Having previously been Vice-President, Nina Douglas-Hamilton, Duchess of Hamilton and Brandon, took over as President of the SSPV from the late Earl of Haddington.

The Duchess of Hamilton and Brandon 1918

The Duchess remained President of the SSPV for over 30 years and was very active in that time, campaigning for animal welfare worldwide.

She campaigned for reforms in slaughter as well as trapping and transportation methods. As part of her work, she visited slaughterhouses to see the methods used, protested at cattle markets and held long talks and conferences with those in the meat trade but was known for being so charming that she did not arouse hostility in her opponents. Vivisection was her main issue though, and she campaigned about it up until her death.

The Duchess was a co-creator of the Humane Exhibition in Geneva and was very active in it, attending annually except during the Second World War.

During the war, in 1939, the BBC allowed her to broadcast that the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society (which she co-founded in 1903) was helping people to find free accommodation for animals during the evacuations and air raids. This led to queues of people outside their London offices, and many animals were brought to her home in Ferne just outside London. Her home was turned into an animal sanctuary, and she got very involved in the work, even working nights with the vet to help animals in need.

At Ferne, no methods were used which were believed to have derived from vivisection. It is claimed that many of the patients had distemper and feline influenza, but there was a relatively small percentage of deaths at the sanctuary. This is attributed to the use of homeopathy, herbs, and light treatment, but especially to the kindness and individual care the animals received.

The sanctuary continued after the war, and the Duchess created an illustrated book about it called 'Chronicles of Ferne'. The sanctuary still exists, although no longer in the same location.

In 1950, the Duchess refused to be operated on for a throat condition due to her opinions on medical research. When the condition worsened, she also refused antibiotics. The condition led to her death the following year.

Photos © OneKind