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A Union of Christianity, Humanity, and Philanthropy: The Christian Tradition and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Nineteenth-Century England

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This paper offers an historical perspective to the discussion of the relationship between Christianity and nonhuman-human animal relationships by examining the animal protection movement in English society as it first took root in the nineteenth century. The paper argues that the Christian beliefs of many in the movement, especially the evangelical outlook of their faith, in a considerable way affected the character as well as the aims and scope of the emergent British animal welfare movement - although the church authorities did not take an active part in the discussion and betterment of the conditions of animals. An explicitly Christian discourse, important in creating and sustaining the important philanthropic tradition in Britain, mobilized the movement. The paper also traces the gradual decrease of the centrality of the movement's Christian elements later in the century when evolutionary ideas as well as other developments in society shed ahternative light on the relationship between human and nonhuman animals and brought about different trends in the movement. This paper sees Christianity not as a static and defining source of influence but as a rich tradition containing diverse elements that people drew upon and used to create meanings for them. The paper implicitly suggests that both a religion's doctrines in theory and the outcome of a complex interaction with the changing society in which the religion is practiced determine its potential to influence animal-human relationships.


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