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an undeniable fact that the highest scientific
and medical opinion is against the repetition
of painful experiments for class teaching. In
1875, a Royal Commission was appointed in
Great Britain to investigate the subject of


vivisection, with a view to subsequent legis-
lation. The interests of science were repre-
sented by the appointment of Professor Hux-
ley as a member of this commission. Its
meetings continued over several months, and
the report constitutes a large volume of
valuable testimony. The opinions of many
of these witnesses are worthy of special at-
tention, from the eminent position to the
men who hold them. The physician to the
Queen, Sir Thomas Watson, with whose
" Lectures on Physic " every medical practi-
tioner in this country is familiar, says : " I
hold that no teacher or man of science who
by his own previous experiments, * * *
has thoroughly satisfied himself of the so-
lution of any physiological problem, is justi-
fied in repeating the experiments, however
mercifully, to appease the natural curiosity
of a class of students or of scientific friends."
Sir George Burroughs, President of the Royal
College of Physicians, says : " I do not think
that an experiment should be repeated over
and over again in our medical schools to



illustrate what is already established.'' * Sir
James Paget, Surgeon Extraordinary to the
Queen, said before the commission that " ex-
periments for the purpose of repeating any-
thing already ascertained ought never to be
shown to classes." [363.] Sir William Fer-
gusson, F. R. S., also Surgeon to her Majesty,
asserted that " sufferings incidental to such
operations are protracted in a very shocking
manner"; that of such experiments there is
" useless repetition," and that " when once a
fact which involves cruelty to animals has
been fairly recognized and accepted, there is
no necessity for a continued repetition.' ,
[1019.] Even physiologists some of them
practical experimenters in vivisection join
in condemning these class demonstrations.
Dr. William Sharpey, before referred to as a
teacher of physiology for over thirty years in
University College, says : " Once such facts

* ' ' Report of the Royal Commission on the Practice of Sub-
jecting Live Animals to Experiments for Scientific Purposes."
Question No, 175. Reference to this volume will hereafter be
made in this article by inserting in brackets, immediately after the
authority quoted, the number of the question in this report from
which the extract is made.


fully established, I do not think it justi-
fiable to repeat experiments causing pain
to animals." [405.] Dr. Rolleston, Profes-
sor of Physiology at Oxford, said that " for
class demonstrations limitations should un-
doubtedly be imposed, and those limitations
should render illegal painful experiments be-
fore classes'" [129 1.] Charles Darwin, the
greatest of living naturalists, stated that he
had never either directly or indirectly experi-
mented on animals, and that he regarded
a painful experiment without anaesthetics
which might be made w 7 ith anaesthetics as de-
serving " detestation and abhorrence." [4672.]
And finally the report of this commission, to
which is attached the name of Professor
Huxley, says : " With respect to medical
schools, we accept the resolution of the Brit-
ish Association in i87i,that experimentation
without the use of anaesthetics is not a fitting
exhibition for teaching purposes."

It must be noted that hardly any of these
opinions touch the question of vivisection so
far as it is done without the infliction of pain,


nor object to it as a method of original re-
search ; they relate simply to the practice of
repeating painful experiments for purposes
of physiological teaching. We cannot dis-
miss them as " sentimental " or unimportant.
If painful experiments are necessary for the
education of the young physician, how hap-
pens it that Watson and Burroughs are igno-
rant of the fact ? If indispensable to the
proper training of the surgeon, why are they
condemned by Fergusson and Paget ? If
requisite even to physiology, why denounced
by the physiologists of Oxford and London ?
If necessary to science, why viewed " with ab-
horrence " by the greatest of modern scientists ?
Another objection to vivisection, when
practiced as at present without supervision
or control, is the undeniable fact that habit-
ual familiarity with the infliction of pain upon
animals has a decided tendency to engender
a sort of careless indifference regarding suffer-
ing. " Vivisection," says Professor Rolleston
of Oxford, " is very liable to abuse. * * *
It is specially liable to tempt a man into cer-


tain carelessness ; the passive impressions
produced by the sight of suffering growing
weaker, while the habit and pleasure of ex-
perimenting grows stronger by repetition."
[1287.] Says Doctor Elliotson : "I cannot
refrain from expressing my horror at the
amount of torture which Doctor Brachet in-
flicted. / hardly think knowledge is worth
having at such a purchased * A very strik-
ing example of this tendency was brought out
in the testimony of a witness before the
Royal Commission, Doctor Klein, a prac-
tical physiologist. He admitted frankly that
as an investigator he held as entirely indiffer-
ent the sufferings of animals subjected to his
experiments , that, except for teaching pur-
poses, he never used anaesthetics unless neces-
sary for his own convenience. Some mem-
bers of the Commission could hardly realize
the possibility of such a confession.

Do you mean you have no regard at all
to the sufferings of the lower animals ? "

* "Human Physiology," by John Elliotson, M. D., F. R. S.
(page 448).


" No regard at all" was the strange reply ;
and, after a little further questioning, the wit-
ness explained :

" I think that, with regard to an experi-
menter a man who conducts special re-
search and performs an experiment he has
no time, so to speak, for thinking what the
animal will feel or suffer ! "

Of Magendie's cruel disposition there
seems only too abundant evidence. Says
Doctor Elliotson : " Dr. Magendie, in one
of his barbarous experiments, which I am
ashamed to say I witnessed, began by coolly
cutting out a large round piece from the
back of a beautiful little puppy, as he would
from an apple dumpling ! " " It is not to be
doubted that inhumanity may be found in
persons of very high position as physiolo-
gists. We have seen that it was so in Magen-
die." This is the language of the report on
vivisection, to which is attached the name of
Professor Huxley.

But the fact which, in my own mind, con-
stitutes by far the strongest objection to


unrestrained experiments in pain, is their
questionable utility as regards therapeutics.
Probably most readers are aware that physi-
ology is that science which treats of the vari-
ous functions of life, such as digestion, res-
piration and the circulation of the blood, while
therapeutics is that department of medicine
which relates to the discovery and application
of remedies for disease. Now I venture to
assert that, during the last quarter of a cen-
tury, infliction of intense torture upon un-
known myriads of sentient, living creatures,
has not resulted in the discovery of a single
remedy of acknowledged and generally accepted
value in the cure of disease. This is not known
to the general public, but it is a fact essential
to any just decision regarding the expediency
of unrestrained liberty of vivisection. It is
by no means intended to deny the value to
therapeutics of well-known physiological facts
acquired thus in the past such, for instance,
as the more complete knowledge we possess
regarding the circulation of the blood, or the
distinction between motor and sensory nerves,


nor can original investigation be pronounced
absolutely valueless as respects remote possi-
bility of future gain. /What the public has a
right to ask of those who would indefinitely
prolong these experiments without State
supervision or control is, " What good have
your painful experiments accomplished during
the past thirty years not in ascertaining facts
in physiology or causes of rare or incurable
complaints, but in the discovery of improved
methods for ameliorating human suffering,
and for the cure of disease? "/ If pain could
be estimated in money, no corporation ever
existed which would be satisfied with such
waste of capital in experiments so futile ; no
mining company would permit a quarter-
century of " prospecting " in such barren
regions. The usual answer to this inquiry is
to bring forward facts in physiology thus
acquired in the past, in place of facts in thera-
peutics. Thus, in a recent article on Magen-
die to which reference has been made, we are
furnished with a long list of such additions
to our knowledge. It may be questioned,


however, whether the writer is quite scientifi-
cally accurate in asserting that, were our past
experience in vivisection abolished, " it would
blot out #//that we know to-day in regard to
the circulation of the blood, * * the growth
and regeneration of bone, * * * the origin
of many parasitic diseases, * * * the com-
municability of certain contagious and infec-
tious diseases, and, to make the list complete,
it would be requisite * * to take a wide
range in addition through the domains of path-
ology and therapeutics" Surely somewhat
about these subjects has been acquired other-
wise than by experiments upon animals ?
For example, an inquiring critic might wish
to know a few of the " many parasitic dis-
eases " thus discovered ; or what contagious
and infectious diseases, whose communica-
bility was previously unknown, have had this
quality demonstrated solely by experiments
on animals ? And what, too, prevented that
* wide range into therapeutics " necessary to
make complete the list of benefits due to
vivisection ? In urging the utility of a prac-


tice so fraught with danger, the utmost pre-
caution against the slightest error of over-
statement becomes an imperative duty. Even
so distinguished a scientist as Sir John Lub-
bock once rashly asserted in Parliament that,
" without experiments on living animals, we
should never have had the use of ether " !
Nearly every American school-boy knows
that the contrary is true that the use of
ether as an anaesthetic the grandest discov-
ery of modern times had no origin in the
torture of animals.

I confess that, until very recently, I shared
the common impression regarding the utility
of vivisection in therapeutics. It is a belief
still widely prevalent in the medical profes-
sion. Nevertheless, is it not a mistake ? The
therapeutical results of nearly half a century
of painful experiments we seek them in
vain. Do we ask surgery ? Sir William Fer-
guson, surgeon to the Queen, tells us : " In
surgery I am not aware of any of these ex-
periments on the lower animals having led to
the mitigation of pain or to improvement as


regards surgical details." [1049.] Have
antidotes to poisons been discovered thereby ?
Says Doctor Taylor, lecturer on Toxicology
for nearly half a century in the chief London
Medical School (a writer whose work on Poi-
sons is a recognized authority) : " I do not
know that we have as yet learned anything,
so far as treatment is concerned, from our
experiments with them (i. e, poisons) on ani-
mals." [1204.] Doctor Anthony, speaking
of Magendie's experiments, says : " I never
gained one single fact by seeing these cruel
experiments in Paris. / know nothing more
from them than I could have read." [2450.]
Even physiologists admit the paucity of thera-
peutic results. Doctor Sharpey says : " I
should lay less stress on the direct application
of the results of vivisection to improvement in
the art of healing, than upon the value of
these experiments in the promotion of phys-
iology." [394.] The Oxford professor of
Physiology admitted that Etiology, the science
which treats of the causes of disease, had, by
these experiments, been the gainer, rather


than therapeutics. [1302.] " Experiments on
animals," says Doctor Thorowgood, " already-
extensive and numerous, cannot be said to
have advanced therapeutics much."* Sir
William Gull, M. D., was questioned before
the commission whether he could enumerate
any therapeutic remedies which have been
discovered by vivisection, and he replied with
fervor : " The cases bristle around us every-
where ! " Yet, excepting Hall's experiments
on the nervous system, he could enumerate
only various forms of disease, our knowledge
of which is due to Harvey's discovery, two
hundred and fifty years ago ! The question
was pushed closer, and so brought to the
necessity of a definite reply, he answered :
" I do not say at present our therapeutics are
much, but there are lines of experiment
which seem to promise great help in thera-
peutics." [5529.] The results of two centuries
of experiments, so far as therapeutics are
concerned, reduced to a seeming promise !
On two points, then, the evidence of the

* " Medical Times and Gazette," October 5, 1872.


highest scientific authorities in Great Britain
seems conclusive first, that experiments
upon living animals conduce chiefly to the
benefit of the science of physiology, and little,
if at all, at the present day, to the treatment
of disease or the amelioration of human suf-
fering ; and, secondly, that repetition of pain-
ful experiments for class-teaching in medical
schools is both unnecessary and unjustifiable.
Do these conclusions affect the practice of
vivisection in this country ? Is it true that
experiments are habitually performed in some
of our medical schools, often causing extreme
pain, to illustrate well-known and accepted
facts experiments which English physiolo-
gists pronounce " infamous " and " atrocious,"
which English physicians and surgeons stig-
matize as purposeless cruelty and unjustifia-
ble which even Huxley regards as unfit-
ting for teaching purposes, and Darwin de-
nounces as worthy of detestation and abhor-
rence ? I confess I see no occasion for
any over-delicate reticence in this matter.
Science needs no secrecy either for her


methods or results ; her function is to re-
veal, not to hide, facts. The reply to these
questions must be in the affirmative. In
this country our physiologists are rather fol-
lowers of Magendie and Bernard, after the
methods in vogue at Paris and Leipsic, than
governed by the cautious and sensitive
conservatism in this respect which generally
characterizes the physiological teaching of
London and Oxford. In making this state-
ment, no criticism is intended on the mo-
tives of those responsible for ingrafting con-
tinental methods upon our medical schools.
If any opprobrium shall be inferred for the
past performance of experiments herein con-
demned, the present writer asks a share in it.
It is the future that we hope to change. Now,
what are the facts ? A recent contributor to
the " International Review," referring to Mr.
Bergh, says that " he assails physiological ex-
periments with the same blind extravagance
of denunciation as if they were still performed
without anaesthetics, as in the time of Magen-
die." In the interests of scientific, accuracy


one would wish more care had been given to
the construction of this sentence, for it im-
plies that experiments are not now performed
except with anaesthetics a meaning its au-
thor never could have intended to convey.
Every medical student in New York knows
that experiments involving pain are repeated-
ly performed to illustrate teaching. It is no
secret ; one need not go beyond the frank
admissions of our later text-books on physi-
ology for abundant proof, not only of this, but
of the extent to which experimentation is
now carried in this country. " We have long
been in the habit, in class demonstrations, of
removing the optic lobe on one side from a
pigeon," says Professor Flint, of Bellevue
Hospital Medical College, in his excellent
work on Physiology.* " The experiment of
dividing the sympathetic in the neck, es-
pecially in rabbits, is so easily performed that
the phenomena observed by Bernard and
Brown-Sequard have been repeatedly verified.

* A Text-book of Human Physiology, designed for the use of
Practitioners and Students of Medicine, by Austin Flint, Jr., M. D.
D. Appleton & Co. New York : 1876 (page 722).


We have often done this in class demonstra-
tions!' * " The cerebral lobes were removed
from a young pigeon in the usual way, an
operation * * which we practice yearly as
a class demonstration!" t Referring to the
removal of the cerebellum, the same authority
states : " Our own experiments, which have
been very numerous during the last fifteen
years, are simply repetitions of those of Flour-
ens, and the results have been the same without
exception!' % We have frequently removed both
kidneys from dogs, and when the operation is
carefully performed the animals live for from
three to five days. * * Death always takes
place with symptoms of blood poisoning."
In the same work we are given precise details
for making a pancreatic fistula, after the
method of Claude Bernard "one we have
repeatedly employed with success." " In per-
forming the above experiment it is generally
better not to employ an anaesthetic," || but
ether is sometimes used. In the same work

* Page 738. f Page 585. | Page 710.

Page 403. || Pages 269-70.


is given a picture of a dog, muzzled and with
a biliary fistula, as it appeared the fourteenth
day after the operation, which, with details of
the experiment, is quite suggestive. * Bernard
was the first to succeed in following the
spinal accessory nerve back to the jugular
foramen, seizing it here with a strong pair of
forceps and drawing it out by the roots. This
experiment is practiced in our own country.
" We have found this result (loss of voice) to
follow in the cat after the spinal accessory
nerves have been torn out by the roots," says
Professor John C. Dal ton, in his Treatise on
Human Physiology, f " This operation is
difficult," writes Professor Flint, " but we have
several times performed it with entire suc-
cess ; " and his assistant at Bellevue Medi-
cal College has succeeded " in extirpating
these nerves for class demonstrations."^ In
withdrawal of blood from the hepatic veins of
a dog, "avoiding the administration of an
anaesthetic " is one of the steps recommend-
ed. The curious experiment of Bernard,

*Page 282. | Page 489. % Page 629. Page 463.


in which artificial diabetes is produced by
irritating the floor of the fourth ventricle of
the brain, is carefully described, and illustra-
tions afforded both of the instrument and the
animal undergoing the operation. The in-
experienced experimenter is here taught to
hold the head of the rabbit " firmly in the left
hand," and to bore through its skull " by a
few lateral movements of the instrument.' ,
It is not a difficult operation ; it is one which
the author has " often repeated." He tell us
" it is not desirable to administer an anczs-
thetic" as it would prevent success ; and a
little further we are told that "we should
avoid the administration of anaesthetics in all
accurate experiments on the glycogenic func-
tion." * It is true the pleasing assurance is
given that " this experiment is almost pain-
less " ; but on this point, could the rabbit
speak during the operation, its opinion might
not accord with that of the physiologist.

There is one experiment in regard to which
the severe characterization of English scien-

* Pages 470-71.


tists is especially applicable, from the pain
necessarily attending it. Numerous investi-
gators have long established the fact that the
great sensory nerve of the head and face is
endowed with an exquisite degree of sensi-
bility. More than half a century ago, both
Magendie and Sir Charles Bell pointed out
that merely exposing and touching this fifth
nerve gave signs of most acute pain. " All
who have divided this root in living animals
must have recognized, not only that it is sen-
sitive, but that its sensibility is far more acute
than that of any other nervous trunk in the
body." * " The fifth pair," says Professor
John C. Dalton, " is the most acutely sensi-
tive nerve in the whole body. Its irritation
by mechanical means always causes intense
pain, and even though the animal be nearly
unconscious from the influence of ether, any
severe injury to its large root is almost invar-
iably followed by cries." t Testimony on
this point is uniform and abundant. If

* Flint : " Text Book on Human Physiology" (page 641).
f Dalton's " Human Physiology " (page 466)


science speaks anywhere with assurance, it is
in regard to the properties of this nerve. Yet
every year the experiment is repeated before
medical classes, simply to demonstrate ac-
cepted facts. " This is an operation," says
Professor Flint, referring to the division of
this nerve, " that we have frequently per-
formed with success." He adds that " it is
difficult from the fact that one is working in
the dark, and it requires a certain amount of
dexterity, to be acquired only by practice."
Minute directions are therefore laid down for
the operative procedure, and illustrations
given both of the instrument to be used, and
of the head of a rabbit with the blade of the
instrument in its cranial cavity.* Holding
the head of our rabbit firmly in the left hand,
we are directed to penetrate the cranium in a
particular manner. " Soon the operator feels
at a certain depth that the bony resistance
ceases ; he is then on the fifth pair, and the
cries of the animal give evidence that the
nerve is pressed upon." This is one of

* Flint (pages 639-40).


Magendie's celebrated experiments ; perhaps
the reader fancies that in its modern repeti-
tions the animal suffers nothing, being ren-
dered insensible by anaethetics ? ' // is much
more satisfactory to divide the nerve without
etherizing the animal, as the evidence of pain
is an important guide in this delicate opera-
tion"" Anaesthetics, however, are sometimes
used, but not so as wholly to overcome the

Testimony of individuals, indicating the
extent to which vivisection is at present prac-
ticed in this country might be given ; but it
seems better to submit proof within the reach
of every reader, and the accuracy of which is
beyond cavil. No legal restrictions whatever
exist, preventing the performance of any ex-
periment desired. Indeed, I think it may
safely be asserted that, in the city of New
York, in a single medical school, more pain
is inflicted upon living animals as a means of
teaching well-known facts, than is permitted
to be done for the same purpose in all the
medical schools of Great Britain and Ireland.


And cui bono ? " I can truly say," writes a
physician who has seen all these experiments,
" that not only have I never seen any results
at all commensurate with the suffering in-
flicted, but I cannot recall a single experi-
ment which, in the slightest degree, has in-
creased my ability to relieve pain, or in any
way fitted me to cope better with disease."

In respect to this practice, therefore, evi-
dence abounds indicating the necessity for
that State supervision which obtains in Great
Britain. We cannot abolish it any more than
we can repress dissection ; to attempt it would
be equally unwise. Within certain limita-
tions, dictated both by a regard for the in-
terest of science and by that sympathy for
everything that lives and suffers which is the
highest attribute of humanity, it seems to me
that the practice of vivisection should be
allowed. What are these restrictions ?

The following conclusions are suggested
as a basis for future legislation:

/. Any experiment or operation whatever
upon a living animal^ during which by recog-


nized ancesthetics it is made completely insen-
sible to pain, should be permitted.

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Online LibraryAlbert LeffingwellVivisection → online text (page 2 of 5)