Why Are the British Considered to Be Animal Lovers?

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.

British animal lovers
Bits of Britain. Maine photo by Les Haines
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

6 thoughts on “Why Are the British Considered to Be Animal Lovers?”

  1. I have always been fascinated by the Royal Family. Princess Diana was someone that I really admired while I was growing up. She was probably the one that sparked my interest in the Family. Since she passed away I have kept up on her Boys and now Kate who I really adore.
    I don’t think I ever gave much thought about the Brits being animal lovers probably because I try not to generalize, stereotypes are rarely the reality. Like with the USA, many people judge us by our politicians and we are nothing like them at all. They think that we are all overweight…we are not. They think that we are spoiled and greedy and ungrateful which is so far from the truth that it drives me crazy. These are just some examples of things that I have read, there are more.LOL
    I try to look at people individually but I know that we do generalize and that is normal actually.
    I think the entire world needs to take a step back and realize what we are doing to the animals, it’s really a global issue.
    The Brits in my opinion have always seemed to have a lot of Class and so with that thought at this moment, I would have to believe they are animal lovers

    1. I also admired Diana. She was not the easiest person may be but she was classy and she cared and she raised a couple of good kids too. She could never fit in with the Royal family. Most people here like the Royal family. I am not so sure. I agree with Ruth that for me they totally spoil their image by being hunters and participating in sport hunting. William paints this whiter than white image of himself but he likes to shoot birds.

      I agree that you cannot generalise. There is this image, though, of the Brits being animal lovers which is not really true as you imply. That said animal welfare laws in Britain are very good but they are not always enforced with enough energy. I think, though, that the British character, if there is such a thing, lends itself to better animal welfare, slightly. This is a very grey area and therefore there are no precise boundaries.

  2. No firsthand knowledge here ofcourse. But, all of my life I have been told that the Brits are huge animal lovers.
    I think it’s, probably, true that they have more caring, compassion, and concern for the welfare of domesticated animals than a lot of places.

  3. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    Really it’s a joke that the ‘first family’ in the UK are the patrons of the RSPCA because they love blood sports, hunting animals and shooting birds, even though so many of their ‘subjects’ are against it.
    I think that William and Harry may have had second thoughts about killing for pleasure if their mother Diana had lived, she was against blood sports, it’s such a pity she died as she may have helped change that family’s ways.
    The present government are desperate to bring hunting with dogs back, ten years after it was banned. I really don’t understand how any human being can be so cruel as to hunt an animal for fun.
    I agree Michael, tolerance should include respect to ALL animals, whatever species.
    Take our pet welfare law, a cat in a home is protected by it, a cat in a lab is not. No a cat in a lab isn’t a pet but he/she is still a cat with feelings of fear and pain, no different to any other cat.
    I have no respect for anyone who thinks animals are ours to use and abuse but many people think that we own animals to do as we will with them.
    I suppose some people think we who care are eccentric, well I’d rather be thought eccentric than heartless.

    1. I agree with you on the Royal family. Anybody who is remotely involved with hunting does not get my respect. I am becoming tired of seeing William and Harry and even Kate on the television. And I am very disappointed in William because of his involvement in country sports or what ever he calls them.

      1. yea i dont agree with hunting sports that should be outlawed i mean we live in the age of internet and a new world of many challenges. All animals need to be respected. Over here in NZ there is greater emphasis on even better practice of pigs and cows and hens being in a non caged environment. I just hate the thought of innocent animals being injured and harmed. Its definitly times to change and that can only happen with people to stand up for those animals as otherwise they dont have a voice.

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