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1847-1981 :

A thesis presented to the London School of Economics, University of London,
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, by Julia Twigg
©AUTUMN 1981 - Thesis Index

The author is now Professor of Social Policy and Sociology at Kent University, England, and has given permission for this previously unpublished thesis to be published on the IVU website. The ownership and copyright remain hers and no part of this thesis may be used elsewhere without her express permission.


[Numerical links are to the author's footnotes, use your back button to return to the same point in the text. Text links are to relevant items on the IVU website, all open in new windows]


The interwar years had been poor ones for the animal welfare cause, and this state of affairs largely continued into the post-war period. The situation began to alter however in the 1960s, accelerating in the seventies until a major change had come over the animal-welfare, now increasingly called animal-rights, movement. Two issues were of particular importance in this development: these were factory farming and animal experimentation.

The publication of Ruth Harrison's Animal Machines in 1964 and its serialisation in The Observer created wide public disquiet, which stirred the government into appointing the Brambell Committee. (1) What the book did was make plain to the public, almost for the first time, the changes that were over-taking British livestock agriculture in the post-war years. Farming was increasingly going the way of big business, conducted by food companies and informed by technological values. The old picture of the farm with its animals in the open fields was increasingly out of step with these new developments in factory-style indoor units. The pioneers had been the battery hen houses and laying units developed after the war, and the sixties and seventies saw the extension of these intensive indoor methods to pigs and, to some extent, to beef. The most notorious development here was in veal production where the calves are kept tethered in closely confining crates, so as to prevent the development of hard muscle, and on a diet lacking in roughage and deficient in iron to produce anaemia, and thus the favoured white flesh. Despite the outcries, little was done. The food industry is a powerful lobby in government; Britain's economic state in the seventies and after has disinclined all administrations to do anything that would increase the cost of food; and there is little evidence that people are willing to pay more for ethically-produced food.

Much of the debate here and elsewhere centres around whether these methods are cruel. The farmers, supported by some vets, argue that no suffering animal thrives and that farmers have a direct financial interest in the happiness of their beasts. Ruth Harrison and others deny this, arguing that they are capable of deep suffering while still retaining basic health. At a common-sense level, it is probably true that most people would not hesitate to describe many factory farming practices as cruel; however where economics and profit are involved, people apply different criteria, as they do where the animals are food animals: thus, the 1954 Protection of Birds Act makes it an offence to keep a bird in a cage too small for it to stretch its wings, but adds 'provided this subsection shall not apply to poultry . . . '

The issue of factory farming was of special importance in the development of vegetarianism since it undermined the compassionate meat-eater' s argument that farm animals, grazing in the fields and humanely killed, had not really suffered. The widespread use of hormones and other artificial techniques to increase yields also gave new strength to the vegetarian characterisation of meat as contaminated, and in some sense unnatural.

The 1950s and sixties found the anti-vivisection movement much as it had been for the last fifty years: its propaganda caught in a dead end of reiterated arguments and highly emotional statements and not well informed scientifically. The movement had become stale. In the late sixties and early seventies, however, new currents began to stir; three in particular were important: the rise of the pursuits of scientific co-operation through the use of alternative techniques; the growth of militancy; and the growing prospect of legislative change. These were, in principle, conflicting tendencies; however, in practice they operated together to create new climate of opinion within the anti-vivisection movement.

A particular area of concern had been the explosion in the number of animal experiments. When the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed in 1876 there were only some 500 experiments per year. After an initial leap in the late nineteenth century, there was a steady increase during the 1920s and thirties. The rise of toxicology in the post-war period in particular meant that greatly increased numbers were needed to test new drugs and domestic substances. The chief focus of anti-vivisection has always been experiments such as the testing of luxury goods like cosmetics, (2) or of psychological experiments animal experiments now run at about five million animals per year. (3)

In an attempt to reduce these numbers, the anti-vivisection movement has since the 1950s, and more actively since the 1960s, turned to the possibilities of using substitutes. Certain scientific developments, for example tissue culture, have aided this, and a series of bodies like FRAME, the Lawson Tait and Humane Research Trusts and the Lord Dowding Fund were set up to encourage the development of alternative techniques. (4) There has also been a growing coverage of alternatives in anti-vivisection literature, for they have been recognised as a practical way forward, and one that commands considerable public support. (5)

In recent years a moderate lobby has developed, arguing for co-operation with scientists and for the winding down of the traditional suspicion and hostility between the two groups. While not abandoning the moral, commitment to anti-vivisection, they accept the scientific productiveness of much animal experimentation - something largely denied, or set aside in the past – and aim to encourage a reduction of levels of suffering and of numbers, and an awareness among scientists of the issues. (6) In certain areas like the LD 50 test, (7) anti-vivisectionists and toxicologists have found themselves agreed in their assessment of its ineffectiveness and united in opposition to the bureaucratic regulations that prescribe it. As a measure of this new co-operation, a toxicologist traditionally one of the hate figures of anti-vivisection -was invited to address the 1978 annual conference of the Vegetarian Society. Despite these favourable changes, however, relations with the scientific community are still mixed and marked by unease on both sides. The rise in particular of activism has alarmed the scientists and stirred their Research Defence Society into greater activity. (8)

Animal Activism began in its extreme form in 1974 with the attempts of the Band of Mercy, later the Animal Liberation Front, to set fire to laboratories. In 1975 two members were sent to prison. The Front is still active, most recently being involved in attacks upon the homes of certain prominent scientists. The criminal activities of the Animal Liberation Front have had a mixed effect, in part discrediting the movement and raising internal antagonisms, though perhaps in greater part encouraging the new mood of non-criminal militancy. Groups like Animal Activists have developed vigilante networks using local demonstrations and denunciations to embarrass organisations using vivisection. The more vigorous use of publicity, for example in the Smoking Beagles Campaign of 1975, has brought antivivisection arguments to a wider public. The Hunt Saboteurs have since the sixties pursued active disruption of hunts. The Vegetarian Society has joined this now mood of positive action - or at least sections of it have - for example organising an annual march of protest to Smithfield Show. (9)

Within the animal-welfare movement, the activists have formed an increasingly powerful lobby, in 1979 they won control of the wealthy British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, intending to direct its considerable income towards aggressive publicity; (10) and in 1980 and 1981 similar attempts were made on the RSPCA, though so far their efforts have been repulsed by the traditionalist element. The RSPCA has a long history of moderation in its aims and, certainly in the nineteenth century though also later, of class bias in the focus of its concerns. Conflict started in the 1960s with the blood sports issue and then moved on to factory farming. There is now a bitter split between the new generation of radicals and the traditionalist, county-based supporters, known as the cat-and-dog-brigade – this latter group favours welfare activities among animals, especially pets, but is less willing to take up a radical stance against animal experiments of factory farming, whereas the militants argue that these are now the significant sources of cruelty and should be attacked by all legal means.

A striking feature of the activists is that most are vegetarian and many are vegan. (11) They are usually younger, less establishment-minded and regarded by sane of the traditionalists as 'long-haired' and 'left-wing'. Though their social base is in fact wider than that, they do draw significantly from the counter cultural generation, and there are parallels between their activities in the animal-welfare charities and the entryism of traditional party politics in the late seventies. There are also cross-links with alternative medicine: many share the view that has been put forward since the late nineteenth century that if people were more responsible about their health and lived healthier lives there would be little need for the palliative drugs and medical techniques that necessitate animal experimentation. (12) There are also cross-connections between animal rights and forms of Indian and other spirituality.

With the revival of activism came increased pressure for legislative change, principally focussed around the revision of the 1876 Act. (13) Pressure had been gathering in the House of Lords around Lords Houghton and Platt, assisted by Richard Ryder and Clive Hollands, and 1976, the anniversary of the Act, was declared 'Animal Welfare Year'; The prospect of a general election produced the 1978 Campaign to Put Animals into Politics which succeeded in having animals mentioned in all three major manifestos. (14) Activity in the Lords continued to focus around the prospect of the Halsbury Bill. (15) The principal difficulty remains the reluctance of the government to sponsor any change; though there is evidence of some Home Office response to anti-vivisection pressure, in that two animal welfare officers now sit on the Advisory Committee.

Perhaps the most important parliamentary development however, was the July 1991 report of the Select Committee on Agriculture which condemned various factory farming methods and stated that humanitarian issues must play a greater role in British farming.

Part of this new spirit in the animal-welfare movement has involved the adoption of the concept of animal rights. (16) Debate concerning the moral status of animals had been stagnant for many years. Now in the late sixties end early seventies, a group of moral philosophers, some centred on Oxford, and including S. & R. Godlovitch, J. Harris, Peter Singer and Stephen Clarke, took up the question again. Their works have popularised the term in the movement, as well as raising the issue successfully within the more academic circles of moral philosophy, itself indicative of wider changes. (17)

The basis of the new approach is that animals have rights on direct parallel with the rights of men; they are not therefore to be regarded as instrumental beings, but fully ends for themselves. The possession of rights here does not imply that they are identical to humans, but that they have legitimate interests that must be considered. In the early seventies Richard Ryder coined the word speciesism, on a direct parallel with racism and sexism, to describe the dominant attitude to animals: speciesism being a denial of rights and interests on the arbitrary prejudice of species. (18) Animal rights, it is asserted, is a radical concept because it demands respect and justice for animals, and does not just ask for benevolence; the old animal-welfare view looked more to man’s duty towards the beasts and rested on emotions of kindness. As much as anything, however, animal rights is an expression of a more positive and active approach, that wishes especially to set aside the old charges of sentimentality and softness. Many exponents of animal rights say that they have no special fondness for animals; their concern is with hard moral issues - the rights of animals not the love of animals. (19)

  1. 148. For an account of its major findings, see Peter Singer Animal Liberation, p138-46. The report condemned practices like the debeaking of hens and the anaemic diet of calves; it also attempted to set down minimal standards of space and treatment. Watered down versions of these principles have been incorporated by the government in guidelines, though these are only recommendations and not legally enforceable.
  2. 149, Beauty Without Cruelty was founded by Lady Dowding, herself a vegetarian, to produce cosmetics that required no animal testing and that included no animal products. See account by Lady Dowding, The Vegan Summer 1962, 7.
  3. 150, For these figures see Richard Ryder, Victims of Science, 1975, especially p31-4, Ryder was Chairman of the RSPCA and is a psychologist. He ass converted to vegetarianism by the Animal Rights argument.
  4. 151. FRAME: Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments, founded in 1969 by Mrs Dorothy Hegarty and Dr Charles Foister publishes ATLA Abstracts (Alternatives to Laboratory Animals) summarising developments in alternatives for scientists. The Lord Dowding Fund was launched in 1973 by NAVS; it aims to encourage replacement techniques, though is hampered by strictness in refusing grants to those holding vivisection licences. The Lawson Tait Trust was founded in 1961 and the Humane Research Trust in 1974. See the literature of these groups and Judith Hampson, 'Animal Experimentation 1976-1976, Historical and Contemporary Perspectives' , PhD thesis, Leicester, 1978, D.H.Srnyth Alternatives to Animal Experiments, 1978
  5. 152. For the literature, see Hampson, p381.
  6. 153. Judith Hampson's thesis represents an example of this view. A biologist, she concludes that the traditional anti-vivisection criticism of scientific methodology and results is not well founded. Now a vegetarian, converted by the animal rights argument, she works for the RSPCA. I am indebted to her for information about the animal-rights movement.
  7. 154. Lethal Dose 50%: the test determines the dose needed to kill 50% of the recipients within 14 days. It has become a focus of anti-vivisection criticism since its relevance is widely questioned – it can, for example, tell very little about the effects of long-term low doses- and it causes considerable it suffering, since half the animals must be reduced to death even where the substance may be of low toxicity; many die slowly as much from the massive physical close as from any chemical effect. See Ryder, p44-8, 56-7; also Hampson.
  8. 155. The position of the Research Defence Society appears to be mixed. Its principal concern is the protection of the rights of scientists to use animals in research. Though at times it has been criticised for reacting negatively to anti-vivisection and wider public concern, it has expressed cone concern over animal suffering. It sponsored Professor D.H. Smyth to study the potential use of alternatives; ho concluded that researchers were sufficiently aware of the existence of alternatives, which, while useful, were limited in the scope of their application. See his Alternatives to Animal Experiments, 1978.
  9. 156. The conduct of the second, 1979, march was a source of dissention - the older and more traditional members objecting to noisy whistles and jeers aimed at beefburger restaurants and women in fur coats. See Alive, March/April 1980, p4-5. The conservative nature of the VS means that activism has been less strong and later in appearing than in the more radical Vegan Society, which is more highly regarded by activists.
  10. 157. A core of activists gathered around Animal Aid and co-ordinating Animal Welfare to provide much of the radical membership here.
  11. 158. Among the activist groups: Animal Activists, founded 1973, restricts full membership to vegetarians. Animal Aid (concerned with animal experimentation, active, but non-violent, believes in alternative treatments for disease and the prevention of illness through proper living), most members are vegetarian or vegan. Animal Liberation Front (militant, violent against property, lawbreaking) all are vegetarian, and most are vegan. Hunt Saboteurs: most are vegetarian.
    Among the more established anti-vivisection societies many now have vegetarian directors and staff. FRAME5 chairman, Mrs Hegarty, is vegetarian; Clive Hollands of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Vivisection is vegetarian; in the Humane Research and Lawson Tait Trusts, some of the board members are vegetarian; all the staff of International Association Against Painful Experiments on Animals are vegetarian; Compassion in World Farming is not explicitly vegetarian, though many of its members, inc1uding its founder, Peter Roberts are. A number of the staff at the RSPCA are now vegetarian, itself indicative of the changes of the seventies. See journals and information from the various groups. I am indebted to Judith Hampson for comments on the vegetarian association.
  12. 159. See for example Singer, Animal Liberation, 1976. Dr Kit Pedler, for example, spanned the worlds of animal rights and alternative medicine, and was also a vegetarian.
  13. 160. See Hampson, chapter IV, for the main criticisms of the Act. Not all the animal-rights movement is willing to work towards legislation. While nearly all hold to the moral absolute that experimentation is wrong, there is a significant difference between those who look for gradualist reforms and those who keep to the absolute purity of their principle. Today the absolutist position is held by NAVS, the biggest and wealthiest of the anti-vivisection societies; BUAV is now more willing to work for what legislation can achieve.
  14. 161, For an account of Animal Welfare Year and the Campaign to Put Animals into Politics, see Clive Hollands, Compassion is the Bugler, Edinburgh, 1980
  15. 162 Led by CRAE: Committee for the Reform of Annual Experimentation, founded in 1977 to reform the 1876 act, its members are drawn partly from the Houghton-Platt committee.
  16. 163. Brigit Brophy started the vogue for the term in her 1965 article in the Sunday Times, where she drew on a direct parallel with Paine's Rights of Man for her, as for Salt, animal rights are part of a larger political and libertarian commitment; not all share this view. For interview with Brophy on question of vegetarianism see Rynn Berry, The Vegetarians, 1979.
  17. 164. See S. & R. Godlovitch and J. Harris, eds. Animals Men and Morals, 1971; R. Ryder,  Victims of Science, 1975; P. Singer, Animal Liberation, 1976; T. Regan and P. Singer, Animals Rights and Human Obligations, 1976; Andrew Linzey, Animal Rights, 1976; Stephen Clark The Moral Status of Animals, 1977; D. Patterson and R. Ryder, eds. Animals Rights: A Symposium, 1979. The October 1978 issue of Philosophy was dedicated to the issue. Singer, Regan, Harris and Clarke have all held or hold academic posts in philosophy; though they reach similar conclusions, their philosophical bases are different. R.G. Frey Interest and Rights: The Case Against Animals, 1980, puts forward an opposing philosophical view on animals and vegetarianism.
  18. 165. The parallel with racism has a long history. From the nineteenth century, vegetarians have argued that the treatment of animals is on a parallel with the old treatment of slaves and that it, in time, will be regarded with equal abhorrence. There is an overlap between the early animal welfare campaigners and the leaders of the anti-slavery campaign.
  19. 166. Many radicals reject the keeping of pets as a distortion and a sentimentality; though the denial of fondness for animals is a little rhetorical.

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