Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/809

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
785
THE VIVISECTION QUESTION.

the prosecution of physiological education and research with unabated energy. Hence no legislative action should be taken which could possibly offer hindrance or annoyance to either teachers or investigators.

In accordance with the pernicious principle that a law can do no harm except to offenders, the English Parliament, in 1876, passed an act severely restricting vivisectional work. This action of England was promptly reversed by every other European nation where the subject was agitated, and by every State Legislature in this country to which the matter has been referred. Within the past year this reversal has been reaffirmed in Switzerland and in Massachusetts. The restrictive act in England served not in the least to abate the agitation and protect physiologists in their work, as was intended; but, as an eminent English physiologist puts it, has "only tended to encourage the opponents of science in their vexatious interference." English antivivisectionists under this encouragement have shifted position from restriction to total abolition, and have increased the agitation. We have in this country at least three societies organized on the platform of total abolition of physiological experiments. The legislative measures advanced thus far by these organizations have been mild in the main; but while they emphasize before the public the fact that their laws do not aim to "prohibit" experiments, they are also unguarded enough to speak of them as "the entering wedge for more radical measures in the future."[1] Clearly, for medical and scientific faculties, for medical societies, and for all who have at heart the advancement of humanity and science, the strategic point at which to meet the enemy is the point of "the entering wedge."

After conscientiously reading their literature for the j)ast five years I feel warranted in saying that science has little to fear from the efforts of the antivivisection societies. Their methods of agitation would sink even a worthy cause. The real danger lies with scientific men themselves who entertain ideas of conciliation and compromise which will admit the point of the "entering wedge." Prof. Michael Foster has had the benefit of twenty years' experience in conducting a laboratory under restrictive legislation, and his advice should certainly carry great weight. He writes as follows: "My earnest advice" (to us in America) "is to straighten your backs, and, knowing that no legislation is necessary on grounds of humanity, and that all legislation is bad for science, strain every effort to defeat the agitation."[2]


  1. Antivivisection, June, 1896, pp. 9 and 13. Aurora, Ill.
  2. Private letter from Prof. Foster to the writer, under date of February 1, 1896.