Aside from the fact that the British created the world’s first animal welfare charity in the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA), I would like to briefly focus on the character of the British to see whether people’s perception of the British character matches up to the sort of character, in a person, which appreciates and respects animals, particularly the domestic cat.
Incidentally, it is perhaps interesting to note that Queen Victoria in 1840 granted royal patronage on the then Society for the Protection of Animals. In contrast, the premier organisation for the protection of children is called the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). The former is “Royal” and the latter is “National”. That may say something about the British character.
I suppose, that the first question to ask is whether it is true that the British are animal lovers. It is difficult to generalise. There are many people in Britain who mistreat animals just like anywhere else. However, it is probably fair to say that, in general, there may be a higher percentage of people who respect animals and animal welfare in Britain than in many other countries. But they are a dying breed….
However, it is probably also fair to say that Britain has changed substantially over the past fifty years and continues to do so. The British have changed too. There are less of the old-style British and more of the modern less tolerant and more aggressive British. The old-style British were more restrained and thought more of others. The British used to be more modest and emotion was expressed in a less exaggerated and more proportional way. Manners counted more.
So what’s in the British character that makes it still possible that they are animal lovers? Bill Bryson, the author of Notes from a Small Island portrays the British with an affectionate glow as self-deprecating, eccentrics possessing dogged fortitude.
Theodore Dalrymple stays that his mother, a refugee from Nazi Germany, thought that the British, on her arrival from Germany, were pleasant in being self-contained, self-controlled, law-abiding and tolerant of others.
I think both Theodore Dalrymple and Bill Bryson touch on the character of the British, perhaps you could say old-school British, which made them respectful of animals.
The first characteristic of old-school British character is self-discipline and doggedness. In a previous article I wrote that conscientiousness (as an element of self-discipline) is a factor in good cat caretaking because a lot of what we have to do in respect of looking after a cat requires self-discipline.
That slightly eccentric, self-deprecating character is also highly suited to cat caretaking. Self-deprecation requires an openness of thought and character. Eccentrics are often intelligent and thoughtful because they do things their own way which puts them outside of mainstream society. They have their own mind. You only achieve that by being thoughtful and confident in your beliefs.
So we have modesty, self-discipline, openness, doggedness (patience) and intelligence, which as far as I am concerned can equate to agreeableness. There is a lack of harsh competitiveness in those qualities and a more relaxed approach to life which is tolerant of others.
Being tolerant of others should include being respectful of others, and “others” must include animals and therefore includes companion animals and the domestic cat. Intelligence and openness can translate to excellent cat caretaking because it fosters a close relationship between human and cat.
It goes wider than that. Recently in the newspapers there was a lot of discussion about halal meat and whether it was cruel to slaughter animals by cutting their throats without stunning beforehand. Mainstream old-style British society would probably disagree with the way animals are slaughtered for halal meat. This is an expression of the British concern for animal welfare.
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