Albert Schweitzer, born 1875 in Kaysersberg in the province of Alsace-Lorraine in the German Empire, is perhaps most widely known for his work in Africa as a missionary. He was however also a theologian, organist, philosopher, and physician. His ideas and beliefs concerning our ethical treatment of animals played a key role in the evolution of our concept of animal rights. He struggled with the paradoxes of the relationship between man and animal as no other philosopher had ever done before. His philosophy has altered attitudes, led to the passage of laws and helped the cause of animal rights in the latter part of the twentieth century.
Albert Schweitzer developed a philosophy known as a “Reverence for Life”, for which he received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize; he considered this philosophy his greatest contribution to mankind. He thought that Western civilizations were decaying as a result of the abandonment of its ethical foundation, namely the affirmation of and respect for life. Reverence for life was an essential part of Schweitzer’s personal Philosophy which he hoped would be made known throughout the world by means of his books and talks and through his own example.
There is a prayer for animals which Schweitzer composed and recited as a child. However it is quite short and is not the one widely known. Here it is, as translated by C. T. Campion, from Memoirs of Childhood and Youth:
O, heavenly Father, protect and bless all things that have breath;
guard them from all evil,
and let them sleep in peace.
Here is the more common Prayer for Animals, which is attributed to Schweitzer, although he was probably not the author. This version is from Animals, Nature and Albert Schweitzer
A Prayer for Animals
Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals,
especially for animals who are suffering;
for animals that are overworked, underfed and cruelly treated;
for all wistful creatures in captivity that beat their wings against bars;
for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry;
for all that must be put death.
We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity,
and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion
and gentle hands and kindly words.
Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals,
and so to share the blessings of the merciful.