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Leeches, Erskine and a snoozing cat

2013 September 16
Cat in pub

A snoozing cat – Tom Paine – in the Seven Stars.
Thanks to Joanne Bristol for this image

The recent walk on Animal Pasts from Barbican to Russell Square raised over £60 for the Hillside Animal Sanctuary.

I was pleased to include information on Lincoln’s Inn trained Lord Erskine, one of the radical reformers promoting animal issues in the early 1800s. He attempted to pass legislation against bull baiting and legislation against cruelty to animals condemning, ‘the most disgusting cruelties practised upon beasts of carriage and burden’. Although he was not successful he helped pave the way for Richard Martin and his significant Act of 1822.

I had known for some time that Erskine kept many animals as companions including dogs, a macaw and a couple of leeches. I only realised when reading the fascinating new book by Neil Pemberton and Robert Kirk, Leech, that he was not unique. Indeed elaborate containers up to two feet high were made to give them a ‘good home’.

Although the Horse Hospital was closed and we couldn’t easily see the ramps the horses would have used, we did manage to see a live cat playing dead (and other taxidermised animals) in the window of the Seven Stars pub at the back of the Royal Courts of Justice. (He’s apparently called Tom Paine – whose human ‘predecessor’, incidentally, Erskine had defended in absentia.)

There are still a few places on the next fund-raising animal pasts walk on October 12th in Hyde Park. Email me to reserve a place.

Snoozing cat

Close up of snoozing cat
Thanks to Judy Greenway for this image

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