Historical Timeline of the Animal Rights Movement

PETA volunteers Ann Cashell, Dana Silvester and Anya Jordanva are unrobed outside during the 'Bare Skin, Don't Wear Skin' PETA protest
PeTA volunteers Ann Cashell, Dana Silvester and Anya Jordanva are unrobed outside during the 'Bare Skin, Don't Wear Skin' PETA protest. [Michael Loccisano]/[Getty Images Entertainment]/Getty Images

This timeline is by no means an exhaustive history but is meant to give an overview of some of the major events in the modern animal rights movement.

Concern for animal suffering is not a new or modern idea. Many read the ancient Hindu and Buddhist scriptures as advocating a vegetarian diet for ethical reasons. The ideology has evolved continuously over millennia, but many animal activists point to the publication of “Animal Liberation” in 1975 as the catalyst for the modern American animal rights movement.

1975 “Animal Liberation,” by philosopher Peter Singer is published.

1979 Animal Legal Defense Fund is established.

National Anti-Vivisection Society establishes World Lab Animal Day, on April 24. The day has evolved into World Laboratory Animal Week.

1980 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is founded.

“Animal Factories” by attorney Jim Mason and philosopher Peter Singer is published.​

1981 Farm Animal Reform Movement is officially founded.

1983 Farm Animal Reform Movement establishes World Farm Animals Day on October 2.

“The Case for Animal Rights,” by philosopher Tom Regan is published.

1985 The first annual Great American Meatout is organized by Farm Animal Reform Movement.

1986 Fur Free Friday, an annual nation-wide fur protest on the day after Thanksgiving, begins.

Farm Sanctuary is founded.

1987 California high school student Jennifer Graham makes national headlines when she refuses to dissect a frog.

"Diet for a New America" by John Robbins is published.

1989 Avon stops testing their products on animals.

In Defense of Animals launches their campaign against Proctor & Gamble’s animal testing.

1990 Revlon stops testing their products on animals.

1992 Animal Enterprise Protection Act is passed.

1993 General Motors stops using live animals in crash tests.

The Great Ape Project is founded.

1994 Tyke the elephant goes on a rampage, killing her trainer and escaping from the circus before being gunned down by police.

1995 Compassion Over Killing is founded.

1996 Vegetarian activist and former cattle rancher Howard Lyman appears on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, leading to a defamation lawsuit filed by Texas Cattlemen.

1997 PETA releases an undercover video showing animal abuse by Huntington Life Sciences.

1998 A jury finds in favor of Lyman and Winfrey in the defamation lawsuit filed by Texas Cattlemen.

An investigation by The Humane Society of the US reveals that Burlington Coat Factory is selling products made from dog and cat fur.

2001 Compassion Over Killing conducts an open rescue at a battery hen facility, documenting abuses and rescuing 8 hens.

2002 "Dominion" by Matthew Scully is published.

McDonald’s settles a class-action lawsuit over their non-vegetarian french fries.

2004 Clothing chain Forever 21 promises to stop selling fur.

2005 The US Congress pulls funding for inspections of horse meat.

2006 The "SHAC 7" are convicted under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act.

Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is passed.

An investigation by the Humane Society of the US reveals that items labeled as “faux” fur at Burlington Coat Factory are made of real fur.

2007 Horse slaughter ends in the United States, but live horses continue to be exported for slaughter.

Barbaro dies at the Preakness.

2009 The European Union bans cosmetics testing and bans the sale or import of seal products.

2010 A killer whale at SeaWorld kills his trainer, Dawn Brancheau. SeaWorld is fined $70,000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 
2011 National Institute of Health stops funding of new experiments on chimpanzees.

President Obama and Congress legalize horse slaughter for human consumption in the US. As of spring of 2014, no horse slaughterhouses have opened.

2012 Iowa passes the nation's fourth ag-gag law.

An international convention of neuroscientists declares that non-human animals have consciousness. The declaration's main author goes vegan.

2013 The documentary "Blackfish" reaches a mass audience, causing widespread public criticism of SeaWorld.

Doris Lin, Esq. is an animal rights attorney and Director of Legal Affairs for the Animal Protection League of NJ.