Rosalie Little Thunder

Rosalie Little Thunder

“When we talk about buffalo people, we’re not talking about buffalo and Lakota separately. It’s all one.”

“We live in a time when how to be a good human being in the natural world is diminished,” wrote Rosalie Little Thunder late one night in May, 2002, as she sat at her computer sending e-mails to dozens of Native and non-Native grassroots organizations. She was writing about the recent killing of 72 Yellowstone National Park buffalo in one day by the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL); so deeply embedded are these animals in Lakota spirituality that the news had kept her from sleeping.

A tenacious activist, member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation, award-winning bead artist, and Lakota language teacher, Little Thunder worked to protect wild buffalo from the mid-1990s until her death in 2014. She wanted these last wild buffalo not to disappear and for Native peoples to have more agency in their fate. In 1999 she led a group of Lakota Sioux on a 507-mile walk across Montana carrying a sacred pipe wrapped in a bundle in her arms. The difficult journey was offered as a sacrifice to honor the spirit of the many Yellowstone wild buffalo slain over the past few years by the Montana DOL. It was an act, she said, of spiritual activism: “When we co-existed with the buffalo for centuries, we could see its role in the ecosystem, in the natural world, and we adopted its ways, so when we talk about buffalo people, we’re not talking about buffalo and Lakota separately. It’s all one.”

I had the honor of working with Little Thunder in 2001 as we fought together – her as an Indigenous activist and me as an animal rights reporter – to try to close down one of the world’s largest hog factories being built on sacred Lakota lands in South Dakota. With Rosalie as my guide, I visited Rosebud Sioux Reservation just as Bell Farms was trying to get an enormous hog confinement facility built as fast as possible, pushing the deal through without a complete Environmental Impact Statement. As we worked together, Rosalie often talked to me about buffalo, and the more she spoke the more I began to grasp the huge cultural divide between the domesticated pig trapped in industrial agriculture and the wild buffalo, struggling to stay free.

Buffalo once roamed the Great Plains 50 to 60 million strong. During the late 19th century, in a few decades, they were nearly exterminated by the U.S. army and commercial hunters. Now, they number less than 5,000. These few thousand that have found refuge in Yellowstone National Park are the last remaining herd of genetically-pure, free-roaming buffalo in the United States – yet they curiously fall under the jurisdiction of livestock management, a classification that has significant ramifications. They can still legally be slaughtered. Why? For committing the crime of grazing beyond the Park’s boundaries into the state of Montana. When employees of the Montana DOL capture and kill the buffalo, they claim they are merely doing their job – protecting the cattle that graze on public lands from the threat of contracting a disease known as brucellosis (though no documented cases of transmission between buffalo and cattle have ever been reported).

“When we see how the buffalo functions in its ecosystem, we hold it to be sacred.”

To understand how protecting these animals came to be so important in Little Thunder’s life, we need to look back to the brutal winter of 1996-97. Snowdrifts in Yellowstone that year were 10 to 15 feet high. As buffalo meandered down from the mountains in search of grass, they crossed state lines and the Montana DOL opened fire, killing 1,100 in a few days. Filmmaker and environmentalist Mike Mease was one of the few people who witnessed the bloody killings and the only person recording what he saw. Little Thunder saw the video, had copies distributed to dozens of different tribes, and met Mease at Yellowstone National Park to see the carnage for herself.

Outraged at the disrespect shown to an animal her culture holds sacred, she participated in a Day of Prayer for the Buffalo alongside many spiritual leaders near where the killings were taking place. The sharp sound of gunshots interrupted the ceremony; the Montana DOL had just killed 14 buffalo in a nearby field. Without hesitation, Little Thunder rushed to the side of the slain buffalo to pray for them. She was immediately arrested for criminal trespassing. Later that year, Mease and Little Thunder co-founded Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC), a grassroots organization that works to stop the slaughter that continues to this day.

Economic inequality often leads to the poorest communities being hit hardest by pollution and environmental impacts. Rosebud Reservation struggles with a housing shortage, high unemployment, drug addiction, and poverty – factors that can make daily obstacles feel overwhelming. Perhaps that was why Bell Farms picked Rosebud Reservation for an enormous pig farming operation. After a long and costly legal battle fought by Humane Farming Association on behalf of the Tribe and tribal activists – which went all the way up to the Supreme Court – the project was initiated but then stalled. Only two of the 13 hog production sites originally proposed were built, and 12 years later they both were shut down. This was considered a huge win for the tribe. Today, the remaining 48 hog confinement buildings that sit on these two sites are all dilapidated, their roofs falling down and large cesspools of pig waste remaining untended. In this community, that’s the price of winning. The price of losing would have been much worse.

What does it mean to be a good human being in the 21st century? Little Thunder would say it requires being in right relationship with other-than-human powers of the natural world, including animals. She would tell us that it means listening to our ancestors, and recognizing that the earth holds lessons for us, and not the other way around. “My children still feed my father’s spirit,” she told me once. Can we find a way to feed Rosalie’s spirit by our actions today? She dreamed of wild buffalo returning to her reservation in great numbers. “After I am gone, I want there to be buffalo on this Earth. Maybe the buffalo will help us be here a little bit longer. Maybe they will help us survive.”

“Sacredness has a purpose, a very obvious purpose – to have reverence and acknowledge the power of the natural world.”

 

Photos and video courtesy of the Buffalo Field Campaign. Story by Tracy Basile.

Freelance journalist Tracy Basile has reported on animal welfare, wildlife, indigenous rights, food and farming. Her work has been published in Orion, ASPCA Animal Watch, Animal Welfare Institute Quarterly, Indigenous Survival and Spirituality & Health. She teaches writing at Saint Thomas Aquinas College and lives in the Hudson Valley of New York.

Louise (“Lizzy”) Lind af Hageby

Louise (“Lizzy”) Lind af Hageby

“Is it nothing to you all ye that pass by?”

 

International_Anti-Vivisection_Congress,_1913

Lind af Hageby, centre front. The other women in this photograph are: Mrs. Clinton Pichney Farrell, Mrs. L.B. Henderson, Mrs. Florence Pell Waring, Mrs. Caroline E. White, and Mrs. R.G. Ingersol.

I n July 1909 police in London informed the organizers of an anti-vivisection protest that they could not use two of the banners that had been made for the event. In both cases the images on the banners showed a dog being subjected to experimentation. The organizers made sure to point out that these images had been taken directly from publications which promoted animal experimentation. In other words, the organizers of the protest felt that it was important to underscore the fact that these images were not fabricated representations but, rather, were adapted directly from vivisection material. There was “no exaggeration” in these images stressed Louise (“Lizzy”) Lind af Hageby, the organizer of the International Anti-Vivisection and Animal Protection Congress, a multi-day event which included this high-profile public demonstration through the streets of London on Saturday, July 10, 1909.[1]

The police were concerned that the images on these banners could potentially stir up trouble by provoking a “turbulent element” and potentially “lead to riotous proceedings.”[2] Of particular concern was a silk banner that included an image taken from a scientific journal showing a dog who had been subject to experimentation. This image was accompanied by the words “Is it nothing to you all ye that pass by?”

This image was reproduced on one of the prohibited banners for the July 1909 procession.

A lively debate about these banners took place in the “Letters to the Editor” columns of the London papers. Dr. Stephen Paget of the Research Defence Society, a pro-vivisection organization, described the use of these images in this way as a “striking exhibition of insult and hatred”[3] on the part of the activists, and argued that anti-vivisection societies must be losing their support amongst the general public if they were attempting to use shock tactics to draw attention to their cause. Lind af Hageby refuted this, noting that these images were not the “invention of anti-vivisectionists.”[4]

In the end, the police’s decision to prohibit these banners was upheld. However, as a protest to this ruling, one of the forbidden banners was draped with another piece of cloth to hide the offending image, and the resulting blank banner was carried defiantly at the end of the procession.

I find this to be such a fascinating example of the role of visual culture in the animal advocacy movement from this time period! Images can, of course, draw attention to important issues, but imagine the power that this blank banner had in this context. The absence of imagery here was likely as powerful as any pictorial banner in the procession – perhaps even more so. As one eye-witness pointed out, if an image is deemed to “be of such revolting character that it cannot be carried through the streets,” then isn’t this a powerful argument against the action being depicted?[5] As I often remind my students, when it comes to visual culture it is important to remember that what is excluded is often as significant as what is included. In this case, the blank banner was a bold statement against both vivisection and censorship, and certainly a clever use of visual culture by Lind af Hageby and her colleagues.


*I discuss this event as well as the use of visual culture in other animal advocacy campaigns from this time period in my new book, Art for Animals.

NOTES
[1] “The Anti-Vivisection Procession” The Times (July 8, 1909), 3.
[2] “Prohibited Banners” The Standard (July 3, 1909), 8.
[3] “Anti-Vivisection Processions” The Times (July 9, 1909), 4.
[4] “The Anti-Vivisection Procession” The Times (July 8, 1909), 3.
[5] “The Anti-Vivisection Agitation” Saturday Review of Politics, Art, Literature, Science and Art (July 17, 1909), 83.

Ruth Harrison

Ruth Harrison

“Most people… tend to be ignorant of the processes by which food reaches their table, or if not ignorant they find it more comfortable to forget.”

 

M any activists can point to a single moment that changed their lives—a photograph, a movie, a conversation, or a chance encounter that forced them to think differently about the world around them. For British activist Ruth Harrison (1920-2000), that moment took place in 1961 when she was handed a pamphlet outlining how animals were treated in Britain’s factory farming system. Like many people, Harrison hadn’t thought much about modern, industrial farming methods prior to receiving this campaign literature from an activist who had been leafletting with an organization known as “Crusade Against All Cruelty to Animals.”

Harrison was deeply shocked by what she saw in this leaflet and this compelled her to take action. As a recent biographer noted, “despite being a vegetarian, she reasoned that, although she did not eat them, she still had a responsibility towards animals.”[1] Harrison began to research the claims made in the pamphlet to find out the truth about factory farming for herself. What she discovered was worse than she could have imagined; reading about things like veal crates and battery cages filled her with horror and dismay. She described factory farming as “production line methods applied to the rearing of animals, of animals living out their lives in darkness and immobility without a sight of the sun, of a generation of men who see in the animal they rear only its conversion factor into human food.”[2] Harrison felt driven to share her findings with a broader audience, reasoning that if she had not known about the reality of industrial farming then many other people likely didn’t either.

Ruth Harrison, by Brittany Brooks (illustration commissioned for The Unbound Project)

 

In 1964 Harrison published Animal Machines: The New Factory Farming System. This book was meticulously researched and included details of things that Harrison had witnessed on her fact-finding missions to various farms across Britain. She was inspired by Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking work Silent Spring, a shocking account of the health and environmental effects of pesticide use. She was so inspired by Carson’s work, in fact, that she wrote to her and asked if she would write the foreword to Animal Machines. Even though the two women didn’t know one another, Carson agreed because she understood the importance of this project.

Animal Machines also included a number of photos illustrating the ways in which animals were raised, confined, and killed on factory farms. Many were taken by Ruth’s husband, Dex. Harrison realized that part of the reason that so many people blindly accepted the treatment of farmed animals was that the marketing of meat, dairy, and eggs drew heavily on idealized images of farms as peaceful places where animals are treated well. She wrote:

“Farm produce is still associated with mental pictures of animals browsing in fields and hedgerows, of cows waiting patiently in picturesque farmyards for the milking, of hens having a last forage before going to roost or sheep being rounded up by zealous dogs, and all the family atmosphere embracing the traditional farmyard. This association of ideas is cleverly kept alive by the giants of the advertising world who realize that the public still associates quality with healthy surroundings. A picture of the close-tethered veal calf standing uncomfortably on slats in its gloomy crate, the battery hen cramped in the cage, the closely packed, inert mass of pigs on the floor of the sweat-box piggery, or the sea of broilers in their dim shed, would not, they rightly surmise, help to sell their products.”[3]

The photographs in Animal Machines, then, played a powerful role in interrupting this advertising fantasy.

The publication of Animal Machines sparked a powerful reaction. It led the British government to order an investigation into factory farming practices. Because of her ground-breaking work in this area, Harrison was invited to be part of the team undertaking this work. The results of this investigation were made public in 1965, leading to major changes in animal welfare (e.g.: the concept of the “five freedoms” for farmed animals stemmed from this initiative). The following year, the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, another government initiative, was struck and, once again, Ruth Harrison was invited to be part of this committee. The discussions and findings of these committees led to a new farm animal welfare law, The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which came in to effect in Britain in 1968.

Ruth Harrison remained involved with animal advocacy work for the rest of her life, taking on consulting roles with such organizations as the Animal Defence Society, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Her groundbreaking work is often overshadowed in the history of animal welfare/rights—as Carol J. Adams points out in the guest essay she wrote for the Unbound Project, it is important that we recognize the efforts of Harrison and of all of the women who worked so hard for animals in the early days of organized animal advocacy.


Notes
[1] Heleen van de Weerd and Victoria Sandilands, ‘Bringing the Issue of Animal Welfare to the Public: A Biography of Ruth Harrison (1920–2000)’, Applied Animal Behaviour Science 113, no. 4 (2008): 405.
[2] Ruth Harrison, Animal Machines: The New Factory Farming Industry (New York: Ballantine Books, 1964), 15.
[3] Ibid., 16.

Elizabeth Stuart Phelps

Elizabeth Stuart Phelps

“For cruelty always disgraces wisdom, power, and progress, and always will.”

 

The image of Phelp’s dog that she used as the frontispiece of her 1899 novel Loveliness

O ver a century before videos and social media sites shared stories of rescued laboratory dogs feeling grass and human love for the first time, one author used the power of narrative to evoke empathy for laboratory dogs and spread the message of the anti-vivisection movement. Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’s harrowing anti-vivisection fiction tells stories of beloved animals who are stolen from their human companions and imprisoned in laboratory cages. The celebrated American author was ahead of her time in depicting animal characters with distinct identities and the capacity to love, mourn, and communicate with their human companions.

Decades before she turned her pen to the cause of the anti-vivisection movement, Phelps’s career was launched in 1868 with her best-selling novel, The Gates Ajar, in which she offered post-Civil War American readers a comforting vision of a heaven where they would reunite with beloved family members. As a socially conscious author, she challenged traditional gender roles in her writing. Most memorably, the title character of her 1882 novel Doctor Zay is an independent female physician in a male-dominated profession. Nearly a century before feminists of the civil rights era began burning bras, she fought for women’s clothing reform, urging women in an 1874 essay to “burn up the corsets!” In the final decade of her prolific career, she extended her social justice fight to non-human animals, throwing herself into the anti-vivisection campaign. Alarmed to witness how the practice of experimenting on living animals had rapidly become normalized in American society during her lifetime, she considered it the biggest moral crisis of the day.

Elizabeth Stuart Phelps with her pets

Like her contemporary Mark Twain, Phelps put her celebrity status as a well-loved author to the service of the anti-vivisection movement. Phelps’s commitment to the movement, though, far surpassed Twain’s, or any other American author of her day. Even while debilitating headaches and declining health increasingly confined to her home, from about 1899 until her death in 1911, Phelps worked tirelessly to convince the world of the immorality of vivisection and to promote compassion for animals. During this time, she wrote three impassioned speeches to the Massachusetts Legislature in support of anti-vivisection bills; several works of anti-vivisection fiction, including the novella Loveliness (1899), two novels, Trixy (1904) and Though Life us Do Part (1909), and at least two short stories; along with several pamphlets, essays, and articles that appeared in national periodicals. She corresponded with lawmakers and elected officials, including President Roosevelt, to solicit support for laws that would restrict the practice of experimentation on animals. Anti-vivisection organizations counted on her as a celebrity spokesperson for the cause.

No one who knows what goes on in our medical schools, our physiological laboratories, our schools of technology and some of our public schools can pass certain buildings in our large towns without a shudder. No prison, no hospital, no criminal court can cause the counterpart to that sick horror. 

Excerpt from Spirits in Prison, by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, 1900*

Phelps’s anti-vivisection reputation was so well established by 1908 that the New York Times quoted her in opposition to the favorite target of the American anti-vivisection movement at that time, John D. Rockefeller, under the headline “DIFFERS WITH ROCKEFELLER, Mrs. [Elizabeth Stuart Phelps] Ward Says There Is No Justification For Vivisection Torture.” Phelps roundly opposed Rockefeller’s defense of vivisection, attacking the popular position that gains in scientific knowledge justified the use of animals in experiments: “Ten thousand things learned, if this were possible, from vivisection, would not justify the intolerable and unpardonable torture to which animals have been subjected by this brutal practice.”**

In her anti-vivisection fiction, rather than anthropomorphizing dog characters by telling the stories from their perspectives, Phelps focuses instead on the nuances of the fictional dogs’ personalities and of their dynamics with humans. Title characters like the poodle Trixy, described as “something of an elf, and loved moodily, and at times, the lad (her human companion) thought, mockingly,” have such distinct identities and vibrant relationships with others that readers may, at times, mistake them for human characters. Phelps was convinced that making the dog characters authentic and relatable would evoke her readers’ empathy for the real dogs strapped to laboratory tables. She was so committed to portraying dogs authentically that she persuaded her publisher, Houghton Mifflin, to use a photograph of her own dog, rather than an illustration, as the frontispiece of her 1899 novella Loveliness, which tells the heartbreaking story of a beloved dog stolen from his invalid child companion and sold to a college laboratory.

There lay the tiny creature, so daintily reared, so passionately beloved; he who had been sheltered in the heart of luxury, like the little daughter of the house herself; he who used never to know a pang that love or luxury could prevent or cure; he who had been the soul of tenderness, and had known only the soul of tenderness. There, stretched, bound, gagged, gasping, doomed to a doom which the readers of this page would forbid this pen to describe, lay the silver Yorkshire, kissing his vivisector’s hand. 

Excerpt from Loveliness, by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, 1899.*** 

In her careful attention to dogs’ character traits and life stories as a key to making people empathize with them, Phelps was ahead of her time. Long before hashtags, online profiles, and digital photos would facilitate identity campaigns on behalf of animals, this remarkable author put her literary fame and prolific writing to the service of the movement to end the suffering of laboratory animals.

Title quote: Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, “Spirits in Prison,” Independent 52 (22 March, 1900): 695-697.

*Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, “Spirits in Prison,” Independent 52 (22 March, 1900): 695-697.

**New York Times, 29 Nov. 1908, 1.

*** Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Loveliness. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co, 1899.

_____________________________

Emily E. VanDette is Associate Professor of English at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where she sneaks her beagle, Charlie, into office hours, and teaches courses in American literature, women’s writing, and, coming soon, a new general education course about animal literature. She is deeply interested in the transformative power of literature and has spent most of her academic career dedicated to the recovery of socially conscious women authors of the 19th-century. Her current works-in-progress include a monograph, “Voices of the Voiceless: Literary Animal Advocacy, 1866-1918,” as well as a critical edition of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’s 1904 anti-vivisection novel, Trixy, which has been out of print for over a century.

Dorothy Brooke

Dorothy Brooke

An Equine Florence Nightingale

 

Dorothy Brooke with the staff of the Brooke Hospital for Animals, Cairo, in 1955, the year of her death. (Searight Collection)

 “How I wish I could bring them back with me into a lovely green field, with trees and a stream. I always hope they find one when they wake up after we have said goodbye to them. I pray they do.”

– Dorothy Brooke, writing of the horses in her Cairo hospital shortly before her death.

B orn in 1883 to an aristocratic Scottish family, Dorothy Gibson-Craig married Major General Geoffrey Brooke, an admired cavalry officer, recipient of the Distinguished Service Order in World War I, and her equal in love for animals.

In 1930, the Brookes transferred to Cairo, Egypt, where Major General Brooke commanded the British Cavalry Brigade. There, twelve years after the First World War’s end, Dorothy came face to face with her destiny.

At the Cairo SPCA, she encountered the first of thousands of elderly, abused former war horses, survivors of millions brought to the Middle East by British forces to fight in Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia. Equine veterans who helped win the desert campaigns, they were then sold into hard labor at the war’s end.

This former war horse, starved and lame, had been seized by Cairo police as a neglect case, and not for the first time. Dorothy was horrified to learn that the SPCA board could do nothing if a horse was judged still able to work, even if it could barely stand. She immediately offered money for the animal, and then began a wait. Until the owner took Dorothy’s money, the horse remained his. For two days, he did not appear.

Dorothy Brooke at the Brooke Hospital for Animals in Cairo, Egypt, with one of the old war horses she rescued, circa 1934. (Searight Collection)

Each day, Dorothy drove to the SPCA to spend hours with Old Bill (as she named him). She spoke to him, and his battered ears pricked up at hearing English words. But his eyes were dead. She offered him bran mash and every delicacy she could think of. She caressed him. None of it mattered. Only when the owner arrived and took the money, and Dorothy opened Bill’s stall, did she see him brighten, as if he knew his angel of rest had arrived at last.

She had Old Bill humanely euthanized on the spot. And she resolved that never again would this happen to another horse.

Thanks to Bill, Dorothy’s dream of helping other neglected equines would be realized.

Mounting a campaign in 1931, she made it her mission to find and purchase as many former war horses and army mules as she could locate, many so neglected they had to be euthanized after rescue. Others she nurtured and saved, founding in the process an animal hospital in a poor area of Cairo, offering free veterinary care for all working equines and education for their owners.

Following its inception in 1934, the Brooke Hospital for Animals survived the Great Depression, wars and revolutions, intrigue, and the enormity of the task set before it. And it spawned Brooke, Action for Working Horses and Donkeys, a worldwide charity aiding working equines and their owners. (Now in the United States as Brooke USA.)

“From this community of suffering,” wrote Dorothy, before she died in Cairo in 1955, “I have never tried to withdraw myself.  It seemed to me a matter of course that we should take up our share of the burden of pain that lies upon the world.”

Dorothy’s guiding spirit, through the ongoing work of the charity she founded, bears, shares and helps cool that pain still.


For more information about or to donate to Brooke, Action for Working Horses and Donkeys, visit thebrooke.org

Canadian-American author Grant Hayter-Menzies has specialized in celebrating the lives of extraordinary women, most recently Lillian Carter, mother of U.S. President Jimmy Carter.  He is also the biographer of Rags, terrier mascot of the American First Division in France during World War I. Dorothy Brooke and the Fight to Save Cairo’s Lost War Horses is Grant’s eighth book and will be published in fall 2017 by Potomac Books/University of Nebraska Press. Available for pre-order through Potomac Books or any bookstore.

Caroline Earle White

Caroline Earle White

“Her Convictions Were Positive:” The Legacy
of Caroline Earle White

 

Caroline Earle White was a prominent figure in 19th century American animal advocacy. I was struck, however, when I learned that while she was growing up in Philadelphia she often went out of her way to avoid encountering animal cruelty. White would deliberately pick her walking routes so that she “avoided certain streets near her home because, in passing over them, she nearly always witnessed scenes of animal abuse which depressed her for days afterward.”* White was particularly disturbed by the sight of working horses being mistreated, and was overwhelmed by the cruelty all around her. Like many American cities at this time, Philadelphia had few regulations governing the treatment of the many animals who populated its streets.

While White’s reluctance to come face-to-face with animal cruelty is certainly understandable, what I find especially remarkable about her story is that even though witnessing cruelty caused her great pain, she eventually decided that she instead of avoiding it and pretending it did not exist she needed to get involved to try to do something to stop it. From the mid 1860s onward she became one of the most outspoken advocates for animals in the United States. White had been raised by progressive parents who introduced her to many different social justice issues as she was growing up. This upbringing gave her a point of reference from which she was able to recognize the ways in which many different kinds of oppression were linked. She was not afraid to speak out against cruelty and injustice, even if it meant that her words were met with ridicule and hostility as they frequently were. She was determined and did not let this criticism slow her down—as one historian has noted, “the agitation subjected her to ridicule but she moved steadily on, regardless of opposition, when her course seemed clear to her.”**

Caroline Earle White

Caroline Earle White

White helped to found the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (founded in 1867), was the founder and first President of the Women’s Branch of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (founded in 1869), and the founder of the American Anti-Vivisection Society (founded in 1883). White believed in the power of humane education and worked with schools in Pennsylvania to establish essay writing contests for students in which the values of compassion and kindness to animals were explored. She founded the Journal of Zoophily in 1892 which served as a joint publication between the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the American Anti-Vivisection Society, and this “aggressive humane magazine” became an important publication in the late 19th century animal advocacy efforts in the United States.

“There are many people who when we ask them to join us say that they prefer to work for human beings. But are we not working for human beings? Are we not constantly striving to make men and women more humane and disposed to all kindly feelings and to teach children to become gentle and merciful? Is not everything which tends to elevate man in the mortal scale a benefit to him” – Caroline Earle White

Today the legacy of White’s work remains a core part of animal advocacy—under her direction, the Women’s Branch of the Pennsylvania SPCA started a shelter for lost and stray animals which remains active to the present day and, of course, both the PSPCA and the American Anti-Vivisection Society also continue to do the work that White and her colleagues started in the 19th century.

Caroline Earle White with a group of WPSPCA supporters at a dedication for a new water fountain for horses. The fountain was built in honour of Annie L. Lowry who was a supporter of the WPSPCA.

Caroline Earle White with a group of WPSPCA supporters at a dedication for a new water fountain for horses. The fountain was built in honour of Annie L. Lowry who was a supporter of the WPSPCA.

Today we remember Caroline Earle White for her important advocacy work, but what if she had chosen to avoid encountering animal cruelty all of her life? Her decision to confront the disturbing cruelty all around her was incredibly brave and important, and I, for one, draw inspiration from her. It is tough as heck to bear witness and to not look away from suffering. And yet, as we see in the example of Caroline Earle White, it is also possible to draw strength and determination from these moments, to use these encounters to fuel a commitment to changing the world. In fact, I’d say without these moments it is pretty hard to shake ourselves out of our complacency about the status quo.


* Sydney H. Coleman, Humane Society Leaders in America (Albany, NY: The American Humane Association, 1924): 179.

** Sydney H. Coleman, Humane Society Leaders in America (Albany, NY: The American Humane Association, 1924): 182.