Vivisection Part 3

The cause of abolition has no more earnest and eloquent advocate than Miss Frances Power Cobbe of England. Through innumerable controversies with scientific men in the public journals, magazines and reviews, she has presented in awful array, the abuses of unlimited and uncontrolled experimentation on the continent of Europe, and the arguments in favor of total repression. The following letters, extracts from her public correspondence, will indicate her position.



1, Victoria Street, London, S. W., January 10, 1881.

SIR.--An Italian pamphlet, _Dell'Azione del Dolore sulla Respirazione_ (The Action of Pain on Respiration), has just reached my hands, and as it is, I think, quite unknown in this country, I will beg you to grant me s.p.a.ce for a few extracts from its pages. The pamphlet is by the eminent physiologist, Mantegazza, and was published by Chiusi, of Milan. Having explained the object of his investigations to be the effects of pain on the respiratory organs, the Professor describes (p.

20) the methods he devised for the production of such pain. He found the best to consist in "planting nails, sharp and numerous, through the feet of the animal in such a manner as to render the creature almost motionless, because in every movement it would have felt its torment more acutely" (_piantando chiodi acuti e numerosi attraverso le piante dei piedi in modo da rendere immobile o quasi l'animale, perche ad ogni movimento avrebbe molto piu acuto il suo tormento_). Further on he mentions that, to produce still more intense pain (_dolore intenso_) he was obliged to employ lesions, followed by inflammation. An ingenious machine, constructed by "our" Tecnomasio, of Milan, enabled him likewise to grip any part of an animal with pincers with iron teeth, and to crush, or tear, or lift up the victim, "so as to produce pain in every possible way." A drawing of this instrument is appended. The first series of his experiments, Signor Mantegazza informs us, were tried on twelve animals, chiefly rabbits and guinea pigs, of which several were pregnant. One poor little creature, "far advanced in pregnancy," was made to endure _dolori atrocissimi_, so that it was impossible to make any observations in consequence of its convulsions.

In the second series of experiments twenty-eight animals were sacrificed, some of them taken from nursing their young, exposed to torture for an hour or two, then allowed to rest an hour, and usually replaced in the machine to be crushed or torn by the Professor for periods of from two to six hours more. In the table wherein these experiments are summed up, the terms _molto dolore_ and _crudeli dolori_ are delicately distinguished, the latter being apparently reserved for the cases when the victims were, as the Professor expresses it, _lardellati di chiodi_--("larded with nails").

In conclusion, the author informs us (p. 25) that these experiments were all conducted "_con molto amore e pazienza!_"--with much zeal and patience.


In a controversy with Dr. Pye-Smith, who had read a paper before the British a.s.sociation, Miss Cobbe writes as follows to one of the public journals:

"Dr. Pye-Smith is reported to have said: 'Happily, the neccessary experiments were comparatively few.' Few! What are a "few"

experiments? Professor Schiff in ten years experimented on 14,000 dogs, given over to him by the Munic.i.p.ality of Florence, and returned their carcases so mangled that the man who had contracted for their skins found them useless. He also experimented on pigeons, cats, and rabbits to the number, it is calculated, of 70,000 creatures; and he now asks for ten dogs a week in Geneva. All over Germany and France there are laboratories "using" (as the horrible phrase is) numberless animals, inasmuch as I have just received a letter stating that dogs are actually becoming scarce in Lyons, and it is proposed to breed them for the purpose of Vivisection. Be this true or not, I invite any of your readers to visit the office of the Victoria Street Society, and examine the volumes of splendid plates of vivisecting instruments, which will there be shown them, and then judge for themselves whether it be for a few experiments that those elaborate and costly inventions have become a regular branch of manufacture. Let them examine the volume of the English handbook of the physiological laboratory, the volume of Cyon's magnificent atlas, with its 54 plates, the _Archives de Physiologie_, with its 191 plates, the _Physiologische Methodik_, or Claude Bernard's _Lecons sur la Chaleur Animale_, with its pictures of the stoves wherein he baked dogs and rabbits alive; and after these sights of disgust and horror they will know how to understand the word "few" in the vocabulary of a physiologist. I am glad to hear that a German opponent of Vivisection recently entering a shop devoted to the sale of these tools of torture, was greeted by the proprietor with a volley of abuse: 'It is you and your friends,' he said, 'who are destroying my trade. I used to sell a hundred of Czermak's tables and other instruments for one I sell now.'

"Dr. Pye-Smith said: 'Many of the experiments inflicted no pain or injury whatever, and the great majority of the rest were rendered painless by the use of those beneficial agents which abolished pain and had themselves been discovered by experiments upon living animals.' As to the use of anaesthetics in annulling the agonies of mutilated animals, the audience ought to have asked Dr. Pye-Smith to explain whether he intended to refer to chloroform, or the narcotic morphia, or, lastly, to the drug _curare_. If he referred to chloroform, Dr. Hoggan tells from his own experience (_Anaesthetics_, p. 1), that 'nothing can be more uncertain than its influence on the lower animals; many of them die before they become insensible.

Complete and conscientious anaesthesia is seldom even attempted, the animal getting at most a slight whiff of chloroform _by way of satisfying the conscience of the operator_, or enabling him to make statements of a humane character.' Even if it were conscientiously administered at the beginning of an experiment, how little would chloroform diminish the misery of Rutherford's dogs or Brunton's ninety cats, whose long-drawn agonies extended over many days? How little could it affect in any way the cases of starving, poisoning, baking, stewing to death, or burning,--like the twenty-five dogs over which Professor Wertheim poured turpentine and then set them on fire, leaving them afterwards slowly to perish? If Dr. Pye-Smith was thinking of morphia, the reader may refer to Claude Bernard's _Lecons de Physiologie Operatoire_, where he will find that great physiologists recommends its use; but at the same time mentions (as of no particular consequence) that the animal subjected to its influence still 'suffers pain.' I can hardly suppose, lastly, that Dr. Pye-Smith was secretly thinking of _curare_, and that he is one of those whom Tennyson says would

"Mangle the living dog which loved him and fawned at his knee, Drenched with the h.e.l.lish oorali."

It is bad enough to "mangle" a loving and intelligent creature without adding to its agonies the paralysis of the powers of motion, and the increased sensibility to pain occasioned by this horrible drug, which nevertheless Bernard, in the work above quoted, says is in such common use among physiologists, that when an experiment is not otherwise described, it may always be "taken for granted it has been performed on a curarized dog."

Finally, Dr. Pye-Smith says, "It was remarkable that the small residue of experiments in which some amount of pain was necessary were chiefly those in which the direct and immediate benefit to mankind was more obvious. He referred to the trying of drugs on animals, to discovering antidotes to poisons," etc. The bribe here offered to human selfishness is an ingenious one. "Let us," the physiologists say, "retain the right to put animals to torture, for it is very 'remarkable' that when we do so it is always in your interest!"

Unluckily for this appeal to the meaner feelings of human nature, which these modern instructors of our young men are not ashamed to put forward, it is difficult for them to hit on any one instance wherein out of their "few" (million) experiments any good to mankind has been, even apparently, achieved. As Claude Bernard honestly said, at least as regards any benefit for suffering humanity, "_Nos mains sont vides_." As to the trying of drugs on animals, Dr. Pritchard, who is, I believe, the best living authority on the subject, told the Royal Commission (Minutes, 908), "I do not think that the use of drugs on animals can be taken as a guide to the doses or to the action of the same drugs on the human subjects." As to the discovery of antidotes to poison, the only man who seems on the verge of any success is the brave and n.o.ble fellow who has been trying such experiments not on animals but on himself.

In conclusion, I must add one word on Dr. Pye-Smith's last sentence, namely, "that legislation against vivisection is injurious to the best interests of the community." Sir, I know not what vivisectors deem to be the best interests of the community. For my part I do not reckon them to be the influence of drugs, nor yet susceptible of being carved out with surgical instruments. I do not think that they consist in escape from physical pain, nor even in the prolongation for a few years of our little earthly life. I hold that the best interests of the community are the moral and immortal interests of every soul in such community, namely, the conquest of selfishness, cowardice, and cruelty, and the development of the G.o.d-like sense of justice and love--the growth of the divinest thing in human nature, the faculty of sympathizing with the joys and sorrows of all G.o.d's creatures.

Believing these to be "the best interests of the community," I ask, without hesitation, for the suppression of this abominable trade, which can best be described as "Pitilessness practised as a profession." If vivisection be indeed the true method of studying physiology, if physiology cannot be advanced except by vivisection, if chemical observation and microscopic research be useless for the purpose, and nothing but the torture of animals and the demoralization of men will suffice for its progress--then, in G.o.d's name, I say, let physiology stop at the point it has reached, even till the day of doom.--I am, Sir, with apologies for the length of this letter, yours, etc.


Certainly, as regards the ethics of vivisection, nothing more eloquent has ever been written than this closing paragraph.

In a letter to the London TIMES in December, 1884, Miss Cobbe writes as follows:


SIR,--In your article on this subject on last you called upon the opponents of vivisection to answer certain questions. As I have been intrusted for many years with the hon. secretaryship of the leading anti-vivisectionist society, I beg to offer you the following replies to those questions:--

You ask first, Do we "deny that vivisection is capable of yielding knowledge of service to man?" We are not so rash as to deny that any practice, even the most immoral conceivable, might possibly yield knowledge of service to man; and, in particular, we do not deny that the vivisection of human beings by the surgeons of cla.s.sic times, and again by the great anatomists of Italy in the 15th century, may very possibly have yielded knowledge to man, and be capable, if revived, of yielding still more. We have, however, for a long time back called on the advocates of the vivisection of dogs, monkeys, &c., to furnish evidence of the beneficial results of their work, not as setting at rest the question of its morality, but as an indispensable preliminary to justify them in coming into the court of public opinion as defendants of a practice obviously (as the Royal Commissioners reported) "liable from its very nature to great abuse."

We must be excused if we now hold it to be demonstrated that, whether vivisection be or be not "capable of yielding useful knowledge," it certainly yields only a scanty crop of it. Were there anything like an abundant harvest, such a sample as this would not have been produced with so much pomp for public scrutiny. In short, we think with Dr.

Leffingwell that, "if pain could be measured by money, there is no mining company in the world which would sanction prospecting in such barren regions."

You ask us, Sir, secondly, "Do we affirm that the benefit of mankind is not an adequate or sufficient justification for the infliction of pain on animals?" We have two answers to this question.

a.s.suming that by vivisection benefits might be obtained for human bodies, we hold that the evil results of the practice on human minds would more than counterbalance any such benefits. The cowardice and pitilessness involved in tying down a dog on a table and slowly mangling its brain, its eyes, its entrails; the sin committed against love and fidelity themselves when a creature capable of dying of grief on his master's grave is dealt with as a mere parcel of material tissues, "valuable for purposes of research"--these are basenesses for which no physical advantages would compensate, and the prevalence of such a heart-hardening process among our young men would, we are convinced, detract more from the moral interests of our nation than a thousand cases of recovery from disease would serve those of a lower kind. Even life itself ought not to be saved by such methods, any more than by the cannibalism of the men of the "Mignonette."

Our second answer is yet more brief. We do not "deny that the benefit of man is a sufficient justification for inflicting pain upon animals," provided that pain is kept within moderate bounds, nor yet to taking life from them in a quick and careful manner. But we do deny the right of man to inflict torture upon brutes, and thus convert their lives from a blessing into a curse. Such torture has been inflicted upon tens of thousands of animals by vivisection; and no legislation that ingenuity can devise will, we believe, suffice to guard against the repet.i.tion of it so long as it is sanctioned in any way as a method of research. The use of vivisection--if it have any use--is practically inseparable from abuse. We therefore call upon our countrymen to forego the poor bribes of possible use which are offered to them, and of which we have now seen a "unique and impressive"

example, and generously and manfully to say of vivisection as they once said of slavery "We will have none of it."

I am, Sir, yours, etc., FRANCES POWER COBBE.

Hengwrt, Dolgelly, Dec. 28, 1884.


[_Report of American Anti-vivisection Society, Jan. 1888._]

"There remain two grounds to adopt: one the total abolition of all experiments; the other the total abolition of all _painful_ experiments. This latter position, which is the one that Dr. Bigelow of Boston and Dr. Leffingwell have a.s.sumed, has engaged our attention for a long time; but, after bestowing upon it careful consideration, we feel that we must give it up as impracticable. To secure immunity from pain there must be absolutely perfect anaesthesia. This can be only obtained in two ways: one is by trusting to the experimenter himself to give sufficient of the anaesthetic; the other to insist that an a.s.sistant shall be present for the express purpose of keeping the animal under perfect anaesthesia. Now is it anyway likely that either of these conditions would be observed?"


[_From the "Therapeutic Gazette," Detroit, Aug., 1880._]

"Vivisection is grossly abused in the United States. * * We would add our condemnation of the ruthless barbarity which is every winter perpetrated in the Medical Schools of this country. History records some frightful atrocities perpetrated in the name of Religion; but it has remained for the enlightenment and humaneness of this century to stultify themselves by tolerating the abuses of the average physiological laboratory--all conducted in the name of Science. There is only one way to progress in Therapeutics; and that is by clinical observation; the noting of the action of individual drugs under particular diseased conditions. He who has the largest practice and is the keenest observer, and the most systematic recorder of what he sees, does the most to advance Medicine."


[_From editorial in "The Spectator," London, July 17, 1880._]

"A memorial for the absolute abolition of vivisection has been presented to Mr. Gladstone with a great many most influential signatures attached. For our own part, were the experiments on the inoculation of animal diseases excepted,--experiments which, we venture to say, have sometimes proved of the greatest value to animals themselves,--we should, on the whole, be content to go with the abolitionists, not because we think all experiments, especially when conducted under strict anaesthetics, wrong, but because when they are permitted at all it is so extremely difficult to enforce properly and fully humane conditions. Dr. A. Leffingwell has sufficiently shown in the able paper in the July _Scribner's Magazine_, how extremely few remedies of value have resulted from this awfully costly expenditure of anguish. 'If pain could be estimated in money' he justly says, 'no corporation would be satisfied with such a waste of capital.'

Take, as the single ill.u.s.tration of this most weighty sentence, Dr. Leffingwell's statement that what the late Dr. Sharpey called 'Magendie's infamous experiment' on the stomach of the dog, has been repeated 200 times without establishing to the satisfaction of scientific physiologists the theory for which that act of wickedness was first committed. No wonder the society for the Protection of Animals from Vivisection goes to extremes."

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