Lewis Gompertz (c.1783 – 1861) was an early animal rights advocate and inventor, a vegan, and a founding member of the English Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He was the author of Moral Inquiries on the Situation of Man and of Brutes (1824) and Fragments in Defence of Animals (1852).
- Suppose...we reflect on the building of London Bridge, we cannot then help admiring the genius and assiduity of man. But could all the torture and destruction that this has caused to the poor horses, who drew the stones and cleared the rubbish, be brought to light, what an emblem of crime would this beautiful bridge exhibit; many years’ labour has it cost; many teams have been constantly at work, and the extreme severity of the labour imposed on them was almost at any time to be seen. Now, if all the strainings, the lashes, the blows, and the wrenchings with all the bits, had been kept account of, how immense would be the list...
- Quoted by Hannah Renier in "An Early Vegan: Lewis Gompertz" (March 2012), p. 1.
- I admit it as an axiom, that every animal has more right to the use of its own body than others have to use it.
- Quoted by Lawrence W. Baker in Animal Rights and Welfare: A Documentary and Reference Guide (2015), p. 38.
Moral Inquiries on the Situation of Man and of Brutes (1824)
- [H]owever the state of man may be above that of other animals, if the superiority be owing to his being differently situated, we must not dazzle ourselves by gazing on the brilliancy of the situation, but learn how to estimate their true qualities only; though the situation gives the one the powers to act, and denies it to the other.
- Chapter 1, pp. 35–36
- It has been generally, but not always, the custom of naturalists to degrade the powers of dumb animals into mere instinct, and not to allow them reason; and on the other hand to elevate the qualities of man, by entirely disavowing the power of instinct in man, giving him the use of reason alone. It appears to me, that there is such a quality as instinct; by which I understand a desire to do any thing without knowing why, or without having the object in view which it is to reach. I am of opinion that both reason and instinct act in man and also in brutes; and I will even grant that the proportion of reason to instinct is greater in man than in other animals; but that the latter possess a great portion of reason would it seems be absurd to dispute.
- Chapter 1, p. 36
- Are [animals] not furnished with most feelings similar to our own? They indisputably evince in an eminent degree most of the same passions. Things which affect us, generally seem to affect them in the same way; and at least the following sensations and passions are common to both, viz. hunger, desire, emulation, love of liberty, playfulness, fear, shame, anger, and many other affections though they are destitute of the power of laughter. But little occasion have they to exercise such a faculty!
- Chapter 1, pp. 41–42
- Respecting the state of savage or uncultivated life, man and other animals appear to be very similarly circumstanced; both of them being miserably subject to almost every evil, destitute of the means of palliating them; living in the continual apprehension of immediate starvation, of destruction by their enemies, which swarm around them; of receiving dreadful injuries from the revengeful and malicious feelings of their associates, uncontrolled by laws or by education, and acting as their strength alone dictates; without proper shelter from the inclemencies of the weather; without proper attention and medical or surgical aid in sickness; destitute frequently offire, of candle-light, and (in man) also of clothing; without amusements or occupations, excepting a few, the chief of which are immediately necessary for their existence, and subject to all the ill consequences arising from the want of them.
- Chapter 2, p. 47
- And though I cannot conceive how any person can shut his eyes to the general state of misery throughout the universe, I still think that it is for a wise purpose; that the evils of life, which could not properly be otherwise, will in the course of time be rectified, and the exquisite pleasures for which we are formed will be enjoyed in our progeny: also that we may ourselves become the inhabitants of the improved world, or of some other world improved in a like manner; and that even if the different species of all the present animals should become extinct, as indicated by what we have observed of the different bones in the several strata, the discoveries of the present time may enrich the future, unless every trace of them should be destroyed at once.
- Chapter 2, p. 48
- Chapter 2, p. 48
- It is strange that philosophers first show how one animal supports itself by destroying another, and then enter into discussions on the apparent admirable order of things in their present state. But though this may be a necessary contrivance, and the only way in which life can be supported, it can never be a beautiful one, in our short sights, notwithstanding that something worse might be, were this not the case.
- Chapter 2, pp. 49–50
- In order to admire the goodness of God with the greatest force, we should endeavour to reach in imagination the improved state of the world, which it seems probable will be effected in the course of time. What may not be expected from the genius of man, which appears to gain fresh powers from every new idea that he gains from his fellows, and fresh means from all the inventions which the united efforts of the whole species bring forth? It is the extent of combination which chiefly raises man above brutes; and to combination are we to look to mature the views of Providence in forming society, and in regulating the affairs of life. Then will every animal within the reach of man feel the effects of his power, by his increase of happiness instead of his misery, and then only may man boast of his being lord of the creation, for which he will be fitted.
- Chapter 2, p. 50
- [T]his seems to be still the age of infancy, and baby-like do we cry. This is all made for me! The land and the ocean abound with myriads of animated beings of admirable construction only for me to play with, to torment, and to destroy. This is what we are taught.
- Chapter 2, p. 51
- The force of custom or habits even proverbial; and accordingly we take advantage of the magnified representation in which we have been pleased to paint its effects, to veil our eyes from the sufferings of others, of mankind as well as of brutes; and whatever be their lots, if they suffer from over exertion, from being flogged, from exposure in danger, from want, from cold, from heat, etc., we lull our imagination with the idea that they do not feel those evils: custom we say is second nature.
- Chapter 2, p. 53
- [W]e should never admit of the propriety of the will or volition of one animal being the agent of another, unless we should perceive its own good to result from it, or that justice should require it.
- Chapter 4, p. 68
- Axiom 5. That we should never admit of the propriety of the will or volition of one animal being the agent of another, unless we should perceive its own good to result from it, or that justice should require it.
- Axiom 8. That the importance of any action is measured by the degree of pleasure or pain that it causes or prevents.
- Every animal possesses something which distinguishes it from all other animals; and this is what I understand by personal identity, or rather the identical self. This in every animal is perfectly distinct and indivisible, since the only knowledge we have of it is when it is entire; and divisibility of this is what we cannot conceive: but if indivisible, it must also be indestructible, and must always have existed. Itis not possessed of any kind of consciousness: but no consciousness can, it appears, exist without it; as life itself seems to be composed of personal identity, and other essentials of the mind or body, and that it is the combination which produces consciousness.
- "Theorem I: Personal Identity, or Identical Self", Chapter 5, pp. 69–70
- First, how do you prove that mankind is invested with the right of killing them, and that brutes have been created for the purpose you assert them to be? Secondly, it is to be observed that the flesh of man himself possesses the same nourishing and palatable qualities? And are we then to become cannibals for that reason?
- Chapter 5, p. 84
- I do not see what right one animal has to deprive another of its small importance, to prevent himself from losing more: if this theory be generally admitted, a young man might kill an old man, to save his own longer expectant life. And are we authorized to kill one animal for the benefit of another of its species? If they should overstock the world, it will then be time to begin to destroy them. It seems however more just that nature should take her course, and that man should be neutral till provoked. It is certainly easier for him to destroy others than to suffer inconvenience himself; but that does not make it right. We have not however at present any reason to complain of the too great fecundity of those animals we use for food, etc., and we even take great pains to produce them, not for their own enjoyment, but for the good and pleasure we derive by destroying and tormenting them.
- Chapter 5, p. 85
- Y: Do you include those animals which are guilty of the same crime themselves by living on prey? Should we not then save a thousand lives by killing one?
Z: We must never suppose a person or an animal guilty until they are found in the act, and then we must investigate the nature of the crime. It is true that the animal living by slaughter may be less entitled to our consideration than the animal which is harmless; but recollect, the former may plead the same excuse itself, unless his slaughter be only of those animals which live on vegetables; and then, though justice may require their destruction, it would be repugnant to the feelings of humanity to slaughter them with that plea, unless we could quite assure our conscience that our design in killing them was more to prevent their doing mischief than for our own benefit: besides, we might then extend this principle still further, and kill our own species because they are also animals of prey. It is moreover to be observed, that if one carnivorous animal kills another, he may save lives by it also, and the nature of the act will be different according to circumstances [...] And, further, it will frequently be impossible to discover when the animal becomes guilty or innocent, as it depends on such a variety of circumstances: we should therefore be more safe from infringing the laws of moral rectitude, not to interfere in this case.
- Chapter 5, pp. 90–91
- Y: I suppose you also deem it a crime to drink, as you destroy myriads of animals in the water of every draught?
Z: I consider this an evil, but not a crime, because I do not cause or wish them to be there, and would assist them to escape if possible. They have no more claim to the water than I have; and we know so little of the nature of these animals, that we are not even sure that they die when the water is drunk; the very fact of their being there is concealed from us, and but for the microscope we should never have known it. I however consider it wrong to waste water in anyway which may injure the animalcula.
- Chapter 5, p. 91
- Y: As you think it wrong for man to kill other animals for food, do you also think it wrong that animals should devour each other? As this is the general law of nature.
Z: It appears wrong, according to the rules by which we govern our own actions to each other; and should I witness the attempt in any animal of destroying another, I would endeavour to frustrate it; though this might probably be wrong.
- Chapter 5, pp. 93–94
- Y: But the whole species of the carnivorous kind would then become extinct. Were they created to be annihilated?
Z: I do not see why the whole species of one animal is more important than an equal number of another, although that number might not comprise the whole species of the latter: and, besides, it is not proved that the whole species would perish; as some might feed on the bodies of those animals which they might find that were in a fit state; and also upon vegetables, which they will eat occasionally. It is known that wolves will live in the two ways mentioned, when deprived of other means.
- Chapter 5, pp. 94–95
- Y: Do you bear in mind, that in breeding the silkworms, we cause more to come into existence than would otherwise be the case?
Z: Though I think we are unauthorized to destroy or prevent life, life does not appear so desirable that we should perform any action for the sole purpose of producing it. Man does not possess sufficient knowledge, to do either act with design.
- Chapter 7, p. 110
- [C]ruelty is cruelty under whatever colouring it may appear; and whether exercised on a man or on a fly, cruelty is still cruelty. It matters not whether the victim be furnished with two legs or with four, with wings, with fins, or with arms; where there is sensation, there is subject for cruelty, and in proportion to the degree of sensation will its action operate.
- Chapter 11, pp. 149–150