Weaning the Calves

Rosa Bonheur (16 March 1822 – 25 May 1899)

Rosa Bonheur (16 March 1822 – 25 May 1899)

It is evident that those who are necessitated by their  profession to trifle with the sacredness of life, and think lightly of the  agonies of living beings, are unfit for benevolence and justice . . .

Their habits form an admirable apprenticeship to the more wasting wickedness of war, in which men are hired to mangle and murder their fellow beings by thousands, that tyrants and countries may profit.
The very sight of animals in the fields who are destined to the axe must  encourage obduracy if it fails to awaken compassion.

How unwarrantable is the injustice and barbarity which is exercised toward  these miserable victims.
They are called into existence by human artifice that  they may drag out a short and miserable existence of slavery and disease, that  their bodies may be mutilated, their social feelings outraged.
It were much  better that a sentient being should never have existed, than that it should have  existed only to endure unmitigated misery.

(The attachment of animals to their  young is very strong. The monstrous sophism that beasts are pure unfeeling  machines, and do not reason, scarcely requires a confutation.)

Percy Bysshe Shelley  (1792 – 1822)


A radical in his poetry as well as his political and social views, Shelley did not live to see success and influence.
Most publishers and journals declined to publish his work for fear of being arrested themselves for blasphemy or sedition.

Henry David Thoreau’s civil disobedience and Mohandas Gandhi’s passive resistance were influenced and inspired by Shelley’s nonviolence in protest and political action.

Critics such as Matthew Arnold endeavoured to rewrite Shelley’s legacy to make him seem a lyricist and a dilettante who had no serious intellectual position and whose longer poems were not worth study. Matthew Arnold famously described Shelley as a “beautiful and ineffectual angel”.
This position contrasted strongly with the judgement of the previous generation who knew Shelley as a sceptic and radical.

Although Shelley’s works were banned from respectable Victorian households, his political writings were pirated by men such as Richard Carlile (an important agitator for the establishment of universal suffrage and freedom of the press in the United Kingdom) who regularly went to jail for printing “seditious and blasphemous libel” (i.e. material proscribed by the government), and these cheap pirate editions reached hundreds of activists and workers throughout the nineteenth century.