Here is the third weekly digest for Animal History Daily, which I'm running on Twitter (@hannahvelten) every day for 2014. Using the #AHD tag, I find random titbits of animal history from the newspapers on the appropriate day, from any year (generally the 1800s).
Image of the Week
Humours of the 'Zoo': Studies of Animal Life - No.III
by J.A. Shepherd
Illustrated London News 16 January 1926
The story line involves the anthropomorphised relationship troubles of lions, Caroline and Sampson as they try to find comfort in their temporary surroundings, while the builders alter and repair their Lion House at London Zoo.
Part of the caption reads:
'Caroline wishes to be alone. Sampson has no tact: he goes blundering after her. There is some excuse for Caroline's irritability [the temporary accommodation, the weather, the New Year to face]... Moreover, Sampson is getting old and rather stupid and a little bit shaky, as most lions are when they get on in years. He deserves some sympathy.
This week's #AHD offerings: a surgeon defending vivisection, rat bites, a champion letter-carrier, animal hair helps war effort, a buried sheep, kindness to birds and French soldiers' pets.
1881: Surgeon T.Keith defends uses of animal vivisection against calls by Scottish SPCA of 'horrid cruelty'; saved 100s of women
1895: Glasgow: 3 children had face, arms and hands bitten by rats 'as big as cats'. Children slept in kitchen; father home to see bites
Mansfield, 1914: Floss, 6yr terrier, champion letter-carrier for owner - collar reads 'Woodward's wireless telegraphy'
1940, Nottingham: Hairdressers plan to collect hair clippings to make felt to line ammunitions boxes, rather than imported animal hair
1925: Sheep found buried for 6 days under 10t of coal in railway truck at Swansea Docks. Presented to coal tippers who keep as mascot
Rules of the DBDC - 1903 (children's club) 2) Not to throw stones at birds and rob their nests, 3) To feed them crumbs in winter.
1881: French soldiers known for fondness of animals, esp. Angora cat, monkey, dog or magpie, which taken on marches in their knapsacks
Things I learnt, or things which surprised me, this week:
1) Thomas Keith, an Edinburgh hospital surgeon (apparently known throughout Europe and America), was accused by the Scottish SPCA of relying on the use of 'horrid cruelty' to inform his operations on 100s of women (the medical condition is not mentioned, but it led to 'a cruel and lingering death', if not operated on). Thomas, writing to The Scotsman, reveals that in 30 years he had never seen an operation on an animal without anaesthetic, never seen a painful death and had only seen operations with the purpose to 'save human life, shorten and remove human suffering'. He also tells the 'impulsive, warm-hearted public' that it is 'no pleasant business the doing of any operation on any animal, and when it is necessary, it is done unwillingly and with tenderness.' He calls the anti-vivisectionists 'well-meaning, idle men and women...[who] have misled an honest public, and expatiated loudly on stories of savage cruelty - matters on which they know nothing.' Thomas goes on to quote a Councillor Sloan who accused some of the Scottish SPCA members of thinking 'as much of their over-fed, wheezing, pampered cats and dogs as of a human life'.
It sounds like modern arguments for and against vivisection, but in Thomas' time (1881) he was reacting against the first piece of legislation concerning vivisection - the 1876 Cruelty to Animals Act which instituted a licensing procedure and general inspection criteria for vivisectors, rather than preventing experiments on animals (which animal welfare campaigners had pushed for). In response, the anti-vivisectors had reformed themselves into specific organisations to campaign against vivisection alone, forcing scientists to account for their work to both Parliament and the general public... Thomas, and his kind, were now forced to fight for the right to experiment on animals.
2) I knew that rats would attack sleeping children - but the report from Glasgow shows the viciousness of rats. The father was a musician returning from a concert early in the morning (obviously, the children were home alone) and he found rat bites all over the children who had their beds in the kitchen. The kitchen table apparently had food laid out on it, but the rats ignored the free rations, and instead went for the children... Urgh!
3) The champion letter-carrier as a terrier called Floss, who was owned by a fruiterer's carman. She would travel 3 miles from Mansfield to Sutton (Notts.) with messages tucked in to her collar, if her owner was delayed or needed something from his home. She would even carry food in a bag, without touching it... what a dog.
4) Imported animal hair was apparently used during WW2, as felt, to line ammunitions' boxes, but this supply was (I suppose) disrupted, so tests were carried out on human hair to see if it could be used to create felt for the same purpose - hairdressers across the UK were pressed into action!
5) Sheep can survive being buried under a pile of coal in a railway truck for six days... and I always thought sheep went out of their way to be suicidal! This sheep should surely go down in history as the exception. Nice that the coal tippers at Swansea Docks took her on as their mascot, though.
6) I have tried my hardest, but cannot find out what 'BDBC' stands for. It is associated with the Border Children's Club 1901-1903, which was (or had) a column in the Berwickshire News and General Advertiser. The motto of the BDBC was: 'Do one kind deed each day, / To make some life more bright; / Morning and evening pray, / Love God, and do the right.' So, a religious club of some sort? But then the rules are (mainly) animal related:
** To do all we can to make the lives of animals (pets or otherwise) under our care, healthful and happy. ** Not to throw stones at birds or rob their nests. ** To feed them with crumbs in winter. ** To ask our friends to be kind to all dumb animals also. ** To be helpful, loving, and kind, to everything and everyone.
I know being kind to animals was encouraged in children in Victorian times, as it was thought that cruelty to man was directly related to cruelty to animals; hence, if children were encouraged to treat animals well, then they would grown up into decent human beings. But I still can't work out if it was a religious group or an animal welfare group or a mix of both principles... If anyone has a clue to the meaning of BDBC, I'd love to know...
7) Soldiers, of all nationalities, loved having pets to accompany them in to wars... isolation from loved ones and fear make humans rely on their animal friends who show them faithfulness and comradeship. History repeats itself all the time.... but I'm surprised the French Army allowed all these animal because they were numerous - 'There is scarcely a Zouave or a Turco [light infantry regiments in French North Africa and an Algerian serving in the regiment, respectively] who does not bring with him an Angora cat, a monkey, a dog, or a magpie'. So, food would have been an issue, and also the attention that was lavished on wounded animals, of which there must have been many, as they accompanied their owners in the 'thickest of battle'. Perhaps if the Army heads had banned the pets, there would have been a mutiny!
Blimey - that was a full Animal History week! #AHD
I hope you enjoyed....
Hannah Velten - author of