You are here: HomeNews & EventsHSA marks International Women's Day on 8th of March Dorothy Sidley

HSA marks International Women's Day on 8th of March Dorothy Sidley

07 March 2019

Miss Dorothy Sidley 1896-1978

The volunteer who dedicated her life to animal welfare

“….The pigs were abominably treated.  The first sound I heard in the market was a pig’s scream.  The selling had just commenced when I arrived and as the auctioneer moved to each pen he was accompanied by two drovers who prodded and beat the pigs most unmercifully, ..Beating in the face and giving vicious jabs seemed to be the favourite methods”  (Taken from Dorothy’s original notes at a market in 1925)

Dorothy was born on the 9th of April 1896 in Hampstead, London.  A life-long vegetarian, she joined the Council of Justice for Animals in 1922 as a voluntary worker at a time when the organisation’s first aim was to replace the pole-axe with the much more reliable and humane mechanically operated humane stunner.  It was also anxious to improve the welfare of food animals by introducing reforms to livestock markets and transport facilities.  

Initially, the organisation had a number of branches, including a separate Council of Justice in Scotland, and dispensaries were maintained for animals of the poor. It also had close links with the Humane Slaughter of Animals Association (HSAA) which had been founded in 1920 by Mr Norman Graham and which held very similar objects.  In 1928, the two organisations amalgamated, becoming the Council of Justice to Animals & Humane Slaughter Association, now the Humane Slaughter Association.

During this period of huge change, Dorothy was pivotal.  At that time, she was very much a woman in a man’s world, organising petitions and practical demonstrations to introduce mechanical stunning.  Demonstrations were given to slaughtermen all over the country and hundreds of humane stunners were distributed free of charge. Initially there were objections from the meat trade, arising from fears that the meat might be contaminated, but this suspicion was overcome when doctors provided support to the contrary. 

Dorothy was so successful that bye-laws were introduced throughout the country to adopt this more humane method of slaughter and eventually, after constant campaigning, the first Slaughter of Animals Act was passed by Parliament in 1933. 

In 1927, the HSA began its work to improve animal welfare in markets, enabled by the generosity of a member who paid travelling expenses for inspections of markets countrywide over a period of five years.  This work showed that animals suffered from exposure, due to lack of shelter and shade, lack of water and very rough handling with auctions in many places carried out in antiquated street markets.  Dorothy persuaded many local authorities to close street markets and to provide purpose-built livestock markets, with many of her early suggestions still being used today. 

In 1930, Dorothy was appointed General Secretary of the HSA– a role she undertook selflessly until her retirement in 1978. Dorothy devoted a great part of her life to promoting the objects of the HSA and there have been very few UK Acts and Regulations concerned with the welfare of livestock and poultry in which she was not involved. 

Dorothy collaborated with scientists, engineers and architects to gain improvements in methods, equipment and design of both slaughterhouses and livestock markets.  Her work took her not only into slaughterhouses and poultry-processing plants in the UK, but also to Canada where she was largely responsible for the introduction and acceptance of the captive bolt pistol in Canada.  After successful demonstrations there, the Canadian Government passed regulations enforcing humane methods of slaughter. 

In recognition of her work for animal welfare, Dorothy was awarded the MBE in 1964 and died, aged 88, in 1984.  Today, her memory and recognition of her outstanding contribution to animal welfare is remembered with the Dorothy Sidley Memorial Student/Trainee Scholarships which were launched over 30 years ago using generous donations given in memory of Miss Sidley.  The annual award scheme has currently enabled over 50 students to benefit animal welfare through their work – from investigating the welfare of sheep during sea transport to the effect of pre-slaughter handling on injury and dehydration in cattle.

Dorothy not only made a real and lasting impact in animal welfare, but also led the way for the generations of women scientists and veterinarians to come.  Examples include Georgina Limon-Vega, who won a Dorothy Sidley Memorial Scholarship in 2008 for her project evaluating the welfare of llamas and sheep before and during slaughtering in Puxara, Bolivia and Dr Jessica Martin (nee Hopkins) who was awarded the HSA Centenary Scholarship for her research into humane mechanical methods for killing chickens..  More recently, Dr Dorothy McKeegan was awarded a joint HSA/Defra funding for her programme of research to determine whether Low Atmospheric Pressure Stunning (LAPS) might be a more humane way to stun pigs during commercial slaughter

Thanks to women like these and also to the backing of people who share the charity’s concern for the welfare of animals, the HSA has already delivered initiatives which have made a difference to millions of animals at a time when they are most vulnerable.  Please help us to continue their legacy by reading their stories and donating to the HSA.  Large or small, your donation means a great deal to the lives of many animals and is vital in helping us continue - you can make a donation or become a member here    Thank you.

Back to top