Share This Article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter

Don't Cut the Animals

Exploitation of animals in the name of science came much later in the history of human civilization than their exploitation for labor, religious sacrifices, and food. Despite a few sporadic reports of animal experiments dating back to the 4th century BCE, the advent of vivisection is generally associated with William Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of blood on live animals in 1616.

Harvey’s work demonstrated the similarity of human and animal anatomy and physiology. This created a problem for French philosopher Rene Descartes, who was championing Aristotle’s and the Catholic church’s creed that animals were mere objects created for human use. He rebutted that, despite their physical and behavioral similarities, animals lack a soul which houses both abstract intelligence and sentience. He compared animals to the elaborate mechanical clock mechanisms popular at the time.

 In the 18th and 19th centuries, France became home to atrocious experiments on conscious horses, dogs, and other animals, led by Louis Pasteur, who developed anthrax and rabies vaccines.  The infamous François Magendie used six-week-old conscious puppies to identify the different functionalities of dorsal and ventral spinal nerves. Millions of animals were sacrificed in the discovery and testing of vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, tuberculosis, polio, and other dreaded human diseases.

The anti-vivisection movement and associated legislation got their start in England. By the 1860s, the RSPCA, with support of British medical societies, condemned painful experiments, but approved those performed under anesthesia. The 1876 Cruelty to Animals Act that followed allowed painful experiments only when “absolutely necessary. “

In 1875, outraged by the growing acceptance of vivisection by the RSPCA, Irish social reformer Frances Power Cobbe formed the Victoria Street Society (VSS), which became the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS), to advocate more effective regulation of vivisection. In 1898, disenchanted with regulation of vivisection, Cobbe formed the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), to campaign for its abolition. Both organizations are still active.

The American Experience

Opposition to the use of animals in medical research first arose in the United States during the 1860s, when Henry Bergh founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). In 1883, Caroline Earle White founded the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS), first to regulate vivisection, then to oppose it altogether.

The American Humane Association (AHA), long the leading association of U.S. animal protection groups, specifically disavowed opposition to vivisection and expelled anti-vivisection member groups and activists. Disgusted with the organization’s acquiescence to vivisection, four AHA officers left to form The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) in 1954.

The most sweeping legislation to regulate vivisection in the U.S. has been the 1966 Laboratory Animal Welfare Act. The Act explicitly requires that any painful procedure be performed with tranquilizers, analgesics, and anesthetics, except when their  exclusion is “scientifically necessary.” The Act’s protection excludes birds, rats, mice, farmed animals, and all cold-blooded animals.

Opposition to vivisection was actually responsible for launching the U.S. animal rights movement in the late 1970s and for dominating the movement for nearly 20 years. Until 1995, Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) was the only national organization dedicated to farmed animals.

Social justice activist Henry Spira stopped cat blinding experiments by New York’s American Museum of Natural History in 1977. Two years later, he got New York State to repeal its “pound seizure” law that forced local shelters to give up its animals for research. By 1981, he had shamed major cosmetic companies to pledge millions of dollars for animal-free alternatives to cruel animal tests.

In 1981, Alex Pacheco showed photos and videos of monkeys victimized by the Institute for Biomedical Research to media guru Cleveland Amory, launching both his fledgling student organization (PeTA) and the animal rights movement into the national consciousness. In the next two years, Richard Morgan and his Mobilization for Animals (MFA) recruited thousands for massive protests at the four national primate research centers, as well as in New York and Washington.

Other anti-vivisection organizations active at the time included In Defense of Animals, Last Chance for Animals, Trans-Species Unlimited, Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine, and the American, New England, and National Anti-Vivisection Societies. Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! joined the anti-vivisection struggle in 1996.

Animal liberations in the 1980s were all directed at medical laboratories. The more prominent liberations took place at Howard University Medical School in Washington, City of Hope Medical Center near Los Angeles, University of California at Riverside, and University of Pennsylvania. In July of 1985, PeTA led more than a hundred animal activists to occupy the National Institutes of Health office funding University of Pennsylvania primate head bashing experiments.

Today, vivisection is still used for four distinct purposes:

  • Basic research – to discover how body functions respond to various stimuli
  • Applied research – primarily in developing new drugs
  • Toxicological testing – assessing toxicity of drugs, cosmetics, and cleaners
  • Education – teaching applied biology in secondary schools and surgical techniques in medical schools

The number of animals affected can not be calculated with any precision, because most are excluded from the protection and accounting of the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act.

[Most of the material for this article has been abstracted from the scholarly masterpiece The Longest Struggle (2007) by historian Norm Phelps and from Wikipedia articles on “Vivisection” & “Animal Testing.”]

Subscribe to this Blog

30 thoughts on “The Vegan Blog”

  1. We have learned nothing, but I see a glimmer of hope in this next generation. There’s more love and willingness to care… Maybe I’m dreaming; naive; or surrounded by ‘nice’ young people, but it’s heartening. Thank you for everything you have done to keep those souls safe and loved 💚💚💚💚✌️💕
    Co, Antrim
    N. Ireland

  2. Amazing post. Some people are shocked at the comparison between the Holocaust and what humans do to animals, but this is just speciesism. They feel that comparing human and animal suffering somehow discredits or diminishes human suffering, because they believe animals are lower than humans. Thank you Alex Herscaft for making this important point and hopefully the no vegan majority will see the truth soon. Peace and Love

  3. Thank you. I often reference the holocaust in my animal activism and now here are your world changing words to back me up. Thank you thank you. Blessings.

  4. Dear Alex,

    I am moved and humbled by your experience as a young child and the journey it has taken you on. I am finding it hard to put in to words my gratitude that you have been able to find a positive trajectory for the suffering, pain and loss of life among your loved ones, not to mention countless others.

    I am only months in to living a more compassionate life. Vegan eating has been an easy conversion for me and my only regret is having not done it sooner. I have often been saddened by peoples’ lack of empathy towards fellow humans and found it hard as a child to understand racism. Little did I know I was implicitly being taught that oppression (in its’ many forms) was ok. I guess it has never sat well with me, but until only recently the connection between eating animals, animal cruelty and our oppression of people, has eluded me.

    Thank you for giving voice to such a big topic and sharing your experience. I look forward to reading more from you.

    Sincerely, Cyntra

  5. I was never in a camp. But I recognized oppression, and resolved to stop eating meat many years ago. Interestingly enough my own mother tried to guilt me about my decision. And she was raised on a farm.
    So thank you. I firmly believe that you cannot say you love animals and continue to eat meat…it’s more appropriate to say you love certain animals and hate the rest.
    And if you eat meat, you are harming the climate. That’s a proven fact. So thank you sir for your convictions. They are entirely correct.

  6. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I have been a vegetarian since I was a child and a vegan for ten years.
    It is so refreshing to read that others see how this evil, everyday like slaughter, slavery and torture is acceptable if someone else does it for you

  7. Thank you very much for this website, for this clear message.
    I am from Slovakia, and I woul like to make translations of your blog posts, so people, who do not speak English, can read your important thoughts, if it is ok with you.
    I never heard thoughts about our beloved animal toys in our childhood opposing the teaching, that animals are food. I is very strong image of our internal incoherency.
    Thank you. I is honor to read your kind words!

  8. It’s awesome to become acquainted with a four-decade Vegan. I will keenly anticipate your periodic sharing of wisdom and advice

  9. Thank you. Sir for your incredible insight…
    World must start to understand that
    Savagery is. Savagery… no matter the species 🙏

  10. This Text was verry emotional and show the same Violence to animals in high level how the Violence to jewish people before many years ago. Changes was only the Spezies,the cruelty ist the same and so unnessesary!!! Love all beeings is our learning Prozess! I fight for every Animal!💪💪💪✌️I’m a vegan.❣️

  11. Thank you very, very much for calling on your family’s tragic experience, and that suffered by so many others, to advocate for fairness and compassion for all sentient beings. When will the world learn? “Peace on Earth, goodwill towards ALL.”

  12. This was the first time I heard of you. I’m already vegan , 3 years only unfortunately.
    I wish you can reach more and more people , your words are so powerful. I wish you health and happiness and that many people will hear you out

  13. Alex, I’m so grateful that you are still so active in fighting for the animals! Keep it up as there is still too much work to do. We are fighting against our own government which subsidizes the animal industry!

  14. What an excellent piece of writing to defend animal farming industry 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 I’ve just shared it in Facebook

  15. First off I would like to say great blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like
    to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to know how
    you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing.
    I have had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my ideas
    out there. I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10
    to 15 minutes tend to be wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints?

  16. Dear Alex, dear, dear man! I have for many years referred to the killing of these precious beings we share our Earth with as another holocaust! It has always saddened & sickened me. I am forever grateful for the work you do to try and bring awareness, awakening to the human species about what is REALLY going on!!! There are many times I cannot even leave my home for fear of what I might see! I pray and oh I do so hope one day this horrifically heinous treatment of these beloved beings, the innocents indeed will end! …. Thank you!

  17. Thank you for your kind comments.
    Additional information and lessons from the Holocaust about our oppression of animals are available on our website at
    The video of a speech I delivered before 2,000 vegan activists in England on August 31st may be viewed on the FARM Facebook page or YouTube channel.

  18. Thank you for the content of this piece, nicely written with lots of great historical information. (I wanted to re post it but I’m an aesthete and cant bring myself to post the cartoon pig logo)

  19. My brother recommended I might like this website. He used to be entirely right.
    This submit truly made my day. You can not consider simply how
    a lot time I had spent for this information! Thank you!

  20. Greetings! This is my 1st comment here so I just
    wanted to give a quick shout out and say I really enjoy reading through your articles.
    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same subjects?

  21. hello there and thank you for your info – I’ve
    definitely picked up something new from right here.
    I did however expertise a few technical points using this site, since I experienced to reload
    the web site many times previous to I could get it to load correctly.
    I had been wondering if your web host is OK? Not that I am complaining, but slow loading instances times will sometimes affect your placement in google and can damage your quality
    score if ads and marketing with Adwords. Well
    I am adding this RSS to my email and could look out for a lot more of your respective intriguing content.
    Ensure that you update this again very soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

subscribe to this blog