Rights of Animals and Man’s Obligation to Treat Them with Humanity (1838)

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William Drummond's The Rights of Animals is one of several early nineteenth century volumes dedicated to arousing a recognition of the importance of the well-being and protection of animals. Ljke a number of contemporary works, this book was written at the behest of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to which the prefix 'Royal' was soon to be added. Of these volumes The Rights of Animals is the most learned and, along with that of the veterinarian William Youatt (volume 11 in this Series), the most significant in stating the animal cause as seen from the perspective of the pre-Darwinian nineteenth century. This 1838 book was authored by William Hamilton an Irish Unitarian Minister of Scottish extraction. By adding a contextual Introduction and copious explanatory Editorial Notes, Drs. Preece and Li have put this work into its historical and literary setting, thus rendering the work much more readily comprehensible to the scholar of the twenty-first century.


“Together with Chien-hui Li, Preece has edited and written an introduction and annotations to William H. Drummond's The Rights of Animals, and Man's Obligation to Treat them with Humanity, from 1839. As was Youatt's The obligation and Extent of humanity to Brutes, Drummonds text was a contribution to SPCA ' s competition in 1837. Both had a theological interest and partly built their argumentation on biblical texts or other theological elaborations. As becomes clear in Preece and Li's introduction, there are differences too. Youatt was a veterinarian, whose theological interest grew over time, whereas Drummond turned to a theological education and became a Unitarian minister at early age. As such he became a man of great impact through his preaches and other theological and societal writings, often in a somewhat provocative tone … Drummond meets the reader as a bridge between older "forgotten" and modem animal theology. This bridging function becomes clear to the reader not only through Drummond's own book, but also thanks to the introduction and annotations by Preece and Li. Their most initiated and historically underpinned comments lead the reader to perspectives and dimensions of the text that probably are not evident neither for an ordinary animal protectionist, nor for an ordinary defender of commercialised and industrialized husbandry system. Rather the annotations show such depth and covers a wide range of issues that also philosophers, theologians and historians will them find most useful. This is true not least since although Drummond's views were widely disputed during his lifetime they still were well embedded in his theological view, and thereby inspires to adopt his own ideals: free theological thought, rational inquiry of doctrines and scripture and openness to scientific research of nature. As shown these ideals are not only relevant in a narrow theological context. Above contact between science and theology, they are also relevant in the ongoing debate on where an acceptable animal welfare standard meet economical limits, and not least weather a common value basis can be formulated for policy documents and national and transnational standards.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Dr. Helena Röcklinsberg, Lund University, Sweden

“William Hamilton Drummond (1778-1865) was a 19th-century Unitarian minister, theological controversialist, social activist, educator and poet. He devoted his life to the defence of Unitarianism, of religious liberty, of science and education, and of the rights of animals. His great work, The Rights of Animals, and Man's Obligation to Treat them with Humanity (1838), has now been made available for modern readers in the splendid edition of Drs. Rod Preece and Chien-hui Li. The core of the work is an accurate reprint of Drummond's original work, complete with Drummond's original notes at the foot of each page. However, there is much more. Drs. Preece and Li have provided a 38-page Introduction which admirably sets the work in context. Here we are given relevant biographical details about Drummond, a rich discussion of his religious and social thought, and a vital contextual discussion of Victorian religion, science, and social movements, including the animal rights movement to which Drummond was a major contributor. The editors give just the right amount and right kind of background necessary for the appreciation of Drummond's long- neglected work. Especially to be praised is their attention to the empirically verifiable role of Christianity in promoting animal rights, and in promoting the love of nature in general --a role which is often forgotten in oversimplified modern discussions about Christianity's alleged tendency towards a "domineering" or "exploitative" attitude towards the natural world. Beyond the Introduction there are extensive annotations. Even more impressive, however, are the nearly 700 notes provided by Preece and Li at the end of the book. These notes are a gold mine of background information. There are explanations of Drummond's references to classical literature, elucidations of contemporary Victorian terms and expressions whose meaning might be obscure to modem readers, and learned discussions of a wide range of subjects --from history through natural science through anthropology --which are touched upon by the versatile and wide--ranging mind of Drummond. With the aid of these rich and generous notes (which are delight to explore in their own right as a treasure--trove of rare items from the history of Western thought, even without reference to Drummond), the reader can acquire the necessary "feel" of the intellectual context in which Drummond was writing, and follow his text with ease. Both the Introduction and the Notes are written in a natural, unpretentious style, which makes them accessible to specialist and non-specialist alike. This edition of Drurnmond's The Rights of Animals, which exemplifies the best of painstaking historical scholarship, will be of great interest not only to all specialists in the history of the animal rights movement, but also to those who are fascinated by the thought of the Victorian era or whose focus is on the history of human attitudes towards "nature" in general. The Edwin Mellen Press’ decision to publish this work is to be highly praised.” – Cameron Wybrow, M.A., Ph.D., Author, The Bible, Baconianism and Mastery over Nature: The Old Testament and its Modem Misreading

Table of Contents

Editor’s Introduction
The Rights of Animals and Man’s Obligation to Treat them with Humanity
Editors’ Notes

Other Animals and Society Books