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.

Next post:

Humanity Dick and the Donkey

 

44 thoughts on “The Vicar Who Went to Prison

  1. I must admit that I didn’t know that especially big animals were treated so badly in the years that followed the battle of Waterloo! I must also say that I think it’s horrible what we do nowadys with farm animals just to make them grow quicker we are feeding them antibiotics all the time so they can be killed faster and more money can be made with them.But all this has a very negative consequence, bacterias have been changing and we won’t react anymore to these most precious antibiotics!! I thank you very much, Rebecca, for this information. Very best regards Martina

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    • Oh Martina, the struggle is far from over. I find comfort in knowing that others that have come before us, faced incredible odds to change attitudes towards animals. I have been reading “Amazing Grace” by Eric Metaxas which tells the story of the remarkable life of William Wilberforce. The age of the Industrial Revolution saw an awakening to the plights of other, like no other age before. We stand on the shoulders of giants; may we embrace the same zeal and compassion that worked for the betterment of society.

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      • As I said I don’t know much of animal abuse in Great Britain before the Industrial Revolution but the way big animals are treated nowadays has made me very nervous for years. Cows and pigs, herded together in big lorries are transported for hundreds of kilometres, the cows can sometimes hardly walk because their udders have become soo havy or small male cocks are smothered, because considered useless! Thank you for your book advice, Rebecca and many good wishes for what you do considering this topic.:)

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      • I share your concern – and so do many people, who are looking more closely at their purchase behaviors. This is a huge conversation which speaks to how we share the food, the water, the clean air. I am enjoying the look back – this is an amazing history. Thanks for your comments – very much appreciated.

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    • I agree wholeheartedly. In my opinion the role of a follower is even greater than the that of the leader, for it is the follower who measures the soundness of the task, and whether they want their name associated with the cause. There are many who enjoy the title “leader” or “idea person.” I would rather be the “doer of good deeds.” In the time of Arthur Broome, the subject of animal rights was revolutionary, which is in keeping with the rate of change experienced in the Industrial Revolution. The work continues; the dialogue is not over. Thank you for your comments.

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    • I share your admiration for this unsung, unknown, and unrecorded hero. Arthur Broome is a reminder that most good work never gets recorded or remember except for a footnote in history. The work continues. Your commitment and compassion for animals inspires us all, Paulette. When we take care of our fellow creatures, we take care of ourselves. Our society becomes resilient. Thank you for your comments.

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    • I agree – Arthur Broome undertook what many thought to be an impossible task. What I found fascinating was that his name didn’t even have a page in Wikipedia. It seemed that he was the kind of person who didn’t care who got the credit as long as the goal was accomplished. Of all the pioneers in the struggle for animal rights, I consider Arthur Broome to be the most unassuming and fervent. He had a quiet zeal that achieves great things when everyone’s attention is elsewhere. His focus was for the moment, not in whether we recognized his name 200 years after he had passed.

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  2. Dear Rebecca,
    What a wonderful series you are writing about the welfare of animals. I had no idea how the SPCA was formed, although I’ve always been thankful for it. The way man uses animals breaks my heart. The lessons my parents taught me about animals were in the uniformed, heartless category.
    The day I left home I became a vegetarian. I always knew I would become so after having to eat my pet chicken. Okay, it was farm life, so I bear no grudge, but I learned there is animal love.
    The worst thing man does today is “Factory Farming”! How awful is that? I truly wish man would eat less meat & more of a plant based diet. Then perhaps at least the animals could have free range natural lives during their time here.
    Queen Victoria did many interesting things in her life. I’m always discovering something new & neat about her. I’m sure her giving the SPCA a Royal designation helped, especially back then.
    I look forward to the next post in this series! Thank you… from a happy vegetarian!

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    • Thank you for your insightful comments. You are in good company, dating back to the great artist, Leonardo da Vinci: “I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.”

      Leo Tolstoy said: “A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.”

      George Bernard Shaw was even more succinct: “Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends.”

      This conversation is far from over. I am comforted by the many people who work tirelessly in the field of animal rights. Every kind act, whether or not it is recorded, or noticed, is important. I believe how we treat our fellow creatures is a reflection of how we treat our fellow man. If we are not in step with the world and nature, we are at risk. I especially like the words of Albert Schweitzer: “Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”

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  3. Thank you for this post–how challenging and encouraging. You help me to understand several things. 1. We need to follow through on good convictions–in Arthur Broome’s case, his persistence even meant prison. He would be overjoyed to see that he helped to start a movement that is still active today
    2. We need to find comfort and encouragement from the help of others–in this case the help from 21 of his friends of like mind. We need not be alone.
    I am reminded: “Be not weary in well-doing”
    Thank you for the peek into some very interesting history.

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    • Thank you for your profound comments. I agree, we are not alone in our efforts to create positive outcomes for all. I can only imagine the frantic rush to gather up enough funds to release Arthur Broome who languished in debtors prison. What I find remarkable was the spirit of the group of 22. They were determined to spread their message far and wide. William Wilberforce was at that first meeting (more on him in later posts). I think he says it best:

      “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” William Wilberforce

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    • Thank you for your visit and comments. I am looking forward to our dialogue. My father introduced me to Teresa of Avila a few years before he passed. She is truly remarkable; her words are universal and have great relevance to the age in which we live. “It is love alone that gives worth to all things” Teresa of Avila

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    • I agree who heartedly – it is very difficult to understand cruelty, especially when people are unaware that they are participating in something that is hurting another living being. I remember reading a quote by the Dalai Lama that brought this into perspective for me. “If you can, help others; if your cannot do that, at least do not harm them.” We need to look at the outcomes of our actions, whether or not we are able to help. What is most significant about Arthur Broome was that he had an empathy and compassion for animals, at a time when society did not consider their behavior towards animals inappropriate. Animals were there to serve humanity. The more I read about this group, the more fascinating the story becomes. It really is the stuff of legends.

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  4. What a wonderful adventure you have undertaken, Rebecca! Being kind to animals should be such a normal, second nature way towards animals, and all living creatures. Or maybe that is man’s short coming toward said fellow creatures, that in essence requires more as in requiring that it be a first nature way of being, from now on, and hopefully as man finally learns to be kind to his fellow human said man, so called, for directly or indirectly, with few exception he is far from being kindly, thus if you take serious notice world wide.
    In the meantime we surely must be thankful to the likes of the Arthur Broome’s of old, right up to the Paulette Mahurin’s of today, and let us not forget to mention dear Rebecca, for keeping the subject alive as you do.But I fear that until man as a whole truly understands kindness and good will, beyond the habitual use of the word, the battle against cruelty toward man himself and his fellow creature, the animal, it is far from resolved and requiring of constant reminders of the Arthurs, the Paulettes, and the Rebeccas of this planet.

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    • I agree, Jean-Jacques, the battle against cruelty is far from over. In fact, I would classify it as a “wicked problem” which is defined as a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory and changing requirement that are often difficult to recognize. And by “wicked” I mean resistant to resolution. Your poem, “A Prejudicial World” comes to mind:

      “In notions preconceived
      Lives inflexibility,
      That shan’t condone
      Adverse views perceived…”

      The struggle continues and therein lies the strength found in the “small group of committed people.” Hope is in the conversation that is ongoing. We must keep moving forward. Thank you for adding breath and depth to this post. Your comments are very much appreciated.

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    • Thank you, Marlene! This photo was of the English Countryside at the end of August. I love the transition of the colour green from the freshness of spring with its light green to the olive greens that come just before the autumn. These photos reminds me of the paintings of John Constable. We live in a beautiful world!!

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  5. Ein informativer Bericht über die Anfänge des Tierschutzes. Auch heute noch brauchen wir Leute wie A. Broome, die sich weltweit engagieren. Viele neue Verbesserungen sind heute nötig, weil das schnelle Geld auch die Tierhaltung wieder verschlechterte. Noch liegt vieles im Argen. Danke für den Beitrag. Ernst

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    • Ich stimme voll und ganz. Die Arbeit geht weiter, vor allem im Rahmen der Nahrungsmittelproduktion und Delivery-Systeme. Ich bin von Arthur Broome inspiriert, die in der Möglichkeit einer besseren Art und Weise glaubte in unserer Welt zu leben. Nun ist es unsere Zeit zu handeln. Und ich nehme großer Trost, dass viele Menschen eine humane Welt zu bauen arbeiten. Hab ein wundervolles Wochenende. Vielen Dank für Ihren Besuch und Kommentare.

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  6. Very interesting Rebecca! 🙂 I think the people who make some of the most significant changes to this world often go unnoticed for what they have done. I’m always a little suspicious when one person is credited for so much, and even their grave to some extent worshipped. I wonder in those life stories, just how many other unknown people may have been responsible for their great achievements, but were never acknowledged.

    Quite incredible to think that there was a time when an animals care an well-being didn’t matter, and even women and children. It must have been difficult, and in some cases dangerous for those men who were unhappy with that kind of existence. 😐

    Thanks for a thought provoking piece of history!

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    • I agree- many of the people who made the most significant contributions are never acknowledged and their names are forgotten. The more I look back, the more I realize that to understand our modern age, we must gain a historical perspective. Every generation believes that they are the most advanced intellectually, despite all the rhetoric that we “stand on the shoulders of giants.” What makes a society great is how we support each other and how we sustain the world in which we live. Thank you, Suzy for adding your insight to this conversation. The plot thickens – stay tuned.

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    • The grass was as green as the photo shows. There was a slight mist in the air which added to the deep colour. In one of your recent posts you mentioned how you were thinking of presenting buildings – as sketches rather than photos. Editing tools allow us to recreate colour, light etc. You gave me something to think about. Now when I take a photo, I look closely at what my eye sees before I snap the picture. Thank you for your insight.

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  7. We invite you all to visit Norway! Digitally, that is! 😉
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    Welcome to Norway! 😉

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    • Thank you for your kind invitation. I have been to your wonderful country – spectacular scenery. I welcome you to Clanmother and invite you to join the conversation.

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    • Oh Christy, we do underestimate our contribution. Our voice counts, our actions do make a difference. Your writing is a beautiful reflection of this axiom. I am so glad that we connected over the blogger miles.

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    • Thank you for making my day!!! We live in a complex world that demands our highest participation. Sometimes we think that what we do makes very little difference. When I look back at what happened before, I am reminded that there is merit in perseverance, in accomplishing the “small” acts of kindness. Somehow, over time, these same acts become the beginning of great movements. Looking forward to our trip over to your side of the world.

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  8. Despite his struggles to bring justice to animals humans continue to be cruel to them. It angers me so much! Thank you for sharing this post here, I’m happy to see, though, that animals were thought for even in the olden days 🙂 – Michelle

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    • Thank you for your comments and visit. I appreciate your compassion for creatures that share our earth. We owe a great deal of gratitude to our fellow creatures. This good work must continue. Have a wonderful weekend.

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    • I do appreciate eccentrics! In fact, I have told my nieces and nephews to consider me their “eccentric aunt.” As Bertrand Russell once said, “Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.” I felt a wistfulness when I found that his resting place is unknown. What is remarkable was that he gave up a promising career, a comfortable lifestyle, respectability and for what: to end up in debtors prison. He must have had a fervent drive to create change. Thank you for your comments and visit!

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