Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Was Mark Twain America's First Animal Welfare Advocate?

I received this interesting email regarding the work of a Stanford professor and leading Mark Twain scholar which “…suggests that Mark Twain was one of the first prominent Americans to raise awareness of animal cruelty.”

Interesting reading, and I suggest you all take the time to visit the site at:

Here is the email I received:

Mark Twain - America's first animal welfare advocate?
Stanford professor and leading Mark Twain scholar, Shelley Fisher Fishkin's latest research suggests that Mark Twain was one of the first prominent Americans to raise awareness of animal cruelty. Using a range of Twain's works including private letters and essays Fishkin demonstrates that Mark Twain was an ardent animal welfare advocate who, through his writing, sparked the animals rights movement in the U.S.

Twain, inspired by Darwin, took on topics ranging from cockfighting to animal experiments, and made Americans reflect on the relationship between animals and the human animal.

Fishkin's research is outlined in her new book, Mark Twain's Book of Animals.

A Publisher's Weekly review had this to say about Fishkin's findings, "Fishkin reports that Mark Twain's career-long fascination with instinctual yet intelligent creatures inspired Chuck E. Jones's creation of cartoon icons Wile E. Coyote and Bugs Bunny. Fishkin... showcases the humorist's shrewd observations of both exotic and common animals, including his nemesis, the housefly (“I would go out of my way, and put aside my dearest occupation, to kill a fly”). This collection of letters, stories, travelogues and personal recollections—some appearing in print for the first time—effectively juxtaposes witty morality with bitterness manifested in his later work in which he rails against microbes and an uncaring Creator after losing three children to illness. Animal lovers and fiction readers alike will want to read this illustration of an unfamiliar facet of an American literary giant. The anthology succinctly represents Twain's admiration for the animal kingdom and relentless optimism in the face of human inadequacies."

You can read short story about the research here:

High resolution images are available.

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