Quite some time ago! In the early 1800s, the first anti-cruelty laws in the United States were passed, with the first being in New York. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was formed in 1866. The first anti-animal testing laws were passed in 1892. You can read more about the history of animal rights here.
The legal aspect of animal rights did begin in the nineteenth century, however the philosophies behind those laws began much earlier. Pythagoras, a philosopher who pre-dated Socrates, advocated a natural diet free of any sort of flesh. Even earlier than that, there were historical figures who philosophized on the treatment of animals by man and even referring to that treatment as enslavement. Just as with many legal concepts, the seeds were planted long before legislation was made official.
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