Dr. Albert Schweitzer (14 January 1875 – 4 September 1965) was a philosopher, theologian, physician, cat lover and musician. In his time he was an outspoken and controversial figure who campaigned against colonialism, the falsehoods of historical Christianity, the arms race, nuclear weapons and cruelty to animals. In a tribute for his birthday, January 14th, we include some of his thoughts on animals below:
“[After almost being pressured by other boys to sling rocks at birds.] From that day onward I took courage to emancipate myself from the fear of men, and whenever my inner convictions were at stake I let other people’s opinions weigh less with me than they had done previously. I tried also to unlearn my former dread of being laughed at by my school-fellows. This early influence upon me of the commandment not to kill or to torture other creatures is the great experience of my youth. By the side of that all others are insignificant.
True philosophy must start from the most immediate and comprehensive fact of consciousness, and this may be formulated as follows: I am life which wills to live, and I exist in the midst of life which wills to live.
A man is really ethical only when he obeys the constraint laid on him to aid all life which he is able to help, and when he goes out of his way to avoid injuring anything living. He does not ask how far this or that life deserves sympathy as valuable in itself, not how far it is capable of feeling. To him life as such is sacred…
The time will come when public opinion will no longer tolerate amusements based on the mistreatment and killing of animals. The time will come, but when? When will we reach the point that hunting, the pleasure of killing animals for sport, will be regarded as a mental aberration?
We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace. We need a boundless ethic which will include animals also.”
Dr Schweitzer was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. Yet is interesting to note that even today, a British Prime Minister, the daughter of a clergyman, publicly supports the illegal ‘sport’ of fox-hunting. However, she has abandoned plans to hold a free vote on restoring its legality because British public opinion is so against this vile hobby that any such vote could only bring further discredit to herself and her circle of cruel Tory pals. Nevertheless, the sport of shooting animals, just for the fun of it, continues perfectly legally here and in many other advanced nations.