Albert Schweitzer, born 1875 in the province of Alsace-Lorraine in the German Empire, is mostly remembered for his work in Africa as a missionary. He was also a theologian, organist, philosopher, and physician. He set in motion important ideas concerning our ethical treatment of animals and played an important role in the evolution of our concept of animal rights.
Schweitzer developed a philosophy which he called a "Reverence for Life", for which he received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize. He thought that Western civilisations were decaying as a result of the abandonment of its ethical foundation, namely the affirmation of and respect for life. The reverence for life philosophy has had a profound effect on the environmental movement. Rachel Carson dedicated her book A Silent Spring, widely attributed to the beginning of environmental awareness, to Albert Schweitzer.
Schweitzer considered that all creatures possess what he called "a will to live" for which we should empathize, and that this will to live should be respected in all animals without exception, and a person wishing to live in accordance with such an ethic should avoid whenever possible harming another creature. He insists that the fundamental principle necessitates responsible compassion for nonhuman creatures. He advocated that humans should do as much good as is possible to all creatures in all circumstances. He considered that humans have an obligation to do so in order to atone for the "crimes against animals" perpetuated by human beings in the abattoir, laboratory and during the course of enforced labour.
Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.Albert Schweitzer