The Uselessness of Vivisection. (A Inutilidade da Vivissecção). Anna Kingsford. Este artigo foi publicado pela primeira vez na revista Nineteenth Century, em fevereiro de 1882 (pp. 171-183).
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The Uselessness of Vivisection
By Dr. Anna Kingsford
For a great number of persons interested in the controversy, which, during the past ten years, has agitated this country on the subject of vivisection, the value of the moral and other arguments adduced on either side depends on the efficacy of the practice as a means of alleviating human pain, and the problem which chiefly occupies them may be thus formulated: Is the suffering saved to man by vivisection worth that which it inflicts physically on animals, and morally on a large proportion of the public?
I propose in these pages, so far as the space allotted to me permits, to show, first, that the balance of evidence is against the claim of vivisection to constitute a serious method of study for the cure and treatment of disease; and, secondly, that it is a method, the nature of which renders it inimical to the objects of practical medicine. I shall conclude by citing some personal experiences illustrative of the light in which experimental physiology is regarded by its chief practitioners and advocates.
The assertion of Sir James Paget, in his article on the ‘Pains and Uses of Vivisection,’ (1) that, ‘looking back over the improvements of practical medicine and surgery,’ he sees ‘great numbers of means effectual for the saving of lives and for the remedy of diseases and physical disabilities, obtained by means of experiments on animals,’ stands out in curious contrast to a statement, equally emphatic, made before the Royal Commission by a surgeon at least as eminent, the late Sir William Fergusson. He said: ‘I may speak more confidently regarding surgery than any other department of my profession, and in surgery I am not aware of any experiment on the lower animals having lead to the mitigation of pain or to any improvement as regards surgical details.’
By one claim only, however, does Sir James Paget seek to vindicated his unreserved partisanship of vivisection, and we may assume that he has selected that which appears to him the most noteworthy. It concerns the cure, or, more correctly, the treatment, of aneurism. His remarks on this subject are divisible into two distinct statements: first, that ligature of the arteries is a method originally discovered by vivisection; secondly, that improvements in this method are due to the same cause.
With regard to the first allegation, it is clear from scientific records that the adoption of ligature in cases of arterial aneurism was employed long before Hunter’s time, and that its invention was in no wise due, or even remotely related, to vivisectional experiment.
Severinus appears to have been the first who treated aneurismal tumour by ligature, and the vessel operated on by him was the femoral artery of a patient wounded in the thigh. The artery was tied above and below the lesion, and the limb was preserved. In 1668 Bottentuit, and a little later, Guttani, treated similar tumours both with ligature and with compression, and obtained complete success. (2)
On this subject, not less emphatically than with regard to other statements already noticed, Sir James Paget’s historical impressions are singularly at variance with Sir William Fergusson’s. The latter, interrogated by the Royal Commission, gave the following testimony in regard to the question of aneurismal ligature: –
In recent times there has been much said and written to catch the public mind, and I have observed that frequently certain operations in surgery have been referred to as having been developed in consequence of experiments performed on the lower animals. So far as I have been able to make out – and I have inquired into the subject – Hunter’s first experiment, if it may so be called, was on the human subject; and it was long after he had repeated his operation on the human subject, and others had repeated it, that the fashion of tying arteries on the lower animals originated or was developed. In regard to the surgical aspects of the case, these experiments might have been left entirely untouched, for Hunter had already experimented and developed the facts on the human subject.
Q.: Then, in short, the experiments that were tried on animals did not establish the fact; they were only useful – if at all – for illustrating it à posteriori?
Sir William Fergusson: Quite so.
The truth is, that Hunter’s experience exemplifies the history of discovery and improvement in all departments of surgical practice. The acumen of a clever surgeon, having genius and presence of mind, prompts, when necessity arises, the ‘experiment’ which saves his patient’s life. A thorough knowledge of anatomy is all that is needed to supplement his wit and his skill.
The second part of the statement made by Sir James Paget is so cautiously worded that it is difficult to gather from its terms whether or not it is intended to imply that the improved methods of ligature now in use were actually discovered by means of vivisection. The guarded phrase ‘many things were tried on animals and men’ seems contrived for the purpose of avoiding any direct allegation on the subject. But, in any case, Sir James Paget would not surely argue that scientifically educated and experienced surgeons need experiments on animals to convince them that ‘wires and tapes’ and ‘ends of ligatures hanging out of wounds’ would irritate the tissues and ‘hinder healing’!
Mention is prominently made in a speech delivered by Professor
Humphry before a recent meeting of the British Medical Association, and quoted by Dr. Wilks in the Nineteenth Century, of the debt which, it is assumed, science owes to vivisection in regard to discoveries connected with the circulation of the blood, and with the function and distribution of the nervous system. In the limited space at my command it is impossible to reproduce the documentary evidence extant relating to the first of these discoveries, and I must therefore content myself with referring the reader to Dr. Bridges’ article on ‘Harvey and Vivisection’ in the Fortnightly Review for July 1876, in which are given extracts from the writings both of Harvey and of Servetus, proving incontestably that vivisectional experiment served neither as a basis nor as a means of necessary elucidation in the development of Harvey’s teaching.
In relation to the study of the physiology of the nervous system, the two names which most prominently confront us are those of Sir Charles Bell and Broca: the first immortalised by the discovery of the functions of the anterior and posterior roots of the spinal nerves; the second by that of the localisation of the faculty of language.
Frequent reference is made by the apologists of ‘free experimentation’ to the ‘vivisections’ by means of which the first-named of these acquisitions to science was obtained, as constituting at once a vindication of their claims, and an evidence of the necessity to medical progress of experiments the nature of which renders them ‘extremely painful.’ But the words in which Sir Charles Bell records his discovery distinctly refute such inferences, and afford a startling and significant contrast to the terms in which we are accustomed to see chronicled the wholesale and futile experiments perpetrated by would-be discoverers, who, not possessing the genius of Sir Charles Bell, lack the sensitive feeling with which genius is always accompanied, and by which it betrays at once its existence and its origin. In his Exposition of the Natural System of the Nerves of the Human Body he writes: –
I reflected that an experiment would be satisfactory if done on an animal recently knocked down, and insensible; and that if I experimented on a living animal, there might be a trembling or action exerted in the muscles by touching a sensitive nerve, which motion it would be difficult to distinguish from that produced more immediately through the influence of the motor nerve. I therefore struck a rabbit behind the ear, so as to deprive it of sensibility by concussion. (...) My experiment satisfied me that the different columns from whence those roots arose, were devoted to distinct offices, and that the notions drawn from anatomy were correct.
And in another place he says: –
I hope I may be permitted to offer a few words in favour of anatomy as better adapted for discovery than experiment. Experiments have never been the means of discovery, and a survey of what has been attempted of late years in physiology will prove that the opening of living animals has done more to perpetuate error than to confirm the just views taken from the study of anatomy and natural
motions. In a foreign review of my former papers, the results have been considered as a proof in favour of experiments. They are, 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. It must be my apology that my utmost efforts of persuasion were lost while I urged my sentiments on the grounds of anatomy alone. For my own part, I cannot believe that Providence should intend the secrets of nature to be discovered by means of cruelty, and I am sure that men who are guilty of protracted cruelties do not possess minds capable of appreciating the laws of nature.
Again, in his essay on the ‘Forces which Circulate the Blood,’ he observes: –
In what follows, as in what has preceded, I have endeavoured to discover the truth, by the examination of the structure and the observation of the phenomena of life without torturing living animals. It is too common a belief that, in physiology, experiments on living animals are the best and surest way of pursuing an inquiry, although it is certain that the supposed issue of experiments is as much affected by the preconception as the process of reasoning can be. The experimenter on brutes is not to be called a philosopher because he goes counter to the natural feeling of mankind; nor is he more entitled to favour that he gives the character of cruelty to the medical profession, thereby contracting its sphere of usefulness.
In a note Sir Charles Bell adds: –
It would be arraigning Providence to suppose that we are permitted to penetrate the mysteries of nature by perpetrating cruelties which are ever against our instinctive feelings. I am therefore happy in believing that the examination of the natural structure and the watchful observance of the phenomena of life will go further to give us just notions of physiology than dissections of living animals.
Nothing further than these emphatic statements of the great discoverer himself regarding the inutility of vivisection as a means of discovery, can be necessary to dispose of the claim so often made for him by disciples of that school of torture whose tenets he so distinctly repudiated. But, to demonstrate by categorical evidence the exactness of his axiom that vivisectional experiment is incapable of determining physiological truths, it is profitable to recall the following sequel to the history of Sir Charles Bell’s discovery. I quote from M. Flourens.
Magendie sacrificed 4,000 dogs to prove the correctness of Sir Charles Bell’s views with regard to the distinction of the sensitive and motor nerves; he then sacrificed 4,000 more to prove those views erroneous. I took up the experiments in my turn, and demonstrated the first opinion to be the right one. In order to arrive at my results, I also vivisected a great number of dogs.
Professor Broca’s name is associated with a branch of scientific inquiry which has recently attracted much attention, and the methods adopted in studying which have attained an unhappy notoriety without eliciting any conclusive results. In the face of the mass of contradictory evidence on the subject of brain function and ganglionic centralisations, due to the varying methods and interpretations of experiment on animals practised by Professors Ferrier, Hitzig, Fritsch,
Charcot, Nairne, Dupuy, Burdon-Sanderson, Brunton, Brown-Séquard, and others, it is noteworthy that for the only incontestable localisation of brain function, science is indebted, not to vivisection at all, but to demonstration by means of clinical observation and the study of pathological anatomy in cases of loss of speech by cerebral injury. I allude to the localisation of the faculty of language in the third frontal convolution of the left side of the brain, known as ‘Broca’s Convolution.’
Dr. Ferrier’s method of producing the injuries on the effects of which observation is conducted, is by means of drilling through the animal’s skull with a trocar, and introducing through the aperture either a stiletto with expanding and rotating wings to break up the nerve tissue of the brain, or a red-hot wire to burn it away. But such methods – the only ones open to the vivisector – involve the lesion and destruction, not of the interior ganglia only, but necessarily of the tissue and membranes through which the various instruments used must pass. The medullary substance external to the tracts desired to be reached is likewise injured, and there is, moreover, affection of the cortical substance of the hemisphere in the neighbourhood of other supposed centres than that actually sought. All this Professor Ferrier himself admits, and adds that it is an open question how much the effects subsequently observed in the mutilated animal are due to exterior lesions and to the unavoidable laceration of cortical fibres, and how much to the actual destruction of the interior ganglia themselves. And he concludes a detailed review of his vivisections with the remark that
Experiments on the lower animals, even on apes, specially selected for their intelligence and near resemblance to man in structure, habits, and development, often lead to conclusions seriously at variance with well-established facts of clinical and pathological observation. The decisive settlement of such points must depend mainly on careful clinical and pathological research. Experiments on animals have led to different views in different hands.
In fact, the study of nerve function on any animal other than man, with a view to its application to man, necessarily abounds with difficulties and complications innumerable, due to the ‘varying degrees of evolution of the central nervous organ, from the simplest reflex mechanism up to the highest encephalic elaboration, according to the position of the subject in the scale of development.’ And not only so; there is another important cause for the discrepancies noticed by Professor Ferrier between the results of his vivisections and the observations of physicians on human patients. It is that lesions or derangements of the brain in man are, in nine out of ten cases, set up from within, and are the result of slow pathological growths or processes, gradually advancing from centre to cortex, or, at least, from parietal structures situated inside the cranium, and progressively devitalising the affected region by suspension of nervous
and vascular nutrition. But the vivisectional injury is necessarily the reverse of this process, and, therefore, in no wise comparable to it. The hand of the vivisector, unlike that of disease, works from without inwards, and the lesions produced are the result, not of gradual compression or spontaneously evoked decay, but they are the sudden and violently produced effects of mechanical contrivance, the immediate and ultimate operations of which have no analogy with the march of disease in the nerve tissue of a person suffering from affection of the brain.
These remarks apply equally to other vivisectional injuries and ablations of tracts or organs, the ostensible purpose being to discover or to verify the functions of corresponding portions of the human economy. And, inasmuch as the nervous system is virtually the maker, preserver, and renewer of the whole living body, so that no phenomena occurring within the region of the vascular, muscular, cellular, or even osseous systems can be explained without reference to the nervous threads, which as a network, inconceivably fine and intricate, interlace, clasp, regulate, and ramify over and throughout every gland and tissue, no lesion or excision can be made without affecting both mediately and immediately the central spinal and sympathetic nervous ganglia, and thereby producing results impossible to judge apart from secondary influence.
Moreover, considering that, scientifically speaking, evolution may be said to depend chiefly and primarily on differentiation of the nervous system – in other words, that man is the product of development depending on and distinguished by certain modes of nervous molecular arrangement and action – it is obvious that if he shares with animals the brotherhood of suffering, he yet differs from them widely in the subtle phenomena involved in the direct and reflex operation of the nervous system; the more widely, in fact, in proportion to the grade of mental and physical perfection he has individually attained. In the face of such considerations it is irrational to suppose that certain effects observed by the vivisector in the body of a dog or rabbit violently mutilated and perhaps even ‘curarised,’ are capable of interpreting physiological or pathological action in the body of a man, the springs and habits of whose nervous life and functions differ so essentially from those of the beast.
Thus it occurs that lesions of certain structures, connected in man with processes of inflammation of a highly dangerous character, are in the lower animals attended with no such contingency – a fact which speaks volumes for the futility and peril of arguing from the result of experimental injuries to the issue of intended operations on the human subject. To instance one of many such examples – the peritoneum, the covering and enveloping membrane of all the organs in the body, is in man peculiarly liable to inflammation, even by slight puncture or abrasion; and its inflammation constitutes one of
the most painful, dangerous, and mortal accidents known to the medical profession. But in animals, and even in a creature so highly developed as the dog, the incision and violent rupture of this membrane is attended with no inflammatory danger. (3) Again, it appears that aneurismal tumour of the arteries - a lesion common enough in man, and producible in him both by disease and by accident – cannot be experimentally induced in dogs at all, despite the reiterated attempts of vivisectional science.
But, besides these reasons, based on differences of structure, function, and character between men and animals, there are yet to be noted objections, no less serious and cogent, connected with another class of experimental inquiry which, although not involving mutilation, is equally included under the term Vivisection. I refer to the study of toxicology and the action of venom and of medicinal agents employed as ‘antidotes’.
Argument from symptoms set up in the inferior animals by the administration of toxic principles to the symptoms caused by them in the human economy, is not only singularly inconclusive, but positively misleading. Most animals are affected by these substances in a manner very different from man, and in some cases drugs which, in small doses, would prove speedily fatal to the latter, are, even in large quantities, innocuous to the former. Rabbits eat belladonna, stramonium, and hyoscyamus with impunity; goats are insensible to the action of nicotine; birds are generally impervious to the effects of morphia in doses sufficient to kill many men; dogs are unaffected by aloes, and sixty grains of croton-chloral will only send them to sleep; for a couple of hours. (4) Tartar emetic has scarcely any effect on horses and cattle, and, most strange of all, monkeys appear to enjoy almost complete immunity from the effects of strychnine and nux vomica. (5) To kill a hen, twelve times the quantity of strychnine is required that is necessary to destroy a rabbit or a guinea-pig; (6) and Mr. Darwin has noted that, in Virginia, white pigs are killed by eating a certain root which is not poisonous to black pigs. From half a drachm to a drachm of chloroform is sufficient to render insensible an adult man, but a dog will inhale half an ounce at least before becoming unconscious. On the other hand, chloral hydrate, of which a man may take from thirty to sixty grains, will kill a dog in a dose of only ten grains. (7) Observations
such as these have convinced many eminent savants that inferences drawn from the action of drugs on the lower animals are apt to be so entirely misleading, that for judicial and therapeutic purposes they cannot be regarded as trustworthy, and recourse is, therefore, always preferably made to a chemical analysis. In the case of vegetable alkaloids having a more or less volatile base, such as morphine, aconitine, cicutine, strychnine, atropine, and so forth, the application of chemical tests involves necessarily more delicate and painstaking processes than in instances where mineral bases are concerned; but, notwithstanding this inconvenience, the chemical test is not open to the elements of confusion and uncertainty which are inseparable from physiological experiment, and it constitutes, therefore, the only safe and sound ground of conclusion.
Two general methods are applicable to the research of vegetable alkaloids, the first of which methods is that of Stas, and the second is a process introduced into science by Graham, and known as the method of ‘dialysis.’ The first method, clearly formulated by Rabuteau, rests on the solubility in water and alcohol of acid salts formed by these alkaloids with tartaric and oxalic acids; on the decomposition of these acid salts in solution by caustic alkalis; and on the property possessed by ether to seize on the alkaloids thus freed. Valser and Bouis, in their Legal Chemistry, have drawn up a complete table of reactions, in which a characteristic reaction figures for every vegetable alkaloid, determining thus not only the fact of the presence of the toxic principle, but its nature and identity. The process known as dialysis consists in the mechanical separation by means of a ‘dialyser’ of crystalloid from colloid substances, and its results are less exact than those first cited. Rabuteau has also formulated for vegetable alkaloids a method of investigation by iodide of potassium or solution of iodine, the results of which may be verified and the particular alkaloid identified by means of ammonia, ether, and perchloride of platinum, on Naquet’s system. (8)
It is worthy of remark, as an illustration of the fallacious nature of toxicological experiment on animals, that M. Tardieu, the eminent French exponent of legal medicine, when Dean of the Paris Faculty, saved from death an innocent man, whom the partisans of the ‘physiological’ method had adjudged to death on the false evidence afforded by the sacrifice of five hundred dogs. A favourite practice
among experimentalists used to be, and perhaps still is, to test suspected matters by introducing them into the gullet of a dog, and subsequently tying the gullet at its upper part, so as to prevent the return of the ingesta by vomiting. Dogs so treated having died with certain symptoms recognised as those of poison, the matters ingested were pronounced to be poisonous.
Other experimentalists, however, discovered that dogs died with precisely the same symptoms if only the gullet were tied, nothing at all having been previously introduced into it! Similarly, the common practice of injecting under the skin of small animals certain substances the poisonous character of which it is desired to verify, has been recently demonstrated to be valueless as a test – a discovery which tends to relegate to the domain of mere hypothesis the various doctrines concerning tubercular infection and microphyte contagion built on experiments of this nature, and so triumphantly vaunted by Dr. Simon, in his address to the Medical Congress, as the best and most important achievements of vivisection. Professor Vulpian has, within the last few months, communicated to the Academy of Medicine of Paris a report in which he details the results of experiments, analogous to those of M. Pasteur, performed by him in his laboratory at the Faculty of Medicine. The report testifies that
M. Vulpian injected under the skin of rabbits saliva collected at the very moment of the experiment from perfectly healthy individuals; and this injection killed the rabbits so inoculated in forty-eight hours. The blood of these rabbits was found filled with microscopic organisms; among which was found a special organism discovered by M. Pasteur in the course of his experiments with inoculation of the saliva of a child who had died of rabies. One drop of this blood, diluted in ten grammes of distilled water, and injected under the skin of other rabbits, also brought on the death of these animals; the blood of which was similarly filled with microscopic organisms. These singular results, of which the interpretation is by no means easy, present also the no less singular peculiarity of not being stable. Rabbits placed in identical conditions, and inoculated with the same saliva, experienced no ill effects from their inoculation, and continued in excellent health. It would, therefore, appear that experimental microbiology is not yet on the way to become either an easy or clear science, notwithstanding M. Pasteur’s fiat lux.
It has been further ascertained that the bacillus anthracis, the active agent in malignant pustule, proves, when tested by injection under the skin of animals, to be fatal to mice, but not fatal to rabbits. (9)
The bearing of facts such as these would, à priori, lead to the conviction that the experiments with snake-venom to which Sir James Paget looks for the means of saving human life, are not likely to be productive of any benefit, substances which act as antidotes on one animal being ineffective with others, and often utterly powerless in the human subject. Among a vast number of such investigations conducted at various times and in various places, and having all
proved futile, the best known are the three hundred experiments upon horses, dogs, cats, pigs, rabbits, kids, birds, and other creatures, performed by Drs. Brunton and Fayrer in England; and the series undertaken in 1875 by a special commission of the Medical Society of Victoria, Australia. The results of all these experiments, dealing with the venom of the cobra, rattlesnake, and tigersnake, were absolutely nil; and the report furnished by the Victoria commission states that various remedies were tried in a course off sixty-eight experiments, special attention being given to Professor Halford’s invention of the subcutaneous injection of ammonia. The commissioners observed no beneficial result from the use of any of the remedies. Eighty-one experiments were made in a fresh series upon dogs, one subject being a goat. All the animals succumbed after a greater or less number of hours. The impression left on the minds of those who conducted the experiments was that, though ammonia might prove beneficial for man, it was utterly useless as an antidote in animals. (10)
More serious confusion still arises to complicate the question, when we learn from Professor Halford’s own investigations, that ‘poisoned arrows similar to those by which Commodore Goodenough was killed in the South Seas, were tried on two dogs and a rabbit by wounding them freely, but without producing tetanus or any other symptoms.’ (11) Dr. Swaine Taylor, F.R.S., interrogated by the Royal Commission on the subject of experiments with snake-venom, and the chance afforded by them of beneficial discovery, said: –
I expect no results from these experiments. I have read them all with great care. Ammonia has been recommended by Dr. Halford in Australia; but this has proved utterly inefficient when the experiments have been fairly performed; and, in truth, if you consider for a moment the mode of death from such poison, you will see how difficult it is for any antidote by injection to operate. The poison rapidly gets into the blood; when in the blood it alters this fluid; and unless the remedy proposed enters the blood quite as quickly and very soon after the poison has entered, no good can be done. There may be some slowly operating poisons; but with regard to serpent-poison, when once it enters the blood, the effect is most extraordinary; the rapidity of death is very great indeed.
Facts such as these, which for lack of space I have been compelled to touch so lightly and inadequately, abound in every department of vivisectional inquiry. The fatal errors and inextricable confusion into which, by this method of research, therapeutic and prophylactic medicine has been plunged, cannot be over-estimated. Witnesses innumerable, of the highest eminence and reputation, have borne testimony to the disastrous influence exerted upon science and upon scientific men by the abandonment of anatomical, clinical, post- mortem,
and rational methods of inquiry for that of experiment on the lower animals.
One of the best proofs that, for purposes of exact knowledge and practical medicine, vivisection is not regarded as a serious study, is found in the fact that at the Paris School of Medicine where my degree was obtained, and where vivisection is extensively practised, candidates preparing for the diploma are frequently warned by their tutors to avoid basing their answers to examination questions on vivisectional experiments. Among not a few rebukes on this score, which I have myself heard administered, I was particularly struck with one addressed by an examining professor to a candidate at the oral examination on forensic medicine.
‘What would you do,’ asked the professor, ‘in order to test the nature of the poison employed?’
Said the candidate: ‘I should try the contents of the viscera of the deceased person upon animals, and I should also procure some of the toxic agent suspected, and administer it to other animals in order to compare their symptoms with those exhibited by the deceased.’
‘Sir,’ returned the professor, ‘such a method as that is made for idle and inaccurate men.’
Again, I have found food for much reflection in fact that the students whom I noticed as being the most intelligent, the most gifted, and the most percipient among my hospital comrades, were precisely those who, like myself, shrank from witnessing and discussing animal vivisection. And of those, on the other hand, whose intellect was of a mean or average order, whose minds were of coarse fibre, and whose tastes and habits were gross and unrefined, the greater number were not only partisans of the practice, but amateurs and practitioners of it. It seems to me indisputable that the increasing tendency manifested by the modern school of medicine to introduce the vivisectional method extensively into its curriculum, and to make the practice of it a high road for the attainment of professional honours, will operate disastrously on the future of science by repelling from its ranks men of real genius, dowered with the fine feeling and delicate organization inseparable from the order of mental capacity they possess. If, on the contrary, the reproach which hangs over the medical schools were removed, their class books purified, and their lecture rooms cleared of animal torture, another generation would, I am profoundly convinced, see the profession largely recruited from a class of men totally different from those of whom the average medical student of the day is a fair type. We should then be able to number in the ranks of our physiological workers and professors, men with the mind of the poet, having reverent thoughts of life and of the office of humanity, and faculties capable of discerning and interpreting nature’s most secret operations by methods not dreamed of as possible even by the present race of vivisecting physicists.
Why, in the face of the manifold errors and fatal bewilderment to which vivisection has confessedly given rise in its application to practical therapeutics, it should yet be so widely and persistently advocated by many of the very men who best know how to gauge its value, might, but for my six years’ personal experience in a continental medical school, have remained for me an insoluble problem. Its explanation will be found in the following recollections, given as faithfully as my memory serves, of certain conversations which at various times took place in my presence among the professors, members, and students with whom I was familiarly associated.
My tutor, M. B-----, whose lectures I attended while preparing my forensic medicine, told me one day that he was engaged with a pupil on a series of experiments with alkaloid poisons on guinea-pigs and rabbits. ‘But,’ said I, ‘have you not yourself repeatedly pointed out to me the erroneous deductions made from such experiments, and the fallacy of arguing from them to cases of alkaloid poisoning in the human subject?’ ‘Certainly,’ he replied; ‘but our work is not intended in the way you suppose. We shall produce a very interesting report which will constitute a pretty (joli) chapter in experimental toxicology. You have the English rage for utility, and no appreciation of artistic investigation pure and simple. Is there no interest, apart from practical therapeutics, in knowing what, under certain conditions and in certain organisms, is the action of special substances? We experiment for artistic motives, and because the solution of particular problems and the observation of particular processes interest us, without reference to the application of our knowledge in clinical practice. The work of the physiologist is purely “scientific,” and the less he fetters himself with utilitarian limitations the better artist he is.’
Another member of the faculty, whom I will call Professor G-----, thus expressed himself on the same subject. I may add, parenthetically, that this gentleman was a universal favorite with his pupils, and always affable and genial. ‘I do not assert that vivisectional experiment has ever been indispensable to discovery, nor do I expect anything material from it in future. It is not because it has been useful, or because we think it may be useful, that we ought to vindicate our right to practice it freely. The true ground of our vindication is that if once we permit moralists and clerics to dictate limitations to science, we yield our fortress into their hands. Morality is a question of national habit and custom, and what is strictly moral in one country is considered grossly immoral in another. [Here he gave instances.] Science is the one sound, indefeasible, and definable heritage of civilised man, and we must not permit any interference with her supremacy. For, by-and-by, when the rest of the world has risen to the intellectual level of France, and true views of the nature of existence are held by the bulk of mankind, now
under clerical direction, the present crude and vulgar notions regarding morality, religion, divine providence, deity, the soul, and so forth, will be swept entirely away, and the dicta of Science will remain the sole guide for sane and educated men. We ought, therefore, to repel most jealously and energetically all attempt to interfere with the absolute right of Science to pursue her own ends in her own way, un-interrogated by churchmen and moral philosophers, forasmuch as these represent the old and dying world, and we, the men of science, represent the new.’
If I should be asked what is the real position taken by the leading champions of ‘free’ vivisection, and concealed from the public under the plea that the practice conduces largely to the benefit of humanity, I would define it thus: –
1. Repudiation of the religious and sympathetic sentiments, and of the doctrine of man’s moral responsibility, as superstitious and untenable.
2. Deliberate determination to dissociate themselves from all but those who join in such repudiation; and to make of the practice of experimental physiology on living animals a rallying point for the expression of that determination.
(1) Nineteenth Century, December 1881.
(2) Dr. Gimson.
(3) ‘Lorsqu’un sanglier fait tête aux chiens, on sait combien il en découd avec ses défenses; souvent le chien décousu, c’est à dire ayant le ventre ouvert et marchant sur ses entrailles, continue l’attaque; le combat terminé, le piqueur lave les intestins, les replace dans Ie ventre, et fait quelques points de sutures. J’ai vu des chiens qui avaient été blessés et recousus de la sorte deux ou trois fois, et qui portaient à merveille.’ – Dr. Moynac.
(4) Drs. J.B. Yeo, Langley, Harley, Marcet, Thorowgood, Reynolds, and Moore, in the British Medical Journal and Lancet.
(5) Theobald Ringer.
(7) In the year 1865 a surgeon named Sprague, of Ashburton, was charged with attempting to poison a family named Chalker. It was subsequently proved that the poison in question – belladonna – had not been administered with criminal intent by any person, but had been derived from the flesh of a rabbit eaten by the family, the animal having partaken largely of a plant innocuous to itself but highly dangerous to the consumers of its tissues. In the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal it is observed that ‘in America there are certain regions, extending for many miles in length and breadth, on the herbage of which if an animal feeds, its milk and flesh acquire poisonous properties, though it will itself enjoy good health.’
(8) There yet remains, applicable to the detection of alkaloid poisons, Otto’s modification of the method of Stas, the chief object of which is to remove not only any colouring matters likely to mislead, but also other principles or impurities which might render identification of the exact alkaloid difficult.
(9) British Medical Journal, June 11, 1881.
(10) Medical Journal: Victoria, April 1876.
(11) Ibid, June 1877. It has been stated also that pigs are not injured by the venom of rattlesnakes (Buckland), nor hedgehogs by that of vipers (Colebrook).