Изображения страниц

leaders of the medical profession in this country; some of the best-known writers on biology and physiology, such as Mr. Darwin, Mr. George Henry Lewes, and Dr. Carpenter; most of those who were known to practice vivisection; the Secretaries of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Society for the Abolition of Vivisection, together with a number of delegates from these societies, and several well-known veterinary surgeons. The Royal Commissioners presented their Report in January, 1876. They pointed out that the whole subject of experiments on animals had been relieved of the greater part of its difficulty by the discovery of anæsthetics, and that all British physiologists accepted the principle that painful operations should invariably be made under chloroform, except in the rare instances where the anesthetic would defeat the object of the experiment. There was no reason to believe that there was any indifference to suffering, either among physiologists or students. Their conclusion was that it was neither possible nor reasonable altogether to prevent vivisection; that the greatest mitigations of human suffering had been in part derived from such experiments; but that they should only be performed by properly licensed persons, and under regulations which should insure that as little suffering as possible should be inflicted.

Shortly after this Report was issued, the Government brought in a Bill to regulate the performance of painful experiments on animals, which became law on August 15th, 1876, and is still in force. It prohibits, under heavy penalties, any pain-giving experiment on a living vertebrate animal by any person who is not licensed by the Home Secretary, or, in Ireland, by the Chief Secretary. Anæsthetics must be used throughout the experiment, and if subsequent pain be anticipated, the animal must be killed before recovery from the anæsthetic; but these latter restrictions may be

relaxed for any licensee by the Home Secretary if he think fit. Other clauses relate to experiments used for purposes of instruction, and to the appointment of Inspectors.

This measure, though going further than the recommendations of the Royal Commissioners in the stringency of its regulations, was accepted with good grace by physiologists and by the medical press, which advocated loyal adherence to its regulations on the part of investigators, and deprecated further agitation on the subject. This advice, however, did not meet the views of the promoters of the anti-vivisectionist movement, ment, who professed themselves entirely dissatisfied with the Government measure, and soon recommenced agitation more actively than ever.

It is very important that an enlightened public opinion should be formed on this important question; that calm judgment, founded upon adequate knowledge, should take the place of vague impressions or of unreasoning prejudice. I therefore venture to submit to your consideration the following facts and arguments in regard to the justifiability of experiments on lower animals, restricted within certain. limits, for the advancement of scientific knowledge, and for the benefit of mankind and of other animals.



(1) In the first place, I would observe that the subordination of the interests and lives of the lower animals to those of man is not only a principle which is universally acted upon, but is an actual necessity for the continuance of human society. By the struggle for existence, as Mr. Darwin tells us, man has attained his supremacy over all other forms of animal life, and he can only maintain that supremacy by the constant sacrifice of the lives of other animals.

If man refrained from destroying carnivorous animals, they would soon destroy him. If he were to leave off feeding

on herbiverous animals, they would soon monopolise all the vegetable food, and he would have to starve. The results of protecting instead of exterminating the various forms of lower life which infest our homes by day and by night can be imagined better than described.

But it is not merely the destruction of dangerous or annoying creatures, and the slaying of animals for food, that are sanctioned by the universal practice of mankind. Men have always acted as if they had a perfect right to make any use they could of lower animals, for their own pleasure or advantage; and the principle that as little suffering as possible should be inflicted in thus using them has been very little recognised. No doubt, as civilisation advances, this latter principle becomes more generally accepted, and various painful uses to which animals have been subjected gradually die out. The public conscience becomes quickened, and demands that, at all events in the case of a few selected animals, severe pain shall not be inflicted on them without something like adequate cause. Now, the contention of physiologists is that the employment of animals for experimental purposes is not only in accordance with this generally recognised subjection of their lives and interests to those of mankind, but that such employment of them entails less suffering, and is at the same time more beneficial than many of the other uses to which animals are constantly put, and is therefore more justifiable.

I will give a few illustrations of the many ways in which animals are or have been used by men for their pleasure or advantage. In days of yore countless animals were slain in order to attract the favour or to avert the wrath of the divinities. The employment of the muscular power of animals for man's purposes, and the use of their bodies for food and in other ways, are almost universal, and at the same time much needless suffering is constantly inflicted. Various painful

mutilations of several kinds of domestic animals are performed in hundreds of instances every day in this country, merely to suit the convenience or the fancy of their owners, or to increase their pecuniary value. The destruction of many kinds of animals as pests has always and rightly been considered perfectly justifiable, but the methods used to this day are often extremely cruel, such as the administration of slow and painful poisons, and the leaving of the animals to starve in gins and traps. I was told the other day by a physiologist of my acquaintance, that he was visiting a lady in the country who was a very strong anti-vivisectionist, and who lost no time in impressing her views upon her guest. Taking him for a stroll through her gardens, they soon came upon an unhappy rat which had been caught by its nose and one of its legs in a spring gin, a horrid instrument armed with teeth, in which it had probably hung for some hours and died of sheer pain. The lady remarked that she was obliged to have a number of these gins about the place, and that sometimes rabbits, cats, and poultry, as well as rats, were caught by them; but she could not be brought to see that a truly humane person, if compelled to destroy animal life, would do it by the most painless methods possible, instead of by using such horrible instruments of torture. For in fact it is simply necessary to brand any class of animals, however highly organised and sensitive to pain, with the name of vermin, and that is considered quite sufficient excuse for putting them out of the pale of consideration.

But it is in the infliction of suffering on animals for pure amusement that the claim of mankind to make use of the lower creation for his own ends is most conspicuously displayed; and a great deal has been written about the inconsistency of persecuting the scientific experimenter for his alleged cruelty, when all kinds of cruel sports are freely indulged in without reproach. I must confess, however, that

[ocr errors]

this argument has never appeared to me to have much weight. The pathetic pictures which have been so often and so truly drawn about the sufferings of countless grouse, partridges, and other game, maimed by the clumsy shots of cockney sportsmen, with just strength enough left to escape capture, but who must afterwards perish miserably from their wounds or from starvation; the injuries inflicted on horses in steeple-chasing; the torture endured by the hare in coursing, with the hounds close on her heels, straining to tear her to pieces, in spite of Miss Cobbe's contention that the hunted animal is as indifferent to pain as is the soldier in the excitement of battle; the feelings of the fox from the moment he is unearthed until he is dispatched in the presence of those ladies and gentlemen who are fortunate enough to be "in at the death;" all these things seem to me to be very good reasons for inquiring whether the pains inflicted by sportsmen are justified by the advantages gained in the way of healthy exercise and pleasurable excitement; just as has already been done in the case of bear-baiting and cock-fighting, and as must surely soon be done in the case of that contemptible amusement called pigeon-shooting. But I cannot see that they afford any reason why persons who think it better to begin by attacking vivisection should be precluded from doing so until all these pain-giving sports are done away with. Cruelty by one set of people is no excuse for cruelty by another set of people; and it is no justification of physiologists, if they are cruel, that farmers, and poulterers, and rat-catchers, and angling bishops, and country gentlemen, and benevolent ladies, are all cruel in various ways, or even that they are more cruel than physiologists themselves.

While the necessities of human life demand that the life and interests of lower animals shall be held subordinate to those of man, at the same time the enlightened conscience of mankind is demanding more and more distinctly that


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »