The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian network founded in 1973


Churches should back non-animal research

From the former British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection journal AV Times (October 1970):

Talking point for St. Francis's day from an abridged address to the commission for the Conservation of Nature of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches of Alsace and Lorraine, by Chairman Robert Lehner

The simplicity of this hall will no longer surprise you when I remind you that it is named after a man of simple outlook on life: Albert Schweitzer to whose memory I wish to render homage by repeating to you his last message to the world made on the occasion of the World Anti-Vivisection Congress held in 1965, a little before his death.

This message represents the outcome of the evolution of his thought on respect for life so far as animals are concerned. Various previous citations attributed to him had already involved him in this subject. In particular, in his speech delivered in 1952 in Paris before the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences entitled "The Problem of Ethics in the Evolution of Thought," he said:

"It is, then, incumbent upon each and every one of us to judge for himself if it is ineluctably necessary to harm and to kill and if need be we must find ourselves guilty. We must then seek forgiveness by never missing an opportunity to help living creatures."

No ambiguity

But his final message took on a less ambiguous approach. He says simply:-

"We must fight against the spirit of downright cruelty to animals. Religion and philosophy are engrossed with problems involving our own species but not with matters concerning animals who are susceptible to the same suffering as ourselves. True human behaviour does not tolerate experiments on animals.

"Somewhat belatedly we have come to realize that this problem exists. It is up to us to create in the world a new line of thought and to undertake seriously a duty which has been hitherto overlooked."

To justify his actions as much as to satisfy himself the vivisector has found a screen behind which to shelter. 'The interests of Science,' 'the welfare of humanity' are slogans inscribed on the outside face of the screen which is side shown to the public. But this does not, in any way disperse his feeling of guilt. The best proof of this is the fact that all vivisection is hidden from view.

It is carried out behind closed doors. The laboratory personnel are asked not to say anything outside about what they see every day. There is a conspiracy of silence that unites all vivisectors. That, indeed, is why the public remains in ignorance both regarding the extent of vivisection and the sufferings that arise therefrom.


Even Claude Bernard, the superb torturer of so many animals - especially dogs - whose cold intelligence, clear writing and manual dexterity cannot be denied was not at ease with his conscience. His publications,, and especially his posthumous publications are stuffed with passages where his exaggerated expressions reveal gloomy misgivings in his innermost depths where the divine spark sparkles.

Such is the case when he speaks of "Joyful excitement that is provoked in the researchers in a vivisectional operation." It is the same when categorically and passionately he attaches himself to the negation of dualism between matter and the life which animates it. He declares that there is only one kind of matter that can be seized upon by science.

It is still the same when he jauntily tries to put on a pleasant tone with "You can see that the laboratories are rendered no less valuable by shielding us from too sensitive people." Again when wishing to show a connection between science and life he wants to promise us "the science of life" which he compares to "a superb drawing-room all resplendent with light which can only be entered by passing through a long and ghastly kitchen."

He has inaugurated a full-size long and ghastly kitchen. The superb drawing-room all resplendent with light which we can never reach by this means so long as we fail to recognise the fact that life is essentially divine and cannot be dissociated from ethical or moral commandments.

Faust also sold his soul to the devil.

Behind this same screen that shelters the vivisectors who claim that they are working for the good of humanity there hide also, and this is even more deplorable, all those who make use of animals for other ends. These include war industries and the preparation of pesticides and even beauty products.

At the World Congress against Vivisection held in Amsterdam in 1967 it was anticipated that the figure of 60 million experiments per year for the whole world would be confirmed - this is a figure hitherto currently admitted to seem enormous. Two delegates to the Congress, one American and one Turk, quite independently submitted the frightful figure of 300 millions. One million per working day!

How many animals per day do you think a doctor can work on? Or even just supervise experiments made by his assistants. How many laboratory stewards are necessary, how many animal-house assistants, suppliers of food and contractors to refill the cages as the animals are "used up".

Can't you see this army of people all working away to arrive at this figure of a million animals per day! And this is without taking into consideration the fact that many experiments extend over a period of several weeks.


But even if it were a matter of but one half or even one third of this figure the problem would not be changed since fundamentally we are dealing with a huge industry with everything that is entailed as a consequence on the material, commercial, financial and even social plane.

Standing up to the vivisection industry there are anti-vivisectionist societies. There are many of them; some regional, some international and some World-wide. I've brought with me to show you a bundle of publications from a number of these organisations. This will illustrate to you the diversity. The great number of these organisations is an indication of the anxiety started by the suffering of defenceless creatures. This is the practical side of the reaction against cruelty.

But none of these organisations exceed a few hundred or a few thousand adherents. Very exceptionally there is a membership of ten thousand or so.

Against them is ranged an army of all ranks marshalled under the benevolent eye of governments and universities. Not much can be done to reduce the daily quota of animals experimented upon unless all these organisations become unified and dovetailed thereby presenting a by no means negligible force.

But this unity of action, where is it?

Alas, the various independent bodies, act more and more in dispensed order and independently from the others. So far attempts to group them together efficiently have failed. It is not even possible for them to agree on certain fundamental principles. Of course, all wish to better the lot of animals but there are so many diverse opinions as to how the end should be attained. Regrettably this leads to arguments and even struggles against closing down.

Not only that, the financial resources available to each organisation are, in general, hardly sufficient to put up the money for any action or to print pamphlets such as I have shown to you. It's true that in England there are organisations with capital but the money is not used for wide-spread activities.

I'm afraid that I've had to sketch out for you a picture that is not very encouraging. I've done this to make clear that propaganda alone will result in little progress. Some propaganda contradicts other and there is little access to national press, radio and television. Consequently appeal is made to a restricted public and little progress is made.

Year after year the same propaganda is dished out. No concrete action is taken to root out this evil thing that lives on the handsome bounty of a powerful chemical and pharmaceutical industry which is an interested part not bothered in the slightest over small disunited groups all arguing among themselves. There's no doubt whatever that this conglomeration of Anti-vivisectionist Societies just doesn't know where to turn.


I can't help thinking of Saint Exuapery who said "Let them construct a tower together and you will make them friends."

Must we lose courage? Certainly not. In other spheres also determination has overcome powerful and well-established forces. One has only to recall that the abolition of judicial torture was brought about by the simple expedient of telling the judges not to extract confession by torture any more. The same goes for the abolition of slavery. This was preceded by a century of animated struggle by a minority. The abolition of child-labour, so lucrative to profiteering, dates back only quite recently.

Let us note, in passing, that so far as I am aware not a single one of these reforms received any obvious scriptural justification. Yet once the results had been achieved, then the churches became unanimous in their support and declared all these measures absolutely in accordance with the teaching of the holy scriptures, if not to the letter, at least in a general sense.


In face of such a complex question as to that of vivisection what can be, what must be the attitude of the churches? What is the task of our Commission for the Conservation of Nature?

Are the churches going to await the promulgation of "the Rights of Animals" or until vivisection has been abolished before noting that evolution must conform, if not to the letter of the Scriptures, at least to the spirit.

In anti-vivisectionist circles the attitude of the churches, or rather the absence of any clear-cut attitude is often regarded as deplorable. Much literature has been published on the subject. But we may ask, surely the problem of vivisection is not merely a matter for the medical profession alone but of ethics, justice, morality, kindness, compassion - everything in fact that cannot fail to merit attention.

What, then, should be the attitude of the churches? Looking at the matter from a practical viewpoint can the church deal differently with two of her faithful followers, one of vivisectionist the other an antagonist of vivisection? We know that the Church condemns crime without, at the same time, allowing criminals to enter the church. The reply must be left to the pastors who are listening to me rather than to my own opinion.

Nevertheless, there is an attitude which I will qualify as being the minimum that a church should adopt if she is to receive the public respect that is due to her. When the church comes up against an action or a solution that she has reason to believe is of interest to all, the church should come out frankly on one side or the other.

As to our Commission, although it may be very interested indeed in the problem of tortured animals there is certainly no question of our becoming yet another anti-vivisection society to be added to those already existing. But as soon as there is in sight the slightest possibility of dispensing with animal suffering, even if in certain respects only, it is our duty to clarify our churches regarding the application if positive action.

One piece of positive action is already being sketched out. It is the proposition presented to the Council of Europe having in view the adoption of alternative research methods. We have named these methods "Non violent research." The Proposal was put forward by the Austrian Delegation to the Council of Europe. The specialist who has developed and practised these alternative methods longest is Professor Aygun of the University of Ankara - a retired general in the Turkish Army Veterinary Corps.

What is the alternative method? It is a method which allows one to carry out experiments conventionally made on animals, without having recourse to animals at all.

For some time past I have had to keep to myself a revelation made to me by Professor Aygun concerning Thalidomide. Since then the matter has been revealed to the public so I may now tell you all about it. You know of the unfortunate children that were born deformed with limbs either missing completely or incomplete following the absorption by the mother of thalidomide or contergan base sedatives.

Before these drugs were put into general use, Professor Aygun studied the effects of thalidomide by methods employing culture on tissue and cells. He noticed a change in the reproduction cells which indicated an inherent danger when the drug was absorbed by pregnant women. He pointed this out to a representative of the firm manufacturing the drug.

The manufacturers replied that they had tested their product on 3,000 animals and that absolutely no danger existed. The results are now sufficiently well known. They are of a nature to make one ponder on the value of alternative test methods using, instead of animals, cultures of tissue and cells.


Culture of tissue and cells, even entire organs, is not new. Even people outside the medical profession have heard about it. But between the conception of the idea and its application on a universal scale and its exploitation in every possible field there has to be a long and laborious period of development. Long established habits have to be abandoned, staff have to be re-trained and existing plant scrapped and replaced.

The case referred to just now regarding the production and quality control of vaccines is a simple one. Nevertheless few practical applications have been made so far and this is in spite of the technical advances of speed, security and economy.

"This strange thing, habit, supplants reason," said the poet.

Thus, for example, it was only in 1968 that a decision was made in Germany to Cross the Rubicon. I will read a passage translated from a letter from the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Frankfurt.

". . . In January this year, as a result of a meeting of the Commission of Specialists instituted by the Ministry of Health, permission was granted for virus vaccines to be produced on diploid cells. Since then the pharmaceutical industry, as manufacturers and we as testers have worked together using this new technique. 

To develop practical applications such as this it is necessary to conduct extensive research which, at present, is being carried out in isolated and sporadic ways and often under private initiative. We must investigate every case and provide answers to every objection: every fear.

Among the objections can be placed the possibility of interactions occurring that may be observable in a complete living organism but not in a test tube. Professor Aygun told me that it was not by chance that he noticed the ill-omened effect on the reproductive cells in contact with thalidomide but that it was the result of systematic work equivalent to observing the reaction on complete living organisms. Observations even on 3,000 animals did not prevent the births of thousands of deformed children.

A possible objection might be that one should allow research workers complete and unfettered liberty regarding their methods of research whilst, for ethical motives giving preference to work in vitro.

But in developing a non-violent method in a specialised institute and putting it within reach of research workers these people will not see this choice restricted but to the contrary they will have a more extended choice at their disposal. It can be presumed that non-violent methods which present no problem of conscience will ultimately receive preference, especially if the results are as good, or if there are other advantages.


Another objection that could be raised is that if vivisection is forbidden in cases where other methods, giving equally conclusive results are available this would be retrogressive to scientific progress. Such an argument can only give rise to confusion. How can there be any retrogression if, with the same object in view, methods are developed which are more conclusive, quicker and less onerous?

Besides the example that I have given you concerning the production of vaccines on cultures of diploid cells instead of in living animals there is the type of technique that justified the attitude adopted by the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Frankfurt. This is not a case of scientific progress in the form of research but the routine production of industrial vaccine.

To pretend that the decision to manufacture these vaccines in vitro is to fetter scientific progress would have no justification whatever.

Admittedly much work is necessary to clarify the questions that may pop up in the minds of various people and the requirements to deal with this can only be furnished by setting up a specialised institution that does not yet exist. It is only then that a country will be in a position to adopt new rules and make them obligatory.

Above all it will be necessary to decide to abandon existing ideas which originally had been extolled as being full of promise. In the medical world one technique succeeds another and does not escape the natural law of progress.

In his lecture delivered in Amsterdam in 1967, Professor Aygun named 13 different culture methods to which he has since added a 14th.

That's enough to keep an institute fully occupied. To my mind the prestige that such an institute would acquire, the publicity provided by the results and the economy of the new method will lead to applications that will spare great numbers of animals from atrocious suffering.

Reproduced with thank.

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