Animal Studies Journal


In 1959, Alan Abel began sending out a series of press releases to American media outlets credited to a new organization, The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals. Using the language of conservative moralists opposed to the changes in postwar society, he argued that ‘naked’ animals were scandalous and needed to be clothed. Pets, farm animals, and wildlife were all included, as the organization hued to slogans like ‘a nude horse is a rude horse’ and ‘decency today means morality tomorrow’. Abel employed comedian Buck Henry to play the organization’s president, G. Clifford Prout, who gave interviews and speeches covered widely by the mainstream press. Over the next four years, Prout and the group were featured on every major American newscast. The hoax was exposed in late 1962 after he gave an interview to Walter Cronkite. The following year, Time magazine officially debunked the existence of the group. It was an elaborate hoax, but it was also a satire, using animals to critique moralists attempting to ban books and music for indecency. In so doing, the group also unintentionally laid bare American contradictory thinking about animals, as clothing nonhuman animals and worrying about their ‘indecency’ assumed that they had some level of agency. The United States, for example, had always classified the killing of those wearing clothes as murder. Thus it was that while the satire of The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals was directed toward human moralists, the content of its crusade focused exclusively on nonhumans, raising clear questions about their role in human society.