Magnus Schwantje

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Magnus Schwantje
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Born(1877-06-03)3 June 1877
Oldenburg (city)
Died11 September 1959(1959-09-11) (aged 82)
  • Author
  • Pacifist
  • Animal rights activists

Magnus Schwantje (born June 3, 1877 in Oldenburg (city); † 11 September 1959 in Oberhausen) was a German author, Pacifism, Animal rights movement, pioneer of the German vegetarian movement and founder of the Bund für radikale Ethik ("alliance for radical ethics").[1]

Life and Career

Magnus Ernst Schwantje initially completed an apprenticeship as bookseller. In 1898 he temporarily was a pupil of the painter Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, who was a pioneer of the Naturism movement and the peace movement. Therefore he lived with the painter in his country commune called Himmelhof in Ober Sankt Veit near Vienna. At the beginning of the 20th century he worked for the "Berliner Tierschutzverein" (a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals in Berlin) and gathered experience, which was of great use for his later activities as speaker and author.

In 1907 he established his own animal rights organisation called Gesellschaft zur Förderung des Tierschutzes und verwandter Bestrebungen ("society for the promotion of animal protection and similar efforts"), which in 1919 was renamed Bund für radikale Ethik and persisted until 1933. Among the several hundred members were the politician and peace advocate Ludwig Quidde, his wife Margarethe Quidde and Hans Paasche.

Before World War I Schwantje already published a journal advocating the peace movement called Ethische Rundschau ("Ethical Review"). Furthermore he was co-founder of the Bund der Kriegsdienstgegner ("alliance of enemies of military service") and wrote articels for the pacifistic journals Die Friedens-Warte ("The Peace-Lookout") and Friedensfront ("Peace-Front").

After the advent of Nazi Germany Schwantje's Bund für radikale Ethik was prohibited and he had to endure house searches in March 1933. Later that year in September he was arrested and interrogated in the Columbia concentration camp, a notorious prison of the Gestapo. His name was later withdrawn from the list of people, who were to be transported to the concentration camp in Dachau concentration camp. In 1934 he emigrated to Switzerland and there supported the Zürich-based dentist Ludwig Fliegel in the work on his book against vivisection entitled 1000 Ärzte gegen die Vivisektion ("1000 doctors against vivisection"). Schwantje also wrote the preface for Fliegel's book, the distribution of which was subdued by the Nazism in germany, but which was published in Switzerland in 1935.

After returning to Germany in 1949 he resumed his work as an activist for animal rights, vegetarianism and the peace movement. Until 1956 he lived with his sister Alwine Schütte in Stade, a city in Lower Saxony, and after her death moved to the Ruhr.


During World War I Schwantje developed a concept of radical ethics, which aims to address the root (therefore "radical") of all ills of Society|societies. First and foremost this concept included as it's most important component the protection of animal rights. In Schwantje's view, every being that is able to suffer is a legal entity, no matter what species it belongs to.[2] A vegetarian diet, the abolition of vivisection and hunting were central claims of his idea of animal rights.

Schwantje himself practiced vegetarianism in a very devoted way, which today would be called veganism, whereas in his days this term wasn't as commonly used (Donald Watson coined the term "vegan" in 1944 when he co-founded the Vegan Society in the UK).[3] The reasons Schwantje gave for his vegan lifestyle were primarily of Ethics nature, whereas he rejected Naturalism arguments. He also repeatedly argued against prejudicating entire nations or other groups as for example tormentors of animals, as in the case of spain (see for example bullfighting). He also vehemently rejected antisemitism, racism and racial hygiene, which was popular during his time.[4]

Modern advocates of Speciesism regard Schwantje as a predecessor. Author Matthias Rude writes in his book on the topic: "Schwantje entirely saw trough the function of speciesistic ideology." In 1927 Schwantje spoke at the VII. Internationaler Demokratischer Friedens-Kongress ("7th international democratic peace-congress") in the bavarian city Würzburg and said: "For most people however, especially for meat-eaters, it's hard to judge animals in an unbiased manner, because they realize, that they must not exploit them as they do today, if they must acknowledge their higher mental qualities, especially an acute abilty to suffer. Precisely because humans gain big profit through exploiting animals, they despise them. Today's contempt of animals has the same cause as the undervaluation of workers, of women, of Negroes and other oppressed and exploited human beings. Every time humans want to exploit other humans, they tend to suggest views about these humans, that facilitate the exploitation for them."[5] (Translated from german, see the german article on Magnus Schwantje to read the original citation)


  • Das »edle Waidwerk« und der Lustmord. 1897 ("The »noble Huntsmanship« and Sex Murder")
  • Das Recht der Laien gegenüber den Ärzten. 1901 ("The Right of Laypersons As Against Doctors")
  • Die Beziehungen der Tierschutzbewegung zu andern ethischen Bestrebungen. 1909 ("The Connections of the Animal Rights Movement to Other Ethical Endeavours")
  • Tiermord und Menschenmord, Vegetarismus und Pazifismus 1916 (Reprint 2010, "Murder of Animals and Murder of Humans, Vegetarianism and Pacifism")
  • Radikalismus und Idealismus. 1919 ("Radicalism and Idealism")
  • Richard Wagners ethisches Wirken. 1919 ("About Richard Wagner's Ethical Activities")
  • Schopenhauers Ansichten von der Tierseele und vom Tierschutz. 1919 ("Schopenhauer's Views of the Animal-soul and of Animal Protection")
  • Gründe gegen die Vivisektion. 1919 ("Reasons Against Vivisection")
  • Friedensheldentum. Pazifistische Aufsätze aus den Jahren 1914 und 1915. 1919 ("The Concept of the Peace-hero. Pacifistic Essays From the Years 1914 and 1915")
  • Sollen wir jede sogenannte ehrliche Überzeugung achten? Eine Untersuchung der Einwirkung des unbewußten Willens auf die Urteilsbildung. 1920 ("Shall We Wespect Every So Called Honest Belief? An Examination of the Impact of the Unconcious Will on the Creation of Judgements")
  • Hans Paasche. Sein Leben und Wirken. 1921 ("Hans Paasche. His Life and Works")
  • Das Recht zur Gewaltanwendung. 1922 ("The Right for the Use of Violence")
  • Die Liebe zu den Tieren. 1923 ("The Love of Animals")
  • Tierschlachtung und Krieg. 1928 ("Animal Slaughter and War")
  • Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben, Brüderlichkeit und Vegetarismus. 1949 ("Reverence for Life, Brotherliness and Vegetarianism")
  • Gegenseitige Hilfe und Kampf ums Dasein in der Tierwelt. 1952 ("Mutual Help and the Fight for Existence in the Animal World")


  • Leo Tolstoi, Clara Wichmann, Elisée Reclus, Magnus Schwantje u. a. – Das Schlachten beenden! Zur Kritik der Gewalt an Tieren. Anarchistische, feministische, pazifistische und linkssozialistische Traditionen. Verlag Graswurzelrevolution Heidelberg 2010, S. 97–119
  • Magnus Ernst Schwantje gestorben, in: Mitteilungen des Stader Geschichts- und Heimatvereins, Jg. 38 (1963), S. 53–54.
  • Käthe Moritz (Hrsg.): Magnus Schwantje – dem bahnbrechenden Vegetarierphilosophen und selten uneigennützigen Menschen zum Gedächtnis. Friedens-Verlag: Salzburg / Großgmain – Bad Reichhall o. J. [1959 ?]


  2. Renate Brucker: Tierrechte und Friedensbewegung. „Radikale Ethik“ und gesellschaftlicher Fortschritt in der deutschen Geschichte. In: Dorothee Brantz, Christof Mauch (Hrsg.): Tierische Geschichte. Die Beziehung von Mensch und Tier in der Kultur der Moderne. Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2010, ISBN 978-3-506-76382-2, pp. 268–285, see p. 270.
  3. Renate Brucker: Magnus Schwantje: Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben. In: Leo Tolstoi, Clara Wichmann, Elisée Reclus, Magnus Schwantje u. a.: Das Schlachten beenden! Zur Kritik der Gewalt an Tieren. Anarchistische, feministische, pazifistische und linkssozialistische Traditionen. Verlag Graswurzelrevolution, Heidelberg 2010, pp. 97–119, see p. 102.
  4. Renate Brucker: Magnus Schwantje: Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben. In: Leo Tolstoi, Clara Wichmann, Elisée Reclus, Magnus Schwantje u. a.: Das Schlachten beenden! Zur Kritik der Gewalt an Tieren. Anarchistische, feministische, pazifistische und linkssozialistische Traditionen. Verlag Graswurzelrevolution, Heidelberg 2010, pp. 97–119, see p. 103.
  5. Matthias Rude: Antispeziesismus. Die Befreiung von Mensch und Tier in der Tierrechtsbewegung und der Linken, Stuttgart 2013, p. 103f.

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