The North Carolina State University Libraries has acquired an important collection of nearly 400 rare pamphlets and other works relating to animal advocacy, animal rights, and animal welfare. These materials enhance the Libraries’ collecting efforts in an interdisciplinary field that engages scholars across the humanities, human and veterinary medicine, and the sciences.
Of significant scholarly and historical importance, the collection spans a period of over eighty years from the 1870s to the 1950s, and includes a wealth of promotional, advocacy, and educational materials that throw light upon the moral, social, medical, and political dimensions of this complex movement.
Concern for animal welfare grew in the decades after the first animal anti-cruelty law was passed in 1822. With the backing of renowned abolitionist William Wilberforce, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was established in 1824, becoming the first animal welfare organization in the world and the first law enforcement agency in the United Kingdom. The pamphlets and other materials conserved in the NCSU Libraries collection continued this momentum, engaging some of the leading activists of the time including the noted feminist and social reformer Frances Power Cobbe (1822-1904) and Henry Salt (1851-1939), author, social campaigner, biographer of Henry David Thoreau, founder of the influential Humanitarian League, and friend of Mahatma Gandhi. Also included are published works and correspondence from notable novelists H. E. Bates, H. G. Wells, and George Bernard Shaw.
These materials stand as testament to the work of the tireless campaigners who sought to spread their message through the creation and distribution of mass publications. Because the material was often published in the heat of argument with little thought for long-term preservation, this collection provides a valuable and unique multi-disciplinary research tool, as well as potential source for future exhibitions and associated opportunities for outreach and educational projects.
The acquisition of these pamphlets builds on the NCSU Libraries’ leadership in this collecting area and augments existing archival processing initiatives, including Acting for Animals: Revealing the Records of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare Movements, a 2011 grant that documents the animal welfare and the animal rights movements of the second half of the 20th century. The Acting for Animals grant was supported with funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources.
Dr. Tom Regan, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at NC State University, notes that “before the recent acquisition, the library’s holdings were the most comprehensive in the world. With the addition of these new materials, especially the ones from the nineteenth century, the library has strengthened its claim to preeminence.” The depth and breadth of the NCSU Libraries’ collections now provide a rich trove of primary resources to support research in animal advocacy, rights and welfare from the 1870s to the present.