Images de page
PDF
ePub

That the pain inflicted in vivisection ever amounts to torture, is not once admitted or implied.

Now we are far from being satisfied with the comfortable conclusions which Mr. Myers has apparently reached, and which he desires to impress upon his readers. He tells us at the outset that he is not a practical vivisector; and his statements regarding the practice must therefore rest upon the exculpatory assertions of the very persons against whom the charge of inhumanity has been made. Do all of these persons invariably tell us the whole truth about a practice whereby they earn their daily bread? Is it in accord with what Mr. Gladstone happily designated "the delicate sense of the reasonableness of things” that some of the men charged with cruelty should not attempt to defend themselves by distorting the truth? It seems to us that while the statements of experimenters are entitled to all consideration which character and motives imply, a little hesitancy in granting absolute faith may be excusable; and that “laymen and sentimentalists” have some reason to doubt. That vivisected animals sometimes suffer, is a charge that rests wholly upon the evidence of men who are neither "sentimentalists" nor "laymen," but members of the medical profession. Speaking before the British Medical Association at its annual meeting in 1899, the President of one of the sections, Dr. George Wilson, LL. D., made this remarkable charge:

"I boldly say there should be some pause in these ruthless lines of experimentation. . . . I have not allied myself to the anti-vivisectionists, but I accuse my profession of misleading the public as to the cruelties and horrors which are perpetrated on animal life. When it is stated that the actual pain involved in these experiments is commonly of the most trifling description, there is a suppression of the truth, of the most palpable kind. ... The cruelty does not lie in the operation itself, which is permitted to be performed without anæsthetics, but in the after effects. Whether so-called toxins are injected under the skin into the peritoneum, into the cranium, under the dura mater, into the pleural cavity, into the veins, eyes, or other organsand all these methods are ruthlessly practised - there is long-drawn-out agony. The animal so innocently operated on may have to live days, weeks, or months, with no anesthetic to assuage its sufferings, and nothing but death to relieve." (Italics ours.)

And yet Mr. Myers would have us believe that even in these experiments the pain “cannot exceed that of a poisoned rat or mouse.” How does he know? Do poisoned rats and mice live in agony "for days, weeks, or months ?”

Take another medical witness. In his presidential address before the American Academy of Medicine, Dr. Theophilus Parvin, LL. D., a professor of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, protested warmly against the cruelty of certain vivisectors. There were men, he declared, both in America and Europe, “who seem, seeking useless knowledge, to be blind to the writhing agony, and deaf to the cry of pain of their victims, and who have been guilty of the most damnable cruelties, without the denunciation by the public and the profession that their wickedness deserves." Is not this remarkable language, coming,—not from a “layman,”—but a professor in a leading medical college, regarding a practice wherein Mr. Myers finds nothing worthy of criticism? It was no sentimentalist, but rather one of the most distinguished surgeons that America ever produced, and for many years a professor in Harvard Medical School Dr. Henry J. Bigelow, LL. D., who in a paper read before the Massachusetts Medical Society, protested against “the cold-blooded cruelties now more and more practised under the authority of science," producing results which he declared were "contemptible, compared with the price paid in agony and torture." Elsewhere the same eminent medical authority says:

"The ground for public supervision is that vivisection, immeasurably beyond any other pursuit, involves the infliction of torture to little or no purpose. Motive apart, painful vivisection differs from that usual cruelty of which the law takes absolute cognisance, mainly in being practised by an educated class, who, having once become callous to its objectionable features, find its pursuit an interesting occupation under the name of Science.

The law should interfere. There can be no doubt that in this relation there exists a case of cruelty to animals far transcending in its refinement and in its horror anything that has been known in the history of nations.

"There will come a time when the world will look back to modern vivisection in the name of Science as it now does to burning at the stake in the name of religion.” [Italics ours.]

Quotations like these, from the writings of medical men might be indefinitely multiplied. They are the utterances not merely of physicians, but of medical professors familiar with what goes on about them. We cannot afford to dismiss them with a shrug and a sneer. If their tones seem more resonant than those of the majority in their profession, it may be because success and assured eminence has gained for them the inestimable privilege of absolute fearlessness-regarding the criticism of lesser men. But of the existence of these "cold blooded cruelties,” of this agony and torture, of this pain to which death by burning alive is a happy release—where do we find the slightest reference in Mr. Myers' paper? Not a hint of its existence is there to be found! Why? Is it because he accepts with implicit faith the word of the experimenter? That is his privilege. We admit that it may be a matter of choice. But upon whom is reliance most safely placed in our attempts to penetrate to the truth,—upon men grown old in the medical profession, connected with institutions of learning, men who cannot have the slightest reason for adverse criticism, but every inducement for discreet silence—or, on the other hand, the practical experimenter who may feel that his position is dependent upon the maintenance of absolute freedom to do whatever he likes within the walls of his laboratory?

If space permitted, it would be of interest to follow all the ramifications of Mr. Myers' remarkable argument. In certain directions, it seems to us to denote a peculiar tendency to credulity wherever vivisection is in question. Bichat, he tells us naïvely, once saw dogs "tearing their peritoneum and devouring their own intestines which had protruded from a hole in the abdominal wall.” But does Mr. Myers seriously consider such an action as the painless and contented gratification of the animal's appetite? Once, in a physiological laboratory, we witnessed precisely the same thing; an animal, during a vivisection, partly escaped from its bonds, and with the utmost fury of despair, bit and tore its own bleeding wounds. Had Mr. Myers been present at that experiment, we hardly believe he would have contended for its painlessness. “Again and again,” he assures us, “dogs have been observed to wag the tail or lick the hands of the operator, even immediately before the beginning of the operation!" What inference would he have us draw from the fact? That it betokens the happiness of the animal ? Observers have drawn a far different conclusion. “I recall to mind,” said Dr. Latour,

“"a poor dog, the root of whose spinal nerves Magendie was about to expose. Twice did the dog, all bloody and mutilated, escape from the implacable knife, and twice did I see him put his forepaws around Magendie's neck and lick his face! I confess I could not bear the sight.” It was a phenomenon recorded also by the editor of the London Lancet in a description of what once was done in the physiological laboratory. “Look," says this editor of the leading medical journal of England, “at the animal before us, stolen (to begin with) from his master; the poor creature, hungry, tied up for days and nights, pining for his home, is at length brought into the theater. As his crouching and feeble form is strapped upon the table, he licks the very hand that ties him! He struggles, but in vain, and uselessly expresses his fear and suffering. ..." We need not go on with this picture of past experimentation. It is merely of interest to show how the same fact impresses different men. Strange it is, that a dog, licking the hand of "the operator immediately before the beginning of the operation" should seem to any man to betoken the absence of all apprehension—a sign of happy animal indifference to its fate, rather than the mute, instinctive and vain appeal for sympathy to a being in the human form.

But the most painful part of Mr. Myers' essay, and in one sense its most significant inference, pertains to his unqualified approval of the attitude taken by Dr. Emanuel Klein. When this distinguished vivisector was examined before the Royal Commission regarding his practices and opinions, he frankly and honestly admitted that he never used chloroform or any other anæsthetic, except in public demonstrations, unless necessary for his personal convenience; declared that a physiologist had the right to “do as he likes with the animal;” that to save himself inconvenience, he would perform even one of the most painful of operations on a dog's nerves without the use of anæsthetics; that he held himself “entirely indifferent to the sufferings of the animal,” and had “no regard at allto the anguish of the creatures experimented upon. Quoting the last sentence, Mr. Myers does not hesitate to declare that "Dr. Klein is perfectly right.We are not particularly surprised at

this assurance of his agreement; but unless very much mistaken, Mr. Myers is the first Englishman who, during the past quarter of a century, has openly confessed his sympathy with such sentiments. Certainly, they were very far from meeting the approval of scientific men at the time they were uttered. One of the most eminent scientists of the last century, writing to another man of equal eminence, thus referred to the profession of indifference to animal suffering:

"This Commission is playing the deuce with me. I have felt it my duty to act as counsel for Science, and was well satisfied with the way things are going. But on Thursday, when I was absent,

was examined; and if what I hear is a correct account of the evidence he gave, I may as well throw up my brief. I am told he openly professed the most entire indifference to animal suffering, and he only gave anæsthetics to keep the animals quiet!

“I declare to you, I did not believe the man lived, who was such an unmitigated, cynical brute as to profess and act upon such principles; and I would willingly agree to any law that would send him to the treadmill.”

We must ask pardon for the quotation of these forcible and far-reaching denunciations. They occur in a letter written to Charles Darwin by Professor Huxley. More than a quarter of a century has elapsed since the great English biologist thus made known the feeling which such sentiments inspired. The times have changed. To-day, a writer in defense of this

. attitude of indifference, tells us that Dr. Klein “is perfectly right.”

The utility of animal experimentation is a question too great to be discussed now. The trouble with most of the advocates for vivisection without limitations is that they go far out of the way to glean and gather what they hope may be fresh evidences of its utility. Even those who regard vivisection in its milder aspects with a favorable eye will hardly care very much for the evidences of its usefulness that Mr. Myers presents us. Hardly a single claim made rests upon generally acknowledged facts. What, for example, has "the value of vaccination in small-pox” -however "widely recognised”—to do with vivisection of animals? Mr. Myers brings it into his catalogue of utilities,

« PrécédentContinuer »