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Animal Rights

Animal Rights: Political & Social Change in Britain since 1800

Political & Social Change in Britain since 1800

By Hilda Kean
Published by Reaktion, 1998

Kean approaches the evolution of animal rights in Britain from a historical context, using examples ranging from the use of horse cavalry in the first world war, to the protests against live exports in the 1990s. Although the book covers the subject well, it seems that the analysis of the arguments presented are sometimes one sided - the chapters on science highlight the cruel experiments that were carried out on animals by vivsectionists in the last century, but fail to mention the development of transplant surgery which came about after animal experimentation. I find it surprising that a book about animal rights, and the political and social changes that affected them fails to mention this powerful argument used by the establishment to defend animal experimentation. There is also no mention of the differing trends in animal experimentation - particularly the way in which different species of animals fall in and out of favour with scientific and medical research- in particular the relative unpopularity of the use of primates in research, and the status value of species used - i.e. senior researchers using chimps, and juniors using rats and mice.

A mention is given on the conservation aspects of animal rights - in paricular changes in attitude towards seal and whale hunting. This topic is only briefly mentioned, which is a shame since the transformation of the Blue Whale from huntable sea monster to gentle giant represents one of the big changes in attitude to the rights of animals with whom we share our world with today.

Review by Peter Taylor

(Animal Rights is also available in hardback)

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