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June 20, 2012

Goode and Wright: Making Room for Animals

(Continued from page 1)

  • Edith Goode (left) and Alice Morgan Wright. The HSUS

Between 1945 and 1947, Wright was chairperson of the NWP, and she and Goode played a significant part in its work during this era. By this time, too, the two had begun to devote their attention to the mistreatment of animals. Among other actions, they attended the San Francisco conference of 1945, at which the United Nations was founded. Their main goal was to get equal rights for women onto the agenda of the nascent organization, but the conference also marked the start of their efforts to bring animals into the framework of international agreements concerning human rights, citizenship, and the United Nations.

A dozen years later, Goode and Wright reported, "We believed that there should be a declaration also of the rights of animals, involved as animals are in the welfare of human society," but, they lamented, the United Nations steered clear "of any responsibility for animals."

Wright's activism for animals was not limited to pushing for their rights, either. Wright strongly pursued population control, understanding its impact on the welfare of animals and the environment. Among other actions, she pressed the issue at the 1949 United Nations meeting in Paris. Unbridled growth of the human population, she once wrote, comes "at the cost of countless cruelties to the other sentient races of creation."

Building a concept of kindness

Fatefully, Goode and Wright attended the 1954 American Humane Association meeting in Atlanta, which sparked the formation of the National Humane Society, predecessor of The HSUS. A charter member of The HSUS and a generous supporter during its earliest years, Goode served as a board member of The HSUS between 1958 and 1967, and played a highly active role in its work.

In one of her most important contributions, Goode threw herself into the campaign for a federal humane slaughter bill. In May 1956, after more than a year of effort, Goode, together with HSUS founder Fred Myers, secured the endorsement of the 11 million member General Federation of Women's Clubs for the bill. The Humane Slaughter Act was ultimately passed in 1958.

Together, Goode and Wright pressed The HSUS to enter the international arena, influencing the organization's support for the World Federation for the Protection of Animals (predecessor of today's World Society for the Protection of Animals) and its efforts to gain consultative status with UNESCO and later with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC). The two women were deeply convinced that every humane society should persuade UNESCO to build the concept of kindness to animals into its basic worldwide educational message. 

In 1957 Goode and Wright initiated efforts to get a United Nations conference working toward a Law of the Sea treaty to adopt a conservation provision to ensure that commercial killers of marine life use humane methods. In 1958, their effort bore fruit, as a special committee of the U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea adopted a resolution asking states "to prescribe, by all means available to them, those methods for the capture and killing of marine life, especially of whales and seals, which will spare them suffering to the greatest extent possible."

During the post-World War II era, Goode and Wright became deeply disturbed by the use of animals in the testing of bombs and other weaponry, and about the technological power unleashed by nuclear science. In 1957, Wright wrote a letter to President Eisenhower asking him to "put an end to the use of animals in atomic bomb tests." 

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