American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals - ASPCA Washington
1755 Massachusetts Avenue
washington, District Of Columbia 20036
Email: [email protected]
Henry Bergh was born in 1813, the son of a prominent shipbuilder. His adult years found him to be a man of leisure, dabbling in the arts and touring Europe. As was befitting the life of an aristocrat, in 1863 he was appointed to a diplomatic post at the Russian court of Czar Alexander II. It was there he first took action against man's inhumanity toward animals. Soon after, en route to America, he stopped in London to crib notes from the Earl of Harrowby, president of England's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, founded in 1840.
Back in New York, Bergh pleaded on behalf of "these mute servants of mankind" at a February 8, 1866, meeting at Clinton Hall. According to the next day's edition of The Sun Bergh impressed attendees with his indignant recollection of a family watching a bullfight in Spain who "...seemed to receive their most ecstatic throb from the maddening stab of the horned animal." Bergh then detailed practices in America, including cockfighting and the horrors of slaughterhouses.
A basic tenet of Bergh's philosophy, protecting animals was an issue that crossed party lines and class boundaries. To his audience, which included some of Manhattan's most powerful business and government leaders, he stressed, "This is a matter purely of conscience; it has no perplexing side issues. It is a moral question in all its aspects."
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