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‘A blow to the men in Pink’: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Opposition to Hunting in the Twentieth Century

  • MICHAEL TICHELAR (a1)

Abstract

In 1976 the RSPCA finally adopted a policy of opposition to fox hunting and the shooting of birds for sport after a long history of highly controversial internal debate and external lobbying by pressure groups. This article explores the possible long-term historical reasons behind the change of policy. It seeks to begin to fill a gap in the historical literature and explain the changes in public opinion towards hunting that occurred during the course of the twentieth century by looking at key episodes in the history of the RSPCA up to the 1970s. It shows there was a decline in aristocratic dominance on the ruling council of the RSPCA after the 1920s, but other reasons for the change in policy included the increasing influence of an urban/metropolitan view of the countryside after the 1950s; changing public attitudes towards farmers, who had been traditional supporters of hunting; and the increasing importance of environmentalism and ecology after 1960. By the end of the twentieth century it was no longer possible to argue that hunting was an essential feature of rural society and culture, despite the continuing popularity and survival of fox hunting with hounds.

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1. Annual Report of the RSPCA (1925), pp. 218–21; The Times, 7th June 1926, p. 9

2. Weinbren, Dan, ‘Against All Cruelty: The Humanitarian League, 1891 – 1919’, History Workshop Journal, 38 (1994).

3. Garner, Robert, Animals, Politics and Morality (Manchester University Press, 1993), p. 66.

4. Clive Hollands, ‘Animal Rights in the Political Arena’ (1985); some of the papers of Lord Houghton are now available at the Labour Party Archives in Manchester

5. Henshaw, David, Animal Warfare (London, 1989).

6. Garner, Animals, p. 68; Annual Report of the RSPCA (1976).

7. The Times, 3rd February 1976, p. 1.

8. Inglehart, Ronald, The Silent Revolution: Changing Values and Political Styles Among Western Publics (Princeton, 1979).

9. Elias, Norbert and Dunning, Eric, Quest for Excitement (Oxford, 1995).

10. Garner, Animals, Politics and Morality, pp. 74–81.

11. Ritvo, Harriet, The Animal Estate: The English and other Creatures in the Victorian Age (Cambridge, Mass., 1987); Barghereer, Stefan, ‘The Fools of the Leisure Class: Honor, Ridicule, and the Emergence of Animal Protection Legislation in England, 1740–1840’, European Journal of Sociology, 47 (2006), 335; Harrison, Brian, Peacable Kingdom: Stability and Change in Modern Britain (Oxford, 1982), pp. 83122; Harrison, Brian, ‘Religion and Recreation in Nineteenth Century England’, Past and Present, 38 (1967), pp. 98125.

12. Howkins, Alun and Merricks, Linda, ‘Dewey-Eyed Veal Calves’: Live Animal Exports and Middle Class Opinion, 1980–1995’, Agricultural History Review, 48:1 (2004), pp. 85103.

13. Griffin, Emma, Blood Sports. Hunting in Britain since 1066 (London, 2007).

14. Ryder, Richard D., Animal Revolution: Changing Attitudes towards Speciesism (Blackwell, 1989), pp. 8692; Moss, Arthur, Valiant Crusade: The History of the RSPCA (London, 1961), pp. 2033; Ryder, Animal Revolution, p. 89; Wilson, Ben, Decency and Disorder. The Age of Cant 1789–1837 (London, 2007), p. 82–3.

15. Ibid., p. 407–09.

16. Ritvo, Animal Estate, p. 135.

17. Ryder, Animal Revolution, p. 100.

18. “Sabretache”, Monarchy and the Chase (London, 1948), pp. 126–49.

19. Courtney, Nicholas, Sporting Royals Past and Present (London, 1983); MacKenzie, J. M., The Empire of Nature: Hunting, Conservation and British Imperialism (Manchester, 1987).

20. Watson, Alfred T., King Edward VII as a Sportsman (Longman, 1911), p. 275.

21. Carr, R., English Fox Hunting: A History (London, 1976); Itzkowitz, D. C., Peculiar Privilege: A Social History of English Foxhunting, 1753–1885 (London, 1977); Ridley, J., Fox Hunting (London, 1990); Thompson, F. M. L., Gentrification and the Enterprise Culture Britain 1780–1980 (Oxford, 2003), p. 107.

22. Watson, King Edward VII, pp. i to xxii.

23. Day, J. Wentworth, King George V as a Sportsman. An Informal Study of the First Country Gentleman in Europe (London, 1935), p. 6.

24. See Callum Campbell McKenzie, ‘Masculinity, Morality and Hunting, c.1850–1950’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Strathclyde, 2004); Bourke, J., An Intimate History of Killing (London, 1999) pp. 139–40 for the links between hunting and warfare; MacKenzie, J. M., The Empire of Nature, Hunting, Conservation and British Imperialism (Manchester, 1987).

25. Preece, R., Awe for the Tiger, Love for the Lamb: A Chronology of Sensibility to Animals (London, 2002); Kean, H., Animal Rights, Political and Social Change in Britain since 1800 (London, 1998).

26. Humanitarian, February, 1903, p. 91.

27. Animal World, 1st June 1877, quoted in British Blood Sports, Humanitarian League (1901) p. 1.

28. Ibid. p. 2.

29. Reverend J. Stratton, Royal Sport. Some Facts Concerning the Queen's Buckhounds, Humanitarian League (1891), p. 12.

30. Ryder, Animal Revolution, p. 127.

31. Letter from Rider Haggard to The Times, 5th September, 1908 (Sparrow, Rats and Humanity); Henry Salt, ed., Killing for Sport, with a preface by Bernard Shaw (London, 1914).

32. Humanitarian, April 1902 and February 1906.

33. Reverend J. Stratton, Colonel W. Lisle B. Coulson, Doctor R. H. Jude, So-called Sport: A Plea for Protecting the Law for the Protection of Animals, Humanitarian League (1896).

34. Annual Report of the RSPCA (1900), p. 107.

35. Humanitarian, August 1906.

36. Annual Report of the RSPCA (1906), pp. 111, 136–40.

37. Stratton, Reverend J., The Attitude, Past and Present, of the RSPCA towards such spuriousSsports as Tame Deer Hunting, Pigeon Shooting, and Coursing Rabbits (Wokingham, Berkshire, 1906), p. 7.

38. Annual Report of the RSPCA (1907). p. 113.

39. Humanitarian, January 1906.

40. Annual Report of the RSPCA (1907, p. 112–13 and (1908), p. 121.

41. Humanitarian, April to June 1908 and April to June 1909.

42. Ibid. July 1909.

43. Ryder, Animal Revolution, p. 131.

44. Annual Report of the RSPCA (1911), p. 157.

45. Taylor, Antony, ‘“Pig Sticking Princes”: Royal Hunting, Moral Outrage, and the Republican Opposition to Animal Abuse in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Britain’, History, 89 (2004), pp. 46–7.

46. Connell, J., The Truth about the Game Laws (Humanitarian League, 1898); Connell, J., The Confessions of a Poacher (London, 1902).

47. ‘Sport and Agriculture’, in Killing for Sport, pp. 34–44.

48. Rowbotham, Sheila, Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love (London, 2008), p. 310.

49. W. C. Anderson, ‘The Cost of Sport’, Humanitarian, April 1917, p. 22.

50. Humanitarian, April 1918, p. 100.

51. See for example the ‘Report of the Departmental Committee to enquire and report with regard to lands in Scotland used as deer forests’ (1922), Cmd. 1636; Labour Party, Britain Must Produce More Food (1926), Labour Party Archive – Part 1: Pamphlets and Leaflets 26/3. The Party estimated that the acreage in Scotland devoted to deer forests in Scotland had increased from 1.9 million acres in 1883 to 3.4 million in 1920; Report of the Labour Party Annual Conference 1926, pp. 226–8 – debates on the game laws and deer forests.

52. McKibbin, Ross, Classes and Cultures England 1918–1951 (Oxford, 1998), p. 357; Itzkowitz, Peculiar Privilege, pp. 173–5.

53. Ridley, Fox Hunting, pp. 129–44.

54. Ryder, Animal Revolution, p. 130.

55. Griffin, Blood Sports. p. 172.

56. Beckett, Ian, Home Front 1914–1918 (Richmond, 2006), p. 133.

57. Gibson, C., ‘The British Army, French Farmers and the War on the Western Front’, Past and Present, 180 (2003); Imperial War Museum, papers of Lieutenant Colonel O. M. Lanyon (2/19/1).

58. Annual Report of the RSPCA (1916), pp. 65–6, 86–7; Humanitarian, January-February 1916, pp. 130–1.

59. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 12, p. 591; The Times 11th April 1936, p. 21.

60. Ridley, Fox Hunting, p. 153.

61. The Times, 14th August 1936, p. 14.

62. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 3, p. 636; The Times, 5th December 1930, p. 21.

63. The Times, 28th March 1921, p. 10; 7th April 1921; 27th December 1927, p. 17; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 34 (2004).

64. The Times, 1st July 1935, p. 22; Wilson, David, ‘Politics, Press and the Performing Animals Controversy in Early Twentieth Century Britain’, Anthrozoos, 21:4 (December 2008), pp. 317–37.

65. The Times, 12th November 1928, p. 21.

66. Kean, Animal Rights, p. 179; Humanitarian, April and September 1919.

67. Cruel Sports, The Official Journal of the League Against Cruel Sports, 2: 1 (January 1928).

68. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 2, p. 2; League Doings, October to December 1946.

69. Minutes of the League Against Cruel Sports, 28th September 1927.

70. Cruel Sports, December 1928 p. 164.

71. Cruel Sports, September and November 1932 and May 1933. See National Society for the Abolition of Cruel Sports, various leaflets (1930s & 1940s – British Museum WP 11369).

72. The Times, 10th May 1928, p. 13; 11th May, p. 12; 14th May, p. 10; 15th May, p. 12; 16th May, p. 12.

73. The Times, 29th June, 1928, p. 13; 22nd August, p. 9; 19th October, p. 13.

74. The Times, 16th November 1928, p. 16.

75. The Times, 7th March 1953, p. 8

76. Report of the Meeting of Protest against the Methods of Administration of the RSPCA held at Caxton Hall on 21st July 1933 (Hitchin).

77. Minutes of the Council of the RSPCA, 20th December 1928.

78. Ibid., 18th April, 1929; 27th June, 1929; 17th October, 1929; Annual Report of the RSPCA (1929), p. 221

79. Annual Report of the RSPCA (1930), pp. 241–2; The Times, 26th June 1931, p. 11; 6th July 1931, p9; 27th July, p. 7.

80. Cruel Sports, September 1932 gives a full back ground to the dispute.

81. The Times, 1st July 1931, p. 9.

82. Cruel Sports, September 1936, p. 68. League Against Cruel Sports (Public Affairs Information File 53) letters to editors 1937–9.

83. Ridley, Fox Hunting, p. 149

84. F. M. L. Thompson, ‘English Landed Society in the Twentieth Century, 1, Property: Collapse and Survival’, (Presidential Address), Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th series. 40 (1990), pp. 1–24; ‘2, New Poor and New Rich’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th series. 1 (1991), pp. 1–20; ‘3, Self Help and Outdoor Relief’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th series. 2 (1992), pp. 1–23; ‘4, Prestige without Power ?’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th series. 3 (1993), pp. 1–22. See also Cannadine, Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy.

85. Thompson, English Landed Society in the Nineteenth Century, pp. 328–35.

86. McKibbin, Classes and Cultures in England, pp. 1–43.

87. Ridley, Fox Hunting, pp. 145–69.

88. Griffin, Blood Sports, p. 183.

89. Addison, P., The People's War: Britain 1939–45 (London, 1969) pp. 431–5.

90. Cannadine, The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy, pp. 637–96.

91. Addison, P., Now the War is Over: A Social History of Britain 1945–51 (London, 1985) pp. 113–39.

92. The Times, 3rd October 1946, p. 8.

93. Addison, Now the War is Over, p. 125.

94. The Field, 4th October 1947, p. 1.

95. The Times, 29th September 1948.

96. British Field Sports Society, ‘A Countryman's and Sportman's Pledge’ (1948) – Papers of Arthur Greenwood (Bodleian) AGP – MS. Eng. 6297 Box 2 – cuttings and pamphlets.

97. The Times, 29th September 1948.

98. Anthony Greenwood Papers – MS. Eng. 6297 Box 2 – cuttings and pamphlets.- NSACS Bulletin, February 1949.

99. The Times, 4th February 1949; Country Life, 4th February 1949.

100. AGP – MS. Eng. 6296 Box 1- Letter from RSPCA to Greenwood 5th October 1948. (See New Statesman, 22nd January 1949).

101. Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), Fifth Series. Volume 461, 25th February 1949 col. 2233.

102. Report of the Committee on Cruelty to Wild Animals. Cmd. 8266 June 1951.

103. Ibid., p. 41.

104. Ibid. p. 107.

105. Annual Report of the RSPCA (1951), p. 215.

106. Ibid., p. 216.

107. The Times, 25th September 1968.

108. League Against Cruel Sports JB 26; Ryder, Animal Revolution, p. 189.

109. Lent, Adam, British Social Movements since 1945. Sex, Colour, Peace and Power (Basingstoke, 2001), pp. 102–3.

110. League Against Cruel Sports file JB 25.

111. Ibid. RSPCA file 1964–65.

112. Moore, Patrick, 80 Not Out: The Autobiography (London, 2003), p. 93.

113. Ryder, pp. 181–211; Garner, Animal Politics and Morality, pp. 59–81.

114. Annual Report of the RSPCA (1975), pp. 18–9.

115. Henshaw, Animal Warfare, passim.

116. Liberal Party Archives (British Library of Political and Economic Science) 16/4/55.

117. The Times, 8th March 1978.

118. The Times, 29th June 1978.

119. Labour Party, Living without Cruelty. Labour's Charter for Animal Protection (July 1978); The Times, 27th July 1978.

120. The Times, 28th March 1983.

121. Garner, Animals, Politics and Morality, pp. 162–93.

122. Sir Peter Scott, The Edge of the Wind (London, 1977).

123. G E Mingay, ed., The Rural Idyll (1989).

124. Burchardt, J., Paradise Lost: Rural Idyll and Social Change since 1800 (London, 2002), passim.

125. Howkins and Merricks, ‘Dewey-Eyed Veal Calves’. pp. 85–103.

126. Hoggart, Keith, ‘The Middle Classes in Rural England 1971–1991’, Journal of Rural Studies, 13: 3, 253–73.

127. Milbourne, Paul, ‘Hunting Ruralities: Nature, Society and Culture in ‘hunt countries’ of England and Wales, Journal of Rural Studies, 19: 2 (April 2003), pp. 157–71; cf. Jesse Heley, ‘The New Squirearchy and Emergent Cultures of the New Middle Classes in Rural Areas’, Journal of Rural Studies (2010).

128. Ridley, Fox Hunting, p. 179

129. The Times, 17th January 1962, p. 11

130. There has been a limited amount of research into gender and hunting, e.g., Lisa M Fine, ‘Rights of Men, Rites of Passage: Hunting and Masculinity at Reo Motors of Lansing, Michigan, 1945–1975’, Journal of Social History (Summer 2000), pp. 805–23.

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