A Brief History

What is Animal Abuse?

Animal Activism

Universal Declaration of Animal Rights

Animals in Pop Culture

Animals in Sport

Other Uses of Animals

Animal Laws Around the World

Useful Links




Animals Rights is not a new topic.  Throughout history politicians, artists, philosophers and writers have been taking action to protect animals. 
There is evidence to suggest that Leonardo da Vinci was a vegetarian.  “In a 1516 letter written by his contemporary Andrea Corsali to Juliano de Medici "that Leonardo ate no meat, but lived entirely on vegetables.”1  Other anecdotes tell of da Vinici purchasing birds at a market in order to set them free.2

The Enlightenment philosopher John Locke noted in 1693 as part of his ”Some Thoughts Concerning Educations”:

”Children should from the beginning be bred up in an abhorrence of killing, or tormenting any living Creatur; and be taught not to spoil or destroy any thing, unless it be for the preservation or advantage of some other that is Nobler. And truly, if the preservation of all mankind, as much as in him lies, were every one's persuasion, as indeed it is every one's Duty, and the true Principle to regulate our Religion, Politicks and Morality by, the world would be much quieter, and better natur'd than it is.”3

By the early nineteen century, the topic of animal rights was reaching legislatures.  In 1822, the British House of Parliament spearheaded by Richard Martin the first modern legislation passed.  It was the Act to Prevent the Cruel and Improper Treatment of Cattle [22 July 1822]:

“Whereas it is expedient to prevent the cruel and improper Treatment of Horses, Mares, Geldings, Mules, Asses, Cows, Heifers, Steers, Oxen, Sheep, and other Cattle…if any person or persons shall wantonly and cruelly beat, abuse, or ill-treat any Horse, Mare, Gelding, Mule, Ass, Ox, Cow, Heifer, Steer, Sheep, or other Cattle…shall forfeit and pay any Sum not exceeding Five Pounds, not less than Ten Shillings… and if the person or persons so convicted shall refuse or not be able forthwith to pay the Sum forfeited, every such Offender shall…be committed to the House of Correction or some other Prison…for any Time not exceeding Three Months.”4

At the start of the twentieth century, the animal rights movement was encompassing more than the treatment of farm animals.  People were questioning the use of animals in research and in entertainment.  The anti-vivisection cause was strong in England and the cause was crossed the Atlantic into the United States as well.  In 1900, Mark Twain wrote a letter to the editor of “Animals Friends Magazine” 

“I believe I am not interested to know whether Vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn't. To know that the results are profitable to the race would not remove my hostility towards it.”5

In two later stories written for Harper’s Monthly Magazine, Twain goes into graphic details regarding animal treatment at the hand of humans.  In the 1903 “A Dog’s Tale” Twain describes in graphic detail medical testing being done on a dog and in 1906 takes up the cause of animal abuse for entertainment in his story called “A Horse’s Tale”. 6

In 1958, the United States Congress passed the Humane Slaughter Act.  Hubert Humphrey arguing in favor stated, "We are morally compelled, here in this hour, to try to imagine — to try to feel in our own nerves — the totality of the suffering of 100 million tortured animals. The issue before us today is pain, agony and cruelty — and what a moral man must do about it in view of his own conscience." 7

The animal rights movement continues today.  Although there have been treaties to protect whales, international outrage exists against countries that continue to commercially whales for their blubber.  Activists continue to crusade against the Canadian Annual Seal Slaughter of baby seals just for their furs.  China is in the process of adopting a law protecting dogs, Spain is working towards law securing stronger rights for primates, and people from all over the world are encouraging the United Nations to have a Universal Declaration of Animal Welfare   With the official support of the UN General Assembly, the UDAW would be an integral part of international efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, environmental sustainability and human health.8


1. http://books.google.com/books?id=EOQEAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA17

2. http://www.animalrightshistory.org/animal-rights-renaissance/da-leonardo-da-vinci.htm

3. http://www.animalrightshistory.org/animal-rights-enlightenment/loc-john-locke.htm

4. http://www.animalrightshistory.org/animal-rights-law/romantic/1822-uk-act-ill-treatment-cattle.htm

5. http://www.animalrightshistory.org/animal-rights-victorian/twa-mark-twain.htm

6. http://www.animalrightshistory.org/animal-rights-victorian/twa-mark-twain.htm

7. http://www.all-creatures.org/articles/ar-FilmLaw.html

8. http://www.udaw.org/about.htm