The Strange Case of Henry Bergh’s “Declaration of the Rights of Animals”

In: Society & Animals
Darcy Ingram School of University Arts and Sciences, Selkirk College Castlegar Canada

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A growing number of texts that address the history of the animal protection movement in the United States point to the importance of a document written in 1866 by ASPCA founder Henry Bergh and signed by dozens of influential supporters entitled the “Declaration of the Rights of Animals.” This article pursues the discussions and the bibliographical matter found in these texts along with other likely sources in which the “Declaration” or discussion of it might appear, and comes to the conclusion that no such document exists. In lieu of the “Declaration,” the article locates its origins in a very different document, traces the trajectory that led to that document being viewed in the terms currently ascribed to it, and emphasizes the impact that the presence or absence of such a groundbreaking document as the “Declaration” has on our understanding of the history and evolution of the animal protection movement.

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