“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.
It is all the more incomprehensible that previous jurisprudence has not been in conformity with national sentiment on this matter, as well as in many other areas. Under the influence of foreign legal opinions and foreign legal concepts, under the influence of the unfortunate reality that the administration of justice had passed into the hands of foreign elements, a judiciary was able to exist until today which legally equated the animal with an inanimate object – a judiciary which gave the animal’s owner all the rights which he possesses over any other inanimate article in his possession. To equate the animal with an inanimate object and to grant its owner absolute right of disposal over it is not in accordance with German sensibilities; above all it is not in accordance with the National Socialist worldview as the intellectual outlook of the German people. That its owner could destroy it within his own four walls like any other inanimate object without there being any legal grounds for punishment, or that he could even abuse it for his own wretched motives, this we cannot understand.
Until the National Socialist uprising, law-making confined itself to punishing violence and brutality against animals only if they resulted in a public outcry. Hence there needed to be witnesses, other people, taking umbrage against animal abuse. Only then would there be any possibility of punishment. The draft penal code of 1927 sought to break with this conception, to make cruelty against animals a punishable offence; however, it incorporated within its rationale the inference that procedures on animals were not to be regarded as torture if they were conducted merely from a religious or scientific standpoint. This is a poor and inadequate framing, which neither does justice to the need for a comprehensive, fundamental protection of animals from torture, nor gives any clear indication as to what extent procedures on animals may be carried out for scientific purposes.
The utilization of animals for scientific purposes also cannot be left to the discretion of any individual who feels himself compelled to conduct experiments. Operating on animals in order to diagnose diseases in humans, to develop medicines, or for purposes of research, likewise requires detailed legal regulation and oversight by the state. The fact is, unfortunately, that it has been a hallmark of science in past decades both before and after the War, with its materialistic thinking motivated by raw chemistry and physics and with the protection offered it by the inadequate legal situation, that it has far exceeded tolerable levels for the German people in the type and scope of its animal experiments. It is not only French experimenters like the infamous Claude Fernar who have conducted experiments whose cruelty can no longer possibly be correlated with any intended benefit, but German scientists as well – most of whom, admittedly, have been racial aliens. The fact that any feeling of emotion was blunted or generally non-existent within the behavior of these largely isolated, again mostly foreign scientists, is demonstrated via examples from past scientific literature, in which – without any trace of human compassion – anaesthesia-free torture of the worst kind is described: operations without sedation, as well as burns, frostbite, hunger, and the like.
Vivisection, the dissection of a living, unanaesthetised animal, was made use of. Laboratory animals – rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, and (perhaps most repugnant of all to national sentiment) even dogs, the companion of man – have had their bodies sliced apart, their hearts exposed, their skulls chiseled open, their limbs severed, all in order to observe how their organs work and what consequences arise after they are lost. It is incomprehensible to the sensibilities of National Socialism, but unfortunately it is a fact, that in many instances the perfectly feasible anaesthesia of an animal before its operation was not carried out, or was not carried out with the requisite care, since it was considered merely an animal.
It remains debatable as to what extent such vivisections have proven necessary and useful in prior decades for our understanding of the structure and life of the human body. Today, at any rate, even science itself takes the position that the agonizing slaughter of animals via vivisection can no longer further our present knowledge. More and more has science quashed such experiments. All the more reason, then, for a fundamental, decisive ban on vivisection, an edict not only for the love of animals and for consideration for their suffering, but also for common humanity. Animal welfare is necessary not only to protect the animal; with it we fight simultaneously against impetuous apathy, human brutality, cruelty to animals, and their suffering.
I have therefore pronounced an immediate ban on all vivisection within Prussia and have made it a punishable offense – which means, for the present, offenders being subject to the penalty of removal to a concentration camp until the law itself can stipulate severe penalties in this area. I have charged the relevant Prussian ministers with ensuring that a draft law along these lines is drawn up as quickly as possible, and I can already announce today that the Reich Ministry of the Interior responsible for this task will ensure that such a law is passed within the next few weeks.
Vivisection, however, does not encompass every feasible form of needless animal cruelty. Scientific experiments of an agonizing nature as well as cruelty against animals, as they play out in daily life, both require fresh legal provisions. The fact that the entire issue of animal protection legislation will at long last be regulated consistently and commendably will be the result of questions of animal welfare being dealt with by experts, something suggested by my decree.
It now must be and will be the task of experts to determine in detail, and to what extent, procedures on animals are still generally required in order to help identify diseases in humans, to produce medicines, and to foster progress. I am thinking here of methods for detecting serious epidemics and infectious diseases which are equally as threatening to humans as they are to animals. If there is no possibility of discovering the causative agent of such diseases through microscopic investigation, with this instead being possible only via animal experimentation, then such experiments may be employed with the use of anaesthesia and safeguards. The extraction of blood from animals in order to produce an antiserum from that blood serves to directly combat the most dangerous of human diseases. However, the minor procedures required for this cannot be described as animal cruelty or vivisection, because they primarily serve the larger goal of combating the most serious infectious diseases. For example, let us only consider the experiences of war, what indispensable help the serum proved in the struggle against tetanus and gas gangrene. If a blood sample is taken conscientiously then the animal will not be harmed in any way whatsoever. Even when the danger is particularly great, people will at any moment give up some of their own blood in order to be able to help their fellow human beings.
If animal experiments on pigs helped facilitate the discovery of the drug Germanin,2 which is named after Germany and which is recognized worldwide as the only effective treatment against the terrible sleeping sickness, then it is understandable for this medicine to continue to be tested on animals for its reliability. But these tests also must be carried out under the necessary safeguards and under the required anaesthetic.
Medicines which are produced from animal organs – such as insulin, the most effective means of combating diabetes and a drug whose manufacture and sale the industries of civilized countries are struggling over today – can usually only be tested on animals for their efficacy, since they cannot otherwise be tested in terms of raw chemistry.
Significant nutritional deficiency illnesses like scurvy could also only have been identified through animal experiments. It is hoped that such nutritional tests will continue to advance the important field that is the redevelopment of our diet.
I do not wish to enlarge upon these examples in detail. They are a testament to our science’s successful work. But even with the procedures on animals required for these, everything that is not urgently necessary must be stopped, and all operations must be carried out with the greatest possible care. Anaesthesia and analgesia, if they are to serve science and thus human beings, must not only be of benefit to people during operations, but must also benefit animals to the same extent and with the same level of care. Those animals with whom we form special bonds, such as dogs and cats, must be spared from any experiments that can be accomplished using other, inferior animals. The rat, a parasite which is to be exterminated in any case, is certainly more resistant to pain and less partaking of our compassion than man’s household pets. But in these experiments, too, the same care, the same clemency must nonetheless prevail, and these experiments are also to be permitted only to the extent that they are indispensably essential for mankind.
The group of people permitted to conduct such experiments must be limited to serious scientists and the institutes they manage, so that the only procedures carried out are those from which suffering humanity can expect to see progress in its healing. But here again the state must provide oversight, the state must intervene when abuse takes place. For teaching purposes, meanwhile, animal experiments can broadly be replaced by pictures and by film screenings.
The conference of experts on science and animal welfare which I have now convoked will clarify all such details, and will submit its proposals to me. I have intentionally appointed primarily those experts who have campaigned for animal welfare for years, who for years have fought passionately against the cruelty of vivisection, in order to provide them with an opportunity to prepare clear wording for the upcoming prospective legislation. For decades now the struggle between those who have long recognized the need for animal protection and those who would ruthlessly make use of animals for human purposes has been a perpetual bone of contention. It is unacceptable for anyone who studies medicine to believe that they can improve their knowledge in the first instance by conducting a more or less successful experiment on any given animal.
Through the new legal regulations which I have introduced we will finally be able to reach a solution to this burning issue. In this way we will once again bring about the formation of inner peace within a segment of our German cultural life. What is necessary will remain; what is unnecessary, deleterious vivisection and cruelty against animals, will and must disappear, so that the consensus which is so essential for the development of our internal and external political life may also be achieved.
Animal Welfare Act
Passed 28th November, 1933.
The Reich government has passed the following law, which is promulgated herewith:
(1) It is prohibited to needlessly abuse an animal, or to roughly mistreat it.
(2) An animal is abused when someone causes it significant pain or suffering of a prolonged or repetitive nature; abuse is needless unless it serves a reasonable, justifiable purpose. An animal is mistreated when someone causes it significant pain; mistreatment is considered rough when it arises out of a callous disposition.
Regulations for the Protection of Animals
It is prohibited,
1. to neglect an animal in terms of its rearing, care, accommodation, or during its transportation, such that it suffers significant pain or serious harm as a result;
2. to needlessly utilize an animal for labor that is manifestly beyond its strength, or that causes it significant pain, or that it is unable to cope with owing to its present condition;
3. to utilize an animal for training, film recordings, exhibitions, or similar activities, insofar as they are associated with significant pain or with serious, adverse harm to the animal’s health.
4. to sell or to purchase a domesticated animal that is frail, sick, worn-down, or old, and whose continued existence constitutes torture, for any purpose other than an immediate, painless termination;
5. to abandon one’s own household pet as a means of disposing of the animal;
6. to train dogs, or to test their abilities, by using live cats, foxes, or any other animals;
7. to crop the ears or tail of a dog over two weeks old. Cropping is permissible if carried out under anaesthesia;
8. to crop (dock) the root of a horse’s tail. Cropping is permitted if it is carried out by a veterinarian under anaesthesia, in order to remedy a bad habit or a disease of the tail root;
9. to undertake a painful procedure on an animal in an improper manner or without anaesthesia. Castration is to be regarded as a painful procedure on horses, on cattle and pigs over three months old, and on sexually mature rams and goats. Anaesthesia is not required if the pain associated with a procedure is only marginal, if anaesthesia is generally not used in the same or similar procedures on humans, or if use of an anaesthetic does not appear viable in individual cases according to veterinary discretion;
10. to kill a farm-kept, fur-bearing animal other than under anaesthesia or in an otherwise painless fashion;
11. to force-feed poultry by stuffing (gavage);
12. to pull off or to cut off the limbs of live frogs.
The importation of docked horses is prohibited. The Reich Minister of the Interior may permit exceptions in duly justified cases.
The use of equids underground is permitted only with the permission of the relevant provincial authorities.
Live Experiments on Animals
It is prohibited to undertake procedures or treatments on living animals for experimental purposes that involve significant pain or harm, unless §§6 to 8 stipulate otherwise.
(1) The Reich Minister of the Interior can, at the recommendation of the relevant Reich authority or the highest provincial administration, grant certain scientifically-oriented institutes or laboratories the permission to carry out scientific experiments on living animals, provided that the scientific director possesses the requisite professional training and reliability; that suitable facilities for carrying out animal experiments are available; and that appropriate care and accommodation for the animals can be guaranteed.
(2) The Reich Minister of the Interior can cede the granting of permission to other supreme Reich authorities.
(3) Permission can be withdrawn at any time without compensation.
When carrying out animal experiments (§5), the following regulations are to be observed:
1. Experiments may be carried out only under the full responsibility of the scientific director or by his specially authorized proxy.
2. Experiments may only be carried out by persons who have been scientifically trained for the purpose, or under their direction, and only while avoiding the generation of any pain that is not a necessary part of the process.
3. Experiments undertaken for research purposes are only to be carried out if they can promise a specific result that has not yet been validated by science, or if they serve to clarify previously unresolved questions.
4. Experiments are only to be carried out under anaesthesia, unless, in the opinion of the scientific director, the purpose of the experiment necessarily precludes it, or where the pain associated with the procedure is judged to be less than the impairment the anaesthesia would otherwise cause to the test animal’s wellbeing.
No more than one serious, surgical, or painful bloodless experiment may be carried out upon the same unanaesthetised animal.
Animals suffering from considerable pain following the completion of serious experiments, particularly those involving surgical interventions, are to be painlessly and promptly terminated, provided that the scientific director determines this to be congruous with the purpose of the experiment.
5. Experiments on horses, dogs, cats, or monkeys may only be carried out if their intended purpose cannot be accomplished via experiments on other animals.
6. No more animals may be utilized than are necessary to clarify the relevant issue.
7. Records must be kept of the kinds of animals used, as well as of the purpose, implementation, and outcome of experiments.
Animal experiments for matters relating to the administration of justice, as well as vaccinations and the collection of blood samples from live animals for the purpose of identifying human or animal diseases or for extracting or testing (value determination) sera and vaccines using proven or state-approved methods, are not subject to the provisions of §§5 to 7. However, these animals are also to be painlessly and promptly terminated if they are suffering from considerable pain and if termination is congruous with the purpose of the experiment.
(1) Whoever needlessly abuses or roughly mistreats an animal shall be punished with imprisonment for up to two years and with a fine, or with one of these penalties.
(2) Anyone who, save from the circumstances in par. 1, carries out an experiment on live animals without the requisite permission (§5), shall be punished with imprisonment for up to six months and with a fine, or with one of these penalties.
(3) Unless the offence already falls under the penalties spelled out in par. 1 and 2, a fine of up to one hundred and fifty Reichsmarks or imprisonment shall be imposed upon anyone who deliberately or negligently
1. violates one of the prohibitions in §§2 to 4;
2. violates one of the regulations in §7;
3. violates a regulation for the protection of animals issued by the Reich Minister of the Interior or by a provincial government in accordance with §14;
4. fails to prevent children, or other persons who are under his supervision and who belong to his household, from violating the provisions of this Act.
(1) Alongside the penalties for a deliberate violation imposed upon the basis of §9, the confiscation or termination of an animal can also be instituted if it belongs to the convicted individual. Instead of confiscation, it can also be ordered that the animal be otherwise housed and catered for at the convicted individual’s expense for a period of three months.
(2) If no specific person is able to be prosecuted or convicted, the confiscation or termination of the animal can still be imposed if the remaining conditions for this are otherwise met.
(1) If someone has repeatedly been lawfully convicted of a deliberate violation on the basis of §9, the relevant provincial authority can temporarily or permanently prohibit them from keeping certain animals, from working with them professionally, or from trading in them.
(2) After one year has passed following a prohibition order taking legal effect, the relevant provincial authority can repeal the arrangement.
(3) Animals that have been seriously and culpably neglected in terms of their rearing, care, or accommodation can be taken away from their owners by the relevant provincial authority and housed with due care elsewhere until a guarantee exists that the animal will be kept satisfactorily. The costs of this accommodation are to be borne by the guilty party.
If there is any uncertainty during criminal proceedings as to whether an offence falls under a prohibition in §2.1 or §2.2, the civil service veterinarian and, insofar as agricultural operations are involved, the Reich Nutritional Estate,3 should be consulted as soon as possible during the process.
For the purposes of this Act, anaesthesia is understood to mean any process that produces general painlessness, or which eliminates sensations of pain locally.
The Reich Minister of the Interior can enact legal and administrative provisions for the implementation and supplementation of this Act. Where he does not make use of this authority, regional governments can issue the required implementation provisions.
This Act comes into force on 1 February, 1934, with the exception of §2.8 and §2.11 and §3, for which the Reich Minister of the Interior, in consultation with the Reich Minister of Food and Agriculture, determines the effective date of implementation.
§145b and §360.13 of the Criminal Code shall cease to apply from 1 February, 1934.4
The provisions of the Bird Protection Act of 30 May, 1908 (Reichsgesetzblatt, p.314) are to remain unaffected.
Berlin, 24 November, 1933.
The Reich Chancellor
The Reich Minister of the Interior
The Reich Minister of Justice
2. Also known as ‘Suramin’, a drug which combats African sleeping sickness and river blindness. The drug was first synthesized in 1916 by German scientists at Bayer, and was subsequently used in trade deals as a form of political leverage; the colonial administrations of ‘Versailles Powers’ like England were in desperate need of it. The discovery of Germanin was such a point of pride for Germans that a (highly fictionalized) film about its development was released in 1943, based on a novel by physician Dr. Hermann Unger. The film, Germanin: die Geschichte einer kolonialen Tat (“Germanin: The Story of a Colonial Deed”), can be viewed here, although without English subtitles. It is typical of German wartime entertainment in that its villains are scheming, plutocratic Englishmen.
3. The Reich Nutritional Estate (Reichsnährstand) was a state agricultural body set up by the National Socialist regime on 13 September, 1933. The Reichsnährstand and its various subsidiary organizations were responsible for governing all food production and distribution within Germany, exercising oversight over farmers, peasants, cooperatives, wholesalers, retailers, processors (mills, dairies), etc., including over their prices and marketing. The Reichsnährstand enforced its dictates through the issuance of fines, and via forcible closure or confiscation of non-compliant farms or businesses.
4. At the time this Act was passed, §145b of the German Criminal Code stated: “Anyone who roughly abuses an animal or who deliberately mistreats it is to be punished with imprisonment for up to six months, or with a fine.” §360.13 of the Criminal Code stated: “The following shall be punished with a fine of up to one hundred and fifty marks, or with imprisonment… anyone who violates a regulation issued for the purpose of animal welfare.” Both these provisions were effectively rendered moot by the Reich Animal Welfare Act’s going into effect on 1 February, 1934, and both were struck from the text of the Criminal Code going forwards.