Animal rights and the anti-meat movement

While Britain has quite a long and sordid history with over-consumption of animal flash products, one may take solace in England and Britain’s long history of countermanding the gaping maw of consumerism – and for a commendingly long time.

Origins of the animal rights movement

The revolutionary idea that other beings on planet Earth actually might be given consideration vis-à-vis the right to, likesay, exist, can be traced back to Victorian England and some quite notable names from early 19th-century society. Vegetarianism in the Western world in general was hardly a blip on the culinary radar; thus were the earliest pro-animal rights crusaders mainly about the cruel treatment of horses and dogs rife at the time.

In 1824, the Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA or, later, the RSPCA) drew up its initial charter and got to work in advancing their boundary-stretching notion. Among the first 22 members were parliamentarian Richard “Humanity Dick” Martin, who drafted and got the Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act 1822 passed; philanthropist and abolitionist William Wilberforce; and inventor Lewis Gompertz. Those in-the-know on the history of animal rights may see Gompertz as a martyr to the anti-meat cause: Gompertz was a vegan and, when meat-eating members of the lead committee feared he might push a dietary agenda, the extraordinary step of *banning the Jewish from membership* was taken.

By 1840, Victoria had ascended to the throne and become a patron of the SPCA, thereby allowing for a “Royal” to be tacked onto the society’s name. The society spread worldwide and in Britain is credited with getting the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 and the Plumage Act of 1919 enacted into law.

Modern animal rights

The Oxford Group of the early 1970s is usually credited with modernizing the animal rights movement for the 20th century and beyond. This combination of graduate students and professors coined the very term “animal rights” and created the intellectual and moral framework for animal rights activists across the political spectrum within the movement.

On behalf of the group, an opinion piece by novelist Brigid Brophy in the ‘Sunday Times’ newspaper in October 1965 fearlessly used an entirely shocking new language to state that “The relationship of Homo sapiens to the other animals is one of unremitting exploitation. We employ their work; we eat and wear them. We exploit them to serve our superstitions: whereas we used to sacrifice them to our gods and tear out their entrails in order to foresee the future, we now sacrifice them to science…”

It may be said that this essay did well more good for the cause than the SPCA managed pre-royal support – the SPCA has managed to run up enough debt within two years so as to have their secretary locked up in debtor’s prison – and the Oxford Group was born.

The anti-meat movement

March 1980 saw the foundation of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Though today thought a bit too mainstream by some, the truth is that there’s no arguing with PETA’s results – and they tend to piss off the right people. The change in attitude from earlier animal rights movements right through the 1960s is reflected in PETA’s mission statement which describes the organization as “dedicated to establishing *and defending* the rights of all animals. PETA operates under the simple principle that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment.

In the mid-1990s, PETA’s primary focus – and attention grabber! – was on advertising campaigns designed to shock the sleeping and outrage the over-consumer. Celebs such as Paul McCartney and Charlize Theron would occasionally lend their image or words to advertising, but far more interesting were their anti-pet shop campaign, the anti-milk campaign which took on New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, and the threatened protest of a Broadway show that got Jason “George Constanza” Alexander removed as pitchman for KFC. The 1990s and 2000s also featured a number of actions by PETA, including their famous blood-throwing at those wearing fur, banner waving at fashion shows and vegetable bikini-wearing models.

But it’s behind the scenes work in which PETA ultimately publicly takes more pride. Obscure actions like helping nine countries eliminate the practice of using animals to train medical students(!) in 2014. Through often forced into a mainstream position, PETA helps worldwide in pushing extreme animal rights causes – and also endorses ALF.

The Animal Liberation Front

Now here’s where things get nice and extreme. That stuff you occasionally hear out, with people risking incarceration (at very least) in order to free laboratory-held animals and/or destroy animal-exploiting operations of all sorts? It’s based on the radical organization The Animal Liberation Front (ALF), founded in, incredibly enough, 1976.

ALF takes the defense of animals and anti-meat eating movement seriously, with clandestine operation and communication across 40+ countries. British Animal Liberation press officer Robin Webb has brazenly declared that “ALF cannot be smashed, it cannot be effectively infiltrated, it cannot be stopped.”

ALF does not always claim credit for its actions and thus it is impossible to gauge the effect the group has in any country within which operatives are active; in the 2010s, the group rarely claims responsibility for its activities. Predictably, ALF is considered a terrorist organization by the UK and US governments; some 11 North American members of ALF were tried in 2006 for a run of 20 acts of arson in five U.S. states resulting in some $40 million in damages.

Here it should be pointed out that, in 40+ years of activity, not one human or animal has been killed in an ALF action.

And now, Leonardo di Caprio

It’s true: The ruler of Hollywoodland has official joined the anti-meat (or at least anti-beef) cause. In July 2016, Leo, together with Sir Richard Attenborough and Sir Richard Branson, appeared at the 50th anniversary of the NGO Rashtriya Swayamsevvak Sangh (RSS) in London. RSS is a Hindu organization that advocates for a ban on eating beef.

The occasion marked just another of DiCaprio’s recent moves in the animal rights/anti-meat arena, including his donation of $1 million in start-up capital to build the world’s largest marine-life sanctuary in Seychelles. DiCaprio is also the producer of the documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, which nicely ties together modern livestock production with the current environmental crisis.

Leo- Stand-up for more than just a movement...

Besides Hollywood being at the front of an agenda that pushes for anti-beef, it doesn’t really like to discuss this short film much:

Now if you can imagine this short film is actually a commercial for the Studio City casino in Macau. Yep- as it’s obvious ol’ Leo the non-meat eating lion of Hollywood is pulling for slot bucks as well. We won’t lie to you but some of those online slot games are more or less tongue in cheek when it comes to defending animal rights too. Play for free with several fun games at this great site here. Luckily for you there’s no commitment to make a donation or pay anything just to play. 

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