The Love of Animals

Nowadays and in these parts, the „love of animals“ and animal protection are almost taken for granted. As an individual phenomenon they are as known from the middle ages as from early modern times. In contrast, this type of emotionalization and moralization of the relationship between animals and humans as a societal phenomenon was largely unknown until the mid-1800s - and it has radically changed on this basis within the last 150 years. The present study reconstructs and analyzes this change from the perspective of the history of emotions. It concentrates on Germany and Western Europe between 1870 and the 1930s. In this period, the „love of animals“ and animal protection gathered momentum not only in private life, but also in the public domain, mainly within the framework of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals that were being established in many places. In this context, the human–animal relationship increasingly advanced to becoming an object of societal controversy. The border between humans and animals was shifted further and further, and sometimes it became blurred. Referring to Schopenhauer on the one hand and Darwin on the other, many contemporaries saw humans as becoming animals or animals as becoming „relatives.“ The topic of emotions played a central role within the societal discussion of the relationship between animals and humans. The questions were: Do animals experience emotions? If so, which emotions do they feel? Should humans have emotions towards animals? If so, which animals?