness (SHARK). SHARK becomes a pioneer in the use of undercover video and
a leader in the international campaign against rodeos, charreadas, and bullfights.
1993: Patty Mark of Animal Liberation Victoria in Australia leads a team of animal
liberators into the battery hen facility of Alpine Poultry. They rescue chickens and
announce their identities and what they have done to the authorities and the press in
a tactic that will soon become known as “open rescue.”
1993: Thirty-one organizations in twenty-five European countries and Israel form the
European Coalition for Farm Animals, with the aim of abolishing factory farming
and the long-distance transport of farmed animals. The Coalition will have a major
impact on animal protection legislation in the European Union, especially in banning
veal crates and battery cages, establishing strict standards for the movement of
farmed animals, and obtaining legal recognition of animals as sentient beings with
certain basic rights. (See 1997, Amsterdam Treaty)
1995: Paul Shapiro, a fifteen year old student at the Georgetown Day School, a
private school in Washington, D.C., founds Compassion Over Killing as a school
club. The following year, he and Miyun Park, an animal activist, transform the club
into Washington’s grassroots animal rights group. Over the next five years, COK
will grow into one of the most active and influential animal rights groups in the U.S.
1995: No Compromise, a U.S. newspaper-format quarterly devoted to animal
liberation by direct action is founded.
1995: The European Convention on the Protection of Animals during International
Transports (see 1971) is updated and strengthened.
1995: Gary Francione (See 1990) publishes Animals, Property, and the Law,
challenging the legal categorization of animals as property and arguing that animals
should be legal persons, with the attendant rights that this would bring.
1996: The National Alliance for Animals sponsors the second March for the
Animals in Washington, D.C. (See 1990) The event is widely ignored by grass roots
animal protection organizations around the country, who believe that local
campaigns which benefit animals directly are a better use of time and money than
large national events like the march. Fewer than 3000 people attend. This marks the
end of the phase of the animal rights movement that began in 1975 with the
publication of Animal Liberation and the campaign of Henry Spira against the New
York Museum of Natural History.
1996: Gary Francione (See 1990 and 1995) publishes Rain Without Thunder: the
Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement, in which he criticizes activists and groups
that support reforms that improve the quality of life for imprisoned and enslaved
animals, claiming that this undermines the animal rights message. This opens a rift in
the animal rights movement that continues to this day.
1997: The Amsterdam Treaty, which updates and amends the Treaty of Rome (see
1957), and is sometimes known as “the European Bill of Rights” because of its
strong emphasis on the legal rights and protections to which residents of EU
countries are entitled, goes into effect. The Amsterdam Treaty is the first legal
authority in the modern world to acknowledge that nonhuman animals are sentient
beings with basic legal entitlements which must be respected.
1998: The European Union outlaws the establishment of new veal crate facilities.
Existing veal crates must be phased out by 2006.
1998: The European Coalition to End Animal Experiments, created in 1990 by
European animal protection organizations, publishes the Humane Cosmetics
Standard, which proposes stringent and specific criteria for cruelty free personal
1998: In the United States, animal protection voter initiatives pass in eight of thirteen
states in which they are on the ballot, including a ban on cock fighting in Arizona and
Arkansas and a ban on the slaughter of horses for human consumption in California.
1999: The United Kingdom outlaws the sow gestation crate.
1999: Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) is founded in England. SHAC
differs from other activist groups in the militancy of its tactics and its focus on one
company, Huntingdon Life Sciences, a multi-national firm headquartered in the UK
that conducts experiments on animals. Within 5 years, SHAC is active in 16
1999: The U. S. Congress outlaws “crush” videos and other forms of egregious
animal cruelty in movies.
1999: The European Union outlaws battery cages, although existing battery facilities
are grandfathered until 2012. Germany establishes a cutoff date of 2007 for
grandfathered facilities to come into compliance.
1999: At a conference sponsored by United Poultry Concerns in Machipongo,
Virginia (US), Australian activist Patty Mark introduces American activists to the
concept of Open Rescue. (See 1993)
1999: Under pressure of legal challenges, The Hegins Labor Day Committee signs
an agreement with The Fund for Animals permanently ending the notorious
Pennsylvania Hegins Pigeon Shoot in which more than 7000 birds perished every
year in a killing contest. In terms of sheer numbers of animals saved, this is the
largest single victory for animals yet achieved by the animal rights movement.
2001:Compassionate Action for Animals, a Minneapolis-St. Paul animal rights group
led by activist Freeman Wicklund, conducts an open rescue of factory farmed
chickens. This is the first open rescue in the United States.
2001: Compassion Over Killing conducts an open rescue at an Ise-America poultry
facility in Maryland and, in what will become a standard component of open rescues,
releases photographs and video footage to the media, generating a wave of public
outcry against the industry.
2001: The European Union Pigs Directive bans tail docking of pigs and requires that
they be given straw or other natural bedding. It also bans sow gestation crates,
already illegal in England and Sweden, but the ban does not go into effect until 2013.
2002: The Scottish Parliament passes the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland)
bill, banning fox hunting, fox baiting, and hare coursing, making Scotland the first
constituent of the United Kingdom to outlaw hunting with hounds.
2003: South African novelist J. M. Coetzee is awarded the Nobel Prize for
Literature. Coetzee is an ethical vegetarian who supports animal protection causes
in his adopted country of Australia. Leading characters in his novels Disgrace and
Elizabeth Costello are animal activists.
2004, February 23: David Byrne, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer
Protection, delivers a groundbreaking speech at a Global Conference on Animal
Welfare sponsored by the World Organization for Animal Health (commonly known
as the OIE, which was the French acronym of a predecessor organization, L’Office
International d’Epizooties), in which he calls for animal welfare to become a
“specific focus” of national laws and international treaties worldwide.
2004: California enacts legislation that will ban the production and sale of foie gras
produced by forced feeding ducks and geese. The law allows producers a seven-
year grace period to develop alternatives to forced feeding.
2004: The European Union further updates and strengthens the European Convention
on the Protection of Animals during International Transports (See 1971 and 1995).
2004: Wayne Pacelle, (See above, 1984) vice president for governmental and public
affairs of The Humane Society of the United States and former national director of
The Fund for Animals is elected president and CEO of The HSUS. A vegan, Pacelle
immediately begins moving the organization in a more activist and abolitionist
2004: Michael Martin, Speaker of the House of Commons, invokes Britain’s
Parliament Act, thereby overriding the House of Lords’ rejection of a bill to ban
hunting with hounds. In early 2005, hunting with hounds becomes illegal in England
2005: The Humane Society of the United States and The Fund for Animals merge,
forming the largest and best funded animal protection organization in history.
2005: Two PETA employees, Andrew Cook and Adria Hinkle, are arrested and
charged with animal cruelty, taking dogs and cats from a shelter in Bertie County,
North Carolina on the pretext of finding them homes, killing the animals by lethal
injection in a PETA van, and dumping their bodies in trash bins. The incident
reignites a long-simmering debate in the animal rights community over PETA’s
practice of euthanizing animals.
2005: Hurricane Katrina wreaks havoc along the Gulf Coast of Alabama,
Mississippi, and Louisiana. Much of New Orleans is inundated by flood waters from
Lake Ponchartrain, forcing an extended evacuation of the city. Animal protection
groups are outraged when federal and state authorities refuse to allow evacuating
residents to take their companion animals with them and then forbid animal
protection volunteers from entering flooded areas to rescue stranded animals.
Despite Herculean efforts by HSUS, Noah’s Wish, and many other groups,
thousands of animals die of drowning, starvation, and neglect.
2005: Rome enacts legislation that provides the most comprehensive legal
protections for companion animals of any jurisdiction in the world. The new law
includes a ban on displaying animals in pet store windows and selling goldfish in
plastic bags or small bottles. It also grants special status to people who feed and
provide care for Rome’s colonies of feral cats, protecting them from harassment and
2006: Six members of SHAC USA (See 1999) are convicted of violating the Animal
Enterprise Protection Act and given sentences ranging from one to six years in
federal prison. They are not accused of actually committing an act of terrorism, but
only of writing approvingly of harassment campaigns on the SHAC website.
2006: The U.S. Congress broadens the scope of the Animal Enterprise Protection
Act (See 1992), increases penalties for violations, and renames it the Animal
Enterprise Terrorism Act.
2006: The Doris Day Animal League, originally founded by the popular singer and
actress to lobby for federal animal welfare legislation, merges with HSUS. The
Humane Society Legislative Fund is now the largest federal lobby on behalf of
animals in the United States.
2008: A coalition of animal protection groups succeeds in passing a ballot initiative
in California, known as Proposition 2, that will ban gestation crates and battery
cages. This is the most important electoral victory for animals ever achieved in the