Humanitarian League

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The Humanitarian League was an organisation formed in England in 1891 by Henry Salt who was also the General Secretary and Editor. Other founding members were John Galsworthy, Colonel W. L. Blenkinsop Coulson. The League's inaugural metting was at the house of Alice Lewis and she was to be its first and only treasurer.

Its aims were to enforce the principle that it is iniquitous to inflict avoidable suffering on any sentient being. According to their manifesto "the Humanitarian League has been established on the basis of an intelligible and consistent principle of humaneness – that it is iniquitous to inflict suffering, directly or indirectly, on any sentient being, except when self-defence or absolute necessity can justly be pleaded."[1]

The League opposed both corporal and capital punishment. Its other objectives included the banning of all hunting as a sport, and it was also strongly opposed to vivisection.[2] The Humanitarian League thus anticipated the modern animal rights movement. Many of its members were vegetarians.[3] However, the league was not confined to animal protection. They were responsible for the advancement of human rights as well. For example, they were largely responsible for the banning of flogging with birch in the Royal Navy in 1906 and campaigning to amend the law relating to imprisonment for debt and other non-criminal offences.[4] The league also opposed flogging in schools and vaccinations because of the pain.

Notable supporters of the Humanitarian League included Chairman Ernest Bell[5], Keir Hardie, Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, Bertram Lloyd (1881–1944)[6] and Christabel Pankhurst.[7]

They spread their ideas through the journal The Humane Review [8]. The League closed down in 1919.[9]


  1. ^ Preece, Rod. (2011). Animal Sensibility and Inclusive Justice in the Age of Bernard Shaw. UBC Press. p. 153
  2. ^ Weinbren, Dan (1994). Against All Cruelty: The Humanitarian League, 1891-1919. History Workshop 38: 86-105.
  3. ^ Helstosky, Carol. (2015). The Routledge History of Food. Routledge. pp. 186-187
  4. ^ Gold, Mark. (1998). Animal Century: A Celebration of Changing Attitudes to Animals. J. Carpenter. p. 11
  5. ^ "Ernest Bell, President of the Vegetarian Society". The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, October 1933.
  6. ^ Hardy, Thomas; Purdy, Richard Little; Millgate, Michael. (1985). The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy: Vol. 5 1914 - 1919. Clarendon.
  7. ^ Kean, Hilda. (1998). Animal Rights: Political and Social Change in Britain since 1800. Reaktion Books.
  8. ^ The Humane Review content
  9. ^ "Henry S Salt | The Humanitarian League closes". Retrieved 2017-08-15.

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