The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

Pets in England

Category: Leisure

Britain is a nation of animal lovers. Everybody knows that. We have an estimated five million dogs, almost as many cats, over three million budgies,  other cage-birds, aquarium fish — and one million “exotic’’ pets, such as reptiles and amphibians. Today, with the profitable encouragement of Big Business and persistent advertising pressures, it looks as if pet-keeping and our attitude to animals is menacing our values and sense of proportion.

But it is America which has the largest pet population in the world — 90 million dogs and cats. Every year 3,000 million dollars are spent annually on pets, the dog population is growing twice as fast as people, and there is an organization whose aim is “to raise the cat’s position in the scheme of contemporary civilisaton’’. In the State of New York, during 1966, 62 Bills concerning animals were introduced into the legislature. How many Civil Rights Bills were adopted in the same year?

The eccentricities of some pet-lovers are, of course, legion — such as the Melbourne manufacturer who left £80,000 to his old cockatoo, two Leghorn fowls and animal charities. (Although in Louisville, Kentucky, there was a goat who left his estate worth 115,000 dollars to two old ladies.) The Canine Behaviour Institute in Beverly Hills, California specializes in the analyses of dogs suffering from mental traumata, depression or suicidal neurosis.

In Britain, pets can send Christmas cards to their friends, birthday cards to “husbands, wives, boy or girl friends’’; there are even cards available for birds, fish and reptiles. Owners can buy for their pets jewelled nylon velvet collars; tartan, lambswool and “kinky’’ coats for the “dog who is really with it’’, lace-trimmed panties, nightgowns, pyjamas, after-swim suits, bikini-shaped panties for cocktail-parties. Pet beautifying procedures include “face-lifting’’; a British manufacturer produces tiny mattresses for pet mice, and in both Britain and America one can buy pet fall-out shelters. All of these imbecilities are, of course, merely the frosting on what is, however, a very large cake of profit indeed.

According to a 1967 estimate, Britain spent the colossal sum of £95,555,304 on pet foods alone in 1965. The Sunday Mirror has estimated that Britain spends six times as much on pet foods as on baby foods, and roughly 16 times as much as on canicer research. As part of this big profit drive, in 1966 Britain’s pet food manufacturers spent almost £4 million on TV commercials and over £25,000 on press advertising.

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