20 Great Thinkers Who Spoke Out For Animal Welfare

South African social rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu made headlines recently when his written introduction to a forthcoming publication came out strongly in favor of animal welfare. It is Bishop Tutu’s first major statement on this issue. He said:

I have seen firsthand how injustice gets overlooked when the victims are powerless or vulnerable, when they have no one to speak up for them and no means of representing themselves to a higher authority. Animals are in precisely that position. Unless we are mindful of their interests and speak out loudly on their behalf, abuse and cruelty go unchallenged.

It is a kind of theological folly to suppose that God has made the entire world just for human beings, or to suppose that God is interested in only one of the millions of species that inhabit God’s good earth.

Great Minds Think Alike

Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient for his anti-apartheid work, isn’t the only esteemed public figure to come forward with strongly proclaimed support for the rights and welfare of animals. Through the ages, there have been many such men and women.

Take a look at the list below. You’ll see an impressive collection of accomplished individuals who are revered for their scientific, literary or artistic achievements. These people are heroes to many. We strive to be a little more like them.

If we value their perspective on important issues, it’s worthwhile to know that these smart, savvy people spoke out — loudly and often — in support of the welfare and well-being of animals. Here’s a sampling of what they had to say:

1. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) – American Founding Father, author, statesman, scientist and inventor

Benjamin Franklin

“My refusing to eat meat occasioned an inconveniency, and I have been frequently chided for my singularity. But my light repast allows for greater progress, for greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension.”

“Flesh eating is unprovoked murder.”

2. Charles Darwin (1809-1882) – English author and naturalist

Charles Darwin

“There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.”

3. Mark Twain (1835-1910) – American author and lecturer

Mark Twain

“I believe I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t. To know that the results are profitable to the race would not remove my hostility to it. The pains which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity towards it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further.”

4. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) – American writer, poet and lecturer

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.”

5. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) – American author, philosopher, naturalist and abolitionist

Henry David Thoreau

“I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized.”

“One farmer says to me, ‘You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with;’ and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his system with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle.”

6. Albert Einstein (1879-1955) – German theoretical physicist, winner of 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics

Albert Einstein

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

“It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.”

7. Plutarch (46-120 A.D.) – Greek philosopher, biographer, priest and magistrate


“But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy.”

“I, for my part, wonder what sort of feeling, mind or reason that man was possessed who was first to pollute his mouth with gore, and allow his lips to touch the flesh of a murdered being; who spread his table with the mangled form of dead bodies, and claimed as daily food and dainty dishes what but know were beings endowed with with movement, with perception and with voice.”

8. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) – Italian polymath, inventor, artist and writer

Leonardo da Vinci

“The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.”

“Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds them. We live by the death of others. We are burial places.”

“My body will not be a tomb for other creatures.”

9. Franz Kafka (1883-1924) – German novelist

Franz Kafka

“Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you any more.”

10. Jimmy Stewart (1908-1997) – American actor and U.S. Air Force brigadier general

Actor Jimmy Stewart

“Animals give me more pleasure through the viewfinder of a camera than they ever did in the crosshairs of a gunsight. And after I’ve finished ‘shooting,’ my unharmed victims are still around for others to enjoy. I have developed a deep respect for animals. I consider them fellow living creatures with certain rights that should not be violated any more than those of humans.”

11. Queen Victoria (1837-1901) – Monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India

“There is, however, another subject on which the Queen feels most strongly, and that is this horrible, brutalizing, un-Christian-like vivisection…It must really not be permitted. It is a disgrace to a civilized country.”

12. Buddha (c. 563 B.C.-483 B.C.) – Spiritual philosopher whose teachings became the foundation for Buddhism


“It is more important to prevent animal suffering, rather than sit to contemplate the evils of the universe praying in the company of priests.”

13. Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) – Russian novelist and playwright

Leo Tolstoy

“A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food. Therefore if he eats meat he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to so act is immoral.”

“If a man earnestly seeks a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from animal food…”

“As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.”

14. The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet (1950-present) – Spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and winner of 1989 Nobel Peace Prize

14th Dalai Lama

“Now, with regard to animals, they not only have life, but feelings of pleasure and pain too. We should treat their lives with respect, which we Tibetans are accustomed to do.”

15. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) – German/French philosopher, theologian and physician

Albert Schweitzer

“The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another, even the lowliest creature; to do so is to renounce our manhood and shoulder a guilt which nothing justifies.”

“There slowly grew up in me an unshakable conviction that we have no right to inflict suffering and death on another living creature unless there is some unavoidable necessity for it, and that we ought all of us to feel what a horrible thing it is to cause suffering and death out of mere thoughtlessness.”

“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.”

16. Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) – Lawyer, proponent of nonviolent civil disobedience, and leader of Indian nationalist movement

Mohandas Gandhi

“I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.”

17. Plato (c. 428 B.C.-348 B.C.) – Greek philosopher and writer


“The Gods created certain kinds of beings to replenish our bodies; they are the trees and the plants and the seeds.”

18. Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902-1991) – Polish-American writer and winner of 1978 Nobel Prize for Literature

Isaac Bashevis Singer

“People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times.”

“As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together.”

19. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) – Scottish novelist and essayist

Robert Louis Stevenson

“We consume the carcasses of creatures of like appetites, passions and organs with our own, and fill the slaughterhouses daily with screams of pain and fear.”

20. George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) – Irish playwright and journalist, and winner of 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature

George Bernard Shaw

“While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth?”

“Animals are my friends… and I don’t eat my friends.”

Photo credits: Animals image from Thinkstock; Dalai Lama image from russavia/ Wikimedia Commons; Singer image from Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia Commons; All other images from Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 months ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown
Carrie-Anne Brownabout a year ago

thanks for sharing :)

Mark Donner
Mark Donners1 years ago

It's constantly amazing that so many supposedly innocent looking human babies, when grown up dedicate their short and useless lives to unspeakable atrocities. There is a constant flow of human monsters coming into this world.. they are like a flood of satanic evil on the earth

Poul Hansen
Poul Hansen1 years ago

Thank you - wonderful, inspiring, refreshing, and sad all at the same time. They're called great minds for good reason. Thanks again.

Dianne L.
Dianne L.1 years ago

Thank you for the information. I can certainly understand why these people are considered to be great thinkers!!!

Carol L.
Carol L.1 years ago

Some people can live on vegetarian protein, and some can't. I have multiple food sensitivities, including almost all foods, and I can eat only certain meats and fishes and vegetables. I would vastly prefer to be able to eat only plant food, but I do not want to be judged for a diet that I don't choose. We do what we have to, in order to live.

So while I endorse the idea of vegetarianism, I can't practice it. Good for all those who can and do.

Mary Donnelly
Mary Donnelly1 years ago

Pleased to read this one.

Christine Stewart

Thanks for the article. I am constantly disturbed at the number of intelligent people who continue to eat meat, even after seeing videos of the cruelty in factory farms and slaughterhouses....

Kelly Davis-steel
Kelly d.1 years ago

Great thank you xx

Rehana VN
Rehana VN1 years ago

Interesting article,Thank you