Animal Protection > AR Interviews


The Legacy of Hans Ruesch
Claudette Vaughan speaks to the father of anti-vivisection
First published in Vegan Voice

Hans Ruesch has spent most of his 90 years dedicated to the abolition of vivisection -- and it has come with a price. Recently he has been up to his ears in lawsuits directed against him. When I asked if he had any regrets the answer was, not at all.
"No. Why?" he said. "This is not a marriage. It is not a divorce. I go to court because they call me to court." He does admit, however, that he has known better days health-wise.
Hans Ruesch was the first person to propound uncompromising abolition of vivisection on medical grounds. Back in the '70s his book, Slaughter of the Innocent, caused a sensation. Overnight it turned frustrated AVs into militant abolitionists. The book is still in print. Some of the attempts to suppress Slaughter of the Innocent and its sequel Naked Empress or The Great Medical Fraud have been reported in Ruesch's sounding board CIVIS publications. The attempts have all failed. Both books have been in several prints, including the English version. The message never changes.
There is a concern in the militant AV movement that a secondary, faux anti-vivisection movement is running alongside the original abolitionist one, and has been for some time. Ruesch agrees. Informed AV people must ask themselves: why does vivisection continue? Why, after all these years, hasn't the general public learnt the truth about animal research? Ask yourself, how are the so-called rights and welfare organisations getting away with lying to the public? By watering abolition down, these same organisations might as well be working on behalf of the drug companies in order to perpetuate vivisection.
Hans Ruesch remains a breath of fresh air in an atmosphere that keeps hitting the walls because of massive vested interests, even within the anti-vivisection movement, which purports to work for animal rights and welfare. Ruesch has criticised the RSPCA, which invests heavily in companies that carry out animal experiments. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) does the same. The British AV group, Animal Aid, was originally formed on the back of the publication of Slaughter of the Innocent. It is this writer's opinion that, over the years, the society has taken the easy option by allowing itself to be swayed off course from abolitionist vivisection. Hans Ruesch remains critical of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), which replaced its excellent journal, The Abolitionist, with the lame publication Animal Welfare.
Joan Dunayer, author of Animal Equality: Language and Liberation and I have engaged in several intense conversations on how the terminology "animal rights" is being pushed aside in favour of new welfarism, animal defence or even protectionism--anything but personhood rights for non-human animals, it seems.
The same could apply to the word abolition. It can be well argued that if you want to get rid of something, the best way is not by a thud or a thump, but by a seemingly innocuous, constant watering-down of language to change people's perceptions. One wonders why so many vivisectors support the endeavour of finding "alternatives" to vivisection. I mean, is there an "alternative" to murder and mutilation? Surely the answer is "stop participating in it".
Hans Ruesch was there before us demanding answers to these questions. I asked him if he felt somewhat gratified that Peter Singer, no friend of Ruesch, had shot himself in the foot with his take on bestiality. His reply was surprising.
"No," he said. "I am in too much trouble of my own."
Having recently returned to Switzerland to live, Ruesch has always been outspoken in calling Switzerland "the capital of vivisection". He explains that Switzerland--the entire country--lives off vivisection as an industry. It can be argued that America must also be up there. He points out that it is true there are many more animals sacrificed in American laboratories, but the difference between the two countries is that Switzerland's principle industry is the mighty pharmaceutical industry, unlike America whose larger industries include the military and motor cars.
Ruesch has made many enemies within the ranks of vivisection. Even today his place of residence in Switzerland is under surveillance, in part because of his confrontations with these monolithic pharmaceutical corporations and their vast fortunes.
In times of despair and frustration at our lack of progress for laboratory animals, we need look no further than the legacy of Hans Ruesch to spur us on in our attempts to abolish vivisection once and for all.
In Australia, a Cloning Bill has recently been discussed in parliament. It is horrific enough that experiments are being performed on non-human animals. The logical development of the practice of vivisection is medical experiments on children, physically and mentally handicapped children, and on aborted foetuses. It won't stop there, either. Genetic engineering will see to that. We'll have three-headed kangaroos soon, marketed as a "novel" idea.
It is our urgent task in the AV movement to accelerate vivisection's inevitable downfall.
Thanks must go to Piero for his help in securing communication with Hans Ruesch. Many thanks must also go to Magicat for his unswerving anti-vivisectionist stance, and for never failing to ask those hard questions.