“Cruelty against animals will and must disappear…” Hermann Göring’s polemical attack against vivisection, and the full text of the Reich Animal Welfare Act of 1933
There is an interesting segment in Rudolf Jung’s 1922 treatise on National Socialist ideology, in the chapter titled “The Tasks of Municipal Policy,” where the author suggests various grass-roots reforms which the National Socialist movement should pursue. Included among the predictable suggestions for improved housing, sanitation, road repair, social measures, etc., is a section on “Animal Welfare” in which Jung posits that “animal welfare is also human welfare” since “animal abusers above all have a predisposition towards criminality.” The inclusion of animal welfare among core policy demands is curious but does not derive from any idiosyncrasy on Jung’s part, being a consequence instead of the fact that some of National Socialism’s ideological roots lay within the racial völkisch movement, which itself had evolved out of the ‘life-reform movement’ (Lebensreformbewegung) of the late 19th century – a very loose collection of social-reformist groups whose disparate adherents had advocated a wide variety of often-faddish causes (temperance, athletics, nudism, vegetarianism, homeopathy, paganism, communal living, astrology, land reform, animal rights, etc.) as a means of improving the German people’s quality-of-life. National Socialism inherited from the völkisch and life-reform movements a utopian reverence for the natural world, a powerful suspicion of urbanization, and the ‘progressive’ view that man was an animal like any other – a “domesticated animal,” to be sure, but still an animal. The combination of these perspectives led to a general rejection of the Christian teaching that man possessed a higher status than animals; for National Socialists, it was the acceptance of such a notion which had helped alienate man from his natural surroundings, opening the door to highly destructive forces (capitalism, materialism, unchecked industrialization and urbanization) and to the development of a harmful moral code entirely divorced from the Natural Order that guided all other living things. As a result it was man’s duty to protect and to respect animals wherever he could, a principle which the NSDAP rather strikingly put into practice after achieving power in 1933 by making Germany one of the first nations in the world to introduce comprehensive national legislation protecting animals from abuse and regulating their general treatment. Translated below are two examples of this somewhat neglected aspect of National Socialist ideology. The first is a transcript of Hermann Göring’s famous radio broadcast of August 1933, in which Göring outlines in detail the NS movement’s vehement opposition to vivisection (experimentation on living animals) and the measures the Hitler government proposed to take against it. The second is the complete text of the Reichstierschutzgesetz (Reich Animal Protection Act) of November 1933, which sets out the government’s provisions for the treatment of animals and the punishments to be dispensed towards those who abuse them.
The Struggle against Vivisection
Radio broadcast speech of 28th August, 1933.
“To equate the animal with an inanimate object and to grant the owner absolute right of disposal over it is not in accordance with German sensibilities; above all it it not in accordance with the National Socialist worldview as the intellectual outlook of the German people.”
Folk-comrades! Since the day on which I first issued my decree against the cruelty to animals that is vivisection, I have received a flood of telegrams and letters expressing great delight and the most spirited approval for the fact that aggressive steps have finally been taken to combat this abuse against animals.1 My decree striking so suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, may have come as something of a surprise. The struggle against vivisection has been going on for years. Much has been said and quarreled about it, in both scientific and unscientific forms, but nothing has yet been done. From day one the National Socialist government was clear that energetic measures had to be taken against it, yet that it would take months before such a law, with all of its preparation, could be passed.
In order to prevent the torture of animals from spreading any further during this period of preparation, I have now intervened with this decree and have exercised my vested right to impose protective custody in a concentration camp upon those who still believe that they can treat animals as inanimate commodities.
The German Volk have always had a particular affection for animals, and have always treated the issue of animal welfare with special attention. They have always regarded animals as God’s creatures, especially those which for thousands of years have been their companions at home and on the farm, yes, in some respects one could say their coworkers and – one need only consider horses here – their comrades-in-arms. Animals, for the German people, are not only living beings in the organic sense, but creatures that lead their own emotional lives, that feel pain and show joy, loyalty, and devotion. It would never have been in accordance with our national sentiment to equate the animal with an inanimate, lifeless, and unfeeling thing, to regard the animal merely as an insentient and soulless object of exploitation, as an implement of labor that can perhaps be utilized for reasons of utility, and that can also be tormented or destroyed on the same utilitarian grounds. The fables and legends of the Aryan peoples, particularly those of the German Volk, demonstrate this spirit of solidarity shown by Aryan man. Continue reading