‘Britain’s beastly behaviour’

Posted on December 16, 2012

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Today (16th December), a review was published in the “Culture” supplement of The Sunday Times newspaper (pp 39-40), titled ‘Britain’s beastly behaviour’ and tagged ‘Intolerable cruelty’. It is the headline review of this week’s books section and includes an illustration from the book. The book is called Animal encounters: human and animal interaction in Britain from the Norman conquest to World War One and it was written by Arthur MacGregor.

‘… We like to think that being kind to animals is one of the things that makes us British. But that is a recent development. Arthur MacGregor’s fascinating and erudite survey of our treatment of animals, both wild and domesticated, from the Norman conquest to the early 20th century, yields not a single instance – or not one that I have spotted – of anyone being kind to an animal simply for the animal’s sake. In the past our cruelties  were extreme enough to draw the attention of foreign visitors …

The rituals and vocabularies that were invented to make tormenting animals seem civilised are extensively documented … The changing fortunes of animal and bird species in response to human whim is one of MacGregor’s most intriguing subjects …

The subjects that MacGregor’s magnificent magnificent book covers are too numerous to list in full, ranging from bee-keeping to fish-farming, from falconry to pigeon-racing … it is a disappointment that he excludes any consideration of animals kept as pets … More seriously, the efforts of early pro-animal activists might have been mentioned … the impression conveyed by MacGregor’s research [is] that animals should at all costs avoid contact with humans …’

Read the review in full on The Times web-site; unfortunately you must be a subscriber to be able to access timesonline.

There are books about the history of the AR movement, eg Animal Rights: history and scope of a radical social movement by Harold D Guither; Animal Rights: a historical anthology by Andrew Linzey & Paul A B Clarke; Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and animal welfare by Prof. Marc Bekoff & Carron A Meaney. There are also many other books on AR, including ethics, philosophy and law, eg In defense of animals by Prof. Peter Singer; Animal Liberation by Prof. Peter Singer; Why animal suffering matters by Andrew Linzey; Introduction to Animal Rights by Prof. Gary Francione; The face on your plate by Jeffrey Masson; and many more.

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