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Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements book series (PSHSM)


This chapter introduces readers to the animal welfare campaigner Ruth Harrison. It highlights her importance for the development of farm animal welfare and discusses the usefulness of a biographic approach to analyse the wider evolution of twentieth-century welfare activism, politics, and science. It also examines the reasons underlying the relative neglect of Harrison and her long-term campaigning career in existing scholarship.

It is a rare event for a 40-year-old member of the public to pick up the mail and decide to write a book on farm animal welfare. Yet, supposedly, this is what Ruth Harrison (née Winsten ) did in 1960. The result was an international bestseller and a turning point in the history of farm animal welfare. Often compared to American biologist Rachel Carson’s environmentalist mile stone Silent Spring (1962), Harrison’s Animal Machines (1964) has been cited as a major inspiration by animal welfare scientists around the world, and the regulatory impact of its publication has become part of the post-war activist lore.Footnote 1 The same cannot be said about the book’s author. Now mostly remembered for her bestseller, Ruth Harrison often features as a one-hit-wonder, who suddenly emerged out of and then vanished back into the general ferment of British civic activism.Footnote 2

This narrative is too simple. Neither did the author Ruth Harrison appear by chance, nor did the campaigner Ruth Harrison vanish after 1964. A fuller analysis of Harrison’s life instead reveals a remarkable campaigning career spanning much of the twentieth century and influencing the trajectory of British animal welfare politics, science, and activism until her death in 2000. It also reveals a complex world of different actor groups trying to come to terms with the changing contours of post-war Britain. This world comprised a who-is-who of leading intellectuals, campaigners, and decision-makers. It was also a place in which animal welfare was rarely just about animals. Although actors’ concerns for animal welfare were genuine and deeply felt, they often symbolically stood in for broader concerns about the environmental and moral trajectories of British society.

Both concerns and proposed solutions changed considerably in the course of Ruth Harrison’s life. While the influence of her vegetarian parents and Quaker beliefs loomed large over Harrison’s own campaigning, the decades after 1945 saw many older forms of civic activism and thinking about animals’ place in society change. Economically and intellectually, pre-war welfare arrangements were strained by a growing number of confined intensive animal husbandry operations—so-called factory farms—and by new concepts of humans’ duties towards animals and animals’ own rights. At the societal level, a younger generation of grassroots activists experimented with new forms of direct protest and challenged traditional animal politics and leadership structures. Scientifically, ethologists and veterinary researchers opened the door for new ways of conceptualising animal welfare in physical, behavioural, and cognitive terms. Politically, once powerful bastions of agricultural decision-making were complemented by a new set of non-governmental actors including professionalising welfare organisations, large retailers, and influential assurance schemes. By the end of the century, new animal welfare concepts had transformed the production, conceptualisation, and treatment of most British farm animals.

Bearing Witness is a biography both of Ruth Harrison and of the remarkable world of activism, scientific thinking, and politics she inhabited. The book follows core conventions of the literary genre of biography as defined by Hermione Lee: it starts with Harrison’s birth in 1920 and ends with her death in 2000, tries to be as impartial as possible, investigates Harrison’s identity, but also engages with biography as a form of history.Footnote 3 This latter point is particularly important. Inspired by the renaissance of life stories’ approaches in the history of science and environmental, postcolonial, and legal studies,Footnote 4 the aim is not to provide a comprehensive inventory of events and actors. Nor is it to write a hagiography of Harrison. Instead, Bearing Witness follows recent research by Sally Sheldon, Gayle Davis, Jane O’Neill, and Clare Parker and uses Harrison’s biography as an “important window onto the world around it.”Footnote 5

This approach has three advantages: (1) the chronology of Harrison’s life parallels a significant period of agricultural change, which was associated with new forms of intensive food production and an increasing divorce of urban ideals of the rural from agricultural realities.Footnote 6 By tracing and contextualising Harrison’s life, Bearing Witness is able to chart both long-term continuities and transition points in British thinking about farm animal welfare. (2) Harrison’s hybrid status as a political insider and activist outsider also means that a biographic approach is uniquely suited to simultaneously examine what Angela Cassidy calls the public “frontstage” and compromise-oriented “backstage”Footnote 7 of welfare politics. Doing so over a longer period is all the more important given what Jon Agar calls the post-1950s’ “sea change”Footnote 8 of public attitudes towards expert authority and the rise of non-governmental research and assurance schemes. (3) Pursuing a biographic approach allows Bearing Witness to merge a macroscale analysis of twentieth-century politics and science with an actor-centred human-level perspective of how a leading campaigner experienced the transforming world around her.

The book achieves this merging of biography and macroscale analysis by drawing on a wealth of published and unpublished materials. These include oral history interviews and correspondence with leading animal welfare scientists and activists, archival documents from the British government and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the previously unseen personal papers of Ruth Harrison and her research charity, the personal papers of former RSPCA Chairman Richard Ryder, the papers of Rachel Carson, the unpublished autobiography of Harrison’s mother, as well as contemporary scientific and media publications.

Readers will notice that the animals featured in this book are mostly talked about and do not ‘talk’ themselves. Over the past two decades, the rapidly growing field of animal studies has cast light on the “entangled”Footnote 9 relationships between humans and non-humans. The resulting body of research has flattened perceived differences between humans and animals and highlighted dynamic multi-species ecologies in the case of disease vectors, laboratory research practices, animal breeding, conservation practices, food production, and popular culture. It has also drawn attention to the role of built environments like farms, laboratories, cages, and housing systems in reflecting evolving moral economies of care and violence.Footnote 10

Bearing Witness draws on the rich body of work resulting from the “animal turn”Footnote 11 but remains in the human realm. Focusing on Ruth Harrison and the socio-scientific development of farm animal welfare—which often happened away from farms—the book fills important scholarship gaps by (1) revealing the importance of farm animal welfare within the broad church of post-war activism, (2) providing a first comprehensive biography of Britain’s most influential farm animal welfare activist, and (3) highlighting the synthesist ideological drivers of post-war animal welfare as well as the increasing power of European and non-governmental actors in British welfare politics.

At first glance, it seems remarkable that Harrison’s life and campaigning have so far been neglected by historians. Two reasons emerge: the first has to do with disciplinary priorities. Mirroring the strength of environmental history in US academia, many accounts of post-war activism tend to neglect European campaigners like Harrison in favour of American figures like Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring (US 1962; UK 1963) is often credited with sparking modern environmentalism.Footnote 12 Even in Britain, farm animal welfare campaigning often fails to feature in accounts of other forms of contemporary civic activism like the peace movement or environmentalism. Over the last three decades, Meredith Veldman, Adam Lent, and Jodi Burkett have discussed the CND and Silent Spring’s impact on British activism but have ignored Harrison and Animal Machines .Footnote 13 Such a focus not only neglects an important British campaigner but also contributes to an artificial separation of post-war protest movements into thematic blocks even though many participants marched for environmentalism, peace, and animal welfare alike.

In animal studies and the history of science, a prominent focus on laboratory and ‘wild’ animals or on famous ethologists and philosophers has similarly facilitated a comparative neglect of farm animals—and by extension Ruth Harrison.Footnote 14 Recent accounts like Angela Cassidy’s excellent history of badgers and bovine tuberculosis or Michael Tichelar’s account of English opposition to blood sports do much to link the worlds of animal, conservation, and environmentalist politics. However, they either do not or only briefly mention farm animal welfare activism and Harrison.Footnote 15 Intellectual histories of the period also tend to neglect Harrison and other adherents of traditional contractualist welfare models in favour of more radical utilitarian or animal rights thinkers like Peter Singer, Richard Ryder, and Tom Regan.Footnote 16 Although some accounts are beginning to challenge the described farm-field-laboratory divide in animal history,Footnote 17 a full survey of international (farm) animal welfare activism, politics, economics, and science remains an important desideratum.

The second reason for the relative neglect of Harrison is that the few accounts explicitly addressing her tend to focus on Animal Machines and its immediate impact rather than the book’s author. This chronological flattening of Harrison’s life can in part be explained by her self-proclaimed status as an uncompromising “loner,”Footnote 18 who often struggled to find allies in larger organisations and whose story fits uneasily into existing historiographies of activism and ethology.

In ethology, textbooks and articles covering the discipline’s history usually stress the importance of Animal Machines for increasing the discipline’s public recognition. However, most accounts quickly move on to the subsequent development of animal welfare science and do not dwell on Harrison’s important family background or on her subsequent career as a campaigner and research sponsor.Footnote 19 In 2013, the University of Oxford organised a conference to commemorate Rachel Carson and Ruth Harrison and launch a reprint of Animal Machines . The reprint’s preface contains comments by leading contemporary welfare researchers. However, most have little to say about Harrison’s non-literary roles as a government advisor, campaigner, and research funder.Footnote 20 Two notable exceptions to most ethological accounts’ focus on 1964 are a 2008 essay by Heleen van de Weerd and Victoria Sandilands, which provides a cursory overview of important events in Harrison’s life and career, and Edward Eadie’s focus on Harrison’s campaigning within the so-called Eurogroup for Animal Welfare from the 1980s onwards.Footnote 21

Even specialist histories of British animal welfare and rights have tended to flatten Harrison’s role. While Hilda Kean’s magisterial Animal Rights: Political and Social Change in Britain Since 1800 discusses Silent Spring, it does not mention Animal Machines .Footnote 22 In their work on protests against live animal exports and the rise of British green politics, Alun Howkins and Linda Merricks reference Animal Machines as a key text for a younger generation of 1970s’ and 1980s’ activists but do not focus on the book’s genesis or author.Footnote 23 Similarly, former RSPCA chairman Richard Ryder’s often-autobiographical history of British animal protection—Animal Revolution—devotes only a brief paragraph to Harrison despite his repeated clashes with her.Footnote 24 Both Robert Garner’s and Mieke Roscher’s important histories of British animal protection discuss Animal Machines role in opening the way for the 1965 Brambell inquiry into animal welfare, but limit their subsequent analysis of Harrison to her role on the margins of the so-called Oxford Group of animal rights thinkers.Footnote 25

Focusing in more detail on the changing nature of (farm) animal welfare during the 1960s, historians Abigail Woods and Robert Kirk highlight Harrison’s importance in challenging agricultural equations of animal productivity (‘thrift’) with welfare and in creating popular pressure for a reformulation of official welfare definitions. However, events leading up to Harrison’s attack on ‘factory farming,’ links to the nascent environmentalist movement, and Harrison’s subsequent campaigning remain undiscussed.Footnote 26 In 2013, an important essay by Karen Sayer studied Animal Machines’ impact in more detail. Sayer argues that Animal Machines’ success was based on a pastoral romantisation of Britain’s rural past. She also points to the fact that many husbandry systems did not resemble the ‘factory farms’ described by Harrison in 1964. However, Sayer does not provide further details on the genesis of Animal Machines or on Harrison’s later work within government and animal campaigning organisations.Footnote 27

By limiting our focus to the 1960s, we run danger of reducing Harrison’s career to an individual act of romanticised protest. We also too readily accept the contemporary media’s—and to a certain extent, Harrison’s own—heroic narrative of a humble outsider, who within three years researched, wrote, and published a transformative international bestseller. This is a missed opportunity. Even a cursory glance at Harrison’s life reveals a rich web of contacts with other leading campaigners and influential scientists. Their shared interest in animal cognition, emotions, and welfare and concerns about the moral status of post-war Britain would exert a powerful influence on the subsequent trajectory of animal science.Footnote 28 Similarly, ending an analysis of Harrison’s campaigning in the 1960s is to ignore her role in the 1970s’ polarisation of protest, the fraying of official decision-making, and the rise of a new era of European farm animal welfare politics and commercial assurance schemes.

The five parts of Bearing Witness are designed to both overcome the chronological flattening of Harrison and reinsert farm animal welfare into the wider history of post-war British activism, science, and politics. Part I reveals that Harrison was by no means a nobody but a well-connected and educated individual with a strong family tradition of civic activism. Harrison’s parents were the painter Clara Birnberg SeeSeeWinsten, Clare and the author Samuel Weinstein (later Clare and Stephen Winsten). Both Samuel and Clara grew up in Eastern European Jewish families and were founding members of the so-called Whitechapel Boys, an important avant-garde group of artists from London’s East End. The couple were committed socialists, pacifists, and vegetarians, who acted on their beliefs. After moving to rural Ayot St Lawrence around 1939, the Winstens became close friends of their neighbour and fellow vegetarian George Bernard Shaw. For the Winstens and the many Edwardian intellectuals, artists, and activists with whom they engaged, refusing to harm animals was part of a wider synthesist moral agenda of societal reform, which ultimately centred on improving human welfare and ethics.

Understanding this synthesist concept of welfare and socio-moral improvement is key to explaining the post-1945 turn towards animal welfare by activists and leading scientists like William Homan Thorpe and Julian Huxley. Having experienced the barbarity of the Second World War and steeped in synthesist Edwardian thinking about science, society, and morality, British campaigners and researchers saw animal welfare as part of a broader quest for moral reform. This was also true for Ruth Harrison. Born in 1920, the proximity to leading vegetarian, social, and peace activists during her youth left a profound mark on her. In 1939, she enrolled as an English major in Bedford College and made the significant decision to join the theist Society of Friends SeeSeeQuaker (Quakers). During the Second World War, she was first evacuated to Cambridge and then joined the Quaker-led Friends’ Ambulance Unit (FAU). As the daughter of ethnic Jews, she then made the remarkable decision to aid displaced refugees in post-war Germany. After her return to the UK in 1946, Harrison enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Act and was coached by Shaw. However, despite winning awards, she did not pursue an artistic career after graduating in 1948 but instead joined an architectural firm. Following her 1954 marriage to the firm’s partner, Dexter Harrison, Harrison settled into the seemingly quiet life of a Kensington housewife.

This quietude did not last long. Living in London, Harrison soon gained first-hand experience with the new non-violent protest of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). She was not the only Quaker to do so. As historian Frank Zelko has shown, Quakers’ tradition of peacefully ‘bearing witness’ against unethical activities made them particularly active in the peace movement and nascent environmentalist groups after 1945.Footnote 29 Harrison provides a perfect example of Zelko’s profile of mid-century Quaker environmentalists like Greenpeace founders Irving and Harriet Beecher Stowe: born into a highly educated Jewish family with influential cultural contacts, Harrison had already shown a remarkable commitment to the Quaker principle of living faith through action and ‘bearing witness’ during the war. Generationally, she stood between two key cohorts of British animal activism. Old enough to meet leading Edwardian figures like George Bernard Shaw, Harrison was also young enough to participate in and appreciate the power of new post-war protest movements like the CND. At the same time, her parents’ political background and her economically constrained upbringing among Britain’s elite enabled her to fluently converse with radical and establishment circles alike.

As Part II shows, Harrison’s ability to move between older and younger as well as between establishment and anti-establishment circles made her perfectly poised to shape a watershed moment in animal welfare history. Beginning work on Animal Machines in 1961, Harrison was writing during a time of heightened wariness about the social, moral, and environmental side-effects of technological ‘progress’ as well as intensifying scientific engagement with animal cognition and emotions.

In the case of the animal sciences, the 1950s saw previously dominant behaviourist concepts of machine-like mental conditioning come under fire. Since around 1930, researchers belonging to the young discipline of ethology had begun to redirect attention to animals’ evolutionarily acquired behaviours, ability to learn via insight, and complex social lives. Trying to avoid accusations of anthropomorphism, leading continental ethologists had, however, shied away from publicly engaging with charged debates about animal cognition in the context of animal welfare. Their British colleagues felt less compunction. Inspired by what Robert Kirk has called “scientific humanism,”Footnote 30 members of the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW ) looked for ways to scientifically improve animal welfare—and human society—whilst distancing themselves from ‘anti-scientific’ antivivisectionism. From the 1940s, UFAW researchers focused on developing quantifiable measures of stress as a way to make ethical concerns scientifically and politically reputable in the context of standardising laboratory animals’ genetic, behavioural, and physiological traits. If science was a humane force for improving society, its methods had to be humane, too. In 1959, the UFAW publication Principles of Humane Research used this approach to lay out an enduring new agenda for animal laboratory research based on the principles of replacement, reduction, and refinement.Footnote 31

Other prominent British researchers also focused on animal cognition and welfare as part of a wider quest to reconcile scientific and moral values. After 1945, British ethologist Julian Sorrell Huxley linked the humane treatment of animals to his wider vision of transhumanist social evolution. In Cambridge, ethologist William Homan Thorpe became interested in animal welfare as a result of his quest to reconcile Darwinian evolution with Christian salvation. Key to Thorpe’s work was the concept of emergence—an evolutionary event where the outcome is greater than the sum of its parts. By stipulating that consciousness was a ‘creative’ emergent event, Thorpe could simultaneously argue that humans had descended from animals via non-random evolution but were also distinct and thus subject to Christian salvation.Footnote 32 Thorpe’s subsequent research on animal behaviour and (insight) learning made important contributions to ethology and buttressed calls for positive definitions of welfare that were not limited to reducing cruelty.

The ‘affective turn’ allowed ethologists and affiliated scientists to present themselves as best-placed to answer resulting calls for new welfare standards. Despite parallel controversies about field sportsSeeSeeBlood sports (hunting for pleasure) and animal experimentation, the treatment of farm animals on new intensive animal production facilities dominated ensuing public controversies. Similar to nuclear energy, the ‘factory farm’ functioned as what Sheila Jasanoff and Sang-Hyun Kim have described as a dystopian ‘sociotechnical imaginary’Footnote 33 and fused diverse strands of contemporary concern.

The dystopia of dehumanising farms had started as a utopia of agricultural plenty.Footnote 34 However, by 1960, the public image of still far from ubiquitous ‘factory farms’ was becoming ambivalent.Footnote 35 Proponents continued to present ‘factory farms’ as a progressive way to ward off overpopulation-induced famine. However, critics increasingly interpreted them as symbols of humans’ industrial and scientific alienation from ‘nature.’ This alienation was presented as both physically and morally damaging. A series of contemporary bestsellers like William Longgood’s The Poisons in Your Food (1960), Frances Bicknell’s Chemicals in Food and in Farm Produce (1960), Doris Grant’s Your Bread Your Health (1961), and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962)Footnote 36 all stressed the physical and moral dangers of new farming practices and chemical technologies. Public fears were heightened by a series of health scares, intensified media reporting on food laden with ‘chemical’ or radioactive residues, and new data on the selection for antibiotic-resistant organisms on farms.Footnote 37 In addition to health fears, a second powerful strand of criticism centred on new production methods’ alleged cruelty. Drawing on wartime tropes of Britain as a “nation of animal lovers,”Footnote 38 activists used emerging research on animals’ affective states to accuse ‘alien’ confinement systems of jeopardising animals’ emotional welfare and undermining British civility.

Ruth Harrison’s ability to weave together these diverse environmental, moral, and welfare concerns about intensive food production was key to the success of Animal Machines . Invoking a romanticised pastoral past while tapping into new scientific concepts of cognition, Harrison produced a compelling dystopian imaginary centring on the cruel, dehumanising, and unhealthy ‘factory farm.’ The dystopia was linked to a call for a redefinition of welfare that went beyond productivity and the absence of cruelty and encompassed physical and affective states.

Part III reconstructs how the 1964 publication of Animal Machines became a watershed moment in the history of animal welfare. Taking many by surprise, the book’s societal impact was aided by Harrison’s carefully constructed public image as a concerned citizen. Similar to what Emily Gaarder and Angela Cassidy have described for other female animal activists, Harrison’s gender led to attempts by a predominantly male agricultural and veterinary establishment to downplay her concerns as ‘overemotional,’ anthropomorphic, and thus unscientific. However, Harrison’s status as a charismatic outsider also enabled her to present herself as a trustworthy intermediary in a rapidly evolving campaigning field.Footnote 39 Skilfully occupying a middle ground between establishment campaigning groups like the RSPCA and more radical protestors, Harrison was able to mobilise sustained support for systemic animal welfare reform not just in activist but in wider public circles. Although she was not a member of the UK’s Brambell Committee on animal welfare, the agenda set out in Animal Machines shaped both the establishment of the committee and its resulting 1965 report. Written by William Thorpe, the report’s influential appendix on essential animal freedoms challenged the narrow models of welfare as the absence of pain and welfare as thrift that dominated up to that point.Footnote 40 Significantly, the committee’s call for legislative reform and a standing committee on welfare also created new places at the policy table for outsiders like Harrison and behaviour-focused researchers—some of whom began calling themselves animal welfare scientists.

Part IV examines the resulting 1970s’ explosion of regulatory, activist, and scientific welfare work. It shows how the expanding political arena of farm animal welfare triggered clashes over proposed welfare codes, a restructuring and professionalisation of campaigning groups like the RSPCA, and the rise of animal welfare science as a “mandated”Footnote 41 discipline tasked with providing welfare standards. For Ruth Harrison, her post-1960s’ role as a lynchpin connecting regulators, scientists, and moderate and radical campaigners was often uneasy. At the regulatory level, her membership within the government’s new Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (FAWAC) and unwavering commitment to animal welfare often led her to act as a ‘minority of one.’ Employing a mixed strategy of targeted leaks, public campaigning, and specially commissioned research, dissent by Harrison and a small group of allies prevented FAWAC from ‘rubberstamping’ industry-friendly standards but also paralysed traditional corporatist decision-making.

Outside government circles, Harrison’s position was even more complicated due to her paradoxical status as an establishment and anti-establishment figure. Harrison’s often single-minded opposition to weak welfare provisions led to a notorious fallout with ‘traditionalists’ in the RSPCA Council over ‘field sports’ and Harrison’s personal bankruptcy in 1975. However, despite her apparent radicalism, younger—often male—campaigners accused Harrison of being too ‘timid’ in pressing for the reform of rather than the abolition of intensive agriculture. Intergenerational disagreement encompassed both tactics and wider moral visions of society. Many older ‘welfarist’ campaigners like Harrison insisted on a contractarian notion of animal welfare on the grounds that animals had cognition, were fellow creatures of God, and that cruelty desensitised society. However, most maintained that there was a distinction between animal and human life. By contrast, more radical 1970s’ thinkers like Richard Ryder, Tom Regan, and Peter Singer argued that the interests of humans and non-humans deserved equal consideration. Employing utilitarian reasoning or arguing from the standpoint that animals enjoyed inalienable rights, these younger activists opposed the ‘speciesist’ exploitation of animals for food, leisure, or science.Footnote 42

Growing controversies about animal ethics created problems for official welfare committees and for animal protection organisations. In the case of the RSPCA, the early 1970s had seen a rapid professionalisation and expansion of RSPCA welfare lobbying and the sponsorship of targeted welfare research. However, the Society’s parallel failure to clearly oppose elite ‘field sports’ and its exclusive leadership structures caused growing grassroots discontent. In 1975, a highly critical internal review triggered a significant shift of RSPCA campaigning and management. Led by members of the so-called RSPCA Reform Group, the second half of the 1970s saw the Society streamline its management, organise conferences on animal rights, and launch sophisticated and expensive campaigns against live animal exports. The Society’s marked shift away from compromise-oriented lobbying to public campaigning and its 1979 boycott of the government’s newly created Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC ) divided RSPCA members. It also complicated the Society’s formerly close relations with animal scientists, whose findings were becoming increasingly important for campaigning but whose methods contradicted more radical Reform Group members’ opposition to animal exploitation.

Welfare researchers themselves had to strike a balance between maintaining scientific authority and producing findings that had ‘practical value’ to their official, industrial, and activist sponsors like Ruth Harrison and the RSPCA. While rising funding and the ongoing demand for welfare standards attracted talented researchers, there was still no agreement on how to define, measure, and interpret seemingly basic parameters such as stress, ‘natural’ and ‘abnormal’ behaviour, or animal ‘feelings.’ Fifteen years after Animal Machines , British animal welfare politics had seemingly become bogged down by scientific uncertainty, ethical disagreements, and a breakdown of consultative official and activist decision-making.

Part V explores how the described crisis created an opening for new forms of market-driven welfare politics and strengthened moderate activists like Harrison. While 1979 marked a highpoint of discontent and stasis, the two subsequent decades saw a weakening of traditional bastions of pro-industry corporatist decision-making as well as of more radical activists. With animal welfare demands becoming part of mainstream politics, new actor coalitions emerged. These coalitions spanned governmental and non-governmental circles. Although official British and European welfare bodies remained important, private assurance schemes for animal welfare became powerful drivers of animal welfare politics. Formed in response to consumer demand and market segmentation, welfare certification schemes created lucrative alliances between major retailers, animal welfare organisations like the RSPCA, and other non-official bodies tasked with monitoring private standards. Despite ongoing controversies about whether it was possible to establish universal welfare standards, the continuous growth of well-financed welfare schemes also benefited welfare researchers. From around 1980 onwards, the number of welfare-related publications began to soar. Prominent welfare researchers were also appointed to important university posts and managed to expand their influence in academic and official circles. The same was true for Ruth Harrison. Having survived the tumultuous 1970s, Harrison retained her membership on important British and European welfare committees, cultivated relations with leading researchers, and witnessed the fulfilment of core demands of Animal Machines like a ban of veal crates. After continuously campaigning for animal welfare for four decades, Harrison died in 2000. By this time, many of the values she had ‘born witness’ to in 1964 had become firmly entrenched in all spheres of British welfare politics, activism, and science.


  1. 1.

    Ruth Harrison, Animal Machines (London: Vincent Stuart Ltd, 1964).

  2. 2.

    Donald M. Broom, “A History of Animal Welfare Science,” Acta Biotheor 59 (2011), 121–137; Donald M. Broom and Andrew F. Fraser. Domestic animal behaviour and welfare (Wallingford and Oxford: CABI, 2015); Linda J. Keeling, Jeff Rushen, and Ian JH Duncan. “Understanding animal welfare,” in Michael C. Appleby, Anna Olsson, and Francisco Galindo (eds.), Animal welfare (Wallingford and Oxford: CABI, 2018), 13–26; Mieke Roscher, Ein Königreich Für Tiere. Die Geschichte Der Britischen Tierrrechtsbewegung (Marburg: Tectum Verlag, 2009), 260–261. Abigail Woods, “From Cruelty to Welfare: The Emergence of Farm Animal Welfare in Britain, 1964–71,” Endeavour 36/1 (2012), 14–22; Karen Sayer, “Animal Machines: The Public Response to Intensification in Great Britain, C. 1960–C. 1973,” Agricultural History 87/4 (2013), 473–501.

  3. 3.

    Hermione Lee, Biography: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 6–18.

  4. 4.

    See, for example, Christoph Gradmann, Laboratory Disease: Robert Koch’s Medical Bacteriology, Elborg Forster (trans.), (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009); Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin’s Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011); Sally Sheldon, Gayle Davis, Jane O’Neill, and Clare Parker, “The Abortion Act (1967): a biography,” Legal Studies 39/1 (2019), 18–35; Mark Hamilton Lytle, The gentle subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and the rise of the environmental movement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); David Nasaw, “AHR Roundtable: Historians and Biography,” American Historical Review 114 (2009), 573; Judith M. Brown, “‘Life Histories’ and the History of Modern South Asia,” American Historical Review 114/3 (2009), 587–595; Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The mushroom at the end of the world: On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015); Sudipta Sen, Ganges: The Many Pasts of an Indian River (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019).

  5. 5.

    Sheldon, Davis, O’Neill, and Parker, “The Abortion Act,” 32.

  6. 6.

    Deborah Fitzgerald, Every Farm a Factory. The Industrial Ideal in American Agriculture (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003); John Martin, The Development of British Agriculture since 1931 (London et al.: Macmillan & St Martin’s Press, 2000); Karen Sayer, Farm Animals in Britain, 1850–2001 (New York: Taylor & Francis, 2018).

  7. 7.

    Angela Cassidy, Vermin, Victims and Disease. British Debates over Bovine Tuberculosis and Badgers (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 205.

  8. 8.

    Jon Agar, Science in the 20th Century and Beyond (Cambridge: Polity, 2012), 403–432.

  9. 9.

    Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007), 3–38.

  10. 10.

    For a far from complete selection of work by historians and other disciplines, see Keith Thomas, Man and the natural world: Changing attitudes in England 15001800 (London: Penguin UK, 1991), Hilda Kean, Animal rights: Political and social change in Britain since 1800 (London: Reaktion Books, 1998); Angela NH Creager and William C. Jordan, eds. The animal-human boundary: historical perspectives. Vol. 2 (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2002); Robert G.W. Kirk, Reliable animals, responsible scientists: constructing standard laboratory animals in Britain c. 19191976 (London: PhD Thesis University of London, 2005); Neil Pemberton and Mike Worboys, Rabies in Britain. Dogs, Disease and Culture, 18302000 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006); Donna J. Harraway, When Species Meet (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007); Henry Buller and Emma Roe. “Modifying and commodifying farm animal welfare: The economisation of layer chickens,” Journal of Rural Studies 33 (2014), 141–149; Jamie Lorimer, Wildlife in the Anthropocene: conservation after nature (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015); Michael Bressalier, Angela Cassidy, and Abigail Woods, “One Health in history,” in J. Zinsstag et al. (eds.) One Health: The Theory and Practice of Integrated Health Approaches (Oxfordshire: CABI, 2015), 1–15; Kristian Bjørkdahl and Tone Druglitrø, eds. Animal housing and human-animal relations: Politics, practices and infrastructures (London: Routledge, 2016); Gail F. Davies, Beth J. Greenhough, Pru Hobson-West, Robert GW Kirk, Ken Applebee, Laura C. Bellingan, Manuel Berdoy et al. “Developing a collaborative agenda for humanities and social scientific research on laboratory animal science and welfare,” PLoS One 11/7 (2016), e0158791. Henry Buller and Emma Roe. Food and animal welfare (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018); Nicole C. Nelson, Model behavior: Animal experiments, complexity, and the genetics of psychiatric disorders (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018); Rachel Mason Dentinger and Abigail Woods, “Introduction to Working Across Species,” History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 40/30 (2018), 1–11; Hilda Kean and Philip Howell (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Animal-Human History (London: Routledge, 2018); Robert GW Kirk, Neil Pemberton, and Tom Quick, “Being well together? promoting health and well-being through more than human collaboration and companionship,” Medical Humanities 45/1 (2019), 75–81; Angela Cassidy, Vermin, victims and disease: British debates over bovine tuberculosis and badgers (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019); Gail Davies, Richard Gorman, Beth Greenhough, Pru Hobson-West, Robert G.W. Kirk, Dmitriy Myelnikov, Alexandra Palmer et al., “Animal research nexus: a new approach to the connections between science, health and animal welfare,” Medical Humanities 46/4 (2020), 499–511.

  11. 11.

    Erika Andersson Cederholm, Amelie Björck, Kristina Jennbert and Ann-Sofie Lönngren (eds.), Exploring the Animal Turn. Human-Animal Relations in Science, Society and Culture (Lund: Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies, 2014), 5.

  12. 12.

    David Kinkela, Ddt and the American Century: Global Health, Environmental Politics, and the Pesticide That Changed the World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2011); Garry Kroll, “The ‘Silent Springs’ of Rachel Carson: Mass Media and the Origins of Modern Environmentalism,” Public Understanding of Science 10/4 (2001), 403–405; Joachim Radkau, Die Ära Der Ökologie. Eine Weltgeschichte (C.H. Beck: München, 2011), 118–123; Edmund Russell, War and Nature: Fighting Humans and Insects with Chemicals from World War I to “Silent Spring” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Carson’s views on animals have been explored by Marc Bekoff and Jan Nystrom, “The Other Side of Silence: Rachel Carson’s Views of Animals,” Human Ecology Review 11/2 (2004), 186–200.

  13. 13.

    Meredith Veldman, Fantasy, the Bomb and the Greening of Britain. Romantic Protest, 19451980 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994); Adam Lent, British Social Movements since 1945. Sex, Colour, Peace and Power (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave, 2001); Jodi Burkett, “The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Changing Attitudes Towards the Earth in the Nuclear Age,” British Journal for the History of Science 45/4 (2012), 625–39.

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Kirchhelle, C. (2021). Introduction. In: Bearing Witness. Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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