Who is Hans Ruesch?

It has been announced that Hans Ruesch, the father of the scientific anti-vivisection movement, died on Monday 27th August 2007, aged 94. Author of the books Slaughter of the Innocent, and Naked Empress, Hans was the scourge of both the vivisection industry, and the phoney, infiltrator-led, "anti-vivisection" movement. Though Hans was indeed an animal lover he also fully realised the futility of campaigning against vivisection on moral grounds alone, and as a virtual one-man band his CIVIS organisation claimed many successes in his battle against vivisection. The following is a tribute to one of the greatest anti-vivisectionists the world has known.

Hans Ruesch was born in Naples on May 17th 1913. Born into a prosperous family - Hans' father was an industrialist who owned a textile mill in Naples - he was the son of a Swiss father and an Italian mother. He attended school in Naples until the age of 12, although Hans was officially a Swiss citizen on account of his father, and an agreement existing between the two countries. After this period in Naples, Hans went to Switzerland where he spent five years in boarding school, studied law briefly at the University of Zurich, and learned to speak several languages, including German, French and English besides his native Italian.

By the 1930s he was indulging in his passion of motor racing, and in 1932, at the age of just 19, was racing with MG, and then later with Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and in the 1950s, Ferrari. Overall he won 27 races. In 1937 he wrote his first novel, appropriately named The Racer, and which was based on his own real-life experiences. This sold millions of copies, and in 1955 was made into a film, The Racers, starring Kirk Douglas.

A Racing Legend


Hans Ruesch took up motor racing in 1932 with an Alfa Romeo, in which he was third in the 1.5 litre class of the 308-mile Brno Grand Prix, and then driving a series of Maseratis with which in 1933 he set a new World Standing-Start Record in a 3.0 litre Maserati at Montlhery in France.

In 1936 he brought the Scuderia Ferrari 3.8 (twin supercharged) Alfa Romeo to England to win the Donington Park International Grand Prix (generously sharing the drive with the British ace of the day, Richard Seaman). In this first race win for Scuderia Ferrari in England they set thirteen new lap records. In 1937 Hans won the Brooklands Mountain Championship from Raymond Mays, having been runner up in 1936.

Between 1932 and 1937 Hans Ruesch won 27 races, three seconds and five third places all around Europe, South Africa, and the Scandinavian countries.

In 1938 a reduction in the cubic capacity of Grand Prix racing cars forced Ruesch to sell his car to a friend and associate, Robert Arbuthnot, who later set a Class Record (with 'Buddy' Featherstonehaugh - the bandleader) at Brooklands. Being no longer able to race in Grand Prix, and with a worsening political climate, he returned to his interest in authorship.

In 1953 he made a successful return to motor racing in a 4.1 litre Ferrari MM sports car, but was badly injured in a terrible accident in the Grand Prix of Supercortemaggiore at Merano. It was his last race.

In October 1938 he emigrated to the USA to pursue a literary career writing short stories in English for Redbook Magazine, Colliers, Saturday Evening Post and Esquire. He returned to Europe in 1946, and following an accident stopped racing to write a string of successful books which were translated into numerous languages, starting with Top of the World in 1950, the South of the Heart (or The Great Thirst/The Arab - 1957), The Stealers, The Game, and Back to the Top of the World. In 1960 Top of the World was also made into a film, The Savage Innocents, this time starring Anthony Quinn, the book itself having sold 3 million copies. Reviewing 'Top of the World' in The New York Times Book Review, Max Eastman called Mr. Ruesch "a born storyteller" and the novel "a brilliant feat of poetic imagination." In 1949 he married Maria Luisa De La Feld, whom he separated from in the early 1970s, and who died in 2006. They had three children, Vivian, Peter and Hans, and five grandchildren.

By the early 1970s Hans was living in Rome, and having studied medicine went on to edit a series of popular books called the Health's Handbook. It was at this time that Hans discovered the existence of vivisection after being shown a kitten by an acquaintance. The cat had scars all over its body and had apparently been rescued from a vivisection laboratory. As so often happens to those blessed with that great gift of intuition (inner tuition), Hans realised that it was very unlikely that medical research would or could ever progress whilst research was confined to such methods. In retrospect, considering how ill-health has rocketed since then, and the vast number of people being injured or killed by the products of the vivisection laboratories, it is very evident how accurate his intuition had been.

An earlier episode in his life was also said by Hans to be a reason for him taking up the anti-vivisection cause, and that was the death of his baby brother, Konrad, some fifty years earlier. Konrad had been affected by the common milk crusts that sometimes occurred in babies due to an excessive intake of protein during breast-feeding. Konrad had been killed by a drug containing arsenic and mercury and tested for 'safety' on animals. The drug's development won a Nobel Prize for Paul Ehrlich, being hailed a 'magic bullet', and known in its development as '606', the 606th arsenic and mercury preparation tested on animals.

Baby Konrad Ruesch and his tombstone

The discovery of what passes for much of 'modern day medical research' affected Hans greatly, and in 1974 he stated that he would never again write fiction whilst vivisection continued. It was then that his Centre for Scientific Information on Vivisection (CIVIS) organisation was born, and true to his word he spent the remaining 33 years of his life, disregarding advancing old age and numerous court cases, in his unending struggle for the abolition of vivisection.

It was in 1976 that Imperatrice Nuda was published, first in his native Italy, and then in the USA in 1978 as Slaughter of the Innocent, the first book to denounce vivisection not only on self-evident moral grounds - which incidentally Hans has achieved in this book probably better than any writer before or since - but also on medical and scientific grounds. It has been said by many that one will never be the same again after reading Slaughter of the Innocent, and the subsequent foundation of many anti-vivisection leagues the world over following the book's publication is testimony to this, and it is true to say that the book is as relevant today - perhaps more so - as it was then. In 1979 Hans came to the UK to speak at two protest marches against vivisection, first in Cambridge in May, and again in October at Oxford.

Cambridge march and rally, May 1979

This was followed up by Naked Empress, or the Great Medical Fraud, in 1982, and this brought further to light the great harms being done to mankind and medicine because of a medical establishment that has become controlled by the pharmaceutical giants, and consequently turned its back on the search for health, instead replacing it with a search for grant money, profits and prestige.

The book 1000 Doctors (and many more) Against Vivisection followed, showing that throughout history there has always been doctors who have seen through the vivisection scam. He was also responsible for the translation of Professor Croce book, Vivisection or Science, into English. All his works have been translated into various languages and published in numerous countries world-wide.

In 1985 Hans was a key figure in the Swiss Referendum Against Vivisection, when on December 18th a third of the Swiss population voted in favour of abolition. In October 1987 he helped launch the International League of Doctors Against Vivisection, of which he was made Honorary President.

However, besides the huge, damning body of evidence against the pseudo-scientific practice of vivisection that Hans has collected and disseminated world-wide, he has also done the anti-vivisection movement the great service of exposing possibly the biggest hurdle in the fight to end vivisection, and that is the majority of the big, well-established 'anti-vivisection' organisations whose annual incomes are proportional to their failure in having even come close to achieving what a single man has so successfully achieved, virtually alone, and with a modest expenditure.

All of the details of the suppression of his works by a media who years earlier so enthusiastically published his novels, as well as certain supposed 'anti-vivisection' organisations who one would presume, if they were genuine, would welcome such invaluable material, is all covered in the two CIVIS Bulletins, from 1983 and 1988, and in the subsequent series of Foundation Reports, most of which are online on this web site for everyone to study. The preface to the latest edition of Slaughter also covers these issues to some degree, and it is to the credit of Martin J Walker and Slingshot Publications that this book remains in print.

It is unlikely that the likes of Hans Ruesch will ever again grace the ranks of the anti-vivisection movement. Indeed, human beings of his calibre - humanity here being used in its truest sense of 'the quality of being human; kindness or mercy', arise all too infrequently in any one lifetime. Slaughter of the Innocent inspired the late Dr Robert Mendelsohn, author of several books exposing the true nature of 'modern medicine' to state quite correctly of Ruesch that '…all of us..including future generations, are in his debt.'

In closing this brief biography of Hans Ruesch, the founder of the modern day anti-vivisection movement, we can do no better than quote Dr Tony Page, author of Vivisection Unveiled, from his foreword to the small CIVIS Questions and Answers booklet:

Nature's inner workings are always mysterious. Once in a while, in every century, certain great individuals emerge onto the world scene who are destined to challenge and change the prevailing culture, to enhance and ennoble it. Individuals of this type may be scientists or artists (more usually the latter) - but they always leave behind one great work which, inspiringly, will outlive their physical lives and resonate forth into the centuries that follow. SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENT, by Hans Ruesch is, I believe, one such work.

Born of a rare blend of high intelligence, sound but unstuffy scholarship, a strong capacity for pity and empathy, allied to a striking literary skill, SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENT constitutes the 20th century's single most powerful indictment of "vivisection" - the experimentation with and upon living animals. No other book on the subject before or since - not even by the anti-vivisection pioneering giant, Dr Walter Hadwen - has succeeded quite so brilliantly in combining passion with insight, compassion with bitter, trenchant humour, knowledge with humanity. Woven into the verbal fabric of Hans Ruesch's masterly SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENT are some of life's wisest lessons, lessons from which human-kind has foolishly chosen to avert its gaze for far too long. Not only is vivisection a savage assault upon the animals it so pointlessly decimates and desecrates then uncaringly discards, but it is equally guilty of the slaughter of humanity (in every sense of the term) as a consequence of its cruel inapplicability to meaningful human medical research. There is no more compelling, heart-rendingly sincere cry for vivisection to stop than that sung out by SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENT.

In 2003 Hans’ contributions to humanity were recognised by being included alongside Keats, Shaw, Orwell, Herodotus, Carlyle, Darwin, Hoyle, Plato, Sartre, Aristotle, Ruskin and Flaubert, amongst others, as one of history's luminaries in Stuart Hirschberg and Terry Hirschberg's book, Past and Present, Ideas That Changed the World, which gives fourteen pages of excerpts from Slaughter.

Some of Ruesch’s numerous anti-vivisection books