Cruel treatment of children (1890) Cruel treatment of animals 2008

Dear Friends

This was published in The Lancet in 1890 about children.  However, I have substituted the word “children” throughout the article with the word “animals”.  This shows how we have a long and honourable tradition of watering down effective measures to end cruelty and suffering by creating a licencing framework with large discretionary powers.  As a friend of mind once said, if you torture words hard enough they will confess to anything.


There is, unfortunately, too good ground for the belief that the training of circus animals is not only an arduous but often a really cruel process. The question as to how far it is at present legally preventable is not an altogether simple one. It was discussed a few days ago, at a private conference of members of Parliament, in one of the committee-rooms of the House of Commons. On this occasion no precise resolution was arrived at, but it was agreed that some form of State control was called for, and that it might be exercised with some effect, provided that regular apprenticeship and registration of the animals thus employed were insisted on. These conditions would doubtless tend to improve the prospects of the animal performers. It is to be hoped, however, that in any case of this kind large discretionary powers will also be allowed to judges in deciding what is implied in the term ”cruelty” when it is disguised under the name of professional utility.

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