Timeline for Animal Welfare Advocacy Events Across the World

Samuel Phillips

Have you ever wondered where Animal Welfare Advocacy began?  With records beginning centuries ago available online, we have gathered and condensed some of the key laws, events, and people who have made animal rights what they are today.


The Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act was passed in London.  This is better known as Martin’s Act, after its sponsor, Parliament Member Richard Martin.  With agriculture as the main focus, animal cruelty efforts were concentrated on farm animals.  This didn’t necessarily stop cruelty, but it did help by bringing attention to the issue for the first time.  In fact, there is a famous image, The Trial of Bill Burns, which depicts the first prosecution under Martin’s Act.  Bill Burns, the man being prosecuted, brought his donkey into the courtroom, making his case one of the most memorable in British history.


United Kingdom’s Battersea Dogs and Cats Home is established.  A shelter still in operation today, Battersea rescues cats and dogs that are suffering, and nurtures them until they can be adopted into a loving family.  Battersea has a notable and well-known generational reputation, and is well-known as a backbone organization of the animal advocacy movement.


Animal welfare issues make their way into the United States, with the founding of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, popularly known as ASPCA.  It began with an American diplomat, Henry Bergh, who noticed horses carrying overloaded carts, dognappers stealing dogs for ransom money, and animal fighting.  Bergh, in turn, created the ASPCA on the basis that all animals are entitled to respect and must be protected under the law.


Later amended to fit modern times, The Protection of Animals Act is passed in the United Kingdom to protect any animal that is held in captivity.  This includes animals used in farming, domestic pets, and zoo animals.  The act covers all acts defined as cruel treatment in order to prevent helpless working animals from any additional stress.  This law also introduces the idea that failure to maintain or care for an animal is considered neglect and treated as an offense.


One of the most widely known organizations in the world, the Humane Society of the United States was founded.  This animal advocacy will grow to enlist ten million members and host regional offices throughout the nation, then in Asia, Australia, Europe, Costa Rica, and Canada.  The welfare group is branched from a previous organization, American Humane Society, with a focus on lobbying and drafting legislation.  This organization takes in nearly all cases of animal mistreatment ranging from pet adoption to chimpanzees used in research labs.


Acting as the only federal law to regulate the treatment of animals used in research, exhibition, transport, and use by dealers, the Animal Welfare Act is signed into law in the United States.  A law that will later be amended and updated for changing times, this law has set minimum living standards in place for animals that are used in a service environment.


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, also known as PETA, is founded.  They have a clear message: we share the earth with animals and they are not ours to use for experimentation.  The PETA logo, a blue rabbit jumping, is used on numerous products that are certified as vegan, meaning no animal products or byproducts were used or are contained in the item.


Started as a club in high school, Compassion Over Killing (COK) has grown into a national nonprofit animal protection organization.  Their mission is to stand against factory farming and encourage eating vegetarian, whether full-time or even part-time. COK is very involved with other organizations by campaigning and raising awareness. They participate in hosting events and helping to change modern food corporations for the better.


Laws and organizations have been surfacing all over the world.  Hong Kong has a Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance.  Switzerland has the Swiss Ordinance on the Protection of Animals.  Better known as the “Marketing Ban,” the European Union has banned ingredient and cosmetic testing on animals.  India and New Zealand have an Animal Welfare Act.  In America, there has been a significant increase in the marketing of vegan and cruelty-free products.  People worldwide are slowly making the transition to a more animal-friendly lifestyle.

Sources: Animal Outlook, ASPCA, Battersea, Branch, Britannica, PETA, U.S. Department of Agriculture