The earliest animal protection societies arose in the early 1800s among the "better classes" of industrializing and urbanizing England. The animal protection movement, strongly dominated (although not led) by women, more closely resembled the temperence movement in its membership and evangelical roots than it did other contemporary women's movements of the day. In their earnest desire to end animal cruelty, these distinctly urban-based societies targeted such cruelties as mistreatment of carriage horses and farm animals - that is, targeting working class people and their use of animals.
Flash forward two hundred years and the movement has come back to bite them in the ass. Animal rights (an influential variant that emerged in the Seventies) is still dominated by women, more of whom now hold leadership positions, but who now have more in common with women's liberation movements than evangelical cat fanciers. The center of gravity in the animal protection movement has shifted from elites to the middle classes and as such has turned its attention to the cruel frivolities of the rich.
This week, England will outlaw the grande dame of elite animal cruelty, fox hunting. Whatever the politics involved and what they say about Tony "bomb'em" Blair, this is a bright day for English foxes and hard working animal protectionists on both sides of the Atlantic puddle.