Animals who changed the world
Occasionally the fate of one or two individual animals has a profound influence on a campaign or public perception. Here are three examples from the last 30 years.
Blackie the Labrador
Pet stealing for vivisection was a big issue in the early days of Animal Aid. Thousands of leaflets were distributed. There was strong circumstantial evidence that it went on but no concrete proof. Then, in 1981, a group called the Northern Liberation League rescued a black labrador from the animal holding centre at Sheffield University. Convinced that he had previously been somebody’s pet, they managed to successfully trace his former home. Blackie was eventually returned safely, proving that the pet stealing trade actually existed and providing fresh impetus to the campaign to crack down on the practice.
For all its grave limitations, the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 did tighten the legal requirements for laboratories to obtain animals only from licensed premises and it seems unlikely that the pet stealing trade for vivisection has continued in the UK. Of course, it is of little comfort to the animals bred for vivisection, but at least it has put an end to the trauma caused by pet stealing gangs.
Butch and Sundance - the Tamworth two
In January 1998, two Tamworth pigs, Butch and Sundance, escaped from Malmesbury Abattoir in Wiltshire, by swimming across an ice-cold river and living wild in a nearby wood. They escaped detection for more than a week, during which their pursuit was followed by hordes of reporters and television cameras. After capture, a daily newspaper – responding to the wishes of its readers – paid to save the animals from slaughter and provided a home in a local sanctuary. Their tale later became the subject of a BBC feature film.
In some ways, the feverish public sympathy generated by Butch and Sundance illustrates the incredible double standards of our attitudes to farm animals and meat – but they did change many individuals. Like the successful children’s film, Babe, the story of their escape and rescue inspired many converts to vegetarianism.
Trudy the chimpanzee
In a widely publicised court case in 1999, Mary Chipperfield and her husband Roger Cawley – part of the famous Chipperfield circus dynasty - were found guilty on 12 charges of cruelty to animals. The case had been brought to court by Animal Defenders, following an undercover investigation. Cawley – a government zoo inspector – was filmed beating a screaming Trudy with a riding crop and both defendants were seen kicking her.
Trudy’s ordeal provided a landmark in the campaign against animal circuses. It offered cast-iron and high-profile evidence of the type of cruelty that animal protection organisations had always insisted was routine. Already dwindling in popularity, circuses that relied upon performing animals continued to lose their appeal, culminating in the inclusion of a ban on the use of many wild species in the government’s new Animal Welfare Act.
The story also had a happy ending for Trudy. She was rescued and taken to Monkey World – a home to many unwanted and abused primates, mostly victims of the beach photo trade, smuggling and the pet industry.