The Vicar Who Went to Prison

Animal Rights

We have all felt that initial exuberance of being a part of something new, something important.  When we are in a meeting of like-minded individuals, it is easy to embrace a call to action, kindled by the warmth of friendship and the desire to do great things, to make a difference.  Beginnings bestow the quality of possibilities.

Then, the next day comes.  And with it comes clarity and a swift knowledge that a call to action is only as good as the deeds that follow.  Whatever pledge is taken, must convert into a reality if anything good is to come from the initial objective.

This is where commitment is tested.

The Group of Twenty-Two left the meeting of June 16, 1824, determined to eliminate senseless cruelty to animals.  No one was more resolute than the vicar, Mr. Arthur Broome, who had been fighting for animal rights long before this historic meeting.  In fact, this was his second attempt to form a society, the first having met with failure two years before.

Arthur Broome received a MA at the prestigious Balliol College, University of Oxford (Adam Smith, three former prime ministers, and five Nobel laureates are noted graduates of this institution).  His future was secure.  At 42, he was the Vicar of the parish of Bromley-by-Bow, which is now called Bromley, situated 4.8 miles east north-east of Charing Cross.   The position offered a comfortable, respected vocation, without the need for extra-curricular activities that involved what many perceived as eccentric.  One can only imagine the talk amongst the parishioners.

Animal Rights

Nothing could dissuade Arthur Broome in his mission. Perhaps he anticipated a change in societal behaviour, a foreshadowing of what we call in our modern-day, a “tipping point.” Within four days of the June 16th meeting, he had engaged the Rector of Marylebone to preach a sermon in support of their efforts and was the happy recipient of a £50 anonymous donation.  His next step was to give up his post and salary to focus exclusively on the fledgling society.

Arthur Broome gave his all: his time, his wealth, his freedom.  He was held responsible for the Society’s debts, which by 1826 was approaching a sizable £300.  A prison cell was his home until a few friends raised the funds for his release.

Arthur Broome’s convictions never wavered through the years.  Very little is known about his life; no one knows his resting place.   I would argue, however, that the world is a better place because he lived.  Perhaps he was the tipping point that changed society’s attitude to animal welfare.

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Humanity Dick and the Donkey