Margaret Mead’s rallying call of “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” has inspired many to undertake courageous, seemingly insurmountable tasks. In the 20th century, Margaret Mead recognized the universal truth that sweeping movements generally begin with an idea shared by a few people. They are the catalyst for transformation. Rewind to the 19th century when twenty-two reformers met on the night of June 16, 1824 at “Old Slaughter’s Coffee House.” What they discussed that evening had far-reaching consequences that have extended into the 21st Century. Twenty-two people believed that it was possible to stop cruelty to animals, to change the way society views other lives who share the earth. That night marked the genesis of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the first animal welfare charity to be founded in the world.
While the acceptance of animal rights is entrenched within the values and norms of our society, the world in 1824 found the notion of extending kindness to animals rather peculiar. After all, animals were there to be used for food, transportation or amusement. But change was coming and soon others were persuaded, including Queen Victoria, who bestowed her blessing by granting the fledgling society a royal status: Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Who were the twenty-two reformers?
- Arthur Broome, a vicar
- Richard Martin, aka Humanity Dick
- Fowell Buxton, Lawyer and Member of Parliament
- Sir James Mackintosh, Scottish Politician and Historian
- Lewis Gompertz, Inventor
- Basil Montagu, Barrister and Philanthropist
- William Wilberforce, the leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade.
The names of the others who met the night of June 16, 1824, are hidden in the folds of history. But their commitment to the noble cause, their determination to seek a better way shaped the world in which we live today. Their efforts have inspired others to follow; what they began, others have continued.
The Vicar who went to prison…