THE ANIMALS' Agenda: Volume 15, # 6. 1995
A conversation with Tatyana Pavlova
In a country like Russia, where caps made of dog fur are popular
and most people cannot afford to have their companion animals sterilized,
animal rights can be a tough sell. That has not kept Tatyana Pavlova
from trying. A vegetarian and animal activist for 26 years, Pavlova
has a masters degree in biology and teaches English part-time in
an engineering college. She has been president of the Vegetarian
Society in Russia since 1990, the year after it had been formed.
She is also a co-founder and the director of the first Russian animal
rights society, the Center for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
(CETA), established in 1991. Both organizations are based in Moscow.
The Animals'Agenda: spoke with Pavlova last summer when she visited
Ethel Thurston, president of the American Fund for Alternatives
to Animal Research (AFAAR), in New York City.
Agenda: How did you become interested in animal rights and
Pavlova: I became a vegetarian in 1969. I had often thought
about doing so, and finally the example of some of my friends who
had become vegetarians made me give up meat. A few months after
that one of my friends who was acquainted with animal welfare people
told me a few things about the way animals were being treated. I
was so horrified by what I heard that I decided to go to the Animal
Protection Society (APS) and offer my help. I was involved with
the APS until it folded a few years ago, when new animal protection
groups were formed in Moscow and other cities in Russia.
Agenda: Is there a tradition of vegetarianism in Russia?
Pavlova: Yes, but tradition would be a strong word. There
were some religious sects in Russia that abstained from meat - the
Khaborers, for example - and other people who did, too. They were
often persecuted for their beliefs.
In addition to religious vegetarians, there are people like Tolstoy
who became vegetarians for ethical reasons. And now there is a third
group of people, who are interested in vegetarianism for health
reasons. These are people who are also involved in yoga and oriental
medicine. They are the largest groups of vegetarians. As far as
the vegetarian movement is concerned, the Vegetarian Society has
branches in different cities: St. Petersburg, Western Siberia, and
in the south on the Volga.
Agenda: Is there a growing awareness of animal rights in
Pavlova: People in Russia don't know much about animal rights.
There had been no legislation protecting animals from cruelty in
Russia until 1954. The concepts of mercy and compassion toward animals
were not promoted. CETA is the first organization to promote animal
rights on television, in talks, and in books.
Agenda: Do you find when you talk to people on the streets
that they are sympathetic to your cause?
Pavlova: I never try to talk to people on the street because
they are always in a great hurry. I did talk to people on the street
when we had the Meat-Out show last year. Some people praised us.
Others said we had no right to ask people to give up eating meat,
even for one day.
Agenda: How many members are in CETA?
Pavlova: Actually, we don't have any membership. I spent
20 years with the APS trying to organize the activities of amateurs
and volunteers. As a result, I now prefer to pay people, however
little, and make them work. CETA's organizers are involved with
projects that don't demand going about waving banners and such.
Our work is conducting scientific experiments and holding discussions
with various groups and government officials.
Agenda: How is the campaign against fur going?
Pavlova: Badly. I know very few people who have given up
wearing fur. There is new legislation that forbids using leghold
Pavlova: I saw the legislation before my departure for New
York. It says that cruel ways of hunting, including leghold traps,
are forbidden-except in cases where legislation allows it.
Agenda: That's a success, no?
Pavlova: Well, they say "except" and "but,"
which provides a loophole for anybody who can get permission to
use leghold traps from local legislation. I believe they made this
bill sound as though it's more strict than it is because they didn't
want to quarrel with the European Council, which bans furs from
countries that use these kinds of traps.
Agenda: Have you had any specific successes in your campaigns?
Pavlova: We have had some success in humane education. For
example, 1 have prepared a textbook on ethics for grades one through
three and six through eight. It will be used first as an experimental
textbook, and then, I hope, it will become part of the school curriculum.
We have also prepared a book called Bioethics at School, and we
have been promised that it will be used with college students. If
that happens, it will be something of a revolution because the book
promotes vegetarianism, respect for life and animals, and the anti-vivisection
and anti-fur campaigns.
In addition, we have also organized lectures on bioethics for students
at the Moscow University Biology Department. These have been going
on for five years. The lectures last ten weeks and comprise 20 academic
hours. Students are tested at the end of the lectures.
Finally, we have presented a seminar in each of the last two years
for teachers in biology departments in teacher-training colleges
Agenda: Is there a growing animal rights movement within
the philosophical tradition in Russia?
Pavlova: I wouldn't say movement. I would say interest, but
not with many people. There has been some progress in high schools,
where administrators decided that students in biology departments
could have an alternative to dissection as of September 1995.
There has also been some progress regarding alternatives to animal
experimentation. CETA is taking part in the big international project,
headed by AFAAR. This is the second year we've been part of that
project. We have conducted experiments that show that it is possible
to use human cells and protozoa for toxicity testing. We are now
trying to validate these methods for the government ministries.
We are trying to substitute biosterilization for catching stray
dogs and stray cats. In 1994 we carried out an experiment with stray
dogs and to a certain extent with stray cats. We put drugs that
would render the animals sterile into their food. We presented the
results of this experiment to the Moscow administration. They accepted
the results, and they will carry on an experiment of their own this
autumn to validate our findings. Maybe they will stop catching dogs
and cats eventually.
Agenda: How serious is the problem with stray dogs and cats
Pavlova: Current methods of capturing stray animals do little
to keep the number down because real strays are never caught by
those methods. Most of the dogs and cats running loose are pets,
which is typical for Moscow. And the dogs in the countryside are
no better off. They are often kept on short chains, isolated by
a fence, unprotected from cold, without drinking water, sometimes
Agenda: What do city officials do when they catch dogs and
Pavlova: They sell some to research laboratories, and the
rest are put to death, often by beatings. We are pressing the veterinary
department to give up those cruel methods and to switch to barbiturates.
Preferably, we would like to see the Moscow administration keep
the numbers down by sterilizing female dogs and cats.