This chapter provides a historical overview of the birth of the nation’s first organized animal welfare society, the ASPCA, founded by New York shipping scion Henry Bergh in 1866. The ASPCA and other contemporary humane organizations bore limited resemblance to animal protection societies in the twenty-first century. Activists initially targeted the suffering of laboring animals powering an urbanizing nation; few were vegetarians; their activities often took place in churches; and virtually all of them believed in euthanasia as a merciful end to suffering. As a stage for unmitigated suffering, the Civil War was an immediate catalyst for the rise of the organized SPCA movement. But the movement’s worldview was deeply rooted in the revivalism and reformist milieu of the Second Great Awakening. The movement’s growing emphasis on animal kindness as a signature manifestation of American humanitarianism spurred the creation of American-sponsored animal welfare organizations abroad, such as the American Fondouk in Morocco.
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