A little soul in the form of a cat took up residence in our back yard about a month ago. After a several weeks of giving her some tasty morsels, we discovered that she had been declawed, her vocal chords cut and left outside to fend for herself. Definitely abandoned and not feral. Sadly, in this country where people are supposed to care for their animals, there are some folks who are not so great.
Yesterday, she suffered the indignity of a visit to the vet to make sure she was okay to bring into the house to live with our cat Sam. We’ve called her Annie to mark the 36th year of the Broadway musical Annie, which opened at the Alvin Theatre in 1977.
I’m being a trifle non sequitur at this point—maybe not. It’s probably the reason I’m about to write about the history of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and not the passing of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher…
One hundred and forty-seven years ago today, April 10, 1866, the ASPCA was founded in New York City by philanthropist and diplomat Henry Bergh.
President Abram Lincoln had appointed Bergh to a diplomatic post at the Russian court of Czar Alexander II in 1863. It was actually in Russia that he was horrified to witness workhorses being beaten by their peasant drivers.
On his journey back to America in June 1865 he visited the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in London and was determined to secure a charter to incorporate the ASPCA in the United States and to exercise the power to arrest and prosecute animal abusers.
Bergh pleaded the case on behalf of “these mute servants of mankind” at a meeting on February 8, 1866, arguing that protecting animals was an issue that crossed party lines and class boundaries. He said, “This is a matter purely of conscience; it has no perplexing side issues. It is a moral question in all its aspects.” Several dignitaries signed his “Declaration of the Rights of Animals.”
Henry Bergh’s impassioned tales of the horrors inflicted on animals convinced the New York State legislature to pass the charter to incorporate the ASPCA on April 10, 1866. It was nine days later that the first effective anti-cruelty law was passed in the United States, permitting the investigation of complaints of animal cruelty and to make arrests.
Bergh was a familiar face on the streets and courtrooms of New York and regularly inspected slaughter houses. He worked with the police to close down dog and rat fighting pits.
Unfortunately, slaughterhouse abuse, dog-fighting, cock-fighting and other cruel activities are still going on today. In November of last year a video was released showing the abuse of turkeys being prepared for slaughter in a North Carolina turkey farm.