This book makes a valuable contribution to animal studies. It investigates the social and political processes concerned with the welfare of performing animals in Britain from the nineteenth century into the twentieth century. Although this area requires specialised inquiry, as David Wilson points out, animal performance is usually generalised about within pro-animal scholarship. Drawing on highly detailed research, this book provides a comprehensive account of the individuals and organisations that campaigned against animal performance and its cruelties and, in turn, those who campaigned for its continuation. It presents the human stories behind the movement against animal performance; descriptions of the actual performances and individual animal performers are outside the scope of this book. While the vested interests of the entertainment industry resisted efforts to ban or even restrict domesticated and exotic animal training and performance, the anti-animal performance campaign attracted a number of notable figures. But Wilson shows that the status of animal performance was fraught from the outset, and that this is not a straightforward narrative in which the pro-animal lobby gradually gained momentum over time to challenge and override the business interests profiting from animal performance. He demonstrates that this is a more complicated history, one in which contradictory moral values on both sides come to the fore; this provides a particularly engaging dimension to the book.
Recommended CitationTait, Peta, [Review] David Wilson, The Welfare of Performing Animals: A Historical Perspective. Berlin: Springer, 2015, Animal Studies Journal, 5(1), 2016, 195-197.
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