The University of Northampton, England, hosted the Brigid Brophy Anniversary Conference on October 9-10, 2015. The conference commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the death of Brigid Brophy (1929-1995) and the fiftieth anniversary of her article, ‘The Rights of Animals,’ published in the Sunday Times on October 10, 1965 (and later collected in the ground-breaking 1971 anthology, Animals, Men and Morals). The School of the Arts at the University of Northampton hosted the two-day conference to celebrate all aspects of Brophy’s literary career, as well as her leading contribution to animal rights, vegetarianism, anti-vivisectionism, humanism, feminism, and her advocacy of the Public Lending Right. The conference organiser was Professor Richard Canning. The following is the abstract and the paper I presented at the conference. The paper was called ‘A Felicitous Day for Fish.’ Click Brigid Brophy to learn more.
Here’s the link to the paper Brigid Brophy Anniversary Conference 2015 Presentation PDF I presented at the conference. And here’s the paper’s abstract:
In 1980, the RSPCA published the Report of the Panel of Enquiry into Shooting and Angling chaired by the distinguished zoologist, Lord Medway, which concluded that “vertebrate animals (i.e., mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) should be regarded as equally capable of suffering to some degree or another, without distinction between ‘warm-blooded’ and ‘cold blooded’ members.” (para 286) The RSPCA was in turmoil during the 1970s and 1980s. Its policy on hunting symbolised the conflict between members who understood the society as only caring for cats and dogs and progressive members, inspired in part by Brigid Brophy’s 1965 article ‘The Rights of Animals,’ who opposed bloodsports and other forms of animal exploitation. The RSPCA subsequently adopted progressive policies, including opposition to bloodsports (but not angling), and banned hunters as ineligible for membership. These developments sent shockwaves through the British establishment, which continue to rumble to the present. The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto commits the government to ‘protect hunting, shooting and fishing’ and ‘give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time.’ Polls repeatedly show majority public opinion opposed to hunting whereas angling is one of the country’s most popular past times, and is not an issue of concern for animal welfare organisations. The launch of the Council for the Prevention of Cruelty by Angling in London and its demise four years later may only warrant a footnote in the history of the animal welfare movement except that Brigid Brophy gave its inaugural address in 1981. As CPCA’s Patron, she called this a ‘felicitous day for fish’ and as CPCA’s Vice President I recall her speech with admiration for its courage, vision, and wit. Drawing from the CPCA file in my animal rights archive, my presentation will consider the context of the remarks made by Brophy about animal rights, including how she saw cruelty to fish in angling from the perspective of her ‘fellow Lefties’ demands for social justice’ and the ‘Right Wing’s concerns for the freedom of the individual.’