ACTS OF GOOD
the WENTWORTH ACT of 1635 ; the CRUELTY TO CATTLE ACT of 1822, the WORLDS FIRST POLICE FORCE and the FIRST RECORDED HUNT SABOTAGE....
ONE SMALL ACT BY A MAN, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND - Direct Action for Animals in Ireland began long ago. Richard Martin, MP for his native Galway, is widely but wrongly considered the first person on record to agitate against violence against animals. Martin introduced the Cruelty to Cattle Act in 1822 that outlawed overt cruelty to Cattle on farms or slaughterhouses, a truly revolutionary Act for its time. But he wasn’t the first to get pro-animal laws passed in Ireland. That credit goes to a well-dressed chap from London named Thomas Wentworth, AKA Lord Deputy of Ireland to you and me
Almost 2oo years prior to Martins 1822 Act was the Wentworth Act of 1635 which criminalized tying ploughs to horses’ tails and pulling wool from live sheep. A fine of ten shillings applied. Wentworth was the Lord Deputy of Ireland at the time and noticed with “barbaric custom” was common amongst the local Gaelic farmers who engaged in this ancient practice because they were incredibly poor and could not afford harnesses or shears. Upon consultation with the Irish Parliament, such practices were banned. This was the world’s first piece of State legislation outlawing violence against animals and perhaps reflects the burgeoning Enlightenment periods’ new perspective. Wentworth’s own justification for the Act was to prevent “cruelty used to the beasts”.
That much aside, Wentworth was considered an authoritarian despot and was hated and feared by the Gaels he ruled over. Furthermore, much revenue was raised for the King by fining poor farmers who broke this law, suggesting it was just another way of taxing the locals. The enforcement of this law was haphazard and inefficient – the license to enforce the Act and thus collect the fines was simply sold annually for $100.Indeed, “ploughing by the tayle” and other cruel, archaic farming techniques might have been done away with altogether -as in Britain - had the prevailing economic system not prevented the aboriginal Irish from prospering and being able to afford the cost of proper farming equipment.
above -Close but no cigar - Thomas Wentworth. Lord Deputy of Ireland 1632 – 1640.
above - WOE IS HE - feeling sorry, but only for himself - G.R. Fitzgerald on the day of his execution.
Richard “trigger” Martin, AKA “Humanity Dick”, 1754-1834, Member of Parliament (MP) for his native Galway, survivor of over 100 duels, friend of King George IV and all-round anarcho-dandy, was one of the first among us to advocate forcefully and persistently for better treatment of our non-human animal cousins.
One of Martins first direct actions for animals was in circa 1780 with the case of Mayo man G.R. “Fighting” Fitzgerald, a notable gentleman thug, infamous for his belligerence and ill-temperament, thought to have been caused by a blow to the head when a youth. Fitzgerald had recently fallen out with a mutual friend, the Marquess of Sligo Lord Altamont, and called round to his estate demanding “satisfaction”, i.e. a duel. When Fitzgerald knocked on Altamont’s door, his pet Alsatian dog was first to arrive and was immediately shot dead by Fitzgerald, who then fled.
Martin was incensed by this act of casual cruelty but couldn’t himself challenge Fitzgerald to a duel. The “’Gentleman’s Code”’ stated Altamont alone should do this, but he was old and afraid. Martin had to wait. He waited three full years, until his chance arrived when Fitzgerald was due in Court for killing Altmonts beloved pet dog (under charges of damaging "property"). Martin volunteered to represent the prosecution pro bono.
He so publicly eviscerated Fitzgerald in Court that day, so verbally abused and belittled him for hours in the Courtroom, that Fitzgerald had no option but to challenge Martin to a duel, which was eagerly anticipated and immediately accepted.
above and below - portrait of Richard Martin MP, AKA ‘Humanity Dick”, a nickname given him by his friend King George IV of Great Britain.
DOG OF WAR - illustration of a dog similar to the one killed by Fitzgerald
duel in the crown
above - also known as “hair-Trigger” Martin, this is how he might have looked moments before his showdown with G.R. ‘’Fighting Fitzgerald - Actor Sean Leonard portraying 'Humanity Dick’ in his renowned one-man 2018 show. image from the City Tribune, Galway,Jan.12,2018,p.14
On the fateful day of the Duel, to be held in in Castlebar barracks, Martin and Fitzgerald, each accompanied by their manservants, took positions and prepared to engage in potentially mortal combat. Going back-to-back, then walking set paces before turning and firing their pistols at each other, Martin’s bullet struck Fitzgerald on the cheek, knocking him off his feet and sending his shot into thin air. Fitzgerald immediately demanded another duel. Martin agreed, upset at not killing his nemesis. This time, in a decidedly ungentlemanly move, ‘Fighting’ Fitzgerald ducked down as he turned to fire- a favored tactic of his. He hit Martin on the shoulder. Both men then collapsed in pain and had to be dragged off the field of combat by their respective servants. This was violent, privileged animal advocacy at its best-dressed and most flamboyant. Fighting Fitzgerald was later hanged for murdering his father’s attorney in 1786.
NEVER MIND THE BULLOCKS - HERES THE DUELING PISTOLS - Martin was also responsible for passing the Cruelty to Cattle Act of 1822, often considered to be the first piece of legislation that criminalized particular acts of violence acts against specific non-human animals anywhere ever. He went on to establish an independent enforcement agency – the RSPCA – to prosecute those who transgressed the new law. He then financed that Society, paying for its enforcers (inspectors) and acting at its lawyer. The public’s perception of the modern RSPCA is about rescuing cats and dogs from cruel and careless owners -in fact initially the organizations principal activity was seeking out and prosecuting illegal acts of animal abuse in the meat trade.
With the RSPCA’s employed inspectors checking for illegal animal cruelty at London's’ Smithfield Market since 1824, these animals had a police force years before humans did, thus proving Not All Cops Are (necessarily) Bastards (NACA(n)B).
In fact, the “humans” Police of Robert Peel modelled their uniforms on the by-now well established uniforms of the RSCPA Inpsectors. In its first year of existence, the RSPCA brought 63 individuals to Court for cruelty to animals, all of which failed, mainly because Magistrates and Judges refused to take the charges seriously. In fact it wasn’t until 1838, after 14 years of trying ,that the RSPCA had a successful prosecution. A trader in London named Bill Burns was fined by the Courts for beating a donkey on the street. MP Trigger Martin, prosecuting the case on behalf of the RSPCA and the donkey, felt compelled to bring the injured animal into the Courthouse for all to see and bear witness to the wounds , so the smirking Magistrates gathered might finally sympathise with the aggrieved defendant, a scene immortalised in a painting by Mathews. (see below).
Martins Cruelty to Cattle Act was replaced by none other than Sir Robert Peel in 1828, with an updated and expanded Cruelty to Animals Act which expanded the scope of the law to include most farm animals and increased the penalties the Courts could impose on abusers, including prison. Ever so slowly the circle of compassion was rippling outwards.
And in his spare time, Martin liked nothing more than to hunt down and kill foxes. For fun. Ya know, he needed to work off the stress of prosecuting donkey-beaters with a bit of shooting foxes in the face at the weekend, if the weathers good.
Born into the top end of the 1%, Martin was both years ahead of his time and, inevitably, also a man of it. He loved to hunt in the vast grounds of his estates in Galway, living a lifestyle of exceptional privilege obtained through the forced labour of thousands of others, maintained by a deeply dysfunctional, violent and cruel system of Empire. So it’s no surprise that such discrepancies and hypocrisies characterize the ideology of the RSPCA. Such ugly incongruity created fault lines running through the organizations philosophy which erupted in public in the 1970’s ,as factory farmers and fox hunters vied for control of the Board of Trustees with vegan ALF militants. The fact that such disparate groups could join - and subsequently clash - in the same organization is unsurprising given the conflicting passions of one of its principal founders.
The RSPCA – where rescuing dogs and cats whilst eating chickens and pigs makes perfect sense.
above - fawning portrait of G.R. "fighting' Fitzgerald, - Irelands thoroughly deserving first victim of animal rights wrath. The man was an all-round bully and a menace to society by most accounts, don't be fooled by the fawning propaganda illustrated here. He probably hated kites. And children. And dogs. He definitely hated dogs. Minutes after this painting was taken, he had probably shot the dog and put the boy in a headlock.
Fitzgerald was hanged in 1786 for murder. Good Riddance.
above - the Worlds first successful prosecution on behalf of an animal against a person.
THE LAW IS AN ASS (so lets kick it) -The trial of Bill Burns – behind the donkey, cocking-a-snook – with Richard “Humanity" Martin, MP – standing in front of donkey. The Magistrates were unable to take the charges seriously until Martin brought the donkey into the Courtroom so all could bear witness to the trauma the animal had suffered at the hands of his "owner".
Painting by P. Mathews , August 1838
"..the most violent republicans I know are all vegetarians...those who live on lentils and artichokes are always calling for the severed heads of Kings. In the political sphere a diet of green beans seems dangerous..."
King Quip himself, Oscar Wild, 1887
above - grouchy fucker
Good Cop - the RSPCA was the worlds first police force, preceding the first humans police force by seven years
Sir Robert Peel founded the Metroploitan Police in 1829 and based their uniforms and command structure on the RSPCA model. He also extended the range of animals under the protetion of the Law.
the Metropolitan Police today
ANIM-ALCATRAZ - the worlds first prison for animal abusers
"Trigger" Martin, MP, was centuries ahead of his time when it came to animal abuse. Prior to the Act of 1822, Martin was known to have local animal abusers rowed out to this tower on a tiny islet in the middle of Ballynahinch Lough in West Galway until they repented for their misdeeds (above) .He was particularly harsh on anyone who mistreated donkeys it seems.
POSTSCRIPT - I actually drank in the same pub as Trigger Martin, MP. Indeed, we both trod the same floorboards, albeit 200 years apart. I lived for a time in Galway, his old Constituency, in the mid-1990's, and used to frequent the towns best public house - Naughton's Pub, in the heart of the old City. This building used to be Martin's City pad back in the day and I like to think his spirit permeated down through the centuries as its where I and others planned our first forays into hunt sabotage as described elsewhere on this site. So powerful was his resonance through the Ages that I vaguely remember many a night being carried out of there by my comrades, babbling incoherently yet filled with belief in the struggle.
fuck shit up!
OG - Trigger Martin, MP, tears into an animal abuser at Smithfield's Meat market, East London. drawing by Cruikshank
the WORLD'S FIRST HUNT SABOTAGE
above - Fr. Eugene Sheehy above - GET OFF OUR LAND - the scene as it might have looked at the worlds first organised disruption of a foxhunt, Bruree, Co. Limerick, 1886
FILTHY BASTARD- John Gubbins - hated landlord, horse breeder and first foxhunter to be sabotaged
IN THE BEGINNING there was Fr. Eugene Sheehy, parish priest for Bruree in the west of Ireland.
He was a well-known Republican and head of the local chapter of the Land League, a pressure group that campaigned for Irish tenants rights.
When local Landlord John Gubbins evicted three families of tenants from their homes in 1886 , Fr. Sheehy organised the village GAA Hurling team and local farmers to physically block access to their lands to Gubbins and his fellow foxhunters. They did so, and continued to do so throughout the winter, preventing any hunting that season. Gubbins sold his hunting horses the following year.
This makes it the first ever recorded act of hunt sabotage and also the only known act of hunt sabotage organised by a priest. This is also the first time I've had something good to say about a priest.
Local folklore has it that one day when Gubbins was out riding he came across women washing clothes in a river. Gubbins said to one of the women that she should wash her self, as she was filthy. The woman retorted that no amount of soap and water would wash off the dirt that was on him. Well said that woman!