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."
But his final message took on a less ambiguous approach. He says
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Return to Articles