As promised, now that I have a little time, I’m going to talk to you about a guy called Henry Spira.
He was born in June of 1927, a Jewish boy who grew up through the war, needless to say it was a harsh childhood. While his mother was emotionally absent his father was physically so, obsessed with making money. In 1940 he and his family moved to America.
After a life of serving in the army and campaigning for other things it took him a while to turn his sights onto the rights of animals. at forty-five he began to take notice. Being a man who ate meat and had never had a pet the thought never occurred to him, but in 1973 his life changed. Two things happened in quick succession, he came into possession of a cat and he read an article by Peter Singer (who happens to be the man who wrote the book about Henry Spira I read for my essay) in a newspaper about animal liberation.
Now if you’re sat there thinking: ‘so what, he’s one guy, what an Earth can he achieve?’ You may very well be in for a surprise.
Spira took on several challenges in his lifetime. He made such a difference in the animal rights movement that it’s quite conceivable to believe that without him animal cruelty would be a lot more widespread than it is now.
In 1975 he took on the American Museum of Natural History, which sounds harmless enough but before Spira got his hands on them they were monitoring the effects mutilation had on the sexual behaviour of cats. Now, I don’t if it’s just me, but that just sounds sick. There is no justifiable reason to do this to any animal especially for such perverse curiosity.
The campaign was successful and spurred him on to go further. In 1980 he took on Revlon, the cosmetic company. They were just one of many that used the Draize Test on animals, usually rabbits. If you don’t know, I’m very sorry to enlighten you to this, the Draize Test (named after its creator) is where scientists pour harmful liquids into the eyes of rabbits. Now, as is natural, when the chemicals touched their eyes they blinked it away or covered them with their paws, so to counter this their heads were placed in something to keep them still and their eyes open no matter what. The scientists then measured the amount of damage caused to their eyes over a certain space of time.
Spira campaigned against them, placing an advert in a paper with a picture of a rabbit with its eyes taped over saying: ‘How many rabbits does Revlon have to blind for beauty’s sake?’ naturally this caused outrage and Revlon were forced to donate money to research for non-animal alternatives. This lead to the trend in ‘not tested on animals’ appearing on products.
He went on to do a lot more which I will speak about tomorrow, after a bit of Christmas decorating.