Animal Aid – A brief history

Animal Aid – A brief history

THE EARLY YEARS

Animal Aid was formed in 1977 by primary school teacher Jean Pink. Having read about vivisection in Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation, she felt sufficiently outraged to try to do do something about it. With a small group of colleagues, she travelled up to London every Wednesday to give out hand-duplicated leaflets at London underground stations. Her campaign struck a chord with commuters and the organisation spread and grew at a rapid rate: Animal Aid local groups were formed right across Britain. It was effectively the beginning of a modern animal liberation movement in the UK.

Jean Pink (front) joins demonstrators against animal research at Cambridge Uni. Circa 1980
Jean Pink (front) joins demonstrators against animal research at Cambridge Uni. Circa 1980

In the early years, there were regular marches and rallies against vivisection. These took place more or less monthly and attracted massive support. More than 10,000 attended a march against warfare experiments at Porton Down in 1981.

Jean Pink leads an early AA march through Salisbury, on a long march to Porton Down to protest against warfare experiments.
Jean Pink leads an early Animal Aid march through Salisbury, on long march to Porton Down to protest against warfare experiments.

While the vivisection campaign continued to be (and still remains) of paramount importance, the organisation began to get involved in other issues as the 1980s progressed. It had always championed vegetarianism and veganism and began to frame its campaigns within an overall philosophy of Living Without Cruelty – promoting positive alternatives to animal abuse, as well as campaigning against it.

In 1987, we organised the Living Without Cruelty Exhibition at Kensington Town Hall – the first event of its kind and a precursor to the many vegan fairs that now take place across the country.

Morrissey visits Animal Aid's Living Without Cruelty exhibition.
Morrissey visits Animal Aid’s Living Without Cruelty exhibition.

In 1993, we also launched the Christmas Without Cruelty Fayre, which still takes place annually.

One of Animal Aid's first Christmas Without Cruelty bus tours in 1989.
One of Animal Aid’s first Christmas Without Cruelty bus tours in 1989.

Education too began to take prominence. We formed the Animal Aid Youth Group in 1986 (having previously funded the independent Youth for Animal Rights) and ran a long and successful campaign to end compulsory dissection for GCSE students.

Animal Aid Youth Group protest against Unilever's support of animal experiments.
Animal Aid Youth Group protest against Unilever’s support of animal experiments.

Our work in schools remains a priority, with a dedicated team of trained volunteer speakers delivering more than 300 school talks every year. We also produce quality films and other resources for teachers.

Diane Smith giving a talk in a secondary school
Diane Smith giving a talk in a secondary school

MOVING ON

Andrew Tyler became Director of Animal Aid in January 1995 – a role he fulfilled until his retirement in September 2016. Read his take on the Society’s evolution

Andrew speaking at a demonstration against live exports in 2006
Andrew speaking at a demonstration against live exports in 2006