As we approach the end of 2022, we’re reflecting on our charity’s long history of advocating for animals in Scotland and beyond.

Founded in 1911 as the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Vivisection (SSPV), over a century of campaign work and progress for animals has evolved since then.  

We’re proud to have such a rich history and inspirational predecessors, spurring us on in our present-day action for animals. It is remarkable to look back at what was accomplished back in the early 1900s when SSPV began, at a time when animal welfare activism and legislation were in their infancy. Not to mention the complete absence of the digital campaign and communication tools that we take for granted nowadays!  

The origins of the SSPV

SSPV founders Elizabeth and Netta Ivory

 

The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Vivisection was founded by sisters Netta and Elizabeth Ivory, back in 1911. Passionate about animals, Netta decided she wanted to do more to end animal cruelty following an experience bringing a dog to be humanely put down.  

She was horrified by the dog’s reaction to the strychnine they were administered with, a toxic substance that causes convulsions, which is thankfully no longer used. This sparked a desire in Netta to find ways to protect dogs and other animals, especially from vivisection or animal experimentation, which she saw as the worst form of cruelty.  

While initially the SSPV was run out of the home of Netta and her sister, offices soon opened in Glasgow and Edinburgh. At the beginning, it was run almost entirely by women, many of whom were also active in the suffragette movement. 

Campaigning then and now 

SSPV stall at rail station - leaflets being handed out and donations being collected

 

While the tools we have at hand for campaigning may have changed over the years, the step-by-step approach initiated by our ancestors has stuck with us as an effective way of achieving real change for animals.  

Early on, the SSPV realised that campaigning for small steps had a faster impact on animals’ lives than only calling for complete abolition. Similar to OneKind today, they lobbied MSPs and worked in close collaboration with other animal welfare organisations, striving to get Bills through Parliament to protect animals from vivisection and other forms of cruelty.  

As is the case today, a significant portion of the SSPV’s work was raising public awareness about animal welfare issues at events like stalls at dog shows, film screenings, daffodil teas, dances, other social events and a travelling caravan toured by lecturer Mr. Williams.

Animal Welfare Week (1930s) 

The Animal Welfare Week organised by our charity from the 1930s was a huge success in both awareness-raising and enabling the public to take action for animals.  

Thousands of people arrived in Glasgow and Edinburgh at various shops offered up for the occasion, to take leaflets or sign petitions on animal welfare issues. They also screened films, and in 1936, it was estimated that over 100,000 people in Glasgow watched animal welfare films in just one week.

This event also successfully garnered media attention, with coverage by the Scottish BBC and the Daily Record. In general, the SSPV received a great deal of largely favourable media coverage, and ran weekly advertisments in newspapers from the 1930s.  

The War Years (1914-1945) 

WW1, 1914, soldier with war horses. © Imperial War Museum

It is remarkable to note that we survived and campaigned throughout two world wars and a global financial depression in the 1930s!   

They raised their voices for animals who were used in fighting in the First World War, recognising the cruelty of the conflict for both humans and non-humans. They continued their campaign work during this difficult period, despite challenges posed by the reduced funds and ink and paper rationing.  

The SSPV even managed to continue publishing their journal ‘Our Fellow Mortals’ at the time, which was founded and edited by Isabella Fyvie Mayo in 1912, and was known across Scotland, England and Ireland.  

They also advocated against the use of animals to test poison gases during war, which had no known antidotes at the time. They objected to the horrific use of these gases entirely, and the suffering they inflicted on human soldiers, civilians and animals alike. The testing of anthrax on animals by the UK Government in some of the remote Scottish Islands was another issue that the SSPV campaigned against at the time. 

A century of wonderful supporters 

Just like in the beginning, our supporters remain essential to the work we do for animals. Volunteers helped run the various events organised by the SSPV, and supporters often offered up their homes or businesses for talks, leafleting and petition signing, such as during the Animal Welfare Weeks.  

Scottish Tail Wagger’s Club (1929-1945) 

Scottish Tailwaggers Club out campaigning with vehicle and dogs

Supporters were key to the success of the Scottish Tail Wagger’s Club, which campaigned especially for dogs to become exempt from vivisection. Individuals who joined the club received a certificate, dog collar registration and a medallion for their dog, meaning that they would be more traceable should they go missing. 

As part of their anti-vivisection campaigning, the club also started The Dog’s Friends’ Petition which was eventually presented to Parliament with 19,515 signatures!  

We’d like to think that all of those who signed this petition and worked to end animal vivisection would be proud to see us hand in our Target Zero petition to Downing Street earlier this year. This joint petition with Cruelty Free International and Animal Free Research UK gathered over 101,000 signatures and called on the UK Government to phase out animal experimentation. 

The Dogs Bazaar (1912-1950)

Supporters were also fundamental to the Dog’s Bazaar, an annual fundraising event held in Edinburgh by the SSPV from 1912. The event featured various stands including a fake fur fabric stall and one from the Vegetarian Society. 

Vivisected Jack, dog who was stolen and used for experiments in 1913

Each Bazaar was convened by at least one dog whose photograph and story were sent out to members before the event, who kindly donated items and funds in response. 

 

One of the dogs at the forefront of the Bazaar was Vivisected Jack, an Irish terrier who rose to fame after he disappeared from home for 6 weeks, only to be found weeks later. It was discovered that he had been taken by a university laboratory and operated on for research purposes.  

Help us continue to make history 

Similar to OneKind today, the SSPV couldn’t do the work they did without the generosity of supporters who donated to events like the Dogs Bazaar and at various stalls held by the charity. Their support remained steadfast even throughout two world wars, with individuals continuing to donate to stalls during this period. 

We are so grateful to all our supporters over the years who have been essential to our campaign work, from those early days of animal advocacy to our present work ending cruelty to all animals, be it farmed, companion animals, wildlife, or animals used in research and experimentation. 

If you would like to be a part of helping us continue raising our voices for animals in 2023 and beyond, you can make a donation to our Christmas appeal here.

All SSPV photos © OneKind