Colonialism and the Animal Welfare Movement

A fantastic exhibit on the intersection of the animal welfare movement and colonialism: a short book addressed “to the children of Calcutta” to convince young people to adopt the cause.


The book begins by introducing a “band of valiant gentlemen”—knights—who “roved about different countries seeking to do deeds of great bravery,” painting imperialist exploration as a Christian crusade of Arthurean proportions. First, the author celebrates their victory against the “cruel giants” of slavery, successfully freeing the “poor captives”(…. thank you?!)

He seamlessly changes the subject to another set of cruel giants and victims. But he does not divulge the fact that he is speaking of non-human animal victims until a few pages of emotional description, after stirring up heroic sentiment.    

Turning to shaming tactics (one of the greatest weapons of the animal welfare movement), the author describes how the “great army to fight against cruelty” in England, Scotland, and Ireland had inspired “nearly all the other countries in the world” do do the same…. 

“…. but there is one country—one whole quarter of the globe I said nothing about—that is, ASIA. This you all know is where we are. Now, as Asia is bigger than Europe, and Europe has more than one hundred and forty “Societies,” how many do you think Asia ought to have?—Asia has only one…. “


“Perhaps you ask why doesn’t the great “Royal Society” in London (which we call our Parent Society) send some of its officers out here. Oh! they could not afford that! They have enough fighting to do there, and every country must find its own army. They did all they could for us, as good parents always do. They showed us how to begin, and what to do, and gave us their Law, and told us all they had done, and now they expect us to do our best and fight for ourselves.” 


Cruelty to Animals is the Source of All Evil


Okay, I’m not 100% sure that cruelty to animals is the source of all evil, but I have to agree with Lewis Gompertz here (who was part of the group that founded the first known animal protection society in the world, the RSPCA, in 1824 London): 

“though the nature of conduct towards our own species, and other animals, may appear to proceed from distinct qualities of mind, it is in fact from the same.”

Since he was a vegan—at a time when, like, no one was a vegan—he must have also included cruelty-inflicted-by-others-but-in-the-name-of-your-dinner. 

[If you don’t love Gompertz yet, you should: he was an ingenious inventor!]

I read this yesterday, written by a self-proclaimed Christian “proving” that the Bible gives Man the license to be either a good or bad steward. Really? Dude, I think the “good” is implied.

I think the last word should be from Henry Salt (another great one):