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A donkey changed the fate of all animals

People gasped as the victim, a donkey, was brought to court. Some laughed, and the court clerks whispered excitedly. Defendant Bill Burns scoffed at the donkey, but the victim’s injuries were beyond doubt. As shown in the paintings of the time, the belly of the donkey is bloody, and strips of ribs can be seen; the mane of the donkey’s head is covered with blood; the back is covered with long wounds. Jurors were stunned to see such a scarred donkey, but prosecution attorney Richard Martin was unperturbed, with the reins in his hand, knowing that Burns’ cruelty had been proven and the history of animal rights ever since. will change forever.

Animal life in the British Isles is never very good. Although the British have long recognised the importance of animal husbandry, reasons such as the hard work of farming have contributed to a culture of cruelty to livestock. By the late 16th century, all kinds of animal cruelty were everywhere in London. Animal slaughtering and beating is commonplace, and there are many “spots” around the city where curious visitors can see everything from rooster tossing (competitors throw a special weighted stick called a “rooster stick” at a rooster tied to a post. If There is no “cock stick”, other sticks can be used. Spectators can place bets. If a contestant knocks a cock stunned, he can take it home as long as he can catch it before he wakes up), fight All cruel entertainment from dogs to monkey fights. People from all walks of life and all walks of life enjoy it. It is said that Queen Elizabeth I was very fond of dog fighting, and she kept several mastiffs for this purpose. Her successor, James I, built or expanded bear dens around London (the bears were tied to iron stakes to restrict their movement, and a pack of dogs was released to catch and bite the bears until they collapsed). Many people realised that these entertainments were cruel to animals, and the 17th-century British writer and statesman Samuel Pepys described a trip to a “bear park” on the banks of the Thames (a show of tricky bears or bear fights) as “Rude and obnoxious fun”.

Of course, not everyone abuses animals. As early as in ancient times, people have spoken for animals. While Aristotle believed that animals were devoid of mind, reason and belief, thus treating them as inferior life forms, the equally influential Pythagoras believed that souls “migrate” to animals after death body, thus asking people to sympathize with animals. The Greek botanist Theophrastus believed that people had better become a vegetarian and not deprive other creatures of their lives.

The biblical accounts of animals have proven to be the most influential. In the creation story, Adam and Eve are given power over all the beasts on earth, however, as the creation story shows, the animals are still God’s creations. For many in the British Isles, this is extremely important. For those evangelicals or puritans, it shows that while man can kill and eat any animal he pleases, he must still act as nature’s steward and be kind to animals. That is, cruelty to animals means moral depravity.

In the mid-16th century, English debater Robert Crowley wrote a poem lamenting the folly of keeping “a mastiff and an ugly bear” just to watch them fight. Although Kings James I and Charles I enjoyed watching bear fights, this “entertainment” was banned on Sundays on the grounds that it was not in keeping with the sanctity of the Sabbath. In 1635, the Irish Parliament outlawed “cruelty” to animals because it was a vice. The Defender of the Republic of England, Oliver Cromwell, took a similarly firm stance, banning cockfighting and bear fighting.

By the early 18th century, some philosophers in Europe believed that protecting animals from harm was for the animals themselves, not for any a priori reason. Mechanical cosmologists such as Descartes believed that “irrational” animals were soulless machines, but the British philosopher John Locke believed that since animals must feel pain, they should not be harmed for this reason alone .

For most animal rights advocates, philosophical theories mean little. By 1754, when the aforementioned Richard Martin was born, cruelty to animals was considered a vice. This is vividly illustrated by painter William Hogarth’s famous series of prints, The Four Stages of Cruelty. In this series of paintings, Hogarth sees cruelty to animals as the first step towards a more serious crime. In the first, Tom Nero, then a child, brutally abused a dog; in the second, Nero is a burly young coachman who beats his old horse to pieces Can’t keep his eyes open; in the third painting, Nero goes from hurting animals to murdering a pregnant lover; in the fourth painting, Nero is hanged for his crimes and the body is placed on the dissection table , the surgeon performs the dissection.

By the 18th century, the British Isles entered the era of the Industrial Revolution. The textile industry has been mechanized, large tracts of land have been enclosed for sheep raising, and rents on rural land have risen; railways are being extended, as are canals; and more and more labor is concentrated in cities, where living conditions are often extremely poor. In this social context, a new wealthy bourgeoisie began to emerge, whose tastes and ideas were different from those of the landed aristocracy.

All of these have had a significant impact on the status of animals in human society. Although there have always been some differences in the recreational activities of different social classes, the differences became more pronounced in the 18th century. Hunting gradually became an activity for the squire and aristocracy, while traditional “bloody entertainment” such as cockfighting and bullfighting became the choice of the urban working class. At the same time, pets are growing rapidly in the city, with pugs especially popular among the middle class, and London’s many artisans and shopkeepers have many unusual pets in their homes. According to a survey from 1730 to 1750, Mr Bradbury, the pharmacist, had a meerkat, while Mrs Cannon, the midwife, had a ring-tailed lemur and marmoset.

Changes in society have profoundly affected people’s attitudes towards animals. The upper and middle classes moved away from bear dens to grouse hunting grounds, or back to pets in the living room, so a more sympathetic view of animals dominated. During this period, a large number of writings defended animal rights and called for more “humane” treatment of animals. Notable among these is Humphrey Primmat’s “The Duty of Charity and the Crime of Cruelty to Animals” (1776), whose arguments largely encapsulated the main ideas of the animal protection movement in later centuries, until It’s still being repeated today. In addition, Thomas Young’s Essays on Animality (1798) was also influential.

The call to protect animals then turned into a movement for animal rights legislation. At the same time the nature of protecting animals has changed. Although animal cruelty exists at all levels of society, the fact that different social groups prefer different pastimes also casts animal protection, a largely moral movement, under the guise of class struggle. Advocates of animal protection—with rare exceptions, tended to come from wealthy Christian middle-class families—often disregard their own class preferences, viewing animal cruelty as a case of poor morals, akin to alcoholism and prostitution. As a result, action to eliminate animal cruelty becomes part of a wider movement to improve the morals of the poor.

There has been significant resistance in the UK Parliament to pass legislation banning cruelty to animals. There are still many politicians and landlords who think animals are just property, and preventing a man from beating his own horse to death is Jacobinism at its worst. Thus, on April 18, 1800, when Scottish MP William Johnstone Pultney proposed a ban on “dogs and bulls”, there was a fierce backlash. The bill, which was rejected by just two votes, was also called by future foreign secretary George Canning the “most absurd bill” ever put to the House of Commons. Canning even suggested that since the “dog and bull show” brought “amusement and excitement” to the audience, banning the activity would actually reduce the vitality of the nation.

In 1809, former Lord Chancellor Lord Erskine made a second legislative attempt, this time in the House of Lords. Erskine is an animal lover whose most cherished companions are a parrot, a dog and a pair of beautiful leeches. He was realistic and didn’t want to provoke a backlash, so he focused on prohibiting cruelty to animals with clear agricultural uses, not all animals. To reassure lawmakers, his bill also includes a provision that only people who harm an animal will be prosecuted — meaning the animal’s owner and the perpetrator’s possible employer are safe. Erskine’s bill passed the House of Lords, but received a cold shoulder in the House of Commons. Aware that this would pave the way for wider animal rights legislation, Mr. Wyndham in the House of Commons used Erskine’s own logic to oppose the bill. He said the bill would have severely punished peasants who whip their donkeys on the road, while leaving nobility for beating their horses on their estates, so the bill was effectively a “law of harassment and oppression of certain lower classes” . Most lawmakers agreed with Wyndham.

Then it was Richard Martin’s turn to take over. Martin was born into a Catholic family, but he grew up in a Protestant family, became a Protestant, went into politics and led a colorful life. He was popular in the upper classes, an enthusiastic theatre-goer and talented speaker, but he was also a staunch defender of the rights of the poor, Catholics and animals. Because of his sympathy, his friend King George IV even called him “the merciful Dick”. In 1821, Richard Martin tried unsuccessfully to pass a bill outlawing cruelty to livestock. He didn’t hold back and tried again the following year. This time, he proposed a ban on anyone from “wilfully beating and abusing” farm animals such as horses, cows, sheep and donkeys. He pointed out that because animals feel pain, they have a right not to be harmed. He received the usual ridicule. In the House of Commons he made MPs laugh when he told the story of a monkey fighting a dog, as The Times reported. But, such was his charisma and wit, and his bill was passed in the House of Commons.

Martin knew that the real challenge was law enforcement. His bill makes it illegal to harm certain animals, and also makes it possible for a private person to take a magistrate’s charge of animal cruelty. So he immediately filed a lawsuit against a London peddler named Bill Burns, who caught Burns beating his donkey. Martin decided to take the donkey to court, and the injuries were so severe that the magistrate had no choice but to find Burns guilty.

This is the first time someone has been convicted of violating animal rights. Since then animals are no longer just someone’s property, at least some animals are protected by law, and more and more people are protecting them. Less than two years later, Martin and a group of like-minded friends formed the British Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, dedicated to banning “the practice of cruelty to animals”. Today, the British Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is one of the oldest and largest animal welfare organisations in the world.

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