Erskine anti-animal-cruelty speech

On 5 May 1809, Lord Erskine gave speech to Parliament proposing failed anti-animal-cruelty Act. Image: Thomas Erskine, 1st Baron Erskine by Thomas Lawrence (1802), Lincoln's Inn, London. This image is in the public domain because under United States copyright law, originality of expression is necessary for copyright protection, and a mere photograph of an out-of-copyright two-dimensional work may not be protected under American copyright law.

On this date, a former Lord Chancellor known for progressive advocacy, Lord Thomas Erskine, gave a subsequently famous speech in Parliament arguing for England’s first prevention of cruelty to animals bill, one primarily designed to curb the beating and abuse of horses and cattle (entitled “An Act to prevent malicious and wanton Cruelty to Animals”). Erskine was far from demanding full rights or legal protection for horses, simply that we should be obligated to keep animals under our protection from unnecessary pain. Erskine’s bill was defeated at the committee stage due in part to the strong counter-arguments made by Whig M.P. William Windham, an opponent of Evangelical encroachments on traditional English sports and practices.


Ivan Kreilkamp, “The Ass Got a Verdict: Martin’s Act and the Founding of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 1822″

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5 May 1809

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