Interview for VITA
SOME ABSTRACTS from the INTERVIEW
with Israel M. Gelfand and Tatiana V. Gelfand
for the Center of Animal Rights Protection "VITA".
Questions prepared by Irina Novozhilova and Konstantin Sabinin (from VITA).
Interview written by Tatiana V. Gelfand. (July 2008)
VITA We know that both you and your spouse-Tatiana, are vegans. Who was the first in your family to think about this issue and how have you arrived to this decision?
Israel I thought about this long ago.
VITA Israel Moiseevich, what was the actual starting point for you?
Israel The first conscious starting point was my dear wife-Tanya, the mother of my daughter. This decision came gradually.
VITA What finally convinced you of this decision?
Israel I do not understand.
Тatiana We had a whole philosophical dialogue (see below) in response to this question. I want to note that the geometrical construction mentioned there is not essential by itself and is not explained. It is enough to consider it as a metaphor.
Tatiana Can you tell me why you stopped eating animals in 1994?
Israel (Smiling) Who knows what a young man has in his head?
Tatiana Does this mean that now you will eat animals?
Israel No, I will not.
Tatiana But why? Why would you not eat animals now?
Israel This has to be and will be built into the rules of Man.
Tatiana What else can you say about why you are not eating animals?
Israel There is nothing else to say.
I can give an example. When we go for a walk we often meet a boy one and a half years old. First, he was afraid of me.
And then, one time when we met, he gave me his favorite car. This is all.
Tatiana I understand what you mean but how can one explain this to others? What is the relation to animals?
Israel This is part of the essence of life.
Tatiana Well, this is also not very clear. You see, it is very important to explain this to others. For example, in China, they currently produce fur, they skin live animals-cats, dogs, foxes. There are no ethical norms there. Besides, they dye this fur in purple and burgundy colors to make it look like artificial. This is totally absurd. And people do not stop to think, they buy it.
How can one explain to them that this is wrong? Please, share your thoughts about it.
Israel Because there is a missing link and it cannot be avoided.
Tatiana What missing link?
Israel I told you some time ago about a little girl who was excited about the geometrical construction of squares and a rhomb. One can look at two squares or one can see a rhomb.
Tatiana I do not understand. How is this relevant?
Israel Everyone is disregarding the possibility that there exists a rhomb. Almost no one understands that it is missing. Rhomb cannot be expressed in the old terms, in terms of squares. This is the missing link. Very few mathematicians felt this… For example, Dedekind wrote a book: "What are Numbers and What Should Numbers be".
Tatiana Oh, I understand: in the construction there were two squares with sides equal to one-these are rational numbers, and the diagonals of these squares -i.e. sides of the rhomb, are irrational numbers. Dedekind was exactly the one who discovered irrational numbers.
Israel (Laughing) He has not discovered them. They always existed. And this is the essence!
Tatiana I think I started to understand the connection. The question itself -- why is it wrong to eat animals, is the wrong question, isn't it? It is formulated in the wrong language, in the "language of squares". This is, as you told me for the Kyoto Lecture, is a "non-adequate language". There must be another language-the "language of rhomb", or "irrational". And this language is missing.
Israel (Nodding) Yes. The question why is it wrong to eat animals cannot be answered in terms of squares.
Tatiana I have also understood that just as the irrational numbers always existed this other language also existed…
Ah, it is clear now! - Even a one and a half year old boy can feel this language!
Israel Only few people understand this. Albert Einstein understood this well…
Tatiana By the way, he was also a vegetarian.
Israel By asking a question about vegetarianism we presuppose that one can avoid vegetarianism. But it is unavoidable!
Israel I do not understand only why the war started, the civil war…
Tatiana This was exactly why. Even starting from Pythagoras, 500 b.c. (we only know about Pythagoras!) many famous people understood this-Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Schweitzer, Albert Einstein, Milan Kundera, Bernard Show and others. They all said that as long as men will eat animals, people will kill each other.
VITA How did your students respond to your new point of view?
Israel I hope, positively.
VITA Were you familiar with the issue of cruel experiments [on animals]?
Tatiana (to Israel) Can you say what is your attitude in regards to animal experiments?
Israel (After a long pause, looking at our cat, Kisa, who is always next to him) How can one cut Her open?! This is a sin!
VITA What methods do you think could have potential in replacing the experimental animals in different areas of biology?
Israel There are many such methods.
VITA We know that you played a role in the fate of a Russian student who was the first to refuse openly to participate in the animal experiments during the educational process.
Your opinion was at that time taken into account. What is your position about the freedom of choice for students for whom such experiments contradict their moral principles?
Israel I have deep respect for these students.
VITA One can often hear from defendants of animal experiments that even the use of human cell cultures does not allow simulation of the biological processes in organs. At the same time in medical and bio experiments they often use species of animals which have completely different anatomy and physiology than humans. How would you explain their contradiction?
Israel They do not have a point of view.
Tatiana And you? How to study biology?
Israel First of all, with clean hands.
Tatiana You do not mean this literally?
Israel Of course, not.
Tatiana And second?
Israel Second, as well as first, - with clean hands.
VITA Israel Moiseevich, and what is your attitude in regards to the other uses of animals: for fur, leather, for hunting, in circuses, zoos, animal fights?
Israel I stopped wearing leather shoes and belts; I simply got an aversion to them.
VITA Do you think that mankind will arrive to a society based on respect for all life on this planet?
Israel I am an optimist and I believe that this is unavoidable. Please, ask Tanya to give you the saying of a Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Tatiana "There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is."
VITA What, in your opinion, is the most effective way for the information about animal suffering to reach people (through articles, or media programs, or someone's personal experience)?
Israel (Laughing) All of the above.
Tatiana And I think there is no one "most effective" way. What do people like more-books, films or pictures? - It depends. Each person, I believe, has somewhere deep inside a kind heart; the person might not even know himself (or herself) how to reach it…
VITA Is the animal rights movement noticeable in the world?
Israel This movement is unavoidable. I am an optimist: in the battle between good and bad, the good cannot lose.
VITA What would you like to wish to vegans?
Israel To remain vegans.
Tatiana To be an attractive example of a person who knows that he or she is on the right path.
VITA What would you like to wish to people who are not yet vegans?
Israel (Smiling) Humanity.
Tatiana (Laughing) Probably I have a guess what Israel means by this. May I comment? Israel liked very much the response of Mahatma Gandhi. A reporter asked him, "What do you think of Western Civilization?" Mahatma Gandhi said: "I think it would be a good idea!" My guess is that Israel's answer is from the same "series".
Tatiana (to Israel) Can you say in a different way what would you like to wish to non vegans?
Israel I will be very glad if my opinion presented in this interview will be useful to them.