English Catholic poet, and opponent of cruelty to animals
From the Guardian, No.61, 21 May 1713:
‘I cannot think it extravagant to imagine that mankind are no less in
proportion accountable for the ill use of their dominion over the creatures of
the lower ranks of beings, than for the exercise of tyranny over their own
species. The more entirely the inferior creation is submitted to our power, the
more answerable we should seem for our mismanagement of it; and the rather, as
the very condition of nature renders these creatures incapable of receiving any
recompense in another life for their ill-treatment in this. It is observable of
those noxious animals, which have qualities most powerful to injure us, that
they naturally avoid mankind, and never hurt us unless provoked or necessitated
by hunger. Man, on the other hand, seeks out and pursues even the most
inoffensive animals on purpose to persecute and destroy them. ... We should find
it hard to vindicate the destroying of any thing that has life ...
But if our sports [namely, the ‘sanguinary sport’ of hunting] are
destructive, our gluttony is more so, and in a more inhuman manner. Lobsters
roasted alive, pigs whipped to death, fowls sewed up, are testimonies to our
outrageous luxury. Those who (as Seneca expresses it) divide their lives betwixt
an anxious conscience and a nauseated stomach, have a just reward of their
gluttony in the diseases it brings with it ... I know nothing more shocking or
horrid than the prospect of one of their kitchens covered with blood, and filled
with the cries of creatures expiring in tortures.
Pope then cites Ovid, first in Latin, then in John Dryden’s translation of
Book 15 of Metamorphoses:
...“The sheep was sacrificed on no pretence,
But meek and unresisting innocence,
A patient useful creature, born to bear
The warm and woolly fleece that cloth’d her murderer;
And daily to give down the milk she bred,
A tribute for the grass on which she fed.
Living, both food and raiment she supplies,
And is of least advantage when she dies.
How did the toiling ox his death deserve;
A downright simple drudge and born to serve
What more advance can mortals make in sin
So near perfection, who with blood begin?
Deaf to the calf that lies beneath the knife,
Looks up, and from her butcher begs her life;
Deaf to the harmless kid, that ere he dies
All methods to secure thy mercy tries,
And imitates in vain the children’s cries”
(Pope now:) Perhaps that voice or cry so nearly resembles the human,
with which Providence has endued so many different animals, might purposely be
given them to move our pity, and prevent those cruelties we are too apt to
inflict on our fellow-creatures. There is a passage in the book of Jonas
[Jonah], when God declares his unwillingness to destroy Nineveh, where methinks
that compassion of the Creator, which extends to the meanest ranks of his
creatures, is expressed with wonderful tenderness – “Should I not spare Nineveh
that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons” – “and also
much cattle?” ... To conclude, there is certainly a degree of gratitude owing to
those animals that serve us. As for such as are mortal or noxious [i.e.lethal
and harmful], we have a right to destroy them; and for those that are neither of
advantage nor prejudice to us, the common enjoyment of life is what I cannot
think we ought to deprive them of.’
Pope talks with his friend Joseph Spence, who recorded the following
conversation (in, Anecdotes, Observations and Characters, 1830):
Spence: I shall be very glad to see Dr Hales [a surgeon and
vivisectionist], and always love to see him, he is so worthy a man.
Pope: Yes, he is a very good man, only I’m sorry he has his hand so
imbued with blood.
Spence: What! he cuts up rats!
Pope: Ay, and dogs too (With what emphasis and scorn he spoke it).
Indeed, he commits most of these barbarities with the thought of being of use to
man; but how do we know that we have a right to kill creatures that we are so
little above as dogs for our curiosity, or even for some use to us?
In another conversation, Spence suggests that dogs may possess reason...
Pope: So they have to be sure. all our disputes about that, are only
disputes about words. Man has reason enough only to know what is necessary for
him to know; and dogs have just that too.
Spence: But then they must have souls too; as unperishable in their
Pope: And what harm would that be to us? .