Use in Science  > The Blackest of All the Black Crimes


Slavery * Ethnic Cleansing * Nazi Human Experiments



The great Indian pacifist and political leader, Mahatma Gandhi, had a profound influence on my life and on the lives of many other peace-loving people. Through his writings, Gandhi was the first person to challenge me to justify eating meat. His ghost was the first person to whom I had to admit, through my writings, that I could not meet the challenge.


Tom Regan -- The AV Magazine, Winter 1998


Anyone guided by the Gandhian principle of Ahimsa -- anyone who aspires to live a life that "does the least harm" -- in time, must put an end to consuming corpses. In addition to his vegetarian teachings, Gandhi was a staunch anti-vivisectionist, once referring to vivisection as "the blackest of all the black crimes." When I first read these words, I didn't give them much thought. It was only some years later that I stopped to ask what Gandhi might mean by this graphic statement and how he could possibly believe what he said.


As for what he means, the words leave little room for doubt. Consider the most evil things in the world. Slavery. Ethnic cleansing. Human experiments conducted by Nazi doctors. All these (and many more, alas) belong in the column headed "Worst Moral Crimes Humans Commit." But the worst of the worst, according to Gandhi, is not any of those I have listed. The worst of all the worst crimes is: vivisection. I don't think there is any question but that, when he describes vivisection as "the blackest of all the black crimes," this is what Gandhi means.


Gandhi was not a foolish man. Far from it. But even people of wisdom sometimes believe foolish things. "Isn't this a case in point?" I asked myself. I mean "how could any sane, sensible person think that vivi-section is a worse moral crime than slavery or the human experiments conducted by Nazi doctors?" I think I know how Gandhi would answer. First, he would explain that moral crimes belong in the "Worst Moral Crimes Humans Commit" column when committing them is perfectly legal. That's part of what slavery, ethnic cleansing and vivisection have in common. Where they are practiced, there are no laws prohibiting them.


Still, there are important differences between these great evils. In the case of slavery, for example, while it was legal in most of the United States throughout most of the nation's history, being a slave owner was not a profession people prepared for by attending colleges or universities, not something for which those who "showed real promise" were rewarded by receiving scholarships or fellowships. And vivisectors do compete for and some of them win, prestigious prizes and awards. How, then, can there be a worse moral crime than vivisection, enmeshed as the practice is in social institutions that not only permit, they train people to commit evil, then reward them for doing it?


I think this gets close to what Gandhi believes. I also think we can get closer by considering the suggestion that vivisectors are just like the Nazi doctors: both trained professionals, both performing morally evil acts that are perfectly legal. If this is true, vivisection is a very bad moral crime. Isn't that enough? Why go as far as Gandhi and judge it to be the worst of the worst?


Though initially plausible, equating vivisectors and Nazi experimenters overlooks an important difference. Those Nazi doctors who performed experimenters on unconsenting, defenseless human beings, committed an evil no doubt. But unlike what is true of vivisectors, these doctors, after being trained to do good, chose to do evil. Not so in the case of vivisectors. In their case, vivisectors choose to do evil after they have been professionally trained to do it.


Is there a worse moral crime than that? It's possible that not all anti-vivisectionists will agree in the answer they give. What's certain is what Gandhi meant and why he believed what he did. Right about so much, is the Mahatma (the great-souled one) right about this, too? Now, there's a question to ponder -- the sort of food for thought even Gandhi would approve of.


Tom Regan is Professor of Philosophy and Head of the Department of Philosophy & Religion at North Carolina State University. President of The Culture & Animals Foundation, his many books include The Case for Animal Rights and The Thee Generation: Reflections on the Coming Revolution.


10 Super Foods You Should Eat


The Center for Science in the Public Interest's Nutrition Action health letter provides the following list of "superfoods"
we all should eat.


[Bay Area Vegetarian News -- (415) 273-LIV-1]

  1. Sweet Potatoes -- Loaded with vitamin A, carotenoids, vitamin C and fiber. (However, the believers in Jainism don't have to eat this one.)

  2. Whole Grain Bread -- Higher in fiber and about 12 vitamins and minerals than refined breads.

  3. Broccoli -- Lots of vitamin C, carotenoids and folic acid.

  4. Strawberries -- Excellent source of vitamin C.

  5. Beans - Inexpensive, low in fat, rich in protein, iron, B-vitamins, folic acid and fiber. Garbanzo, pinto, black, navy, kidney, lentils.... your choice.

  6. Cantaloup -- A quarter melon provides most people's entire daily requirement for vitamins A and C.

  7. Spinach, Kale, Collards -- High in vitamin C, carotenoids, calcium, iron and folic acid.

  8. Oranges -- Vitamin C, folic acid and fiber.

  9. Oatmeal -- Whole grain cereal that is fat free, sugar free and inexpensive.

  10. Skim or Low-fat Milk -- Excellent source of Calcium, vitamins and protein with little or no artery - clogging fat or cholesterol.

(We recommend the substitution of a rice, soy or nut milk which, as part of a balanced diet, would offer many of the same benefits without any cholesterol, animal proteins or toxins.) It is refreshingly pleasant to note that all above items are strictly vegetarian (in fact Jain and vegan too, after applying the recommendations)! -- Edito