|Born||22 January 1753|
|Died||17 January 1839 (aged 85)|
John Lawrence (22 January 1753 – 17 January 1839) was an English writer on political and agricultural subjects and an early advocate of animal welfare and rights.
Lawrence was born 22 January 1753 in or near Colchester, the son and grandson of brewers. His father John died when Lawrence was 10, and Lawrence later invested his inheritance in a stock farm. When he was 15 he wrote a school essay "in favour of kindness to animals". His first publications were political and showed admiration of the French Revolution and advancing the rights of man.
In 1796 he published the first volume of his most successful work, A Philosophical and Practical Treatise on Horses and on the Moral Duties of Man towards the Brute Creation. In his New Farmer's Calendar (1800) and The Modern Land Steward (1801) he advocated for killing food animals painlessly. In an 1805 Dictionary of the Veterinary Art, Lawrence's "enlightened" views on the rights of beasts are recommended to veterinarians. In his British Field Sports (1818) he proposed a system of "sporting ethics" "to root out 'that horrible propensity in the human breast, a sense of sport and delight in witnessing the tortures of brute animals.'" He was consulted by Richard Martin about Martin's Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act 1822, one of the first pieces of animal welfare legislation.
Lawrence was considered in his time an authority on horses; his History of the Horse went through fourteen editions in his lifetime, and he was a regular contributor to publications such as The Sporting Magazine.
After a period in which he was largely forgotten, Lawrence's arguments for animal rights were republished in 1879 by Edward Nicholson in his The Rights of an Animal: A New Essay in Ethics. Lawrence was also quoted extensively in Henry Stephens Salt's 1894 Animals' Rights: Considered in Relation to Social Progress.
In his 1796 "Philosophical and Practical Treatise on Horses", Lawrence wrote of the rights of animals: They arise then, spontaneously, from the conscience, or sense of moral obligation in man, who is indispensably bound to bestow upon animals, in return for the benefit he derives from their services, "good and sufficient nourishment, comfortable shelter, and merciful treatment; to commit no wanton outrage upon their feelings, whilst alive, and to put them to the speediest and least painful death, when it shall be necessary to deprive them of life."
Lawrence was one of the first to call for laws to protect animals. I therefore propose, that the Rights of Beasts be formally acknowledged by the state, and that a law be framed upon that principle, to guard and protect them from acts of flagrant and wanton cruelty, whether committed by their owners or others.
Lawrence spent time living in Bury St. Edmunds, close to his farm, in London in Lambeth Marsh and Somers Town, and at the end of his life in Peckham, then just outside London. About 1783 Lawrence married Ann Barton, with whom he had a son and five daughters. Only his youngest daughter left descendants.
Lawrence died of influenza on 17 January 1839 and was buried in Norwood.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Lee, Sidney, ed. (1892). "Lawrence, John (1753-1839)". Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 32. London: Smith, Elder & Co.