It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
- Chinese Proverb
Ethel Thurston, PhD
The founding trustee of the American Fund for Alternatives to Animal Research (AFAAR), Ethel Thurston, PhD, was a protector of animals from an early age. As a child, she saw many examples of animal abuse and cruelty and vowed to do all she could to ease animals' misery. This promise was reinforced when her family lived within hearing distance of a slaughterhouse in a small Berkshire farming community.
Dr. Thurston studied organ music and composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and later served for many years as chair and faculty member of the Department of Music History at the Manhattan School of Music. Her prestigious music career also included teaching positions at Vassar College in New York, Ecole Americain de Music in France, and Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania.
Even during her academic career, Dr. Thurston remained devoted to helping animals. She assisted friends in England and studied the philosophy and strategies of the Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research.
Dr. Thurston is universally recognized and admired as one of the first and leading supporters of non-animal testing methods.
- Theodora Capaldo, EdD
AFAAR Trustee & NEAVS President
Dr. Thurston worked closely with Lady Dowding, founder of Beauty Without Cruelty, which discouraged the wearing of fur, provided cruelty-free cosmetics, and continues to this day. After meeting Lady Dowding, Dr. Thurston went on to form a U.S. sister organization Beauty Without Cruelty, Inc. in New York in 1973, a not-for-profit for "… the education of the public to use cruelty-free wearing apparel and beautifying products."
In 1977, Dr. Thurston was instrumental in establishing AFAAR as a charitable trust dedicated to promoting and funding alternatives to animal experiments. "There are so many advanced possibilities in groups of human cell cultures, computer models, and other alternatives," she noted. Among the first funded projects was an alternative to the Draize rabbit eye test, which was later adopted by some major product and cosmetics companies.
On Oct. 21, 2000, Dr. Thurston was honored by the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) with their prestigious Humane Achievement Award for her pioneering work in alternatives research and development. The award was given at a special ceremony in New York City attended by scientists and anti-vivisectionists from around the world.
Dr. Ethel Thurston died Jan. 4, 2005 at the age of 94.