A Traitor to His Species: Henry Bergh and the Birth of the Animal Rights Movement

Regular price $ 30.00

by Ernest Freeberg

Basic Books

9/22/2020, hardcover

SKU: 9780465093861


From an award-winning historian, the outlandish story of the man who gave rights to animals.

In Gilded Age America, people and animals lived cheek-by-jowl in environments that were dirty and dangerous to man and beast alike. The industrial city brought suffering, but it also inspired a compassion for animals that fueled a controversial anti-cruelty movement. From the center of these debates, Henry Bergh launched a shocking campaign to grant rights to animals.

A Traitor to His Species is revelatory social history, awash with colorful characters. Cheered on by thousands of men and women who joined his cause, Bergh fought with robber barons, Five Points gangs, and legendary impresario P.T. Barnum, as they pushed for new laws to protect trolley horses, livestock, stray dogs, and other animals.

Raucous and entertaining, A Traitor to His Species tells the story of a remarkable man who gave voice to the voiceless and shaped our modern relationship with animals.


"In his lively treatment, Freeberg offers a thorough and human portrait of the ASPCA's founder, Henry Bergh, presenting the strongest possible case for his courage, resilience and tenacity. In bringing back to life Bergh's fabled battles, Freeberg provides both context and evidence for Bergh's prominence as a leader of the nascent animal protection movement, one of America's most significant post-Civil War reforms."-- Bernard Unti, Humane Society of the United States

"Vivid... The narrative's pace never slackens. Expansive yet carefully documented, Mr. Freeberg's book is less the biography of a man than of a noble effort that eventually spanned the nation. A Traitor to His Species isn't primarily about animals or their rights. Instead, as articulated in Mr. Freeberg's clear-eyed conclusion, this is a book about us, about the searing truth that how we choose to treat animals reveals what kinds of humans we are." -- Wall Street Journal

About the Author:

Ernest Freeberg is a distinguished professor of humanities and head of the history department at the University of Tennessee. He has authored three award-winning books, including The Age of Edison. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.