Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/189

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
177
VIVISECTION IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK.

IV. The experiment above mentioned is characterized by Mr. Bergh as "the crucifixion of a sentient, unoffending being, . . . an immortal work of the Deity." The grave question of the immortality of animals need not be discussed here. The adjective unoffending is objectionable merely because, like so many other words used by the same writer, it tends to throw a sentimental film over the eyes of logic and severe justice through which the whole matter should be viewed, and it is altogether probable that the dog thus utilized for the exemplification of several important physiological truths was, like most vivisection "subjects," a worthless street cur whose death, in the manner described, was a relief to the community, and a positive deliverance from a worse fate through hunger or cold, or at the hands of ill-regulated boys. But, in the entire absence of evidence that the animal was conscious, the use of the words sentient, crucifixion, and exhibition of a similar sort constitutes an exaggeration so great and so mischievous that it can not be lightly passed. It is akin to affirmations in other parts of the address: "The effect of curare in itself is horrible beyond conception; . . . it is an error to suppose that anaesthetics subdue completely the pain of operations; . . . the hands of the preceptors in our medical colleges are daily incarnated with the warm blood of tortured animals ruthlessly slaughtered." If, with Huxley, we hold that "the assertion that outstrips evidence is not only a blunder but a crime," the offenses of Mr. Bergh are too many for enumeration here.

The "quotations" upon which Mr. Bergh bases the surprising claim[1] that "vivisection has been the subject of universal condemnation by the more eminent members of the medical profession in Europe," have been scrutinized by Dr. Dalton.[2] After showing that Professor W. B. Carpenter expressly repudiates the views attributed to him, Dr. Dalton inquires: "What shall we call this manipulation of the facts used to convey an impression at variance with the reality? If we did not know that it came from a professional philanthropist, we should be inclined to give it a very awkward name." Again: "If confinement in State-prison were the legal penalty for tampering with an author's opinions and falsifying his language, I am afraid Mr. Bergh would have been there long ago."

It can hardly be denied that, taken by themselves, some of Mr. Bergh's affirmations and accusations suggest that his hatred of vivisection is stronger than his love for courtesy and truth, and if the argument sævus in Europa, scevus in America, which is really all he has to offer against New York physiologists, were turned against him in the original form of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, the advocates of unlimited dog-fights and cocking-mains might well object to the recognition of such a witness against their favorite sports. But, when all

  1. "Memorial to the Legislature," 1880, section 5.
  2. "Mr. Bergh as a Commentator," "The Nation," October 16, November 6 and 20, 1879.