Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/187

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175
VIVISECTION IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK.

which has been introduced, at the instance of Mr. Bergh, at the last three sessions of the Legislature:

Section 1. Every person who shall perform, or cause to be performed, or assist in performing, in or upon any living animal, an act of vivisection, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Sec 2. The term vivisection used in this act shall include every investigation, experiment, or demonstration, producing, or of a nature to produce, pain or disease in any living animal, including the cutting, wounding, or poisoning thereof; except when the same is for the purpose of curing or alleviating some physical suffering or disease in such living animal, or in order to deprive it of life when incurable.

Whether or not this law would, or is designed to, interfere with the slaughtering of animals for food, or with the extermination of pests, or even with the drowning or suffocation of impounded dogs under the supervision of Mr. Bergh's Society, does not especially concern physiologists; but the points indicated by the italicized words are worthy of consideration. In the law of 1867, the words needlessly and properly are used. In the absence of specification as to who shall determine what is needless or proper, would not the decision rest with the administrators and executors of the law? If so, might not the first section be so interpreted as to permit any amount of pain as "needful" for scientific purposes? Other magistrates and police, on the contrary, might deny the "propriety" of any experiment upon living creatures, and thus interdict everything of the kind under the tenth and apparently permissive section. The tenth section expressly restricts even "properly conducted experiments" to medical colleges and universities. Pending the elimination of this impediment to the advancement and diffusion of physiological knowledge by private individuals and by the teachers in the normal and other schools, it is to be hoped that the clause may be interpreted as liberally as are the Sunday laws of the "New Penal Code." The peroration of Mr. Bergh's vivisection address puts the following words into the mouth of a "victim": "If my life be necessary to you, take it." The most natural interpretation of this sentence is that, in the mind of its author, the advancement or dissemination of human knowledge is sufficient justification for putting an animal to death. But his proposed law permits no cutting, wounding, or poisoning excepting for the sake of the animal itself. What are we to understand upon this fundamental question?[1]

Respecting the last section of the law of 1867, Mr. Bergh says,

  1. On the 23d of December, 1882, I addressed Mr. Bergh a letter asking whether his bill is designed to prohibit the following operations: confining the animal with cords or bandages; subcutaneous injection of curare; killing by pithing; experimenting under anæsthetics, the subject being killed before revival; experimenting under anæsthetics, the animal being allowed to revive, and to endure the healing of clean incisions. Not. withstanding a later request for attention, no reply has been received.