Sections: General Index   Present Section: Index   Work: Index   Next: II - An Appeal to Hearts and Heads



(p. 2)

            These Publications are issued under the auspices and with the general approval of the Humanitarian League; but for all particular views expressed on matters of detail the individual writers are alone responsible.



(p. 3)










            IN many ways Vivisection appears as one of the most hateful of practices. No one can look in the eyes of a dog, a cat, a bird, or even of one of the less highly organised animals, without feeling that these creatures stand in a peculiar relation of dependence toward man; their sense and acknowledgment of his overwhelming power over them, their fear of his persecutions, their timid advances, their supplication for help, their marvellous trust and affection when once the fatal barrier of estrangement has been broken down – all these things touch the very deepest chords of tenderness, moving one at times almost to tears, and hard must his heart be who has not felt the pathetic nature of the appeal thus made to his superior power, and the pathetic confidence – alas! too often misplaced – in his superior gentleness and humanity. How odious then does it seem, to seize upon the defenceless and dependent creature, to tie it down, to pin it to the operating table, to gag it, and then to inflict upon it with knife and scalpel the most refined tortures, to bake it alive in an oven or burn it with fire, to watch calmly,

(p. 4)

notebook in hand, the effect of poisonous drugs, administered to it perhaps over long periods of days or weeks, or the successive stages of disease supervening on its inoculation with foul bacteria, till finally the wretched creature dies, a swollen mass of filthy sores! For though anesthetics may be, and are, used, it is only too obvious that in a vast number of cases, as for instance those last mentioned, the insensibility can only cover the mere commencement of the experiment; while in many others anesthetics cannot be used at all, as they would simply stultify the object for which the experiment is made; and in all cases there is a long and painful course of recovery to be gone through – unless indeed it be thought best in mercy to let death put an end, once for all, to the sufferings.


            How horrible, how almost incredible that such things can be done! We sometimes pride ourselves on our advance beyond the ancient nations in the matter of humanity, but this torture of the loving animals is a thing which even the most barbarous peoples have not carried out in the same deliberate fashion; and some races, like the earlier Egyptians, if they could have conceived of it, would undoubtedly have regarded it – as do the Hindus of today – as the most odious of crimes. It is known that the Egyptians did at a later period in their history practice human vivisection; and if such peoples were less scrupulous than we are about inflicting torture on their human brothers they had this excuse, perhaps dimly felt, that the heroic endurance of suffering is a noble trait in man and brings him not far from the gods, that physical pain is therefore not by any means a hopeless and rayless evil to him; but w e are not in a position to plead any such excuse for our torture of the animals.


(p. 5)

            What then is the excuse put forward for Vivisection? “What is the overwhelming necessity which prompts, nay compels us, to a practice so repugnant to our highest instincts? It is that Vivisection is a means of knowledge, and a means through knowledge of the alleviation of human suffering, and of human progress.


            I shall not traverse the first of these statements – i.e., that Vivisection is a means of Knowledge. I know that some anti-vivisectionists make the most of the position that no really substantial advances in medical science have been made through this practice; and though there is a good deal to support this position, still it is one that is hard for a layman to hold against the attacks of a professional scientist; and even supposing it were conceded that no such advances had been made in the past, it would still remain open to suppose that progress might be made by this method in the future. I do not therefore think it wise to combat the possibility of Vivisection being a means of added Knowledge. But when we come to the question whether the knowledge gained in this way has led or can lead in the long run to the alleviation of human suffering, and to human progress, we come to a very different question and one which must be answered by a decided negative.


            In the long run, I say, for it is evident that if we allow that Vivisection in any case leads to increase of Knowledge, then we must allow that the Knowledge so acquired may in individual cases lead to alleviation of suffering. The question is whether in toto there is going to be any alleviation of suffering.


            And here we come to the question which it seems to me underlies this whole matter, and which has as yet never been taken sufficiently seriously into consideration

(p. 6)

by the general public. Vivisection, it is said, leads to increased knowledge of the action of drugs and specifics, and of various curative appliances. Let us grant this. Then the question still remains: Do these drugs and specifics and appliances really strike at the root of the suffering, or do they only, so to speak, lop off the small branches, leaving the tree to grow thicker even than before? Is it possible in fact that human suffering is increased by the use of these things rather than diminished?


            Let me explain what I mean. A man we will say suffers from sleeplessness. This probably arises from some defect in his mode of life, some bad or mistaken habit, perhaps he smokes excessively, or studies too much, or has injured his digestion by wrong feeding. The sleeplessness is only a sign – given by organic Nature – of deep-seated evil. It is the latter which requires to be cured, and by an altered mode of life. But now the scientist comes along with a new drug. Take this, he says, and you will be all right; you will sleep nicely and there will be no ill after-effects. This – the latter part of it – is not true, for there certainly will be ill after-effects, though the scientist may not be aware of them; but granting even for a moment that the assertion is correct, what is the effect on the man of this policy? He takes the drug, and sleeps; the external trouble is eased for a time; ho continues merrily in his bad habits, he over-works his brain as before, or ill-treats his stomach, and the internal malady deepens, till one day, much to the surprise of all his friends, it breaks form in some dread disease, or madness. Thus the suffering is much increased by what may be called a palliative. The disease, prevented from showing its usual signals on the surface,

(p. 7)

works underground and only comes up in a new form at some other point, and intensified by concealment.


            Or a man having been in the habit of over-eating himself for some years, or of otherwise abusing his digestive faculties, develops disease of the liver. The doctor gives him calomel, and the liver symptoms subside in a miraculous way. The man goes his way rejoicing and eats more than ever. Is it to be supposed that the disease is exterminated or that it will not presently break out in some more virulent form? This latter in fact happens after a time, and the patient is supposed to be suffering from a fresh complaint, and is treated with fresh remedies of a similar kind. Meanwhile the calomel does its deadly work, and all his teeth drop out – a fitting sarcasm on the way he has used them – and now the wretched man has two evils to cope with, where before he had only one.

            Of course, it will be said, the use of calomel is exploded nowadays on account of its injurious effects. True, but I give this as an example that we can all understand; and is not, in fact, this exploding process continually taking place, and those drugs that we still use, is it not simply because we are still unaware that they do more harm than good?

            For in nine cases out of ten, I believe, the specific sets up a disease of its own. In some cases – as in the so much vaunted inoculations of the- day – it is purposely designed to do so; but in other cases also long trains of action are started which can only end in morbid results. These results may not at first appear so evident as in the case of calomel or though being evident they may not be attributed to their true cause; but sooner or later the connection becomes only too plain. Thus as a cure for sleeplessness, to which we have alluded, and nerve irritation,

(p. 8)

chloral was at one time rather freely taken; but its bad after-effects soon became very apparent, and then bromide of potash carne into favor, as being free from these drawbacks. This was used for some time, and with general approval, till its baneful action on the sexual system began to be known; and since that sulfonal has been adopted, as of course perfectly innocuous. Alas l however, Dr. Moll of Berlin says (in his book on Hypnotism, Contemp. Science Series, p. 300) that a friend and colleague of his has seen “sad consequences” follow from the use of sulfonal! So one can only wonder how long this process of discovery and discardment will continue.


            If then this is so, if the extended use of drugs and externally curative appliances tends to set up morbid trains of action in the system, then we have to consider that their use is liable to increase human suffering in two ways – both by covering over and so aggravating the original disease, and by introducing new trains of disease. And though we may allow that in some cases they act beneficially, these are large and very serious detractions to place to the negative side of the account, and may well justify us in putting it as probable that they increase the total amount of suffering instead of diminishing it. If the best plea in favor of Vivisection is that it occasionally brings to light some such palliative as I have referred to, it stands on very shaky ground indeed.


            Again let us take the case of an epidemic disease, like Small-pox or Cholera. Here the evil is more social than individual. We are fully aware that the disease can only spread under bad social conditions, and as far as we endeavor by improved sanitation and cleanlier social life to check or eradicate it, we are on the right tack.

(p. 9)

The bacillus requires dirt, or unhealthy human tissue, or tissue not thoroughly vitalised by the human occupant, to feed on. Remove the dirt, make the human flesh clean and wholesome, and the bacillus will starve. It will die out from our social life that way. But to let it, through our evil habits, get a foothold among us, and then to introduce another bacillus to slay it, or rather to eat up the dirt first before it arrives – in the name of all that is sane, what sort of method is this? It is the method of human despair, of the most hopeless unbelief. It means that we must and will have our bad habits at all costs, and that having them, to save ourselves from being overwhelmed, we are fain to introduce a domestic pest to keep us partially clean – a half-tame bacillus instead of a raging wild one – as the inhabitants of eastern cities keep carrion dogs to scour the streets which they will not sweep themselves, or as the unwashed tramp carries his little scavengers about with him wherever he goes.


            Surely this cannot be the last word of science on such a subject. And yet is it not obvious that there is such a thing as internal dirt in the human body, just as there is external dirt, and if we will not by our own efforts towards a cleaner life remove that dirt, it will breed for us scavengers of some kind which through much pain and suffering must remove it for us?


            And if a more modern theory of inoculation be accepted as correct (though it is pretty certain that all such theories are only very partially valid), namely that the use of the introduced bacillus is to give the system a preparatory lesson in the art of self-defence – that, in fact, the white corpuscles in the human circulation learn, by encountering the half-tame bacillus, to deal with and overcome the wild bacillus when it arrives – still even

(p. 10)

then the argument remains much the same. For the main thing in that case would be that the white corpuscles should be thoroughly healthy and sound and alert (the method of Health) – in order that they should be capable of expelling the enemy – and the danger would still remain, if we should trust too much to any security derived from inoculation, that we should allow the diseases themselves and the bad habits which engender them to spread and gather strength against a more fatal day in the future.


            The current method of inoculation, therefore, is open to the charge that so far as it appears beneficial for the moment, or in the individual case, it encourages the continuance of the unsanitary habits in our social life, which are the root of the disease, and which are the very thing we ought to destroy; and also to the charge that it deliberately introduces into the unfortunate human body a secondary disease which, though it may check the ravages of the first, is only too likely to bring with it a long sequence of other unknown ills in its train.


            This seems pretty clear from the history of Vaccination. Doubtless the virulence and frequency of small-pox has much decreased during the last 30 years – chiefly owing to the greatly improved sanitation of this period, but very possibly also to the fact that the Vaccine disease has given the human system some practice in the art of directly resisting small-pox. But what a record of suffering is that connected with vaccination itself – the numbers of children afflicted with horrible and fatal sores and diseases immediately after, and obviously as a result of, vaccination; so much so that the masses of the people – usually so slow to move in such matters – have in some towns risen in revolt against the practice; the dread increase in Infantile

(p. 11)

Syphilis, to fourfold frequency, since vaccination has been compulsory; and lastly the growing conviction that the alarming multiplication of cancer cases of late years is due to the same cause. The deaths from cancer in England and Wales have risen, according to the Registrar-General’s returns, from 289 per million inhabitants in 1851 to 676 per million in 1890! And cancer is reported to be increasing not only in England and on the Continent, but in all parts of the word where vaccination is practised. “Dr. William Forbes Laurie, late medical director of a metropolitan cancer hospital, was thoroughly convinced that the increase of cancer was due to vaccination, and he says this increase of cancer is attributed by some medical men to the large amount of syphilitic disease with which vaccine lymph is impregnated, and by others to the direct impregnation of healthy persons with lymph imbued with scrofulous and cancerous matter. And the late Dr. Dennis Turnbull, who made cancer his particular study for thirty years, declared in the public press his conviction that vaccination and re-vaccination is the most prolific cause of this disease.” (Pamphlet on The Increase of Cancer, by William Tebb.)


            If we have mitigated small-pox only to aggravate cancer, are we any better off? Not to mention the great spread of the syphilitic taint besides. Indeed the cause of vaccination after having been inaugurated with such general congratulations, and having been upheld through thick and thin by professional supporters in the face of much adverse evidence, is now sadly on the wane. Even a Royal Commission is doubtful of the advantage of the practice, and it does not require much foresight to see that it will soon be quite dishonored. Vaccination will soon be as antiquated as calomel, and people, while

(p. 12)

perhaps searching about for a new remedy of the same kind, will wonder that their forerunners could have been so foolish as to be led astray by this one.


            Or to take another disease, Typhoid fever – Havelock Ellis in his excellent book on the Nationalisation of Health, lately published, points out the great mortality (two million deaths in a century) resulting from it, and then says “yet no disease is simpler in its origin, and more easy to prevent than typhoid fever.” He urges the importance of nationalising our water supply, as the Moors and Romans did, and of so making ourselves practically secure against the ravages of this enemy. Shall we, instead of following this sensible advice, go about to discover a half-tame typhoid bacillus of some kind, which shall act as a prophylactic against the other, and then insist upon the whole population being inoculated with the same?


            Thus the most that can be said for vivisection, in regard to its being a means of the alleviation of human suffering, is that it may in a few cases (though the number is certainly not great) have led to the discovery of specific remedies or methods of treatment applicable to certain diseases. But then it has to be considered that there is a grave doubt, when these specifics have been discovered, whether they will not latently aggravate the original complaint while appearing to remedy it, and whether they will not introduce new trains of disease – and so on the whole perhaps increase human suffering instead of diminishing it. When we remember how doubtful some of the ablest physicians have been on this very point, and when we look around and see the great general increase of certain classes of disease in our modern life and attending our modern methods, these things may well give ns pause –

(p. 13)

before we take the further step of inflicting vast and irremediable suffering on the lower animals, with such slender prospect of it ever being of any use to ourselves.


            It may perhaps be said that the present argument proves too much, that it practically indicts the whole medical method and not vivisection alone. And in a sense this is true. Of course it would be absurd to con-tend that all our medical knowledge and appliances were not valuable, if rightly used; and it would be absurd to deny that a large and increasing body of opinion is happily in favor of methods of cure depending on right conditions of life, and on the belief that health is the normal condition of the human body, when fairly treated. But when all has been said, the fact remains that the general practice of medicine – partly owing to the otiose-ness of the public mind, which prefers any kind of palliative to a change of life and habit, and partly owing to the timidity of professional men, who fear to speak unpalatable truths – is thoroughly infidel in character, and founded on a reliance on mere shifts and expedients and temporary patchwork of what is supposed to be incurably corrupt at bottom.


            Failing to see – what indeed is a central fact of facts – that there is a positive force of Health in each creature, seeking suitable physical (and mental) conditions in order to establish itself, and continually working towards its own establishment, the current view is that Health is a chance product of conflicting external forces, a mere fortuitous absence of disease; and that the best we can do is to bolster up the human organism from the outside till such time as it can be bolstered no longer, like an old barn whose life-time may be prolonged by props and stays, but which must infallibly at last tumble

(p. 14)

into ruins. Taking this view, our attention, instead of being concentred on the real source of Life and Health within us, is continually turned outwards in anxious search for new remedies, new props and stays for the falling structure. In our fear and desperation we lay hold on anything that offers the slenderest hope; and since cowardice is ever cruel we do not hesitate to torture a thousand dumb creatures, whose confiding glances should pierce us with the keenest reproach, if so be that out of their sufferings may emerge the slightest prospect of our being able to stave off for a single day the destruction which so fearfully threatens us.


            It is therefore that I associate vivisection with the current – not the true, but the current – medical method; and think indeed that it is the logical outcome and last expression of the scientific materialism of the day, and of that infidelity in our lives which, unable to believe in the divine and immortal nature of man’s true being, can see no resource but to rely on external things and to snatch from others more miserable than ourselves the beggarly elements of existence; and hurrying so the downward path ends at last in mere insanity and devilment.


            Disease is avoidable. There is no inherent necessity that man should suffer from illness; the only inherent necessity in man is Health, which some time or other must appear and become manifest in each one of us. There is this power of Health in man, which through long ages of experience he has to develop. If lie is diseased it is because he has failed so far to learn or to obey the laws of his own being – it is his ignorance or his sin. Shall he then, when he has been untrue to the law of his own nature, turn upon the animals and rend

(p. 15)

them, as an atonement? “What advantage, what salvation, is there likely to come to him that way? The suffering which comes to him in disease is that whereby he learns his mistakes, his ignorance, his wrongdoing and correcting these approaches one step nearer to the Perfect Life. Shall he, instead of trying to avoid the wrong life, simply bend all his efforts to escape the suffering which naturally flows from it, and casting this on the animals (who maybe never transgressed the laws of their being) so remain himself in ignorance, in darkness – a wanderer still without the gates of Paradise? Assuredly by every step that he goes in the direction of vivisection he strays thus farther away from his true home, and is lost in a deeper darkness.


            Man is a social animal. It may seem hard to the individual that he should sometimes suffer from diseases which appear to be the fault of others rather than his own; but is that any reason why he should turn and inflict again this same injustice on the animals, instead of bracing himself up to amend in his own life and the society around him the deep-rooted causes of suffering. Besides can he be so sure that he is not to blame, since being a social animal it is difficult for him to say that he is separate from the society to which he belongs, and not responsible for its ill-doing; difficult for him not to see that we must all practically go backward or forward together?


            And here we come to the other part of the plea for Vivisection, namely that it is a means of increased human know-ledge in society generally, and so of general human progress. It is said that knowledge is good, being the enlargement of the borders of man’s power, that we must continually press on in this direction, and that we never know at

(p. 16)

what time some new discovery, seemingly slight, may unlock for us the secrets of a whole new realm of Nature. All which I entirely admit. There is not a word to be said against knowledge – indeed it is a most necessary object of our search – except that it is a tool and must not be confounded with the hand that uses the tool. Knowledge is power. In itself it is neither good nor bad. It all depends in whose hands it is. In the hands of a good man power is good; in the hands of a bad and cruel man power is devilish; in the hands of an idiot it destroys him who uses it. Let us beware lest our knowledge serve only to destroy us.


            For after all a man may have a vast amount of technical and so-called intellectual learning, and yet be an idiot – that is, he may have plenty of the inferior article but none at all of that more perfect product which constitutes wisdom. He may have a rushlight in his hand and yet be enveloped in total darkness. The opinion that man can gain real advance by betraying and sacrificing an innocent fellow creature is exactly this. He may truly gain a mere point of technical information, but with regard to the true, the divine, knowledge that he and the creature he torments are one, and that he cannot inflict injury on it without bringing injury and suffering on himself – with regard to this knowledge, which is to the other as the sun in heaven is to a farthing candle in a cellar, he is in gross and thick darkness. Every time he pins the trembling rabbit down to the operating table he draws a fresh veil “between himself and the source of all Life and Light, and in the name of Knowledge confirms himself in pitiful blindness and ignorance. And the nation which tolerates and sanctions these practices does the same. It prepares for itself a long catalogue of retributory diseases and sufferings,

(p. 17)

which cannot be curtailed even till long after the iniquities which gave rise to them have ceased.


            No; human progress cannot be in this way – there may be progress to the devil – but not human progress. There is no more unanswerable condemnation of vivisection than this – that whatever technical and material gains it may bring, it hardens the heart and stabs the spirit of man. It is essentially the expression of his selfishness and cowardice, of his readiness to sacrifice the weaker and more dependent creatures for his own supposed gain; and when he refuses to attend to the dumb- entreaty for pity he is really torturing his own inmost being, slaying the consciousness of his self as it arises again in the creature before him – his own everlasting soul, the knowledge of which before all things and alone can give him true health and freedom from disease. No; human progress – a thousand times over be it said – can never be along this line. Let us turn back from the false trail once for all, and kick against the pricks of common sense and the common conscience no longer.



Sections: General Index   Present Section: Index   Work: Index   Next: II - An Appeal to Hearts and Heads