The group initially consisted of post-graduate philosophy students, and included Stanley and Roslind Godlovitch, John Harris, David Wood, and Michael Peters. Its members were active in academic circles in Oxford, and through their influence others became interested in the idea of developing a moral philosophy that included non-humans. A particular inspiration was the writing of Brigid Brophy, the novelist. The idea of editing a collection of essays on animal rights emerged, and Brophy and others agreed to contribute. It was the publisher Gollancz (in the person of Giles Gordon) who suggested that such a book would be more interesting if group members contributed, as well as better known authors. The book was published as Animals, Men and Morals in 1971.
The period was a fertile one for the development of the concept of animal rights, both at the academic and activist level. Members of the Oxford Group contributed to a series of scholarly works that examined the moral assumptions underpinning the use of non-human animals, and helped to formulate a counter-position. The group engaged in political activism too, writing and handing out leaflets protesting against animal testing and hunting. Two of its members, Richard D. Ryder and Andrew Linzey, organized the Cambridge Conference on Animal Rights at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1977, the first international conference devoted explicitly to animal rights.