Animal Aid : 30 years of campaigning for cruelty-free living

Animal rights merchandise through the decades

Whenever a fictional film, drama or comedy requires a ‘protestor-type’ character, the chances are that they’ll be wearing either a campaign T-shirt and/or a coat covered in slogan-bearing badges. It’s become a bit of a cliché and a source of quiet mockery. Yet looking back over 30 years of the animal rights movement, it is clear that merchandise can play a part in getting messages across. A striking design or clever motto can give a campaign identity and momentum.

A Blast from The Past – Animal Aid’s 30 year campaign T-Shirt and mug.


We asked a group of long-time supporters which T-shirt they thought had made the greatest impact over the last three decades. A clear winner emerged in the shape of a design that Animus produced for the BUAV back in the early 1990s. The message is as follows:

‘Animals don’t smoke
Animals don’t drive
Animals don’t wear make-up
Animals don’t use paint
Animals don’t drink alcohol
Animals don’t drop bombs
Because we do, why should they suffer?’

We thought it particularly appropriate to revive this design for our 30th anniversary, particularly as its message is as relevant as ever.So why not help us celebrate our 30th Anniversary in style?


‘Animals Don’t’ T-shirt.

We have two styles of shirt from which to choose – a skinny T-shirt, and a relaxed version for those who prefer a looser fit.The shirts are in black with the logos and message in red and white on the front. The sleeve sports our 30-year logo.

Skinny fit available in large (34/36) and XL (36/37);
Relaxed fit available in S/M (38/40) and L/XL (42/44).
Price for all T shirts: £12.50

‘Animals Don’t’ Mugs

Another item of merchandise for this special year is our Animals Don’t mug in the same design and colours (black with red and white lettering) as the T-shirt. Price £4.50.

You can buy both of these items from the Animal Aid Shop

The Animus revolution

When Animal Aid was set up in 1977, there wasn’t much thought given to merchandise. It was simply a question of producing as many leaflets (black and white, of course, and churned out roughly on an old duplicator) as very limited funds would allow. When it was eventually decided that a T-shirt and badge would be a good idea, little creativity went into the design, which could best be described as uninspiring. Likewise, the message itself: Stop Animal Experiments was straightforward rather than inspiring. Nonetheless, even this mediocre effort put Animal Aid ahead of the game, since clothing with a direct campaigning message was still relatively unusual.

All this changed in the early 1980s, mostly due to the formation of a small independent group called Animus. Co-founded by two sympathetic graphic designers, Hilly Bevan and Anthony Lawrence, Animus came up with a range of popular badges and T-shirts that became the fashion of the day for the rapidly growing animal rights movement. No self-respecting young activist would be seen without their Meat Is Murder badge, while the anti-vivisection T-shirts – produced by Hilly and Anthony for the BUAV – carried thought-provoking messages that made a strong impact on those who read them. Every Six Seconds An Animal Dies In A Laboratory even became a theme at the largest anti-vivisection rally ever held in the UK, where a ‘die-in’ took place in Trafalgar Square in 1984. Over the period of one hour, a member of the crowd ‘died’ every six seconds, providing a graphic illustration of the rapid death toll for which animal experiments were responsible.

The Lynx factor

A few years later, it was an altogether different sort of design that gave enormous impetus to a campaign. The organisation Lynx had been set up by Mark and Lyn Glover, specifically to oppose the fur industry. They hit on the idea that the anti-fur sentiments of many top designers could be utilised to destroy the fading belief that wearing animal skins was in some way glamorous. Since fur was sold principally as a status symbol fashion product, why not make the anti-fur message appear trendy, thereby also reinforcing the belief that wearing real fur was outdated? Well-known fashion designers donated a series of beautiful animal illustrations that became popular with the famous and the stylish, as well as campaigners. In the second half of the 1980s, it became chic to be seen in a Lynx T-shirt. The organisation had created its own fashion counter-culture that clearly contributed towards the rapid decline of the UK fur industry.

Something for everyone

As a result of the Lynx success, the next few years saw a change in emphasis for other organisations. The hard-hitting slogans disappeared for a while, replaced by a softer approach. As everybody sought to imitate the success of the anti-fur campaign, attractive designs that portrayed the beauty of animals became the ‘in’ thing. If there was a written slogan at all, it was included far more subtly than in the days of Animus.

Nowadays, things have evened out a little. As merchandising has increased, so the tendency has been to try to appeal to all tastes, from those who like a gentler approach to others who prefer something that hammers home the message. While it’s true that nothing has had quite the same dramatic impact as the Lynx material of nearly 20 years ago, there have still been plenty of useful slogans that have played their part in spreading the animal rights message – from our own Living Without Cruelty, Why Be Cruel When You Could be Kind and Choose Life to those of other organisations, such as If You Love Animals Why Eat Them, Choose Cruelty-Free and the controversial For Fox Sake Stop Hunting.

Starting a trend

Looking through the vast range of cruelty-free products available today in Animal Aid's and other organisations’ catalogues, it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t until the launch of our Living Without Cruelty campaign in 1985 that merchandising became an emphatic part of the campaigning message. Until then, most groups simply sold T-shirts and a few random items to raise money, such as key rings and pencils. The idea that sales goods could also demonstrate the availability of alternatives to products that depend upon animal suffering was new.

We began by selling one dairy-free chocolate bar, a couple of cruelty-free cosmetics and, soon afterwards, the first T-shirts that used animal-free dyes on fairtrade cotton. The complete range was listed on one side of an A4 sheet. But sales went through the roof, paving the way for our first small catalogue.

The availability nowadays of such a fantastic range of cruelty-free and eco-friendly products – be it confectionery, shoes, cosmetics and toiletries or household goods – is a sure testament to the growth of the vegetarian and animal rights movement.