Animal welfare in Nazi Germany
There was widespread support for animal welfare in Nazi Germany, and the Nazis took a variety of measures to ensure animals were protected. Many Nazi leaders, including Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring, were supporters of animal rights and conservation. Hitler was a vegetarian who, according to various eyewitness reports, was viscerally appalled by animal cruelty. Several Nazis were environmentalists, and species protection and animal welfare were significant issues in the Nazi regime. Heinrich Himmler made an effort to ban the hunting of animals. Göring was a professed animal lover and conservationist — though from 1934 he was also Reichsjägermeister ("Reich Chief Huntmaster"). The current animal welfare laws in Germany are modified versions of the laws introduced by the Nazis.
At the end of the nineteenth century, kosher butchering and vivisection were the main concerns regarding animal protection in Germany. These concerns continued among the Nazis. According to Boria Sax, the Nazis rejected anthropocentric reasons for animal protection; animals were not to be protected for human interests—but for themselves. In 1927, a Nazi representative to the Reichstag called for actions against cruelty to animals and kosher butchering.
In 1931, the Nazi party proposed a ban on vivisection. In early 1933, representatives of the Nazi party to the Prussian parliament held a meeting to enact this ban. On April 21, 1933, almost immediately after the Nazis came to power, the parliament began to pass laws for the regulation of animal slaughter. On April 21, a law was passed concerning the slaughter of animals. On April 24, Order of the Prussian Ministry of the Interior was enacted regarding the slaughter of poikilotherms. Germany was the first nation to ban vivisection. A law imposing total ban on vivisection was enacted on August 16, 1933, by Hermann Göring as the prime minister of Prussia. He announced an end to the "unbearable torture and suffering in animal experiments" and said that those who "still think they can continue to treat animals as inanimate property" will be sent to concentration camps. On August 28, 1933, Göring announced in a radio broadcast:
An absolute and permanent ban on vivisection is not only a necessary law to protect animals and to show sympathy with their pain, but it is also a law for humanity itself.... I have therefore announced the immediate prohibition of vivisection and have made the practice a punishable offense in Prussia. Until such time as punishment is pronounced the culprit shall be lodged in a concentration camp.
Göring also banned commercial animal trapping, imposed severe restrictions on hunting, and regulated the shoeing of horses. He imposed regulations even on the boiling of lobsters and crabs. In one incident, he sent a fisherman to a concentration camp for cutting up a bait frog.
In 24 November 1933, Nazi Germany enacted another law called Reichstierschutzgesetz (Reich Animal Protection Act), for protection of animals. This law listed many prohibitions against the use of animals, including their use for filmmaking and other public events causing pain or damage to health, feeding fowls forcefully and tearing out the thighs of living frogs. The two principals (Ministerialräte) of the German Ministry of the Interior, Clemens Giese and Waldemar Kahler, who were responsible for drafting the legislative text, wrote in their juridical comment from 1939, that by the law the animal was to be "protected for itself" ("um seiner selbst willen geschützt"), and made "an object of protection going far beyond the hitherto existing law" ("Objekt eines weit über die bisherigen Bestimmungen hinausgehenden Schutzes").
On February 23, 1934, a decree was enacted by the Prussian Ministry of Commerce and Employment which introduced education on animal protection laws at primary, secondary and college levels. On 3 July 1934, a law Das Reichsjagdgesetz (The Reich Hunting Law) was enacted which limited hunting. On 1 July 1935, another law Reichsnaturschutzgesetz (Reich Nature Conservation Act) was passed to protect nature. According to an article published in Kaltio, one of the main Finnish cultural magazines, Nazi Germany was the first in the world to place the wolf under protection.
In 1934, Nazi Germany hosted an international conference on animal protection in Berlin. On March 27, 1936, an order on the slaughter of living fish and other poikilotherms was enacted. On March 18 the same year, an order was passed on afforestation and on protection of animals in the wild. On September 9, 1937, a decree was published by the Ministry of the Interior which specified guidelines for the transportation of animals. In 1938, animal protection was accepted as a subject to be taught in public schools and universities in Germany.
Although various laws were enacted for animal protection, there was a lack of enforcement. Also, some key Nazis thought that vivisection was important for research, including research necessary for rearmament. As a consequence, the original regulations started to become weaker. The law enacted by Hermann Göring on August 16, 1933 banning vivisection survived only three weeks and it was revised by a decree of September 5, with more lax provisions, then allowing the Reich Interior Ministry to distribute permits to some universities and research institutes to conduct animal experiments. According to Pfugers Archiv für die Gesamte Physiologie (Pfugers Archive for the Total Physiology), a science journal at that time, there were many animal experiments during the Nazi regime. In 1936, the Tierärztekammer (Chamber of Veterinarians) in Darmstadt filed a formal complaint against the lack of enforcement of the animal protection laws on those who conducted illegal animal testing.
Animal protection as an instrument of Jewish persecution
The laws against vivisection were often used as a pretext to prosecute Jewish scientists. In 1940, a discussion was started within the administration about prohibiting pets, in order to conserve foodstuffs for human consumption. But personal interference by Hitler stopped this proposal. Ultimately a decree was published by the administration against pets, but it referred only to the pets in the possession of non-Aryan citizens. On February 15, 1942, a decree was published prohibiting Jews from keeping pets.
Policies regarding non-Nazi activists
Boria Sax argues in his book Animals in the Third Reich: Pets, Scapegoats, and the Holocaust that the Nazis manipulated attitudes towards animal protection to conform to their own symbolic system. Presumably, by equating the National Socialist German Workers Party with "nature", the Nazis reduced ethical issues to biological questions. As a result, predatory animals were often honored along with their human counterparts i.e. leaders and functionaries of the Nazi party, and opponents were identified as sheep destined to be killed.
The Nazi regime disbanded several unofficial organizations advocating environmentalism and animal protection, such as the Friends of Nature, which was a Marxist environmentalist organization with a membership of over 100,000.
- Animal rights and the Holocaust
- Animal welfare during World War II
- Anti-tobacco movement in Nazi Germany
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- Clemens Giese and Waldemar Kahler (1939). Das deutsche Tierschutzrecht, Bestimmungen zum Schutz der Tiere, Berlin, cited from: Edeltraud Klüting. Die gesetzlichen Regelungen der nationalsozialistischen Reichsregierung für den Tierschutz, den Naturschutz und den Umweltschutz, in: Joachim Radkau, Frank Uekötter (ed., 2003). Naturschutz und Nationalsozialismus, Campus Verlag ISBN 3-593-37354-8, p.77 (in German)
- Animal Rights in the Third Reich
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- Boria Sax (2000). Animals in the Third Reich: Pets, Scapegoats, and the Holocaust. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8264-1289-0.
- Boria Sax (2000). Animals in the Third Reich: Pets, Scapegoats, and the Holocaust. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 41. ISBN 0-8264-1289-0.