“Remind uncertain souls, [and] undecided hearts of the righteous path, make them understand the great significance of the work which we carry out with such ardor and courage.”
As we have already noted, a mission of such benevolence aimed to be able to do without coercion and rely more on the use of rewards, a method which was far more in tune with the way of thinking that animated and motivated the servants of the cause. Punishment often does not achieve its stated aim. When the short-tempered and brutal coachman gets back to the stables after being punished he may well take it out on his horse. A punishment can imitate certain characteristics which gentleness correct. A man who receives a punishment does not boast about it, whereas one who obtains a reward is happy to talk about it; he shows his medal to his workmates. He will not only be encouraged to act well, but he will also encourage the others to imitate him; he will become an apostle for our good works. He will be a very useful helper since his advice will carry a lot of weight with men of the same profession; his words will be listened to more attentively, and better understood than our own. Let us, therefore, continue with this policy, which was pioneered by the kind societies.
A large proportion of the sensitizing devices put in place by the first protection societies were, therefore, prizes, distinctions, and bonuses whose aim was to “offer rewards in order to inspire gentleness in men”. Throughout the 19th century “prizes,” “encouragements” and “bonuses” often constituted, after running costs, the largest item of expenditure. Every year the society holds a special meeting for the distribution of awards: bonuses, medals, and honorable mentions. Rewards are presented in the following categories:
- Farm boys, coachmen-grooms, animal drivers, butcher boys, and any other person who has demonstrated a high level of good treatment and intelligent care and compassion toward animals.
- Inventors and promoters of devices designed to decrease the suffering to working animals […]
- Authors of memoirs regarding topics suggested by the society, or of literary, scientific, artistic or economic publications or works which make useful contributions to its work.
As we can see, the award-giving initiatives mentioned here were underpinned by two distinct yet complementary logics. For inventors and authors of memoirs, receiving an award gave them the feeling of joining the ranks of people of superior knowledge and intelligence. The bonuses awarded to those who showed compassion to animals in the course of their work constituted, on the other hand, initiatives designed to stimulate – outside the core activist group – the emotions needed for the propagation of the cause. This use of rewards is quite openly presented as a sort of moral orthopedics aiming to reform the behavior and attitudes of those categories of the population who are more likely to abuse animals. In London, from 1880 to the beginning of the 20th century, animal welfare campaigners organized a parade during which street sellers were encouraged to “consider their humble donkeys as a spectacle, an object worthy of visual attention – and humane care.”
The owner of the best-turned-out donkey received a prize offered by the distinguished lady patronesses. The Society Members, for its part, organized a school where coachmen were taught that gentleness was a defining feature of the elite members of their profession: “the first quality required of a carter is compassion. Even if a carter possesses all the other requisite qualities in abundance, if he is not compassionate, he will never be other than a vulgar driver who can behave unjustly or inhumanely on the slightest pretext”. In 1908, the SPA leadership was proud to announce that they had trained no less than three hundred Paris coachmen: “each of our most serious students was presented with a certificate which he will be able to use as a kind of passport in employment agencies”.
Nevertheless, the fact that the award scheme induced the changes in behavior that animal welfare campaigners were demanding was not the only reason it was prioritized. Another important function, indeed the most important function, of prize-giving initiatives was that they gave the entrepreneurs for the cause the opportunity to experience gratifying feelings. Finally, it is necessary to reward those who are already on the right track, those whose hearts are so sensitive that every kind of suffering causes them to suffer, and who should, consequently, have their names recorded in the annals of the animal welfare movement. Yes, awarding these prizes is a most agreeable and consoling role for us, and you will soon discover that there are indeed numerous good souls among us.
An “agreeable” and “consoling” role: in other words, the use of rewards has the advantage of testing an emotional economy which is the source of much of the satisfaction that activists derived from their involvement in the movement. In fact, the charitable act established a relationship system between two agents: on the one hand, the individual who acts in a benevolent way, the benefactor, on the other hand, the individual who benefits from their action, the beneficiary, who cannot fail to show the gratitude which for the philanthropist is central to the “the total feeling of pleasure one experiences when carrying out a charitable action”
Animal welfare campaigners demonstrate even higher levels of moral excellence because they are able to replace their initial feelings of repugnance toward the wrongdoers with an attitude of charitable indulgence. Their intention is to lead these offenders back to the right track by rewarding them, which, in turn, increases their own feelings of self-worth. When the benefactors reward farm boys, coachmen, butchers, and others who – rejecting the cruel practices which were then common in their lines of work – show compassion toward animals, they expect the award winners to make a show of gratitude, which in turn is gratifying for the benefactors themselves. In other words, the use of awards establishes an emotional economy that reaffirms the moral preeminence of the benefactors and the asymmetry of the reciprocal expectations which joins them to the beneficiaries of their actions. By accepting to be rewarded for having respected the stipulated norms the “repentant deviants” play their part in reaffirming the superior social status of the moral entrepreneurs. This is further proof, if any was necessary, that the first animal protectors were as preoccupied with relations between men as they were with relations between men and animals. It goes without saying that the emotional economy which the prizegiving initiatives were intended to establish was an ideal that was not always achieved. Indeed such an emotional economy appeared to be far too delicate and subtle to be in a position to influence “certain brutes with human faces”.
Such individuals were quite unmoved by the benevolence of the animal protectionists, would reprimand those who remonstrated with them, and sometimes even mocked the compassion which was being advocated. Far from being moved in a constructive way by gentleness, or by bonuses bestowed by generous benefactors, these heartless unintelligent creatures only understood force. This is why statements by animal protectionists made repeated references to the fact that coercive measures are a necessary evil, a second choice, a “regrettable necessity” to which, because of the urgency of their mission, good men are sometimes forced to resort.
The agents of the authority, faithfully following their instructions to the letter, every day contribute zeal and devotion to the great cause of animal protection. They conscientiously apply the law, without which our society would be deprived of its main purpose, and of the right to call itself, as it does with such pride, the Society for the Protection of Animals. We can always rely on them to be there when it is necessary to remind certain brutes with human faces that men do not have the right to cruelly take advantage of their moral and physical superiority over innocent creatures which nature put in their care.
In fact, there is a repressive aspect to the work of animal welfare societies that should not be overlooked. These societies did not content themselves with merely lobbying for the first legislation which outlawed cruelty to animals, they also dedicated a significant part of their budget to funding projects which ensured that the law was applied. Once more it was the RSPCA that took the lead, setting an example for its continental counterparts to follow. The RSPCA appointed two inspectors as early as 1832. Their job was to patrol the streets of London, and identify and report anyone guilty of committing offenses under the provisions of Martin Error! No bookmark name given‘s Act. Since that time the role of RSPCA inspectors has been substantially redefined and their number has continued to rise, in order to maximize the amount of the country covered by the organization: in 1974 there were two hundred inspectors in England alone, with Scotland and Northern Ireland covered by inspectors from their own animal protection societies. In France, the institutionalization of methods of control and repression of those who violated animal protection legislation came in two distinct stages. Initially, the SPA conferred a surveillance role to its members. This was facilitated by the fact that the public authorities acknowledged that SPA members were particularly competent in this regard. “In 1856 the police prefect authorized each member to carry a special card. The card specified their function and enabled them to call for the intervention of public law enforcement agents.”
Four years later this special card was described as a “diploma” and was proof of membership of the SPA: “Members are presented with a diploma. With their diploma, the new member receives a card which entitles them to request the intervention of police officers for the purpose of certifying contraventions of the Law”. In other words, once again, the awarding of a special card amounts to a distinctive honor which enables members to experience the pride of belonging to an elite dedicated to promoting justice and upholding the law, as well as authorizing them to track down and expose any wrongdoings committed by their fellow citizens. In fact, at SPA meetings some of the more zealous members would proudly report having been instrumental in the recording of a large number of police statements. In order to encourage these kinds of actions inspired by moral Values, the SPA bulletin published a model complaint form for “members of the protection society who found themselves obliged to require a police officer to issue a fine for cruelty”. In order that as many offenses as possible were punished the SPA organized the awarding of bonuses “to law enforcement officers who were zealous in their application of the laws and regulations governing cruelty to animals.”
Thus the bulletin of the society would publish lists of the police officers to whom they had awarded bonuses, which were calculated by counting the number of breaches of the Law they had dealt with. Later, from 1881 onward, the SPA adopted the British model and financed a team of uniformed inspectors who patrolled the streets of the French capital. They recruited individuals with qualities not normally associated with respectable members of the SPA: successful applicants needed not only to be experienced around horses, but also be “perfectly prepared to respond to carters in their own language, to be able to intimidate them despite their bravado, to tackle them physically, and not to be put off by anything in the course of taming these savage beasts.”
The number of inspectors in both the “repression department” and the “inspection department” was constantly on the increase. Nevertheless, [shouted a SPA official at a meeting] “in 1884-1885 ten inspectors are not enough. At least twenty are needed, one per arrondissement. It is now the second-highest item of expenditure, along with awards”. In fact, from then onward the combined budgets for the “repression department” and the “inspection department” – including salaries, bonuses, and uniforms – took up an ever-increasing proportion of spending on animal welfare. Thus, the legal effectiveness of the Law was for a long time one of the major preoccupations of animal welfare campaigners, who regularly monitored and commented on the way the courts applied the law, and tended to closely associate the defense of their cause with a substantial advance in the law. Thus the sentences handed out in animal welfare cases came to be regarded as an indicator of how the cause was progressing, and something which activists could be proud of. We firmly believe that Divine help for moral awareness figures the right Will, until the day, the day we are looking forward to, when, as a result to the impact of our doctrines on public morality [toward animals] will have stopped.