An Ethical Problem - Or, Sidelights upon Scientific Experimentation on Man and Animals
by Albert Leffingwell
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An Ethical Problem

By the Same Author








AMERICAN MEAT. London and New York, 1910












The position taken by the writer of this volume should be clearly understood. It is not the view known as antivivisection, so far as this means the condemnation without exception of all phases of biological investigation. There are methods of research which involve no animal suffering, and which are of scientific utility. Within certain careful limitations, these would seem justifiable. For nearly forty years, the writer has occupied the position which half a century ago was generally held by a majority of the medical profession in England, and possibly in America, a position maintained in recent years by such men as Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson of England, by Professor William James and Dr. Henry J. Bigelow of Harvard University. With the present ideals of the modern physiological laboratory, so far as they favour the practice of vivisection in secrecy and without legal regulation, the writer has no sympathy whatsoever.

An ethical problem exists. It concerns not the prevention of all experimentation upon animals, but rather the abolition of its cruelty, its secrecy, its abuse.

Written at various times during a period extending over several years, a critic will undoubtedly discover instances of repetition and re-statement. Now and then, it has seemed advisable to include matter from earlier writings, long out of print; and new light has been thrown upon some phases of a perplexing problem. Will it tend to induce conviction of the need for reform? Assuredly, this is not to be expected where there is disagreement regarding certain basic principles. First of all, there must be some common ground. No agreement regarding vivisection can be anticipated or desired with any man who holds that some vague and uncertain addition to the sum total of knowledge would justify experiments made upon dying children in a hospital, without regard to their personal benefit, or sanction the infliction of any degree of agony upon animals in a laboratory.

A liking for the use of italics as a means of directing attention to certain statements is confessed. But wherever such italicized phrases appear in quotations, the reader should ascribe the emphasis to the writer, and not to the original authority.

The inculcation of scepticism regarding much that is put forth in justification of unlimited research is admitted. It seems to the writer that anyone who has become interested in the question would more wisely approach it with a tendency toward doubt than toward implicit belief; to doubt, however, that leads one directly to investigation. We need to remember, however, that inaccuracy by no means connotes inveracity. There is here no imputation against the honesty of any writer, even when carelessness, exaggeration and inaccuracy are not only alleged, but demonstrated to exist. A. L. Aurora, N.Y., 1914



Another edition of this work being called for, the opportunity for one or two emendations is afforded.

In the first chapter of the present work, reference is made to the antivivisection societies of England, and, relying upon evidence given before the Royal Commission in 1906, one of them is mentioned as the "principal organization." The relative standing or strength of the different societies at the present time would appear not to be determined or easily determinable, and, of course, what was fact in 1906 may not be at all true ten years later. The matter would seem to be of little importance as compared with the greater questions pertaining to reform; but in the interest of accuracy the author would now prefer to make no pronouncement concerning the relative rank of the English societies, leaving decision as to precedence to those who give them financial support.

Though the first edition of the present work was quite large, yet no challenge of the accuracy of any of its statements concerning experimentation upon human beings or animals has yet appeared. To hope for absolute accuracy in a work of this character may be impossible; yet that ideal has been constantly before the writer. Should any errors of the kind be discovered to exist in the present edition, their indication is sincerely desired.

In the chapter "Unfair Methods of Controversy" some illustrative cases were given without mention, now and then, of the persons criticized. It seemed to the writer that in certain instances it should be quite sufficient to point out and to condemn inaccuracies and errors without bringing upon the record every individual name. No misunderstanding could possibly exist, since the references were ample in every case. But since this reticence, in at least one instance, has been criticized by an unfriendly reviewer, it is perhaps better to state that the repeated allusions to Lord Lister's journeyings to France, and the article in Harper's Monthly for April, 1909, were from the pen of the author of Animal Experimentation—a work which is reviewed in the Appendix to the present edition. To his advanced age—now far beyond the allotted span—we may ascribe the inaccuracies which, at an earlier period of his career, would doubtless have been recognized.

A. L.




APPENDIXES - - - - 333-364C INDEX - - - - 365-369 PRESS NOTICES - - - - 371-374


It is now somewhat over a third of a century since my attention was specially directed to the abuses of animal experimentation. In January, 1880, a paragraph appeared in a morning paper of New York referring to the late Henry Bergh. With his approval a Bill had come before the legislature of the State of New York providing for the abolition of all experiments upon living animals—whether in medical colleges or elsewhere—on the ground that they were without benefit to anybody, and demoralizing alike to the teacher and student. As I dropped the paper, it occurred to me that the chances of success would have been far greater if less had been asked. That certain vivisections were atrocious was undoubtedly true; but, on the other hand, there were some experiments that were absolutely painless. Would it not be wiser to make some distinctions?

The attempt was made. An article on the subject was at once begun, and in July of the same year it was published in Scribner's Magazine, the predecessor of the Century. So far as known, it was the first argument that ever found expression in the pages of any American periodical favouring not the entire abolition of vivisection, but the reform of its abuse.

My knowledge of vivisection had its beginning in personal experience. Nearly forty years ago, while teaching the elements of physiology at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, it occurred to me to illustrate the statements of textbooks by a repetition of such simple experiments as had come before my own eyes. Most of my demonstrations were illustrative of commonplace physiological phenomena: chloroform was freely used to secure unconsciousness of the animal, and with the exception of one or two demonstrations, the avoidance of pain or distress was almost certainly accomplished.

But what especially impressed me at the time was the extraordinary interest which these experiments seemed to excite. Students from advanced classes in the institute were often spectators and voluntary assistants. Of the utility of such demonstrations as a means of fixing facts in memory, I could not have the slightest doubt. Nor as regards the rightfulness of vivisection as a method either of study or demonstration, was there at that period any question in my mind. Whatever Science desired, it seemed to me only proper that Science should have. The fact that certain demonstrations or experiments upon living animals had already been condemned as unjustifiable cruelty by the leading men in the medical profession, and by some of the principal medical journals of England, was then as utterly unknown to me as the same facts are to-day unknown to the average graduate of every medical school in the United States. It was not long until after this early experience, and following acquaintance with the practice in Europe as well as at home, that doubts arose regarding the justice of CAUSING PAIN TO ILLUSTRATE FACTS ALREADY KNOWN. These doubts became convictions, and were stated in my first contribution to the literature of the subject, the paper in Scribner's. It is not the position of what is called "antivivisection," for that implies condemnation of every phase of animal experimentation. In the third of a century that has elapsed since this protest was made, the practice of vivisection has taken vast strides: it appears in new shapes and unanticipated environment. But the old abuses have not disappeared, and some of them, more urgently than ever before, demand the attention of thinking men and women.

Of personal contributions to the literature of the subject, during the past third of a century, nearly everything has been more or less polemical, called forth by either exaggeration of utility, inaccuracy of assertion, or misstatement of fact. Now it has been protest against the brilliant correspondent of a New York newspaper, who telegraphed from London an account of a visit to a well-known physiological laboratory, where he found animals all "fat, cheerful, and jolly," yet "quite unaffected by the removal of a spinal cord"—as sensible a statement as if he had referred to their jolly condition "after removal of their heads." Now it has been the manifesto of professors in a medical school declaring that in the institution to which they belonged no painful experiments had been performed—an assertion abundantly contradicted by their own publications. Now it is a Surgeon-General of the Army, defending one of the most cruel of vivisections in which he was not in any way concerned, by an exposition of ignorance regarding the elements of physiology; and, again, it has been a President of a medical association, making a speech, wherein hardly a sentence was not stamped with inaccuracy and ignorance. To some natures controversy is exhilarating; to myself it is beyond expression distasteful. Yet, when confronted by false affirmations, what is one's duty? To say nothing? To permit the untruth to march triumphantly on its way? Or, in the interest of Science herself, should not one attempt the exposure of inaccuracy, and the demonstration of the truth?

Approaching the end of a long pilgrimage, it has seemed to me worth while to make a final survey of the great question of our time. How was the cruelty of vivisection once regarded by the leading members of the medical profession? Shall we say to-day that the utility of torment, in the vivisection of animals, constitutes perfect justification and defence? How far did Civilization once go in the approval of torture because of its imagined deterrent effects?

What has been accomplished by the agitation concerning vivisection which has persisted for the last forty years? Has the battlefield been well selected? Have demands of reformers been wisely formulated? Is public opinion to-day inclined to be any more favourable to the legal abolition of all scientific experimentation upon animals than it was a third of a century ago?

What has been the result of vivisection in America, unrestricted and unrestrained? Has it accomplished anything for the human race that might not have been accomplished under conditions whereby cruelty should be impossible except as a crime? Has the death-rate been reduced by new discoveries made in American laboratories? Is it possible that utility is persistently exaggerated by those who are not unwilling to use exaggeration as a means of defence? And of the Future, what are the probabilities for which we may hope? What is being done in our century in the way of submitting animals to unlimited torture?

To throw somewhat of light on these questions is the object of this volume. I wish it had been in my power to write a more extended and complete exposition of the problem, but limitations of strength, due to advancing age, have made that hope impracticable. But as one man drops the torch, another hand will grasp it; and where now is darkness and secrecy, there will one day be knowledge and light.




Upon no ethical problem of our generation is the public sentiment of to-day more uncertain and confused than in its attitude toward vivisection. Why this uncertainty exists it is not very difficult to discern. In the first place, no definition of the word itself has been suggested and adopted sufficiently concise and yet so comprehensive as to include every phase of animal experimentation. It is a secret practice. Formerly more or less public, it is now carried on in closed laboratories, with every possible precaution against the disclosure of anything liable to criticism. Quite apart from any questions of usefulness, it is a pursuit involving problems of the utmost fascination for the investigating mind—questions pertaining to Life and Death—the deepest mysteries which can engage the intellect of mankind. We find it made especially attractive to young men at that period of life when their encouraged and cultivated enthusiasm for experimentation is not liable to be adequately controlled by any deep consideration for the "material" upon which they work. Sometimes animal experimentation is painless, and sometimes it involves suffering which may vary in degree from distress which is slight to torments which a great surgeon has compared to burning alive, "the utmost degree of prolonged and excruciating agony." By some, its utility to humanity is constantly asserted, and by others as earnestly and emphatically and categorically denied. Confronted by contradictory assertions of antagonists and defenders, how is the average man to make up his mind? Both opinions, he reasons, cannot possibly be true, and he generally ranges himself under the banner of the Laboratory or of its enemies, according to his degree of confidence in their assertions, or his preference for the ideals which they represent.

Now, the object of all controversy should be to enable us to see facts as they are—to get at the truth. That difference of opinion will exist may be inevitable; for opinions largely depend upon our ideals, and these of no two individuals are precisely the same. But so far as facts are concerned, we should be able to make some approach to agreement, and especially as regards the ethical supremacy of certain ideals.

But first of all we need to define Vivisection. What is it?

Originally implying merely the cutting of a living animal in way of experiment, it has come by general consent to include all scientific investigations upon animals whatsoever, even when such researches or demonstrations involve no cutting operation of any kind. It has been authoritatively defined as "experiments upon animals calculated to cause pain." But this would seem to exclude all experimentation of a kind which is not calculated to cause pain; experiments regarding which all the "calculation" is to avoid pain; as, for example, an experiment made to determine the exact quantity of chloroform necessary to produce death without return of consciousness. The British Royal Commission of 1875 defined it as "the practice of subjecting live animals to experiments for scientific purposes," avoiding any reference to the infliction of pain; yet, so far as pertains to the justification of vivisection, the whole controversy may turn on that. Any complete definition should at least contain reference to those investigations to which little or no objection would be raised, were they not part of the "system." It should not omit reference, also, to those refinements of pain-infliction for inadequate purposes—also a part of a "system," and which, to very distinguished leaders in the medical profession, have seemed to be inexcusable and wrong.

Suppose, then, we attempt a definition that shall be inclusive of all phases of the practice.

"Vivisection is the exploitation of living animals for experiments concerning the phenomena of life. Such experiments are made, FIRST, for the demonstration, before students, of facts already known and established; or, SECOND, as a method of investigation of some theory or problem, which may be with or without relation to the treatment of human ailments. Such experiments may range from procedures which are practically painless, to those involving distress, exhaustion, starvation, baking, burning, suffocation, poisoning, inoculation with disease, every kind of mutilation, and long-protracted agony and death."

A definition of this kind will cover 99 per cent. of all experiments. The extreme pro-vivisectionist may protest that the definition brings into prominence the more painful operations; yet for the majority of us the only ground for challenging the practice at all is the pain, amounting to torment in some cases, which vivisection may involve. They are rare, some one says. But how do we know? The doors of the laboratory are closed. Of practices secretly carried on, what can we know? That every form of imaginable torment has at some time been practised in the name of Science, we may learn from the reports of experimenters themselves, and from the writings of men who have denounced them. It was Dr. Henry J. Bigelow, of Harvard University, the most eminent surgeon of his day, who declared that vivisection sometimes meant the infliction of "the severest conceivable pain, of indefinite duration," and that it was "a torture of helpless animals, more terrible, by reason of its refinement, than burning at the stake." Is the above definition of vivisection stronger than is implied by this assertion of Dr. Bigelow?

We need constantly to remember that vivisection is by no means a simple act. It may indicate investigations that require no cutting operation of any kind, and the infliction of no pain; or, on the other hand, it may denote operations that involve complicated and severe mutilations, and torments as prolonged and exquisite as human imagination can conceive. Experiments may be made, in course of researches, of very great interest and importance to medical science; and, on the contrary, they may be performed merely to demonstrate phenomena about which there is no doubt, or to impress on the memory of a student some well-known fact. They may be performed by men like Sir Charles Bell, who hesitated to confirm one of the greatest physiological discoveries of the last century, merely because it would imply a repetition of painful experiments; and they may be done by men like Magendie, who declared of his mutilated and tormented victims, that it was "DROLL to see them skip and jump about." It is because of all these differences that the majority of men have an indefinite conception of what they approve or condemn. The advocate of unrestricted vivisection sometimes tells us that experimentation implies no more pain than the prick of a pin, and that its results are of great utility to the human race; the antivivisectionist, on the other hand, may insist that such experimentation means inconceivable torment without the slightest conceivable benefit to mankind. Both are right in the occasional significance of the word. Both are wrong if one meaning is to answer for all varieties of experimentation upon living things.

Some years ago the attempt was made to obtain the view of animal experimentation held by certain classes of intelligent men and women. One view of the practice is that which regards it merely as a method of scientific research, with which morality has no more to do than it would have in determining in what direction a telescope should be pointed by an astronomer, or what rocks a geologist should not venture to touch. A statement embodying the views of those who favour unrestricted vivisection included affirmations like these:

"Vivisection, or experimentation upon living creatures, must be looked at simply as a method of studying the phenomena of life. With it, morality has nothing to do. It should be subject neither to criticism, supervision, nor restrictions of any kind. It may be used to any extent desired by any experimenter—no matter what degree of extreme or prolonged pain it may involve—for demonstration before students of the statements contained in their textbooks, as an aid to memory,....or for any conceivable purpose of investigation into vital phenomena.... While we claim many discoveries of value,....yet even these we regard as of secondary importance to the freedom of unlimited research."

This is the meaning of free and unrestricted vivisection. Its plainness of speech did not deter very distinguished physiologists and others from signing it as the expression of their views. One can hardly doubt that it represents the view of the physiological laboratory at the present day. Sixty years ago this view of vivisection would have found but few adherents in England or America; to-day it is probably the tacit opinion of a majority of the medical profession in either land. One may question whether any similar change of sentiment in a direction contrary to reform has ever appeared since Civilization began. We shall endeavor to show, hereafter, to what that change is due.

Absolutely opposed to this sentiment are the principles of what is known as "antivivisection." According to this view, all vivisection is an immoral infringement upon the rights of animals. The cruelties that accompany research will always accompany it, until all scientific experimentation upon animals is made a criminal offence. From a statement of opinion giving expression to this view, the following sentences are taken:

"All experimentation upon living animals we consider unnecessary, unjustifiable, and morally wrong.... Even if utility could be proved, man has no right to attempt to benefit himself at the cost of injury, pain, or disease to the lower animals. The injury which the practice of vivisection causes to the moral sense of the individual and to humanity far outweighs any possible benefit that could be derived from it. Dr. Henry J. Bigelow, Professor in the Medical School of Harvard University, declared that 'vivisection deadens the humanity of the students.' Nothing which thus lowers morality can be a necessity to progress.... Painless or painful, useless or useful, however severe or however slight, vivisection is a practice so linked with cruelty and so pernicious in tendency, THAT ANY REFORM IS IMPOSSIBLE, and it should be absolutely prohibited by law for any purpose."

This is antivivisection. It is a view of the practice which has seemed reasonable to large numbers of earnest men and women whose lives in various directions have been devoted to the prevention of all kinds of cruelty, and to the promotion of the best interests of the race. When this view is maintained by men and women who oppose the killing of animals for purposes of food or raiment or adornment, or their exploitation in any way which demands extinction of life, it is entirely consistent with high ideals. It is against this view that the arguments of those who contend for vivisection, without restriction or restraint, are always directed.

But even among antivivisectionists there are, naturally, differences of opinion. For instance, the National Antivivisection Society, the principal organization of England, desires to see vivisection totally abolished by law; but, meanwhile, it will strive for and accept any measures that have for their object the amelioration of the condition of vivisected animals. On the other hand, the British Union for the Total Abolition of Vivisection will accept nothing less than the legal condemnation of every phase of such experiments. "Vivisection," the secretary of this society writes, "is a system, and not a number of isolated acts to be considered separately. Owing to its intricate and interdependent character and the international competition involved, USE CANNOT BE SEPARATED FROM ABUSE." In other words, every conceivable phase of scientific experimentation upon living creatures, even if absolutely painless, should be made a legal offence.

But we are not driven to accept one or the other of these definitions of animal experimentation. A third view of vivisection exists, which differs widely from either of these opposing ideals. Instead of taking the position of the antivivisectionist that ALL scientific investigations involving the use of animals, should be legally prohibited, it maintains that distinctions may, and should, be drawn, and that only the abuses of vivisection should be condemned by law. It asks society neither to approve of everything, nor to condemn everything, but to draw a line between experiments that, by reason of utility and painlessness, are entirely permissible, and others which ought assuredly to be condemned. It makes no protest against experimentation involving the death of an animal where it is certain that consciousness of pain has been abolished by anaesthetics; but it condemns absolutely the exhibition of agony as an easy method of teaching well-known facts. The utility of certain experiments it does not question; but even increase of knowledge may sometimes be purchased at too high a price. From a statement of this position regarding vivisection, drawn some years since, the following sentences may be of interest:

"Vivisection is a practice of such variety and complexity, that, like warfare between nations, one can neither condemn it nor approve it, unless some careful distinctions be first laid down.... Within certain limitations, we regard vivisection to be so justified by utility as to be legitimate, expedient, and right. Beyond these boundaries, it is cruel, monstrous, and wrong.... We believe, therefore, that the common interests of humanity and science demand that vivisection, like the study of human anatomy in the dissecting-room, should be brought under the direct supervision and control of the State. The practice, whether in public or in private, should be restricted by law to certain definite objects, and surrounded by every possible safeguard against license or abuse."

This is a statement of what is meant by vivisection reform. Every unprejudiced mind can see at once that it is not the same as antivivisection. Is it the enemy of science? The leading name affixed to this declaration of principles was that of the late Herbert Spencer, the chief apostle of modern science. Is it against the interests of education? It was signed by eleven presidents of American universities and colleges, and by a large number of men closely connected with institutions of learning. Is it antagonistic to medical science and art? The statement received the endorsement of twice as many physicians and surgeons as were favourable to experimentation upon animals without any restriction or restraint; and among these physicians favourable to reform were men of national reputation. No one should expect that men whose sole profession is experimentation of this character would approve of any limitations to their activity in any direction; but they constitute only a small fraction of human society. Outside their ranks we may be confident that there are very few, at all acquainted with the subject, who will not concede that in the past many things have been done in this exploitation of animal life which are greatly to be deplored. Is there, then, no method of prevention? Are we simply to fold our hands and trust that the humaner instincts of the present-day vivisector, working in the seclusion of his private laboratory, will keep him free from all that we regret in the vivisection of the past? Or must we, on the other hand, ask for the total condemnation of every experiment, because some are cruel and atrocious?

This is the platform of the Restrictionist. It cannot—except by perversion of truth—be regarded as antivivisection, for there is not a single society in England or America, devoted to the interests of that cause, which would acknowledge these views as in any way representative of its ideals; but it is the expression of sentiments which formerly were almost universally held by the medical profession of England. Yet the advocates of unrestricted vivisection have never been willing to consider this position, and, in controversy, invariable fall back upon arguments applicable only to the views of those who would abolish vivisection altogether.

There is yet another position to be taken; it is the attitude of unconcern. From vast numbers nothing better can be expected. The man who is utterly indifferent to the unnecessary agony accompanying the slaughter of animals for food, or to the cruelties of sport, or the woman whose vanity demands sacrifices of animals at the cost of incalculable suffering, will take little or no interest in the question of vivisections; nor is complicity with other phases of torment and cruelty alone responsible for the indifference which so generally exists. In every age, from the twilight of earliest savagery down to the present time, the vast majority of human beings have been inclined, not to doubt, but to believe, and especially to believe those who claimed superior knowledge in matters of Life and Death. This tendency to unquestioning faith has been the support of every phase of injustice, of cruelty, and of wrong. It has led to innumerable men and women of education and refinement to remit all questions of animal experimentation to the vivisector and his friends, precisely as they would have done had they lived three centuries ago, and had it been theirs to decide on the morality of burning a witch. On the other hand, the alliance between the laboratory and the medical profession, their mutual endeavour to stifle criticism and to induce approval of all vivisection whatever, has given rise to a new spirit of inquiry. A moral question is never absolutely decided until it is decided aright. If the problem of vivisection is ever settled, it will be due, not to the influence of those who advocate unquestioning faith in the humaneness of the average experimenter, who decline inquiry, and who rest satisfied with their ignorance, but rather to those who, having investigated the question for themselves, have given all their influence for some measure of reform. In questions of humanity, even the unwisdom of enthusiasm that tends toward reform is far better than indifference and unconcern.

The ignorance of history, shown often by the advocates of unlimited vivisection, is a singular phenomenon. The beginnings of this controversy are not without interest. Let us glance at them.



Every reflecting student of history is struck by the divergence of opinions manifest among educated men in regard to the great problems of life. Why is it that so few of us are able to state the facts and arguments which favour conclusions to which we are utterly opposed? Take, for instance, the great question of religious belief. Can one refer to any Protestant writer of our time who has placed before his readers the arguments which inclined men like Newman or Manning to the Catholic faith? Has any Catholic writer of our time been able to present fairly the arguments which seem so overwhelmingly convincing to Protestant thinkers? In either case, is there not something of distortion or exaggeration? Certainly it cannot be due to intentional and perverse obliquity of mental vision. As a rule reasonable men endeavour to be just and fair. Now and then, in the heat of controversy, a tendency to overstatement or exaggeration may be evident, especially where great issues appear to be involved; but the purpose can be reconciled with honesty. Is it not more than probable that the principal reason for divergent views on the part of honest opponents is IGNORANCE OF FACTS?

Take, for example, the opinion held to-day by the great majority of young physicians concerning animal experimentation. As a rule they regard all criticism of vivisection with infinite contempt. During their medical studies they were continually imbued with the idea that the opposition to laboratory freedom of experimentation was an agitation of comparatively recent date, and confined to a small class of unthinking sentimentalists. Of that strong protest against cruel experiments which made itself heard more during more than a century, and of the atrocities which led to that protest, the average physician of to-day knows nothing whatever. Plunged into the practice of a profession which may absorb every moment of time, he has perhaps neither leisure to investigate nor disposition to doubt whatever he has been told.

Now, if the average student of medicine is thus ignorant of history, is it not because those who have taught him were equally devoid of knowledge of the facts? Of the history of the vivisection controversy previous to 1875, some of the most distinguished men in the medical profession have proved themselves profoundly ignorant. Illustrations of this lack of information might be almost indefinitely adduced, but I propose to bring forward only a few instances typical of their kind.

On June 10, 1896, Dr. Henry P. Bowditch, then professor of physiology in Harvard Medical School, delivered an address on vivisection before the Massachusetts Medical Society. The character of his audience, and the profession of the speaker, might be presumed to give assurance of absolute accuracy concerning any question of historic fact. A quarter century before, Dr. Bowditch had studied physiology in German laboratories Returning to America in 1871, he had been given the opportunity of reorganizing the teaching of physiology at Harvard Medical School, so as to bring it into conformity with Continental methods. It is quite probable that to him, more than to any other person, is due the introduction of Continental methods of physiological instruction in the medical colleges of the United States.

According to Dr. Bowditch, the criticism of vivisection in England began in 1864. To his audience of physicians he made the following statement:

"The first serious attack upon biological research in England seems to have been made in an essay entitled 'Vivisection: is it Necessary or Justifiable?' published in London in 1864, by George Fleming, a British veterinary surgeon. This essay is an important one, for although characterized at the time by a reviewer in the London Athenaeum as 'ignorant, fallacious, and altogether unworthy of acceptance,' its blood-curdling stories, applied to all sorts of institutions, have formed a large part of the stock-in-trade of subsequent vivisection writers."

The sneering reference to "blood-curdling stories" is of itself extremely significant. It indicates unmistakably the utter contempt which nearly every physiologist feels for the sentiment of humaneness which underlies protest against experimental cruelty. The speaker omitted to tell his audience that this essay of Dr. Fleming received the first prize offered by the "Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals," and that the Committee which decided the merits of the essay included some of the most eminent scientific men of England, among them Sir Richard Owen and Professor Carpenter—the latter one of the most distinguished of English physiologists of his time. He forgot to add that if the examples of atrocious vivisection given in this essay were horrible—as they were—yet every instance was substantiated by reference to the original authorities, and that their accurate quotation could not be impugned. Especially curious is the fact that Professor Bowditch placed the beginning of criticism at 1864. Of the arraignment of cruel vivisections by English physicians and English medical journals before that time, Dr. Bowditch apparently never heard, and all the infamous atrocities which they condemned he dismissed with a sneer as "blood-curdling stories." Yet, in his day, the speaker was one of the leading physiologists of the United States. We cannot believe that the suppression of material facts was intentional; it was due rather to complete ignorance of the history of that protest against physiological cruelty which England witnessed during the first part of the nineteenth century, and of which some account shall follow.

Take another instance. In the International Journal of Ethics for April, 1904, there appeared an article in defence of animal experimentation by Professor Charles S. Myers of the University of Cambridge, England. Of any abuses of the practice, Dr. Myers gave his readers no reason for believing that he had ever heard; and as an indication, perhaps, of an animal's eagerness to be vivisected, he tells us that "again and again dogs have been observed to wag the tail and lick the hands of the operator even immediately before the beginning of the operation." Commenting upon the singular conclusion which this fact seemed to suggest to Dr. Myers, the present writer quoted a sentence or two from an editorial which once appeared in the columns of the London Lancet.[1] It would apparently seem that Dr. Myers brought the quotation to the attention of someone in the editorial office of the Lancet, on whose judgment he thought he might safely rely; for, in a reply, he refers to it as a quotation "attributed to the editor of the Lancet, which, AFTER SPECIAL INQUIRY, I HAVE REASON FOR DOUBTING." Concerning a reference to some of Dr. Sydney Ringer's experiments upon patients in a London hospital, he is even more confident that they could never have occurred, and indignantly rejoins, "I unhesitatingly declare SUCH ABOMINABLE ACCUSATIONS TO BE FALSE."

[1] See p. 73 for this Lancet editorial.

Now, all this indignant scepticism was rather creditable to the writer's heart. That an English medical journal like the Lancet should denounce vivisection cruelties, or that a reputable London physician should experiment on his patients with various poisons, seemed to Dr. Myers beyond the bounds of belief. But it is always a serious thing positively to deny any historical reference simply because of personal ignorance of its truth. It was quite easy to refer the sceptic not only to the editorial which he thought he "HAD REASON FOR DOUBTING," but also to the experiments on human beings concerning which his indignation rose so high. To be ignorant of Dr. Ringer's experiments on his patients is to be ignorant of the history of modern medicine. The Medical Times (London) in its issue of November 10, 1883, thus editorially commented upon certain of these experiments:

"...In publishing, and, indeed, in instituting their reckless experiments on the effect of nitrite of sodium on the human subject, Professor Ringer and Dr. Murrill have made a deplorably false move.... It is impossible to read the paper in last week's Lancet without distress. Of the EIGHTEEN adults to whom Drs Ringer and Murrill administered the drug in 10-grain doses, all but one averred that they would expect to drop down dead if they ever took another dose.... Whatever credit may be given to Drs. Ringer and Murrill for scientific enthusiasm, it is impossible to acquit them of grave indiscretion. There will be a howl throughout the country IF IT COMES OUT THAT THE OFFICERS OF A PUBLIC CHARITY ARE IN THE HABIT OF TRYING SUCH USELESS AND CRUEL EXPERIMENTS ON THE PATIENTS COMMITTED TO THEIR CARE."[1]

[1] In all quotations, here and elsewhere throughout this volume, the italics have been supplied.

What but ignorance of the history of medicine during the last fifty years could lead any one to deny the occurrence of experiments, the proofs of which rest on statements in medical journals, and in the published works of the experimenters themselves?

One of the most singular statements concerning vivisection that ever appeared in print was given out not many years ago by one of the professors of physiology in Harvard Medical School.[2] The accuracy of this manifesto—which purported to be "a plain statement of the whole truth"—received the endorsement of five of the leading teachers of science in the same institution, men whose scientific reputation would naturally give great weight to their affirmations regarding any question of fact. So impressed was the editor of the Boston Transcript with the apparent weight of this testimony, that he declared in its columns that "the character and standing of the men whose names are given as responsible for this explanation to the Boston public, FORBID ANY QUESTIONING OF ITS STATEMENT OF FACTS." What is the value of authority in matters of science, if assertions so fortified by illustrious names are to be received with doubt?

[2] See "The Vivisection Question," pp. 114-133 and 253.

The inaccuracy which characterized this "statement of the whole truth" was demonstrated at the time it appeared; but to one paragraph attention may be recalled. The manifesto touches the question of past cruelties in animal experimentation, not merely without the slightest criticism or condemnation, but, on the contrary, with what would seem to be a definite denial that anything reprehensible had ever occurred. It contemptuously referred to evidence of abuses, as "these reiterated charges of cruelty, THESE LONG LISTS OF ATROCITIES THAT NEVER EXISTED." What other meaning could the average reader obtain than the suggestion that the cruelties of Spallanzani, of Magendie, of Mantegazza, of Brown-Se'quard, of Brachet, and a host of others, existed only in the imagination, AND HAD NO BASIS OF FACT? For this astounding suggestion, what explanation is possible? That there was a deliberate purpose to mislead the public by an affirmation that cruel and unjustifiable experiments were a myth, the creation of imagination, is an hypothesis we must reject. But there must have been a stupendous ignorance concerning the past history of animal experimentation. Simply because of their utter lack of knowledge regarding history, distinguished scientists became responsible for suggesting to the public that the story of the past cruelty of vivisection was a myth, and unworthy of belief.

While illustrations of this singular ignorance of the past might be almost indefinitely multiplied, another example must for the present suffice. It is afforded by the evidence given before the Royal Commission of Vivisection in 1906, by Sir William Osler, M.D., Fellow of the Royal Society, and Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford. In the course of his examination, the following dialogue occurred:[1]

"Are you familiar with the writings of Dr. Leffingwell?" "Yes." "I think he points out that it was through the strong attacks that appeared in the Lancet and the British Medical Journal that the Vivisection Act was passed?" "THAT IS NEWS TO ME." "You do not know that?" "NO."

[1] Minutes of Evidence, Questions 16,780-16,782.

Perhaps the question asked may have implied somewhat more of influence on the part of the medical journals named than actually belonged to them; but these periodicals certainly initiated that exposure and condemnation of cruelty in vivisection—which in England led to an agitation for reform. Sir William Osler's replies, however, suggest something more than mere word-fencing; he was evidently surprised to hear it intimated that medical journals like these could ever have been found attacking vivisection in any way. Of the strong attacks which appeared in these organs of medical opinion less than forty years before, he had apparently never heard. Now, when men like these, leaders in the formation of public opinion on medical matters, are thus ignorant of history, ought one really to wonder at the lack of knowledge on the same subject betrayed by the new generation of physicians in active practice to-day—men not only of lesser influence, but of more restricted opportunities for gaining information? Ninety-nine out of every hundred of the physicians engaged in medical instruction in England and America probably would have replied to the questions asked Sir William Osler to the same effect—"It is news to me." Sitting at their feet, how can pupils be expected to do otherwise than to absorb both their prejudices and their learning? How can any medical student distinguish between them? We are all inclined to give implicit faith to men whose abilities in any direction we admire and reverence. It is only with the advance of years and the test of experience that men come to learn the distrust of authority, the wisdom of doubt, and the value of personal inquiry concerning every great problem of life.

Suppose, then, that we look into this question. Was Professor Bowditch correct in assigning the beginnings of criticism concerning vivisection to Dr. Fleming's essay published in 1864? Or was its origin long before? Were the professors of the Medical School accurate of statement when they practically denied that cruelty in vivisection was a historic fact, and endorsed a reference to authenticated instances as "long lists of atrocities THAT NEVER OCCURRED"? Is it a fact—although Dr. Myers of Cambridge and Sir William Osler of Oxford apparently never heard of it—that it was the MEDICAL journals of England whose indignant condemnation of vivisection cruelties led up to its attempted regulation by law? The public assumes that authorities like these are not likely to err concerning methods of medical instruction or research. In the mind of the average man, every prepossession is in their favour; he cannot easily bring himself to believe that if cruelty ever existed, THEY should be so completely ignorant of it. It may, indeed, be questioned whether in the literature of controversy on the subject there has been a single defender of unrestricted freedom in vivisection, who has intelligently referred to the horrible experiments of past vivisectors except either to sneer or to condone. Even Mr. Stephen Paget, in his recent work, "Experiments upon Animals," never once condemned the cruelty that but a generation ago excited indignation throughout the medical profession of Great Britain.

The truth of this matter is not to be attained by unquestioning acceptance of authority, but by a study of the history of the past. It would be impossible, except in a volume, to write a complete history of that protest against the unjustifiable cruelties of animal experimentation, which gradually led to a demand for their legal suppression. All that may here be attempted is a demonstration that the sentiment is not of recent origin; that more than a century ago the cruelties, which to-day are so carefully ignored, were unquestioned as facts, and that to medical journals of England is principally due that weighty condemnation of cruel vivisection, which probably more than any other influence was the foundation of the agitation for vivisection reform.



English literature during the eighteenth century presents no more distinguished name than that of Dr. Samuel Johnson, the lexicographer and essayist. His learning was immense; his judgments and criticisms were everywhere regarded with respect; and, above other great men of his time, he was fortunate in having as friend and companion one who produced the best biography that the world has ever known.

Dr. Johnson's views of vivisection and vivisectors appeared as a contribution to the Idler, on August 5, 1761, more than a hundred years before the date given by Professor Bowditch as that of "THE FIRST SERIOUS ATTACK UPON BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH IN ENGLAND." It may, nevertheless, be doubted whether any attack more "serious" or protest more weighty was ever made than was written by the most eminent literary man of his time, a century and a half ago.

"Among the inferior professors of medical knowledge is a race of wretches whose lives are only varied by varieties of cruelty; whose favourite amusement is to nail dogs to tables and open them alive; to try how long life may be continued in various degrees of mutilation, or with the excision or laceration of vital parts; to examine whether burning irons are felt more acutely by the bone or tendon; and whether the more lasting agonies are produced by poison forced into the mouth or injected into the veins. It is not without reluctance that I offend the sensibility of the tender mind with images like these. If such cruelties were not practised, it were to be desired that they should not be conceived; but since they are published every day with ostentation, let me be allowed once to mention them, since I mention them with abhorrence.... The anatomical novice tears out the living bowels of an animal, and styles himself a 'physician'; prepares himself by familiar cruelty for that profession which he is to exercise upon the tender and helpless, upon feeble bodies and broken minds, and by which he has opportunities to extend his arts and tortures, and continue those experiments upon Infancy and Age which he has hitherto tried upon cats and dogs. What is alleged in defence of these hateful practices, everyone knows; but the truth is that by knives and fire knowledge is not always sought, and is very seldom attained. I know not that by living dissections any discovery has been made by which a single malady is more easily cured. And if the knowledge of physiology has been somewhat increased, he surely buys knowledge dear who learns the use of the lacteals at the expense of his own humanity. IT IS TIME THAT A UNIVERSAL RESENTMENT AGAINST THESE HORRID OPERATIONS SHOULD ARISE, which tend to harden the heart, and make the physician more dreadful than the gout or the stone."

A more vigorous denunciation of the cruelty of vivisection never appeared than these words of the first scholar of the English- speaking world. Of course the plea will be put forth that in Dr. Johnson's time the use of anaesthetics was unknown. Are we, then, to conclude that the present-day defenders of absolute freedom in animal research would join him in condemning the perpetrators of ALL EXPERIMENTS CAUSING DISTRESS IN WHICH ANAESTHETICS CANNOT BE EMPLOYED? For the merit of Dr. Johnson's plea lies in this, THAT HE MAKES ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS OF HIGHER IMPORTANCE THAN THE DISCOVERY OF PHYSIOLOGICAL FACTS. "If the knowledge of physiology has been somewhat increased, he surely buys knowledge dear who learns the use of the lacteals at the expense of his own humanity." Is there a physiological defenders of vivisection-freedom living to-day who would accept Dr. Johnson's conclusion, that one should forbear research which is possible only by the infliction of animal torment? How unfair it is, therefore, to suggest that the force of Dr. Johnson's argument is invalidated because anaesthetics were unknown—when the disagreement is infinitely deeper!

To what physiologists of his time did Dr. Johnson allude? Apparently his denunciation was sweeping; he referred to "a race of wretches" rather than to any particular individual, and to experiments then carried on and "published every day with ostentation." Who were the men thus stigmatized? We do not know. The record of their useless tormenting has sunk into the oblivion that hides their names; there are but one or two whose identity may perhaps be guessed. It is possible that one of them was John Hunter; yet Hunter did not go up to London until 1764, and Dr. Johnson's condemnation had appeared three years earlier. Still, this does not preclude the possibility that Dr. Johnson had Hunter in his mind.

In some ways John Hunter was a remarkable man. He made an anatomical collection, which is still in existence and which bears his name. At Earl's Court, then a suburb of London, he established a sort of zoological Inferno, that reminds one of the "Island of Dr. Moreau." One of his biographers, Ottley, tells us that Hunger "TOOK SUPREME DELIGHT" in his physiological experiments; and inasmuch as he suggested in a letter to a friend the performance of the most agonizing experiments as likely to "amuse" him, the statement was undoubtedly true. A man's occupation generally has an influence upon his character, and Hunter's biographer rather hesitatingly admits that "he was not always very nice in his choice of associates," and that among his companions were certain abominable wretches known as "resurrection men," who robbed graveyards for the benefit of students of anatomy. Under all circumstances, we can hardly be surprised that his married life was anything but serene.

In the infliction of pain he seems to have been without any idea of pity. To a friend who asked for his experience in a certain matter, he wrote:

"I thank you for your experiment on the hedgehog; but WHY DO YOU ASK ME A QUESTION, by the way of solving it? I think your solution is just, but why—WHY NOT TRY THE EXPERIMENT? Repeat all the experiments upon a hedgehog as soon as you receive this, and they will give you the solution. TRY THE HEAT. CUT OFF A LEG...and let me know the result of the whole. "Ever yours, "JOHN HUNTER."

Even his own word, or the result of his own observations, he did not wish to have accepted, when, merely at the cost of another tortured animal, his friend could find the answer for himself. Is not this the physiological ideal of to-day?

Again he writes to his scientific friend:

"If you could make some experiments on the increased heat of inflammation, I should be obliged to you.... I opened the thorax of a dog between two ribs, and introduced the thermometer. Then I put some lint into the wound to keep it from healing by the first intention, THAT THE THORAX MIGHT INFLAME; but before I had time to try it again, my dog died on the fourth day. A deep wound might be made into the thick of a dog's thigh, then put in the thermometer and some extraneous matter.... IF THESE EXPERIMENTS WILL AMUSE YOU, I should be glad they were made; but take care you do not break your thermometer in the dog's chest."[1]

[1] Barron's "Life of Jenner," i. 44.

"IF THESE EXPERIMENTS WILL AMUSE YOU"—what a suggestive confirmation of Dr. Johnson's charge that the torture of vivisection was then regarded as an "amusement"! A century after, an Italian physiologist, Mantegazza, devoted a year to the infliction of extreme torment upon animals, and confessed that his tortures were inflicted, not with hesitation or repugnance, but "CON MULTO AMORE," with extreme delight.[2]

[2] "Fisiolgia del Dolore di Paulo Mantegazza," pp. 101-107.

Hunter does not seem to have regarded his own experiments other than as an intellectual pastime. Mr. Stephen Paget, in his work on "Animal Experimentation," refers to "one great experiment...that puts him [Hunter] on a line with Harvey"—an experiment upon a deer in Richmond Park. There is no reason for doubting that such an experiment may have been made; but the curious thing is, that it rests only on verbal tradition, for in his surgical lectures treating of aneurism Hunter has not a word to say of the experiment which now, we are told, "links his name with that of Harvey," who made known the circulation of the blood. His biographer, Ottley, referring to his surgical operation for aneurism, tell us that "he was led to propose the improved method, in consequence of the frequent failure of the operation by the old mode." No reference whatever is made to the legendary experiment on the stag in Richmond Park.[1]

[1] Ottley's "Life of Hunter," p. 97.

Of other experiments by Hunter we know more. Sometimes his observations were of a character that illustrates his environment. In his "Observations" Hunter tells us that at one time, on going to bed at night, he "observed bugs, marching down the curtains and head of the bed; of those killed, NONE had blood in them." In the morning "I have observed them marching back, and all such were found FULL OF BLOOD!"[2] A wonderful discovery for a philosopher to record, leaving unmentioned the one experiment and observation by which his fame is to be linked with that of Harvey!

[2] Letter to Ottley, "Life," p. 89.

Hunter had erroneous views on various matters of science. He believed that there was "no such thing as a primary colour, every colour being a mixture of two, making a third." He tells us that he once formed a theory that if a human being were completely frozen, "life might be prolonged a thousand years, he might learn what had happened during his frozen condition."[3] His biographer, Ottley, alludes to this theory of Hunter's as "a project which, if realized, he expected would make his fortune."[4] With this not altogether admirable object in view, his experiments upon freezing animals were doubtless made. A dormouse, confined in a cold mixture, he tells us, "showed signs of great uneasiness; sometimes it would curl itself into round form to preserve its extremities and confine the heat, and finding that ineffectual, would then endeavor to escape." Its feet were at last frozen, but Hunter could not freeze the entire animal because of the protection afforded by the hair. How should the scientist overcome this difficulty? He pondered over the problem; then made a dormouse completely wet over, and placed it in the freezing-mixture. The wretched animal "made repeated attempts to escape," but without avail, and finally became quote stiff. Alas, for the grand "fortune"! Hunter tells us that "on being thawed, it was found quite dead!"[1]

[3] "Lectures," i. 284. [4] Ottley's "Life of Hunter," p. 57. [1] Hunter's Works, vol. iv., p. 133.

The influence of Hunter upon English biology was undoubtedly very great. In a mean and sordid society, he was an enthusiast for the acquisition of knowledge, and while his passion for physiology induced—as it so often does—an indifference regarding the infliction of pain, his pitiless vivisections were not more cruel than experiments made in this twentieth century, and some of them by men of national reputation. He was the type of the class of experimenters whom Dr. Johnson had in his mind, men whose long practice in the infliction of torment creates an indifference to the ordinary emotions of humanity, so that even in the causation of agony they find something "to amuse," and in the performance of the most painful vivisection an occasion for "supreme delight."



It may be doubted whether any physiologist has ever lived whose cruelty to animals exceeded that which, for a long period, was exercised by Franc,ois Magendie. Born at Bordeaux, France, in 1783, just before the beginning of the French Revolution, he studied medicine, receiving his medical degree in the year 1808. Entering with some zest upon the study of physiology, he published several pamphlets regarding his investigations, and rapidly earned that notoriety—which for some natures is the equivalent of fame—for the peculiar and refined torments which, in public demonstrations, he took frequent occasion to inflict. In 1821 he was elected a member of the Institute; in 1831 he had become a professor in the College de France, a position he held for the remainder of his life. He died in 1855.

One of the earliest exposures of Magendie's infamous vivisections was made in the British Parliament. On February 24, 1825, Mr. Richard Martin of Galway, an Irish Member of the House of Commons, moved to bring in a Bill for the repression of bear-baiting and other forms of cruelty to animals. His name is worth remembering, for to this Richard Martin belongs the honour of being one of the first men in any land who attempted to secure some repression of cruelty to animals through the condemnation of the law. During his speech on this occasion Mr. Martin said:

"It was not merely bear-baiting and sports of a similar character that he wished to abolish; there were other practices, equally cruel, with which he thought the legislature ought to interfere. There was a Frenchman by the name of Magendie, whom he considered a disgrace to Society. In the course of the last year this man, at one of his anatomical theatres, exhibited a series of experiments so atrocious as almost to shock belief. This M. Magendie got a lady's greyhound. First of all he nailed its front, and then its hind, paws with the bluntest spikes that he could find, giving as reason that the poor beast, in its agony, might tear away from the spikes if they were at all sharp or cutting. He then doubled up its long ears, and nailed them down with similar spikes. (Cries of 'Shame!') He then made a gash down the middle of the face, and proceeded to dissect all the nerves on one side of it.... After he had finished these operations, this surgical butcher then turned to the spectators, and said: 'I have now finished my operations on one side of this dog's head, and I shall reserve the other side till to-morrow. If the servant takes care of him for the night, I am of the opinion that I shall be able to continue my operations upon him to-morrow with as much satisfaction to us all as I have done to-day; but if not, ALTHOUGH HE MAY HAVE LOST THE VIVACITY HE HAS SHOWN TO-DAY, I shall have the opportunity of cutting him up alive, and showing you the motion of the heart.' Mr. Martin added that he held in his hands the written declarations of Mr. Abernethy, of Sir Everard Home (and of other distinguished medical men), all uniting in condemnation of such excessive and protracted cruelty as had been practised by this Frenchman."[1]

[1] Hansard's Parliamentary Reports, February 24, 1825.

Within the past forty years has the cruelty of Magendie been condemned by any English or American physiologist? I have never seen it.

The objection is sometimes raised that evidence like this of Magendie's cruelty is only "hearsay." Is not this generally the case where inhumanity is concerned? When Wilberforce described the atrocities of the African slave trade, or Shaftesbury the conditions pertaining to children in coal-mines and cotton mills, their statements were equally questioned; yet, when reform had been accomplished, nobody doubted that, although they had not personally witnessed the cruelties, they had reported only the facts. Now, one peculiarity of Magendie's vivisections WAS THEIR PUBLICITY. There was no attempt at concealment, such as governs the practice in England and America to-day. Magendie's experiments were publicly made, seemingly with a desire to parade his contempt for any sentiment of compassion towards animals. The evidence of Magendie's cruelty is supported by an overwhelming amount of evidence, and to Mr. Martin's account of his vivisections, none of Magendie's English friends or apologists ever ventured to reply in the public journals of the day.

An English physician, Dr. John Anthony, a pupil of Sir Charles Bell and a strong advocate of vivisection, has given us a little account of his personal experience in 1838, while a student of medicine in Paris. The English members of his class, he says, "were indignant at the CRUELTIES which we saw manifested IN THE DEMONSTRATION OF EXPERIMENTS ON LIVING CREATURES.... What I saw in Paris pointed to this: that very frequently men who are in the habit of making these experiments are very careless of what becomes of the animal when it has served its purpose; ... the animal is thrown (aside) to creep into a corner and die.... I have carefully avoided seeing experiments in vivisection after the awful dose which I had of it in Paris, in 1838. THE MEN THERE SEEMED TO CARE NO MORE FOR THE PAIN OF THE CREATURE BEING OPERATED UPON THAN IF IT WERE SO MUCH INORGANIC MATTER."[1]

[1] Vivisection Report, 1876, Questions 2,347, 2,447, 2,582.

Another witness of Magendie's cruelty was Dr. William Sharpey, LL.D., Fellow of the Royal Society, and for more than thirty years the professor of physiology in University College, London. It is a curious fact that the "Handbook of the Physiological Laboratory," which, when published in 1871, increased the agitation against vivisection, was dedicated to Professor Sharpey. Before the Royal Commission on Vivisection, in 1876, he gave the following account of his personal experience:

"When I was a very young man, studying in Paris, I went to the first of a series of lectures which Magendie gave upon experimental physiology; and I was so utterly repelled by what I witnessed that I never went again. In the first place, they were painful (in those days there were no anaesthetics), and sometimes they were severe; and then THEY WERE WITHOUT SUFFICIENT OBJECT. For example, Magendie made incisions into the skin of rabbits and other creatures TO SHOW THAT THE SKIN IS SENSITIVE! Surely all the world knows the skin is sensitive; no experiment is wanted to prove that. Several experiments he made were of a similar character, AND HE PUT THE ANIMALS TO DEATH, FINALLY, IN A VERY PAINFUL WAY.... Some of his experiments excited a strong feeling of abhorrence, not in the public merely, but among physiologists. There was his—I was going to say 'famous' experiment; it might rather have been called 'INFAMOUS' experiment upon vomiting .... Besides its atrocity, it was really purposeless."[2]

[2] Evidence before Royal Commission, 1875, Questions 444, 474.

Of Magendie's cruelty we have thus the evidence of the best-known English physiologist of his day. Even by his own countrymen Magendie's pitilessness was denounced. Dr. Latour, the founder and editor of the leading medical journal of France—L'Union Me'dicale— has given us an incident which occurred in his presence, translations of which appeared in the editorial columns of the London Lancet and the British Medical Journal, August 22, 1863.

"I recall to mind a poor dog, the roots of whose vertebral nerves Magendie desired to lay bare to demonstrate Bell's theory, which he claimed as his own. The dog, already mutilated and bleeding, twice escaped from under the implacable knife, and threw his forepaws around Magendie's neck, licking, as if to soften his murderer and ask for mercy! Vivisectors may laugh, but I confess I was unable to endure that heartrending spectacle."[1]

[1] The London Lancet, August 22, 1863.

The proof of Magendie's ferocious cruelty to his victims seems overwhelming. "In France," says Dr. George Wilson, "some of the most eminent physiologists have gained an unenviable notoriety as PITILESS TORTURERS, ... experimenters who would not take the trouble to put out of pain the wretched dogs on which they experimented, even after they had served their purpose, but left them to perish of lingering torture .... It is pleasing to contrast the merciless horrors enacted by Magendie"—with the reluctance manifested by Sir Charles Bell.[2] Dr. Elliotson, in his work on Human Physiology, states that "Magendie cut living animals here and there, with no definite object BUT TO SEE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN."[3] In a sermon on cruelty to animals, preached at Edinburgh, March 5, 1826, by the Rev. Dr. Chalmers, the speaker especially alludes to "THE ATROCITIES OF A MAGENDIE," then recently made known in England. The President of the Royal College of Surgeons, Sir James Paget, once testified that Magendie "disgusted people very much BY SHOWING CONTEMPT FOR THE PAIN OF ANIMALS."[1] The great scientist, Charles Darwin, in a letter to the London Times, made reference to Magendie as a physiologist "NOTORIOUS, half a century ago, FOR HIS CRUEL EXPERIMENTS." "It is not to be denied that inhumanity may be found in persons of very high position as physiologists. WE HAVE SEEN THAT IT WAS SO IN MAGENDIE." This is the language of the final report of the Commission, to which was affixed the name of Professor Thomas Henry Huxley, the most brilliant scientific writer of the last century.

[2] Wilson's "Life of Reid," p. 165. [3] "Human Physiology," p. 428. [1] Evidence before Royal Commission, 1875, Question 371.

Magendie left us a singularly truthful estimate of his own character and of his scientific accomplishments when he declared himself to be simply "a street scavenger (un chiffonier) of science. With my hook in my hand and my basket on my back, I ramble about the streets of science and gather up whatever I can find." The comparison was singular, but it was apt; he was, indeed, the ragpicker of physiology. With a scavenger's sense of honour he endeavored to rob Sir Charles Bell of the credit for his discovery concerning the functions of the spinal nerves, by a prodigality of torment, from which the nobler nature of the English scientist instinctively recoiled. When there came to him an opportunity of experimenting on man, he embraced it with avidity, and again and again, while operating for cataract, plunged his needle to the bottom of the patient's eye, that he might learn the effect of mechanical irritation of the delicate organ of sight.[1] Some rags and tatters of physiology he bought—at the price of immeasurable torment—and held them up for the admiration of his contemporaries; but in the great conflict with disease and death it may be questioned whether he added a single fact that has increased the potency of medical art, the length of human life, or the sum of human happiness.

[1] Magendie naturally had no hesitancy in telling of these experiments made upon his patients "at the clinique of my hospital." See his "Elementary Treatise on Physiology" (translated by Dr. John Revere). New York, 1844, p. 64.

Such was Franc,ois Magendie, physiologist and torturer, judged by scientific men and physiologists of a higher race, to whom compassion was not unknown. For undisguised contempt of pity, for delight in cruelty, for the infliction of refined and ingenious torment, he may have been equally by some who followed and imitated him, but certainly he was never surpassed.

Another distinguished French chiffonier in the slum-districts of scientific exploration was Dr. L. J. Brachet, a contemporary of Magendie. In his day he was a man of extended reputation as a vivisector of animals. His principal work is entitled: "Recherches Expe'rimentales de Syste'me Nerveux...par J. L. Brachet, Membre de l'Acade'mie Royale de Me'decine" and member of similar academies at Berlin, Copenhagen, and elsewhere; member of various medical societies of Paris, Lyons, Bordeaux, and Marseilles—the title-page of his book records his fame. It will be of interest to study the character of the experimentation, recorded by himself, upon which rests his eminence as a scientific man.

His first great "discovery" unfortunately has not yet been accorded scientific acceptance. "It is little," he says, "to have proven the existence of sensibility in animals; I have proven that sensation pertains not merely to animals, but that it also is the property of vegetables—in a word, OF EVERYTHING THAT LIVES. Everywhere it acts in the same manner, through the nerves. The entire vegetable kingdom possesses the sense of feeling" (tous les vegetaux possedent la faculte de sentier).[1]

[1] "Recherches," etc., p. 13.

Had Brachet confined himself solely to experiments on the sensibility of plants, we should have little to criticize. Unfortunately, however, his scientific tastes led him in another direction. He belonged to a class of men who cannot permit the most apparent fact to be taken for granted, when, at the cost of torment, it may be demonstrated—men like Magendie, who insisted on proving to his students that an animal could really feel pain by stabbing it with his knife before commencing his experiment. Brachet's problem was a simple one. We all know, for instance, that an animal—a dog—may feel an intense dislike to some particular person. Why? Because of impressions conveyed to the brain of the animal by the senses of sight and hearing. Outside an asylum for idiots, it is probable that no one ever questioned the fact. Brachet, however, would not permit his readers to accept any statement merely upon the general experience of mankind, when it might be proven scientifically, and he has described in his book the experiments by which he claims to have demonstrated his theory.

"EXPERIMENT 162.—I inspired a dog with the strongest possible hatred for me by teasing it and inflicting upon it some pain every time I saw it. When this feeling had reached its height, so that the animal became furious whenever it saw or heard me, I put out its eyes [je lui fis crever les yeux]. I could then appear before it without its manifesting any aversion. I spoke, and immediately its barkings and furious movements permitted no doubt of the rage which animated it.

"I then destroyed the drum of the ears, and disorganized as much as I could of the inner ear. When the intense inflammation thus excited had rendered it almost deaf, I filled its ears with wax, and it could hear me no longer. Then I could stand by its side, speak to it in a loud voice, and even caress it, without awakening its anger; indeed, it appeared sensible of my caresses! There is no need to describe another experiment of the same kind, made upon another dog, since the results were the same."

By this great experiment, what valuable knowledge was conveyed? Simply that a dog, deprived of sight and hearing, will not manifest antipathy to a man it can neither see nor hear!

A true vivisector is never at a loss to invent excuse or occasion for an experiment. Dr. Brachet had made it clear that a dog will not manifest antipathy toward an enemy whose presence it cannot perceive; but suppose such a mutilated creature, in its darkness and silence, were subjected to some sharp and continuous physical pain, what then would happen? He proceeded to ascertain:

"EXPERIMENT 163.—I began the experiment on another dog by putting out its eyes [par crever les yeux], and breaking up the internal ears. Ten days later, THE SUFFERING OF THE ANIMAL HAVING APPARENTLY CEASED, after assuring myself that it could no longer see nor hear, I made a sore in the middle of its back. EVERY MOMENT I IRRITATED THIS WOULD BY PICKING IT WITH A NEEDLE [a chaque instant j'irritai sa plaie en la piquant avec un aiguillon]. At first the dog did nothing but yelp and try to escape, but the impossibility of this FORCED HIM UNCEASINGLY TO RECEIVE EXCRUCIATING PAIN; and finally the dog passed into a state of frenzy so violent, that at last it could be induced by touching any part of its body.... The dog had no reason of hatred against any individual; ... both sight and hearing had been destroyed; and many persons the animal had never seen, provoked its rage by irritating the wound."

Of such an abominable experiment, however scientific it may appear, it is difficult to speak with restraint. To the average man or woman it will probably seem that nothing more fiendish or cruel can be found anywhere in the dark records of animal experimentation. Dr. Brachet was no obscure or unexperienced vivisector. At one time he was the professor of physiology in a medical school; he was a member of many learned societies at home and abroad. But think of an educated man procuring a little dog and deliberately putting out its eyes; then breaking up the internal ear, so that for many days the animal must have endured excruciating anguish from the inflammation thus induced; next, when the pain had somewhat subsided, creating a sore on the back by removal of the skin; and then, after comfortably seating himself in his physiological laboratory by the side of his victim, scientifically picking, and piercing, and pricking the wound, without respite— constantly, without ceasing—until the blinded and deafened and tortured creature is driven into frenzy by torments which it felt continually, which it could not comprehend, and from which, by no exertion, it was able to defend itself! Think of the scientist asking many other learned men to join him from time to time in the experiment, and to take part in picking at the wound, in tormenting the mutilated and blinded victim, and in driving it again and again to the madness of despair! Does anyone say that such an experiment could not be made to-day? In one of the largest laboratories of America, and within ten years, an experiment equally cruel, equally useless, has been performed. The modern defender of unrestricted vivisection distinctly insists that no legal impediment should hinder the performance of any investigation desired by any experimenter. It was the editor of the British Medical Journal who once declared that "whoever has not seen an animal under experiment CANNOT FORM AN IDEA OF THE HABITUAL PRACTICES OF THE VIVISECTORS."[1] This accords with the statement of Dr. Henry J. Bigelow, for forty years connected with Harvard Medical School, that, aside from motives, painful vivisection differed mainly from other phases of cruelty "in being practised by an educated class, who, having once become callous to its objectionable features, find the pursuit an interesting occupation, under the name of Science."

[1] British Medical Journal, September 19, 1863 (leading editorial)

And this was the case of Brachet. HE HAD BECOME CALLOUS. He found torment "an interesting occupation, under the name of Science." May there not be others in our day to whom the same criticism is only too applicable?

One of the English critics of the abuses of vivisection a century ago was Dr. John Abernethy of London, a Lecturer on Physiology at the Royal College of Surgeons, the founder of the medical school attached to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and the most distinguished surgeon in Great Britain during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Abernethy was by no means an antivivisectionist; he insisted upon the utility of certain demonstrations, but he was profoundly opposed to those cruelties of research which, in our day, by the modern school of physiologists, are either forgotten or condoned. curiously enough, one of his strongest utterances against such cruelty was made in one of his lectures on physiology. Therein he said:

"There is one point I feel it a duty to advert to. Mr. Hunter, whom I should not have believed to have been very scrupulous about inflicting suffering upon animals, nevertheless censures Spallanzani for the unmeaning repetition of similar experiments. Having resolved publicly to express my own opinions with regard to the subject, I choose the present opportunity, BECAUSE I BELIEVE SPALLANZANI TO HAVE BEEN ONE OF THOSE WHO HAVE TORTURED AND DESTROYED ANIMALS IN VAIN. I do not perceive that in the two principal subjects which he has sought to elucidate he has added any important fact to our stock of knowledge; and, besides, some of his experiments are of a nature that a good man would blush to think of, and a wise man would have been ashamed to publish."[1]

[1] "Physiological Lectures," London, 1817, p. 164.

This is a unique expression. One may be absolutely certain that no professor of physiology during the past forty years has thus openly condemned in a physiology lecture any of his contemporaries for the cruelty of their experiments.

In his Life of Abernethy, his biographer, Dr. Macilwain, refers to experiments upon living animals, "WHICH ARE SO REVOLTING FROM THEIR CRUELTY, that the mind recoils from the contemplation of them." This, too, is a noteworthy utterance, coming from one who was a distinguished London surgeon and a Fellow of the Royal Society. In a subsequent work entitled "Remarks on Vivisection," published some seventeen years before the date ascribed by Professor Bowditch as that marking the beginning of criticism, he refers again to the views of Abernethy:

"As for experiments on living animals involving suffering, Mr. Abernethy disapproved of them, and seldom alluded to them but in terms of distrust, derision, or disgust."

That the criticism of experimental cruelty did not begin in 1864, as imagined by Professor Bowditch, the quotations here given sufficiently demonstrate.

Beyond this demonstration, does the history of these savage tormentors have any lesson for us to-day? They belonged to another century. Should they not be forgiven, and their experiments condoned? Why not confine attention solely to the laboratory of to-day? Why blame Brachet and Magendie and Spallanzani, to whom anaesthesia was unknown?

There is a false suggestion in this protest, which, in one form or another, we hear often to-day. It is the gratuitous assumption put forth in defence, that if anaesthetics had only been known to physiologists before 1846, they would invariably have been used. Any such suggestion is manifestly false. If these experiments of Brachet and of others to be mentioned were to be made at all, it was necessary that the animal should be conscious of the agony it experienced. In the most complete laboratory for vivisection of the present time—in the Rockefeller Institute, for example—no scientist could drive a dog INTO A FRENZY while it lies absolutely unconscious under the influence of chloroform! We may say this of the experiments of Magendie on the nervous system, for aside from the preliminary cutting operation, such experiments demanded the consciousness of the victim. That which humanity has a right to censure in these physiologists is the spirit of absolute indifference to animal suffering, the willingness to subject a living creature to agony without adequate reason for the infliction of pain. The discovery of chloroform or ether made no change in human nature. Some of the worst of vivisections have been made, not merely since anaesthetics were discovered, but within the present century. Over twenty-five years after the properties of ether had been discovered, the most prominent vivisector in England told the Royal Commission that, except for teaching purposes, "I never use anaesthetics where it is not necessary for convenience, " and that an experimenter "HAD NO TIME, SO TO SPEAK, FOR THINKING WHAT THE ANIMAL WILL FEEL OR SUFFER."[1]

[1] Evidence before Royal Commission, 1875, Questions 3,538, 3540.

Unrestricted vivisection is the same to-day as a century ago. In many cases its operations involve little or no pain; in many cases there seems to be the same absolute indifference to the agony inflicted that was manifested by the vivisectors of a hundred years since. Where the law does not interfere, EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE. Whether there is cruelty or consideration depends on the spirit of the vivisector. It was no ignorant layman, but the president of the American Academy of Medicine, who, in his annual address, declared that there were American vivisectors who "seem, seeking useless knowledge, to be blind to the writhing agony and deaf to the cry of pain of their victims, AND WHO HAVE BEEN GUILTY OF THE MOST DAMNABLE CRUELTIES, without the denunciation of the public and the profession that their wickedness deserves."[1] And that vivisector of to-day, who suggests that if anaesthetics had been known to Magendie or Brachet, they would invariably have been used, is either ignorant or insincere. Surely he must know that the very nature of their experiments precluded the use of ether, and that in their time, as to-day, if the experiment were to be tried at all, it was necessary that the pain be felt.

[1] Address before American Academy of Medicine at Washington, D.C., May 4, 1891, by Theophilus Parvin, M.D., LL.D., professor in Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia, Pa.

There are other reasons why we should not permit the past to be forgotten. We are confronted by the challenge of the laboratory. Behind the locked and barred doors of the vivisection chamber, to which no man can gain admission unless known to be friendly to its practices, the vivisector of to-day challenges society to prove the existence of cruelty or abuse. The vivisector demands absolute freedom of action, he demands the most complete privacy, he demands total independence of all legal supervision—and then challenges the production of proof that any criticism is justified! Within the sacred precincts of the laboratory a Brachet, a Magendie, a Claude Be'rnard may be experimenting to-day with a profusion of victims, protected by their seclusion from every possibility of complaint. For in what respect does the spirit that animates research to-day differ from that manifested by experimenters of the past? In all the literature of advocacy for unrestricted vivisection can one point out a word of criticism of Magendie or Brachet or Be'rnard, or anything but expressions of exculpation, of admiration, and of praise? An English writer on animal experimentation, Mr. Stephen Paget, had occasion, in a recent work, to refer to the experimentation of both Magendie and Sir Charles Bell. Does he criticize or condemn Magendie's cruelty? No. He tells us, incidentally, that Bell always had "a great dislike to the school of Magendie," adding, with indifference, "LET ALL THAT PASS." These words aptly express the sentiment and the wish. Gladly, indeed, would the physiological laboratory hide the past from the memory of mankind; I do not believe in acceding to that desire. When the leading physiologist of his day, addressing an audience of physicians, refers to an early criticism of physiological cruelty as a collection of "blood-curdling stories," there is desire not to investigate, but to ridicule and discredit historic facts. When men of science put forth what they claim to be, "a plain statement of the whole truth," without one word of reference to the abuses of the past, they practically throw dust in the air to hide the truth from the public eye. That it may have been done ignorantly and without any wish to deceive is not sufficient to earn exculpation, for in either case the evil is accomplished.

Of one English physiologist of that period, Sir Charles Bell, it is impossible to speak except in terms of admiration and esteem. Born in 1774, his long and useful life terminated in 1842, four years before the discovery of anaesthesia. No one can read his correspondence with his brother, published many years after his death, without recognizing the innate beauty and nobility of his character. When news of the Battle of Waterloo reached England, he—the leading surgeon of his day—started for the battlefield. The story of his experience is one of the most graphic pictures of the effects of war to be found in modern literature. It was Sir Charles Bell who made to physiology the greatest contribution which had come to it since the discovery by Harvey of the circulation of the blood, and yet this discovery was made by reasoning upon the facts of anatomy rather than by experimenting upon animals. An English physiologist, Sir Michael Foster, admits this:

"To Charles Bell is due the merit of having made the fundamental discovery of the distinction between motor and sensory fibres. Led to this view by reflecting on the distribution of the nerves, he experimentally verified his conclusions...."

In his lectures on the nervous system Bell himself states that his discoveries, so far from being the result of vivisections, were, "on the contrary, deductions from anatomy; and I have had recourse to experiments, not to form my own opinions, but to impress them upon others."

That which determines the judgment of the world upon human actions is the spirit that animates them. Sir Charles Bell was not an antivivisectionist. When experiments on animals seemed to him absolutely indispensable, he had recourse to them, but always with repugnance, and with desire to avoid giving of pain. In his lectures on the nervous system he speaks thus of some of his work:

"After delaying long on account of the unpleasant nature of the operation, I opened the spinal canal.... I was deterred from repeating the experiment by the protracted cruelty of the dissection. I reflected that the experiment would be satisfactory if done on an animal recently knocked down and insensible."

And on another occasion, writing to his brother, he says:

"I should be writing a third paper on the nerves; but I cannot proceed without making some experiments, which are so unpleasant to make that I defer them. You may think me silly, but I cannot perfectly convince myself that I am authorized in Nature or Religion to do these cruelties .... And yet what are my experiments in comparison with those which are daily done, and are done daily for nothing?"

Such extreme sensibility, such sympathetic hesitancy to inflict great suffering in an attempt to discover some fact, would be ridiculed at the present day in every laboratory in Europe or America. It is typical, however, of a sentiment that once prevailed. Are we any better because it has so largely disappeared?

For great cruelty was there ever great remorse? The cases are not many; before the self-condemnation of a dying man and the final scene, friendship may feel it best to draw the veil. Yet one case of this poignant regret is worthy consideration, and shall have relation.



About the middle of the last century there died in Scotland in the prime of life a physiologist, now almost forgotten, whose fate excited at the time an unusual degree of compassionate interest. Born in 1809, John Reid received his medical degree when but twenty-one years of age. A part of the two years following he spent in Paris, where Magendie was at the height of his notoriety for the ruthless cruelty of his vivisections. What attracted the young man we do not know, but Reid seems to have become greatly interested in physiological problems. Returning to Scotland, he pursued his investigations with all the zeal of youth, and apparently with little or no regard for the animal suffering he caused. For instance, of experiments which he made to prove a certain theory, he tells us:

"I have exposed the trunk of the par vagum in the neck of at least thirty animals, and in all of these the pinching, cutting, and even stretching of the nerve WERE ATTENDED BY INDICATIONS OF SEVERE SUFFERING. It was frequently difficult to separate the nerve from the artery ON ACCOUNT OF THE VIOLENT STRUGGLES OF THE ANIMAL."[1]

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