On 22 July 1822, Richard Martin’s Act — or the “Act to prevent the cruel and improper treatment of Cattle” — becomes law in Parliament. Image: The Trial of Bill Burns. This image is in the public domain in the United States because its copyright has expired.
The painting depicts the Trial of Bill Burns, the first prosecution under the 1822 Martin’s Act for cruelty to animals, after he was found beating his donkey. It is the first known prosecution for animal cruelty in the world. The prosecution was brought by Richard Martin, MP for Galway, also known as Humanity Dick, and the case became memorable because he brought the donkey into court. The painting was made at the time of the trial.