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Louise Lind af Hageby

2012 March 16
starmer skewers

Image by Starmer depicting a hostile demonstration of UCL students against the old brown dog statue

This is a version of the entry I was commissioned to write in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  However you will not find it there since apparently there was an administrative error and another person was also commissioned to write the same entry.This one has a rather more sympathetic stance…

Louise Lind af Hageby  c.1878 – 1963 animal rights campaigner, feminist and humanitarian, was born in Sweden, the grand – daughter of the chamberlain of Sweden. In Sweden she had been the honorary secretary of the Swedish Women’s Committee for the Abolition of State Regulation of vice and lectured on the white slave trade, prison reform and social questions and by 1901 was honorary  secretary  of the Scandinavian  anti vivisection society.  In 1903 having first visited Pasteur’s Institute in  Paris she enrolled for physiology classes ,with  her friend Liesa Schartau, at University College London , to see and expose the work of  Dr Bayliss, an acclaimed experimenter, at work, arguing:

‘The importance of personal experience of the methods of vivisection for those who throw themselves heart and soul into the the battle against it cannot be exaggerated. We hope that more and more ardent friends of this cause will enter the laboratories, … and tell the world what they have seen.'(Lind af Hageby and Schartau,  Shambles of Science)

Their expose was published in  Shambles of Science in which Hageby dispelled the image of the caring scientist, describing him as joking with students and repeating experiments on the same animal, a brown dog. While libel action against the book was successful in that the chapter headed ‘Fun’ describing the laughter was deleted from later editions  it caused uproar  amongst scientists and animal campaigners alike. Furious scientists refused to debate with Hageby  fearing the impact of her rhetoric on audiences. Hageby ,with the support of Stephen Coleridge , general secretary of the National Anti Vivisection Society, succeeded in erecting a statue of the self same brown dog in Latchmere recreation ground, the site of a new working class housing development ,in Battersea to commemorate  animals killed in experiments. Despite local support and colourful demonstrations organised by Lind af Hageby through central London the statue  was first attacked by enraged medical students and then removed by a new moderate council . Ten years after its first publication Shambles of Science  became prominent again in  another libel trial brought this time by Hageby against the Research Defence Society speaker , Caleb Saleeby,  which she conducted herself.

Her opening speech of nine  hours outlined her  ‘profound spiritual conviction that that which is morally wrong and spiritually retrogressive cannot in the long run be scientifically right’. (Wellcome Trust Archive ) She used the case to bring a number of colleagues from the  Animal Defence and Anti Vivisection Society, and from  the management committee of the anti vivisection, Battersea Hospital , on which she herself served from 1908 to 1935  to back her .  Although she lost, The Vote, the Women’s Freedom League paper, declared it was a ‘triumph for her sex’ and congratulated her on ‘her fine fight’. (Anti vivisection Review )

Hageby was  a determined campaigner against vivisection,and member of the London Anti Vivisection Society giving evidence to the Royal Commission on Vivisection which sat between 1906 and  1912. A  vegetarian and anti vaccinationist she opposed  all forms of cruelty to animals.  Her own animal companions included a mongrel St Bernard cross, Barry, and a monkey, Tumty.

She established  both the Animal Defence and Anti Vivisection Society in 1906 and  its journal Anti vivisection Review . In its name she organised  an important international congress in London in July 1909 managing to gain the support in Britain alone of many organisations including the Humanitarian League, the RSPB, the National Anti-Vivisection Society and Our Dumb Friends’ League.

She situated anti -vivisection work  in ‘ a chain of reforms, prompted by the new spirit of compassion, and fellow feeling towards animals’. (Anti Vivisectionist review)  This chain of reforms including support for women’s suffrage. A committed feminist and humanitarian,  she wrote for the Women’s Freedom League .At the annual meeting of the Humanitarian League in 1910 she emphasised the strategies feminists should adopt for their own cause, :

‘… . It rests with women themselves to make themselves intelligent, to make themselves needed, to make themselves humaner beings, so that men would rather die than do without them in the life political.’ (Humanitarian )

Lind af Hageby opposed war of all kinds , presenting a paper to a pacifist conference 1915  and subsequently declared that ‘ to object to war is the duty of every civilised man and woman’ (Louise Lind af Hageby, Be Peacemakers) and later opposed atomic tests . She  established  a humanitarian service dealing with the suffering of  horses and men at war and the consequent distress and poverty at home.  Not content with protesting against the war  in London she went to France to ‘relieve the hideous mass of human and animal suffering’. (Wellcome Institute)  Her  achievements included building veterinary hospitals under the aegis of the French army , and sending  veterinary units to Abyssinia and to the French Spanish border in 1939.

She established the Ferne  animal sanctuary in Dorset with Nina Duchess of Hamilton and  a model abattoir in Letchworth Garden City.

Her campaigns were European and American wide. Establishing the International Humanitarian Bureau in Geneva in 1928 , she sent deputations to many societies to support a  reduction in  armaments and  for peace. She lectured abroad frequently and established a sanatorium for children in France. While holding a spiritual outlook on life she nevertheless advocated a ‘true science’ which could be developed without cruelty to humans or animals.

She was at the forefront of British campaigns against all exploitation of animals in the  first half of  the twentieth century. A formidable organiser, debater and administrator she  relentlessly tackled injustice on all fronts. Active throughout her long life she addressed an international conference of anti vivisection societies in London just a few weeks before her death  reiterating the demand which had underpinned her investigative campaigning, namely  that people should  be allowed to see for themselves that  there was no cruelty in laboratories, especially if they were told there was none.  (Animals’ Defender )  As one obituary declared, Louise Lind af Hageby was more than a person she was a tradition. (Animals’ Defender )

4 Responses Post a comment
  1. June 19, 2012

    Hello! I am currently writing a biography of Lizzy Lind af Hageby, and found this article and your book very useful. Nina

    • Hilda Kean permalink
      June 19, 2012

      Thanks Nina. Hageby certainly deserves a book to do justice to her long years of activity! Let me know when the book is out – who is publishing it?

  2. October 13, 2014

    Hello again, Hilda! I have finally decided to self-publish my biography of Lizzy. I understand why no publisher is willing to take it on, as she is little-known, and sales would not be enormous. But I am determined to get her out there, and will make strenuous efforts to market the book. I am using Createspace and Kindle.
    Best wishes, Nina

    • Hilda Kean permalink
      October 16, 2014

      She might be little known today but she was extremely influential for several decades, as you know. She certainly deserves to be better known. I hope your book will help create this awareness. Do let me know when it is out.

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