The Sword of Justice, the Torch of Reason
An Animal Rights Article from

FROM Tom Regan
April 24, 1988

Speech at April 1988 Last Chance for Animals World Day for Lab Animals, sometimes titled 'The Torch of Reason: The War on Vivisection.' 

Watch on YouTube

Tom Regan

We are gathered here today to declare war on vivisection! Our shared goal is not to reform this great evil but to abolish it completely! It is not bigger cages we want, but empty cages! Anything less than total victory will not satisfy us!

The position we hold — the abolitionist position — is often said to be “extreme,” and those of us who hold it are said to be “extremists.” The unspoken suggestions are that extreme positions cannot be right, and that extremists must be wrong.

But I am an extremist when it comes to rape — I am against it all the time. I am an extremist when it comes to child abuse — I am against it all the time. I am an extremist when it comes to sexual discrimination, racial discrimination — I am against it all the time. I am an extremist when it comes to abuse to the elderly — I am against it all the time.

The plain fact is, moral truth often is extreme, and must be, for when the injustice is absolute, then one must oppose it — absolutely. And the injustice of vivisection is absolute.

Which is why we are gathered here today, to declare war on vivisection!

Another thing we are said to be — those of us who are abolitionists — is…emotional.

I mean, shame, shame, shame! We actually have feelings. Like, don’t dare love someone, don’t dare sympathize with somebody, don’t dare care about another’s hurt or loss, don’t dare feel anger or rage because others are the victims of injustice. I mean, grow up! Move over, Mr. Spock.

All of this, of course, is utter nonsense. A life without feelings and emotions is the empty shell of a human life, not even a life at all. Of course we know this. Even the apologists of vivisection know this. I mean, I’ve seen some of them get mighty heated-up: red of face, swollen of tongue, apoplectic of complexion, cardiac of heart, screaming of voice, thumping of fist, wide of eye, on-end of hair… and wet-of-pants angry!

So enough of this self-righteous denunciation of emotionalism. It’s time to understand that strong emotions — real deep anger, real deep rage, real deep hostility — are perfectly natural feelings to have in the face of real deep injustice.

Which is why we are gathered here today, to declare war on vivisection, and we will not be satisfied with anything less than total victory!

Yet another thing we’re said to be — those of us who are abolitionists — is … ignorant.

I mean, we don’t know nuthin’. Ask us about DNA, and we think you’re referring to some national rifle lobby group. B12? That’s a number what gets called in Bingo, ain’t it? In-vivo research? That’s something funny those Eye-talians are doing to get their wine to taste as good as Made-in-America ripple. I mean, what we’re talking about is your basic Stone Age ignorance here.

I love this part of our group portrait — the vivisection industry’s picture of us — the picture they pay hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars to put out in the media. The reason I love it is because it’s so demonstrably false — you have to wonder if these people live on another planet.

Don’t they know about the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine? Don’t these people know about the Medical Research Modernization Committee? Don’t these people know about Veterinarians for Animal Rights? Or Nurses for Animal Rights? Or Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals? Or the 750 practicing physicians in the state of California who have denounced vivisection categorically?

Don’t these people know about the philosophers Peter Singer, Steve Sapontzis, Bernie Rollin, Susan and Lawry Finsen, and Sidney Genden? Don’t these people know about the theologians Andrew Linzey and John Bowker? Don’t they know about the legal theorists David Fauvre, Christopher Stone, and Gary Francione?

Don’t the paid-for apologists of vivisection ever come out of their cushy offices to see what’s going on in the real world? Don’t they understand that all the people, and all the groups I’ve mentioned — representing the best, the most gifted, the most informed minds of our generation — are speaking out against vivisection?

Which is why we’re gathered here today, to declare war on vivisection! We won’t be satisfied with anything less than total victory!

Misanthropic … Misanthropic...that’s another thing we’re said to be; that’s a $100 word that means … we don’t like anybody… not our mothers or fathers, not our husbands or wives, not our sons or daughters, not our friends or lovers …not even Mother Theresa or Bishop Tutu.

What we love are … Lassie and Bambi — animals. And only animals, which is why we want to stop research on animals, according to the medical industrial complex. According to them, nothing would please us more than to have more and more human beings suffer, more and more human beings die.

Whadya say, Marquis de Sade? Let’s party … at Forest Lawn!

Who are these people.... who are these people  who think they can get away with misrepresenting the truth? Don’t these people know about Tom and Betsy Gidux — Betsy committed in her professional life to helping the elderly, Tom, a medical doctor, helping people of all ages? Don’t they know about Dr. Bob Greenberg, a pediatrician, who works to keep young children healthy? Don’t they know about David and Courtney Amman — David, a school principal, Courtney, a public school teacher? Don’t they know about Shelley Shapiro, who works in the emergency room of a major hospital, and who does volunteer work counseling rape victims? Don’t they know about Marly Cornell, who has taken her own experience with her spina bifida daughter, Cody, and used this as a vehicle for helping other parents whose children are physically or mentally disadvantaged?

These are the people — the Tom and Betsy Giduzs, the David and Courtney Ammans, the Shelley Shapiros and the Marly Cornells — these are the people who are the real heart and soul of our animal rights movement — people who stand as a part of, not a part from, the human rights movement, people who work to promote good, and eliminate evil wherever it raises its ugly head.

Which is why we are gathered here today, you and I, to declare war on vivisection! And we will not be satisfied until we’ve gotten every animal out of every cage in every laboratory!

Of course, of course what’s really ironic is how accurately the medical industrial complex describes itself in efforts to describe its critics. Consider the charge of ignorance:

  • When we find out that 34% of post mortems reveal that the now deceased victim was misdiagnosed: 34% were being treated for diseases they did not have, 34% were not being treated for the diseases that killed them;
  • When we find out that 60 to 80% of the 250,000 coronary bypass patients, who undergo this surgery annually in the U.S., gain no increased lifespan when compared with patients who forego this radical surgery;
  • When we find out that of the 900,000 caesarean deliveries performed in 1986 — a full 24% of all infant births — at least 50% were unnecessary;
  • When we find out that of the 120,000 pacemakers implanted during that same year, more than 50% were not medically indicated;
  • When we learn all this (and there is much, much more to learn) – when we find this out, even the most trusting among us must begin to understand where the charge of ignorance really fits.

All some people need to do is look in the mirror.

What is true in the case of ignorance also is true in the case of compassion.

When we find out that one in every six Americans has no medical insurance, that one million Americans annually are denied needed medical care, that the infant mortality rate in the U.S. is among the highest in the world, that a black child born in America is more likely to die before reaching the age of one than an infant born in any Third World countries, that some 300,000 black children are born in the U.S. every year without their mothers having received a single minute of prenatal care

When we find out that what is true of blacks in America, is comparably true of other minorities — Hispanics and Native Peoples, for example. If curative or preventive health care exists, they don’t get it because they can’t afford it;

When we find out that for years the people who received preferential treatment in the organ transplant program at that Holy of Holies — the University of Pittsburgh — were not working class people from the steel mills, not working class people from the mines, but potentates from the Middle East who donated hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars to the medical school;

When we find out that there are almost a million elderly people who have incomes of less than $5,500 a year, two thirds of whom do not qualify for Medicaid!

When we find out that seven in every 10 elderly who live alone face total impoverishment after only 13 weeks in a nursing home (average cost: $22,000 a year; median income for the elderly: $11,000).

When we find out where the truth lies, we find out who lies. Come on, let’s be honest!

If the medical industrial complex really was as compassionate as it wants to believe they are, they would be out front leading the crusade to make essential health care available to everyone! But it’s not out front leading the parade; it’s not even in the parade. The last thing the medical industrial complex wants is something other than a profit-driven industry!

And just in case, just in cae you think I exaggerate just in case you think the medical industrial complex is the health care industry’s version of Mr. GoodWrench  consider that the United States is only one of two so-called “democracies” in the world that does not guarantee necessary health care to each and every citizen — regardless of age, regardless of income, regardless of race; only one of two. The other “democracy," in case you haven’t already guessed, is …South Africa. The evil of apartheid is cut from the same defective moral cloth as vivisection; both represent the pattern of special privilege over fairness, custom over justice, power over respect, greed over compassion, which is why those of us gathered here today are united not only in our opposition to apartheid in South Africa, but also in our opposition to apartheid in medical science and medical research.

Today we declare war on vivisection, and we will not be satisfied until every animal is out of every cage in every lab!

Terrorists … terrorists … terrorists …

That’s the new buzzword the medical industrial complex uses to describe animal rights advocates. We’re no longer little old ladies in tennis shoes. Today we’re young thugs in face masks, armed with torches and cans of spray paint, out for a Clockwork Orange evening of fun and games.

You’ve got to hand it to the vivisection industry’s PR people; they certainly know how to work an image to their advantage. The problem is, the image doesn’t correspond to reality. The basic philosophy of the animal rights movement is Learn Baby, Learn! not Burn, Baby, Burn!

Learn the truth about how your tax dollars are spent, learn the truth about the callousness and lack of compassion that characterize so much of the medical industrial complex, learn the truth about how ignorance and greed find a happy home in the medical community, learn the truth about how animals are treated in laboratories and what they are doing there to begin with, and why the public health is not being served by this science of death.

Learn, not burn, is the real philosophy of our movement.

One part of this learning, an important part, involves the other side of the coin of violence, the side that does not get reported, the side where people in the movement are on the receiving end: people like Jane Tufton, from Pennsylvania, who finds dead animals in her mailbox and on her front steps because of her “queer” views about animal rights; people like Judy Barad’s husband, in Indiana, whose car windshield was smashed by neighbors who didn’t like his ideas about respect for sentient life; people like Hope Sawyer Buyuchmichi, who has been told many times by people who disagree with her views about animals, and this a woman in her late seventies, “we could touch a match to your place, then what would you do?”; people like you and I, people like you and I who are not strangers to threatening mail or phone calls.

Violence is more than a trashed lab. The difference is, our side of the story — the side where we are on the receiving end — doesn’t get told.

It should.

It would.

And it will.

Because people, responsible people in the media are beginning to understand that something profoundly important is happening, there is a great awakening occurring, the animal rights movement has seized the initiative and is gaining momentum! Our time has come! We’re declaring war on vivisection! And we will not stop until we have every animal out of every cage in every laboratory!

This call to arms — this declaration of war — is not a declaration of war, a call to violence. It is a call to peace. The use of violence never really changes anything, only the identities of the agents of violence. Morally, violence is indefensible; tactically it is unwise.

Trash a lab and the story that gets told is, “Some irresponsible vandals trashed a lab.” The story that gets lost is what was going on in that lab in the first place. In other words, the story that gets told is the one that aids the vivisectors, not one that helps the animals.

No, the means we must use to wage our war are those shaped and proven by Gandhi and Martin Luther King: The weapons of nonviolence, but with a few differences.

Precisely because those whose interests we represent (the tens of millions of animals in laboratories) precisely because they are unable to tell us what is being done to them, precisely because the government inspection mechanisms for assuring compliance with the law have been shown time and time again to be inadequate, it has been necessary for some in our movement to enter some labs illegally there to document the waste and evil of vivisection done in the name of science.

Just two things should be said here:

  • The first is: Thank God for the Animal Liberation Front! Thank God for Last Chance! Thank God for Band of Mercy! If it had not been for your courage and your skill those of us assembled here today would not know what we do. We owe you and we thank you.
  • Secondly: Illegally obtained exposes of laboratory atrocities will continue. And they will continue as long as the medical industrial complex refuses to allow unannounced inspections of labs by people from the animal rights movement. Until that day comes, I think it is true — and this is not a threat, this is a fact — every lab in every research facility is in jeopardy of an unannounced inspection, and I don’t mean one done by the government!

Because this is war!

And we are not going to be satisfied until every animal is out of every cage in every laboratory!

Some may say that we ask for too much when we ask for an open door policy concerning lab inspections. Certainly it will take a great amount of pressure on the vivisection industry to get them to let some daylight in. But there are some glimmers of hope.

Edwin Allen. Remember the name. Edwin Allen.

Edwin Allen is the Judge who recently heard the case involving a break-in at the University of Oregon. Judge Allen got a crash course in animal abuse when he was judicially obliged to watch such films as Unnecessary Fuss and Britches. He didn’t like what he saw.

“We have had some evidence here,” he writes, “as to certain things which have been done which were disturbing to me … Those activities in the labs should be free and observable to any member of the citizenry …It would be highly appropriate,” Judge Allen writes, “to have these facilities open to the public”!

Open to the public!

Right on, Judge Allen! That’s what I say! Help us get our message out: Learn, Baby, Learn! not Burn, Baby, Burn!

Know this: there’s room in our army for more than the Judge Allens. Anyone and everyone can join, including many otherwise good, decent people who currently are in bondage in the medical industrial complex. We welcome you into our ranks, if you will but quit the evil of vivisection.

In the familiar Christian image, we hate the sin, but love the sinner — or at least we try to. To all you good, decent people currently in the vivisection industry, therefore, we issue this healing call:

Lay down your weapons, lay down your scalpels and prods, lay down your Pavlovian slings and restraint chairs, lay down your stereotaxic devices and your rodent guillotines, lay down your wires that shock and plates that burn, lay down your tanks that drown and chambers that deprive, lay down your sutures that blind and vices that crush, lay down these weapons of evil and join with us, you scientists who are brave enough and good enough to stand for what is just and true.

We welcome you into our ranks — ranks that have known the likes of Plutarch and Ovid, Horace and Pythagoras, Plato and Socrates, St. Francis and Leonardo da Vinci, the poets Shelley and Browning, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, Collette and Harriet Beecher Stowe, Leo Tolstoy, Gandhi, C.S. Lewis, Mark Twain — join with us on this historic day when, in concert with thousands and thousands of others throughout the world, we declare war on vivisection!

We will not rest — we will not rest! — until every animal is out of every cage in every lab! We can do this! We shall do this! The day WILL come when all the cages will be empty, when ALL the animals will be liberated, when all decent, compassionate people can shout with joy, echoing Martin Luther King’s famous words: “Free at last! Free at last!


Return to Animal Rights Articles