Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/378

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stituted of both the enemies and the friends of vivisection, at length took the matter up, and, as is customary with English commissions, it made a thorough investigation. Witnesses on both sides gave voluminous testimony on all aspects of the subject, and after patient and impartial consideration the body made a report which was designed to be preliminary to legislation upon the question. As regards the merits of the controversy, it was agreed that vivisection, or operations upon living animals, is a necessary and a proper thing, and, as practised by scientific men, has been of great use to the world. The commission, moreover, entirely acquitted the physiologists of the charge of cruelty. It commended the humanity of the medical profession in England, and testified that medical students were extremely sensitive in regard to the infliction of pain on animals.

One would think that with this decisive expression on the general subject, and with this complete vindication of the aspersed parties, the agitators would have been rebuked, and the case at once dismissed. But the anti-vivisection movement was quite too formidable to allow of this. That hysterical rampage of British philanthropy was strong enough to coerce the Government against its own protestations, and to extort from it a law that was alike an insult to science and a disgrace to the country. The physiologists were expressly acquitted of all improper practices when left free as they had always been to pursue inquiries in their own way, and they were then handed over to the future control of the police. They were vindicated from all imputation of cruelty, and then subjected to the operation of a statute against cruelty to animals. Though their experiments had for their object the ultimate mitigation of pain to the higher creatures most susceptible of pain—though their investigations were of so beneficent an influence that, as Prof. Tyndall justly says, "no greater calamity could befall the human race than the stoppage of experiments in this direction"—yet the physiologists were classed by law with those cold-blooded brutes who cruelly overdrive, abuse, and torture domestic animals. Though the necessity, and form, and extent of his experiments on animals were, in the nature of the case, matters of which the operator alone could judge, as their essential object is the elucidation of undetermined problems, yet it was legislated that he should not pursue his work except by a license from a political office-holder, and the making of any experiment calculated to give pain to an animal was declared an offense punishable in the first instance by fine, and in the second by fine and imprisonment, unless certain conditions were complied with to the satisfaction of the said political functionary who was put in control of the whole business. In short, legislative wisdom, stimulated by philanthropic zeal, outlawed vivisection as a crime, and then provided for its perpetration by leave of the Secretary of State.

Let us now see how much there was of real philanthropy or of hearty sympathy for the sufferings of the lower animals at the bottom of this movement. Had it been sincere, or based upon principle, it would have undoubtedly aimed to be effectual, and to have inflicted the penalties for cruelty alike upon all delinquents. But the law was so framed as to bear hard only upon the poor, and to give a virtual license to the rich, who could easily pay the fines prescribed for inflicting whatever cruelties they chose. Again, the law passed was intended, by the terms of its title, to prevent "cruelty to animals;" but a clause was quietly introduced at the end limiting it to the protection of domestic animals only—a clause which stultified the enactment, and showed the emptiness of its purpose by exposing immensely the greater portion of the inferior animate cre-