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Menn og málleysingjar. Upphaf dýraverndarstefnu á Íslandi

Unnur Birna Karlsdóttir
Birtist í
Saga: Tímarit Sögufélags 2023 LXI:I
This article discusses the early history of animal welfare advocacy in Iceland, aspects of human–animal coexistence, legislation on animal protection, and non-profit organisations fighting for the cause. Icelanders were first inspired to act by the Danish Women’s Animal Protection Association, who endeavoured to make the nation aware of the importance of this issue. To pursue the cause, in 1885 they sought help from an Icelandic businessman, Tryggvi Gunnarsson, who lived in Copenhagen and was president of the organisation Friends of the Icelandic Nation. Tryggvi consequently founded the magazine Dýravinurinn, meaning “the animals’ friend,” which urged readers to treat their livestock humanely and encouraged them to keep an eye on others’ treatment of animals. There was an expectation that the public would support animal welfare and condemn all forms of animal cruelty. The neglect and ill-treatment of working horses and the slaughter of herds of sheep in Reykjavík were particularly criticised. While Tryggvi argued that well-managed livestock yielded increased dividends, his animal welfare policy was primarily based on moral grounds. The demand for animal protection in Iceland was thus strongly influenced by the call for a moral awakening that was prevalent abroad during this time. Humans’ responsibility and duty as moral beings in a humane and civilised society was thought to be to protect animals from suffering. During the time period in question, livestock rather than wildlife was the primary focus of animal welfare ideology, as the former still played a vital role in the daily lives of most Icelanders around 1900. Tryggvi Gunnarsson maintained the cause of animal welfare for half a decade as editor of Dýravinurinn, which the Friends of the Icelandic Nation published from 1885 to 1916. As he firmly believed in contemporary theories about women’s inherent moral strength, he advocated for the leadership of women in Iceland’s animal welfare movement. Icelandic women did not establish an animal protection society as their Danish counterparts did, despite the publisher’s encouragement. However, Tryggvi’s efforts to promote animal welfare in Iceland were successful: an animal protection association was founded in 1914, and a special law on the protection of animals was passed in 1915.