Ruth Harrison

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Ruth Harrison

Harrison in 1965
Ruth Winsten

(1920-06-24)24 June 1920
London, England
Died13 June 2000(2000-06-13) (aged 79)
London, England
Alma materBedford College, London
Occupation(s)Animal welfare activist and writer
Notable workAnimal Machines (1964)
Dex Harrison
(m. 1954)

Ruth Harrison OBE (née Winsten; 24 June 1920 – 13 June 2000)[1] was an English animal welfare activist and writer.


Harrison was born in London, the daughter of the author Stephen Winsten and the artist Clara Birnberg. She was educated at Bedford College, London.[2] As a Quaker and as a conscientious objector during the Second World War (thereby following the stand of her father in the First World War), she served in the Friends Ambulance Unit, first in Hackney, London, and then with displaced persons in Schleswig-Holstein and Bochum in Germany. Ruth married architect Dex Harrison in 1954. She served on the Farm Animal Welfare Committee.[3]

In 1964, Harrison published Animal Machines, which describes intensive poultry and livestock farming. The book was said to have exposed the suffering inflicted on farm animals by industrialised agriculture.[4][5] The book prompted the British government to appoint a committee chaired by Francis Brambell to investigate the welfare of farm animals. In 1965, the "Brambell Report" was published which outlined five freedoms.[6] Harrison's book was published in seven countries and was the inspiration for the European Convention for the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes.[7] In 1986 she was awarded an OBE.[8]

Harrison died of cancer in 2000, shortly before her eightieth birthday.[8]


The Australian ethicist Peter Singer has said that reading Animal Machines was important in his becoming a vegetarian and adopting the views that he sets out in Animal Liberation.[9][10]

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) president and co-founder Ingrid Newkirk, also credits Harrison's book, Animal Machines, with changing her life. [11]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Animal Machines: the New Factory Farming Industry. Vincent Stuart Publishers. (1964)
  • Case Study: Farm Animals. In R. J. Berry. (1992). Environmental Dilemmas: Ethics and Decisions. Chapman & Hall. ISBN 0-412-39800-1


  1. ^ Rubinstein, W.; Jolles, Michael A., eds. (2011). "Harrison (née Winsten), Ruth". The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History. London: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 399. ISBN 978-0-230-30466-6.
  2. ^ Harrison nee Winsten. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Subscription or UK public library membership required
  3. ^ McKenna, Carol. (2000). "Ruth Harrison". The Guardian. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
  4. ^ Swanson, Janice C. (1998). Harrison to Rollin: Farm Animal Welfare in Transition. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 1 (2): 167-174.
  5. ^ Sayer, Karen. (2013). Animal Machines: The Public Response to Intensification in Great Britain, c. 1960–c. 1973. Agricultural History 87 (4): 473-501.
  6. ^ "The Five Freedoms: A History Lesson in Animal Care and Welfare". Michigan State University. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
  7. ^ Animal Welfare Quarterly Archived 2008-11-06 at the Wayback Machine accessed 28/03/08
  8. ^ a b van de Weerd, Heleen; Sandilands, Victoria (October 2008). "Bringing the issue of animal welfare to the public: A biography of Ruth Harrison (1920–2000)" (PDF). Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 113 (4): 404–410. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2008.01.014.
  9. ^ Singer, Peter (2001). "Animal Liberation: A Personal View". Writings on an Ethical Life. London: Fourth Estate. p. 294. ISBN 978-1841155500.
  10. ^ Peter Singer talk, "My Life in Philosophy: The Point of View of the Universe and Its Implications for Ethics, Animal Liberation and Effective Altruism" (Universität Graz, in Graz, Austria, June 7, 2017, published to YouTube on Aug 11, 2017)
  11. ^ Ingrid Newkirk commentary, What Does 'Turkey Day' Mean to You?, Tribune News Service, Nov. 24, 2022

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]