Timeline of animal welfare and rights in the United States

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This page is a timeline of the major events in the history of animal welfare and rights in the United States.

Big picture[edit]

Period Descriptions
c.13000 BCE-1492 Native Americans in the present-day United States use domesticated dogs and turkeys.[1][2][3]
1493-1800 European settlers introduce a number of domesticated species to the Americas.[4] Settlers adopt the first known animal welfare laws in North America.[5]
1800-1914 The first American state anti-cruelty laws and animal protection organizations appear.[6] Anti-vivisection organizations form but do not result in any major regulations on animal experimentation.[7]
1914-1966 By World War I, the American anti-vivisection movement has come to a standstill.[7] Intensive animal farming begins in the 1920s[8] and accelerates with technological advances in the 1940s,[7] allowing American meat consumption to grow from 9.8 billion pounds in 1909 to approximately 32 billion pounds in 1970.[9] Scientific and cosmetic testing on animals also accelerates dramatically.[7] Concern for animal welfare resurges in the 1950s, resulting in the federal Humane Slaughter Act[10] and the Animal Welfare Act.[11]
1966-2016 Intensive animal agriculture continues to grow, with the number of land animals slaughtered for food in the U.S. growing from 2.4 billion in 1965 to 9.2 billion in 2015.[12] Books, documentaries, and media coverage of controversies surrounding animal cruelty boost the animal rights and welfare movements,[13][14][15][16] while destructive direct actions by groups like the Animal Liberation Front draw public rebuke and government crackdown.[17][18] Research on in vitro animal products gains traction,[19] resulting in the first in vitro meats.[20][21] Public interest in animal welfare, animal rights, and plant-based diets increases significantly,[22][23] though the number of Americans practicing vegetarian and vegan diets does not seem to increase significantly in the first decade of the 2000s.[24][25] Several states ban the intensive confinement of sows, veal calves, and chickens.[26]


Year Event
c.13000 BCE Domestic dogs arrive in North America with Siberian colonizers.[1] Native Americans use dogs as draught animals, and breed them for wool and food.[2]
c.200 BCE Native Americans in the present-day southwestern US domesticate turkeys, initially using them for feathers and later for food.[3]
1493 onward European settlers introduce domesticated cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, goats, and horses to the Americas.[4]
1641 The first known animal welfare statutes in North America - regulations against “Tirranny or Crueltie” toward domestic animals - are included in the Massachusetts Body of Liberties.[5]
1828 New York passes the first state law against animal cruelty.[6]
1830s onward Newspapers carry articles reporting and denouncing cruelty towards animals.[6]
1835 Massachusetts passes its first state law against animal cruelty, the second in the nation.[6]
1866 Henry Bergh founds the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the first animal protection organization in the US, after visiting Britain's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.[7]
1868 George Angell founds the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty and succeeds in having a law passed to prevent cruelty towards animals in Massachusetts.[27]
1882 As part of his humane education campaign George Angell begins to organize "Bands of Mercy" to encourage animals to learn about and help animals.[28]
1883 Caroline Earle White founds the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS), the first anti-vivisection organization in the US.[7]
1880-1900 The American anti-vivisection movement fails to take hold as it did in Britain, which passed the first national regulations on animal experimentation in 1876. No significant regulations on animal experimentation are passed in the US during this period.[7]
1889 George Angell founds the American Humane Education Society.[28]
1907 Every state in the union has anti-cruelty statutes.[7]
1910 Massachusetts passes a law to allow the Massachusetts SPCA to inspect slaughterhouses.[7]
1922 By this time, twenty states have passed laws requiring humane education in schools.[28]
1923 Intensive animal farming begins when Celia Steele raises her first flock of chickens for meat.[8]
1940s Industrial animal farming grows due to a number of innovations, including the discovery of vitamin A and vitamin D, which allow chickens to be kept inside without sunlight or exercise; de-beaking machines, which makes it easier to remove the beaks of chickens so that they can be kept in close quarters without pecking one another; hybrid feeds so animals put on weight faster; mechanized feather pluckers; and antibiotic food additives.[7]
1944 Public Health Service Act contributes to a significant increase in animal experimentation over the following decades.[7]
1955 The Society for Animal Protective Legislation (SAPL), the first organization to lobby for humane slaughter legislation in the US, is founded.[10][11]
1958 The Humane Slaughter Act - the United States' first federal animal welfare legislation - is passed.[10]
1966 Following public outcry over the cases of Pepper and other mistreated animals, the American Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is passed. This legislation sets minimum standards for handling, sale, and transport of dogs, cats, nonhuman primates, rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs, and instates conservative regulations on animal experimentation.[11]
1970 The AWA is amended to cover all warm-blooded laboratory animals, and intra- in addition to interstate animal transport. It also requires the appropriate use of anesthetics during experiments.[11]
1971 The United States Department of Agriculture excludes birds, mice, and rats - which make up the vast majority of animals used in research - from protection under the Animal Welfare Act.[29][30]
1974 Henry Spira founds Animal Rights International after attending a course on animal liberation given by Peter Singer.[31]
1975 Peter Singer publishes Animal Liberation, whose depictions of the conditions of animals on farms and in laboratories and utilitarian arguments for animal liberation are to have a major influence on the animal movement.[13]
1976 The militant underground animal rights group Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is founded in Britain and quickly spreads to the US.
1976 An amendment to the AWA outlaws the interstate or foreign transport of animals used in fighting and establishes standards for shipping containers, feed, water, rest, ventilation, temperature, and handling during transport.[11]
1976-1977 Under the leadership of Henry Spira, Animal Rights International leads a successful campaign to end harmful experiments performed on cats at the American Museum of Natural History.[32]
1979 The National Association of Biomedical Research is founded to advocate for the continued use of animals in biomedical research.[33]
1980 A campaign by Animal Rights International opposing Draize tests performed on rabbits by the cosmetics company Revlon results in Revlon making a $250,000 grant to Rockefeller University to research alternatives to animal experimentation. Several other major cosmetics companies soon follow suit.[14]
1980 Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco found People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).[15][17]
1981 Vegetarian activist Alex Hershaft organizes the first Action for Life conference, which is attended by a number of pioneers in the animal rights movement, including Ingrid Newkirk, Alex Pacheco, George Cave, Richard Morgan, Doug Moss, Jim Mason, and Henry Spira. Cave founds Trans-Species Unlimited, Morgan founds Mobilization for Animals, Moss and Mason start the Animal Rights Network, and Hershaft's Vegetarian Information Service becomes the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM).[7]
1981-1983 The Silver Spring monkey controversy begins when Alex Pacheco's undercover investigation of Edward Taub's monkey research laboratory results in Taub's arrest for animal cruelty. Taub is convicted on six counts of inadequate veterinary care. In a second trial, he is acquitted of five of the six convictions, and in appeals court this final conviction is overturned.[7][15]
1982 FARM's Veal Ban campaign publicizes the conditions of veal calves. In protest of veal calves' treatment, FARM's Hershaft spends 24 hours outside of the White House in a veal crate.[7]
1983 The first World Day for Laboratory Animals is held on April 24. The first World Day for Farmed Animals is held on October 2, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.
1984 Tom Regan publishes The Case for Animal Rights, a highly influential philosophical argument that animals have rights (as opposed to Peter Singer's utilitarian case for animal liberation).[7]
1984 In a raid of researcher Thomas Gennarelli's lab at the University of Pennsylvania, the ALF obtains footage of experiments in which researchers inflicted brain damage on baboons with a hydraulic press. PETA makes the footage into a documentary about the experiments entitled Unnecessary Fuss, taken from Gennarelli's remark that concern over the experiments was "unnecessary fuss".[7]
1985 After failing to get Gennarelli's lab defunded through appeals to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Congress, 100 PETA protesters occupy the offices of the NIH office which was responsible for funding the lab. On the fourth day of the protest, the director of the HHS suspends funds to Gennarelli's lab until an investigation is completed. The affair is covered by a number of major news outlets.[7]
1985 Amid the Silver Spring monkey affair, the Improved Standards for Laboratory Animals Act as an amendment to the Food Security Act of 1985. This amendment expands the scope of USDA's jurisdiction over animal testing, animals in higher education, animals on exhibit and captive marine animals. It provides for the psychological well-being of dogs and primates. The amendment also establishes Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs) to oversee animal care and ensure that alternatives to animal use be explored at research institutions.[11]
1987 With public concern for veal calf welfare rising, largely due to the activities of animal welfare and rights groups,[34] the Veal Calf Protection Act is introduced in Congress. It eventually dies.[35]
1990 PETA and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine end their highly publicized legal battle over the Silver Spring monkeys, failing to gain custody of the animals. By the end of 1990, 8 of the 17 monkeys survive.[7][15]
1990 The AWA is amended to require that all dogs and cats be held at shelters for at least 5 days before they are allowed to be sold to research facilities, in order to allow pets to be claimed or adopted and ensure that animals are obtained legally.[11]
1992 The Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA) is passed. This law creates the crime of "animal enterprise terrorism" for those who damage or cause the loss of property of an animal enterprise.[36]
2002 The AWA is amended to redefine the term "animal" in the law to match the USDA regulations, i.e. to exclude birds, mice, and rats.[11]
2002 Florida becomes the first state to ban gestation crates.[26]
2006 The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) is passed. The AETA expands the 1992 AEPA to classify as a terrorist anyone who damages the property of an animal enterprise or of a person or entity connected to an animal enterprise, or creates a "reasonable fear" of injury.[37][38]
2006 Arizona passes a ballot measure banning veal and gestation crates, becoming the first state to ban veal crates.[26]
2007 Oregon passes legislation banning gestation crates.[26]
2008 Colorado passes legislation banning gestation crates and veal crates.[26]
2008 California passes a ballot measure requiring that a chicken "be able to extend its limbs fully and turn around freely". This has been described as a ban on battery cages, but battery cages giving 116 square inches per hen are allowed under the law.[39][40]
2009 Maine and Michigan pass legislation banning gestation and veal crates.[26]
2011-2016 After undercover investigations spark public outrage over animal abuse on industrial farms, several American states introduce "ag-gag" laws in an effort to criminalize such investigations.[41]
2013 The Nonhuman Rights Project files the first-ever lawsuits on behalf of chimpanzees, demanding courts grant them the right to bodily liberty via a writ of habeas corpus.[42] The petitions are denied and the cases move on to appellate courts.[43]
2015-2016 Following major public backlash prompted by the 2013 film Blackfish, SeaWorld announces it will end its controversial orca shows and breeding program.[44]
2015-2016 In the U.S., a number of major egg buyers and producers switch from battery-cage to cage-free eggs.[45][46][47]
2016 Cellular agriculture company Memphis Meats announces the creation of the first in vitro meatball.[21]
2018 The PAWS Act becomes law in the United States, and it expands the definition of stalking to include "conduct that causes a person to experience a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury to his or her pet”. It also declares that restitution in domestic abuse cases must include veterinary costs for survivors, if applicable, and establishes a $3 million federal grant program to help survivors of domestic violence find shelters for their pets.[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Barbara van Asch; et al. (July 10, 2013). "Pre-Columbian origins of Native American dog breeds, with only limited replacement by European dogs, confirmed by mtDNA analysis". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 260 (1766).
  2. ^ a b "Earliest Dogs in North America". April 28, 2015. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Jennifer Viegas (February 1, 2010). "Native Americans First Tamed Turkeys 2000 Years Ago". Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "The Impact of "Discovery": the Columbian Exchange".
  5. ^ a b Belden C. Lane (2011-04-21). Ravished by Beauty: The Surprising Legacy of Reformed Spirituality. ISBN 9780199831685. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d Diana L. Beers (2006). For the Prevention of Cruelty. Ohio University Press.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Lawrence Finsen; Susan Finsen (1994). The Animal Rights Movement in America: From Compassion to Respect. Twayne Publishers.
  8. ^ a b Jonathan Safran Foer (2009). Eating Animals. Little, Brown and Company.
  9. ^ Ezra Barclay (June 27, 2012). "A Nation Of Meat Eaters: See How It All Adds Up". Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c "Animal Rights Movement" (PDF). Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Benjamin Adams; Jean Larson. "Legislative History of the Animal Welfare Act: Introduction". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  12. ^ "Farm Animal Statistics: Slaughter Totals". February 2016. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Peter Singer". Retrieved April 21, 2016.
  14. ^ a b Henry Spira (1985). "Fighting to Win". In Peter Singer (ed.). In Defense of Animals. Basil Blackwell. Retrieved April 21, 2016.
  15. ^ a b c d Peter Carlson (February 24, 1991). "The Great Silver Spring Monkey Debate". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 21, 2016.
  16. ^ Vivian Kuo; Martin Savidge (February 9, 2014). "Months after 'Blackfish' airs, debate over orcas continues". Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  17. ^ a b Nicholas K. Pedersen. "Detailed Discussion of European Animal Welfare Laws 2003 to Present: Explaining the Downturn". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  18. ^ Will Potter (2011). Green is the New Red: An Insider's Account of a Social Movement Under Siege. City Lights Publishers.
  19. ^ Zuhaib Fayaz Bhat; Hina Fayaz (April 2011). "Prospectus of cultured meat—advancing meat alternatives". Journal of Food Science and Technology. 48 (2): 125–140. doi:10.1007/s13197-010-0198-7. PMC 3551074.
  20. ^ Henry Fountain (August 5, 2013). "A Lab-Grown Burger Gets a Taste Test". The New York Times. Retrieved April 24, 2016.
  21. ^ a b Hilary Hanson (February 2, 2016). "'World's First' Lab-Grown Meatball Looks Pretty Damn Tasty". Retrieved April 24, 2016.
  22. ^ Rebecca Rifkin (May 18, 2015). "In U.S., More Say Animals Should Have Same Rights as People". Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  23. ^ "Vegan Diets Become More Popular, More Mainstream". CBS News. January 5, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  24. ^ Frank Newport (July 26, 2012). "In U.S., 5% Consider Themselves Vegetarians". Retrieved April 27, 2016.
  25. ^ "Study of Current and Former Vegetarians: Initial Findings" (PDF). December 2014. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
  26. ^ a b c d e f "State Farm Animal Protection Laws" (PDF). Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  27. ^ Mark Bekoff and Carron A. Meaney, ed. (1998). "Angell, George T.". Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare. Greenwood Press.
  28. ^ a b c Mark Bekoff and Carron A. Meaney, ed. (1998). "Humane education". Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare. Greenwood Press.
  29. ^ Joanne Zurlo; Deborah Rudacille; Alan M. Goldberg. "Animals and Alternatives in Testing: History, Science, and Ethics". Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  30. ^ "Rats, Mice & Birds". Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  31. ^ "Animal Rights International: A Historical Note and Tribute to Henry Spira". Retrieved April 21, 2016.
  32. ^ Barnaby Feder. "Henry Spira, 71, Animal Rights Crusader". Retrieved April 21, 2016.
  33. ^ "About NABR". Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  34. ^ Mark Bekoff and Carron A. Meaney, ed. (1998). "Veal calves". Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare. Greenwood Press.
  35. ^ "H.R. 2859 (100th): Veal Calf Protection Act". Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  36. ^ Will Potter. "Animal Enterprise Protection Act". Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  37. ^ Will Potter. "Analysis of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA)". Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  38. ^ Gary Fields; John R. Emshwiller (September 27, 2011). "The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act Sets an Unusual Standard for Crime". Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  39. ^ "California Proposition 2, Standards for Confining Farm Animals (2008)". Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  40. ^ Bradley Miller (February 10, 2015). "Flawed ballot measure is coming home to roost". Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  41. ^ Alicia Prygoski (2015). "Detailed Discussion of Ag-gag Laws". Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  42. ^ "First-Ever Lawsuits Filed on Behalf of Captive Chimpanzees". Retrieved April 21, 2016.
  43. ^ Michael Mountain (December 10, 2013). "New York Cases – Judges' Decisions and Next Steps". Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  44. ^ Brian Clark Howard (March 17, 2016). "SeaWorld to End Controversial Orca Shows and Breeding".
  45. ^ Eliza Barclay (December 30, 2015). "The Year In Eggs: Everyone's Going Cage-Free, Except Supermarkets". Retrieved April 24, 2016.
  46. ^ Dan Charles (January 15, 2016). "Most U.S. Egg Producers Are Now Choosing Cage-Free Houses". Retrieved April 24, 2016.
  47. ^ John Kell (April 5, 2016). "Walmart Is the Latest Retailer to Make a Cage-Free Egg Vow". Retrieved April 24, 2016.
  48. ^ "The PAWS Act Protecting Domestic Violence Survivors & Their Pets Finally Became Law". Bustle.com. Retrieved 2018-12-25.