The global resource for scientific evidence in animal research

Loading
Main menu
Select a language
Search
Loading

Some Reflections on Animal Experiments

By THE RT. HON. THE LORD COHEN OFBIRKENHEAD, M.D., D.Sc, LL.D., F.R.C.P., F.A.C.P.

 

I appreciate highly the honour of delivering the Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture for many reasons. Many earlier lecturers knew Stephen Paget well and have paid tribute to his foresight, courage and humanitarianism in the battle against those who were seeking to stem the advance of knowledge which would help in the conquest of disease; and it is a privilege to join them as one who knew him only from his writings and accomplishments. I am also a little flattered. This lecture has been delivered by our foremost physiologists, pathologists, veterin­arians, leaders in tropical medicine and public health, and even three surgeons have been so privileged. I am the first physician chosen for this distinction, and yet the triumphs of animal experiment are exemplified perhaps more clearly in the daily work of the physician, which brings him into intimate contact with personal suffer­ing; and there is no one who can appreciate more fully the contribution which animal experiment has made to the problems which confront him in the prevention, cure and alleviation of disease. It is without mock flattery that I admit to having been somewhat intimidated by the admirable lectures given earlier in this series, which seem to cover all that could and should be said on the general topic, and it is without mock modesty that I recognize my inability to make any original contribution to this field.

In the extensive literature on so-called anti-vivisection I find that there are three aspects of the problem which lend to be confused. These may be presented in the form of questions. The first is has animal experiment contributed to our understanding of disease, its cause, prevention, cure and alleviation? Secondly, assuming that it has, are all steps taken by legislation to ensure that needless suffering is prevented? And thirdly, assuming that the answer to both these questions is in the affirma­tive, is it ethically or morally defensible, what­ever victories over disease may be unequivocably demonstrable, to seek to lessen or eradicate human suffering by animal experiment?

The second of these questions dealing with cruelty in animal experiment has recently been the subject of a debate in the House of Lords, where general charges of cruelty were made, but no specific indictment was laid, although the channels through which this could be done were made clear, and nothing was said, or has since been established, which throws doubts on the conclusion of the Royal Com­mission which sat in 1912.   It said:

“We desire further to state that the harrowing descriptions and illustrations of operations inflicted on animals, which are frequently circulated by post, advertisement or otherwise, are in many cases calculated to mislead the public, in so far as they suggest that the animals in question were not under an anaesthetic. To represent that animals subjected to experi­ments in this country are wantonly tortured would, in our opinion, be absolutely false."

The third question on the ethical or moral defensibility of animal experiment is one which like all such questions does not lend itself to objective, rational assessment; it must be answered by the individual, but it may not be without  significance (and my source is the Journal of the National Anti-Vivisection Society) that eight years ago a letter was sent to all the hierarchy of the Church in this country, and to their equivalents in the Free Churches, inviting them to make a pronounce­ment for or against vivisection. Less than 1 per cent replied: of those who did reply, four out of five said that this problem lay within an expert field, and that they had not sufficient knowledge to be able to say yea or nay: of the remaining fifth, three-quarters openly approved the practice, and only a quarter (i.e. 1 in 2,000 of those circulated) gave a clear and unequivocal repudiation of it. It would, therefore, appear that the religious heads of our community by an overwhelming majority accept the case for animal experimentation.

I propose this afternoon to deal first with the question, has animal experiment contributed to our understanding and control of disease? Those who oppose animal experiment assert (i) that knowledge gained by animal experi­ment is useless, (ii) alternatively, if useful it is already known through clinical observation and experience, (iii) the benefits alleged to result from animal experiment, could have been achieved by methods wholly unconnected with these experiments, and (iv) since the final experiment must be made on man, this is the valid experiment and all which preceded it are indecisive and often misleading.

It is important at the outset to make clear that no one claims that animal experiment is the exclusive method of investigating disease, though it is typical of the misrepresentation, to which I shall refer later, of the anti-vivi­sectionists that having stated in a recent speech that " I do not regard animal experiment as the exclusive method of medical investigation, but it is quite indispensable," it was repeated in their Journal that I claimed " that brain functions have been made known only by animal experiment."

The answer to the question, how valuable is animal experiment in medicine, is best exempli­fied by a few specific instances. I take diabetes mellitus as my first, because the discovery of insulin is par excellence a triumph of animal experiment. Until 1889 there was no clue to the cause of diabetes, despite a century of careful clinical investigation. Then came the chance observation of von Mering and Minkowski, who showed that if more than four-fifths of the pancreas was removed in dogs it rendered them diabetic. Somewhat later Ssobolew found that ligature of the ducts of the pancreas, which caused degeneration of that part of the gland which produces the digestive ferments, left islets of cells (the so-called islets of Langerhans) intact, and failed to produce diabetes. It was in the later part of the nine­teenth century that the importance of glandular extracts in the treatment of disease was first recognized, but it was not until 1922 that Banting and Best isolated insulin which, when injected into animals and human patients, lowered the blood sugar and controlled the diabetic state. You are all familiar with the results of this discovery, but let me remind you that before 1922 the expectation of life of a diabetic child of 10 was about fifteen months; to-day it is over 45 years. Even at the age of 30 the diabetic, before insulin, could expect to live only about four to six years, and this with the strictest dietetic control: now his expectation of life is over 30 years, only a little short of the normal average. Translate these facts in the fight of the known and rising incidence of diabetes mellitus—in Great Britain there are more than 200,000 diabetics—and you will have some measure in terms of the saving of life brought about by one therapeutic agent.

But the prolongation of life was not the only consequence of the discovery of insulin. The mortality of patients who fall into diabetic coma was reduced by insulin from 50 per cent to 3 per cent. Before insulin few diabetic women conceived: now the diabetic woman who requires investigation for sterility is the excep­tion rather than the rule, and the maternal mortality in properly controlled diabetic preg­nancies is only one in two hundred. The survival of the infants depends on many factors, but in the normal may be as high as 97 per cent.

There was another interesting sequel to the discovery of insulin. Banting and his co­workers, controlling the administration of insulin by frequently repeated blood sugar estimations, found that an overdose of insulin was followed by a characteristic pattern of symptoms. As the blood sugar fell to levels of 70 to 50 mg per cent (the normal is 100 mg per cent) there were complaints of apprehension (usually of indefinable fears), tension, weakness and listlessness, epigastric discomfort, hunger, sweating, tremor, irritability, and numbness and coldness of the hands and lips. As the fall in blood sugar continued (50-25 mg per cent) there appeared, usually in this sequence, dizziness, blurred and double vision and speech difficulties; changes in temperament, mental confusion, bizarre behaviour and even maniacal outbursts; automatism, drowsiness, lethargy, stupor and later unconsciousness, and the eye- balls become softer; and finally fits appeared of various types. The severity of these signs of hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar depended not only on the level of blood sugar but also on the rate of fall.

 

In 1924 Seale Harris published the records of three cases in which the symptoms described after insulin overdosage arose "spontaneously" and were found to be associated with hypo­glycaemia, and relieved by food and glucose. Starvation, physical exercise, the menses, or an attack of diarrhoea might precipitate such attacks, though they rarely occurred during an acute infection. Harris, and others who reported similar cases, believed that the symp­toms of hypoglycaemia were associated with an excess of insulin in the blood secreted by an over-active pancreas, or a tumour of the islet cells. In 1927 Wilder and his colleagues pub­lished the first operative report. Unfortunately, their patient proved to have an inoperable cancer of the islet tissue with a secondary growth in the liver, but a relationship between spontaneous hypoglycaemia and islet-cell tumours was con­firmed, and two years later Howland reported the first surgical cure of a patient with an islet-cell adenoma.

 

Since then there can be found in the literature the records of several hundreds of islet-cell tumours of which two-thirds have proved to be simple tumours. Many of these patients have, because of the mental symptoms, been admitted to a mental institution, but have been saved and restored to a normal life in the community by this operation.

This then, depended almost wholly on the knowledge culled from animal experiment. Now what is the anti-vivisectionist's answer to the triumphs of insulin therapy? First, he says that insulin is not a cure for diabetes, for if insulin be stopped, the symptoms recur. This is true, but the claim has never been made that insulin removes the cause of diabetes, nor indeed in most cases can the cause be removed, because this lies in an irreversible damage to certain cells of the body. As Joslin wrote: "it is an error to speak of a cure of diabetes; the tendency to diabetes is inborn and must remain so for life." But a diabetic who has survived 30 years longer than he would have lived without insulin is unlikely to be influenced by niceities of semantic purity, and no one will doubt that insulin “controls” diabetes. The second point which is sometimes made by those who seek to throw doubt on the value of insulin in diabetes, is that the mortality from diabetes remains substantially unchanged.

 

But is this not what would be anticipated? The diabetic is not immortal, and he must, therefore, appear in mortality tables even if his appearance there is delayed. Moreover, the incidence of diabetes is increasing. Amongst the factors responsible for this we must remem­ber that more of the population are living until the sixth decade, in which the onset of diabetes is most common, that diagnosis is more accurate, and that the population of most countries is increasing. Perhaps the most objective judg­ment on the influence of insulin on diabetes is that Insurance Companies, which with the best will in the world cannot be regarded as wholly philanthropic organizations, will now in some countries accept the diabetic as an insurable life in certain circumstances, whereas formerly he was rejected outright. It is perhaps a hopeful sign that the anti-vivisectionists are prepared to make a concession, for I note that it is no longer held that insulin is of no value but that, and here I quote from their Journal. "at least in the great majority of cases of diabetes, insulin injections were quite unnecessary, and in some cases at least might be extremely dangerous".

Let me turn to vaccines and sera, and not even the most convinced anti-vivisectionist denies that for their production and virulence and potency tests, animal experiment is needed, though it is not without interest that some anti-vivisectionists claim for vaccines a triumph of homeopathic theory! I will quote briefly two examples.

In the South African War, the incidence of typhoid fever was 105 per 1,000 combatants, and the death rate was 40.6 per 1,000. In other words, almost half those who were infected died. Because of the efforts of Sir Almroth Wright in the First World War the incidence of typhoid fever was 2.35 per 1,000—that is, 45 times less than had been the incidence in the South African War—and the death rate 0.14, which was 300 times less. And that was an expression of the use of prophylactic vaccine.

To bring the matter up to date, you will know that there has been a striking decline both in the incidence and in the death rate from diph­theria in this country during the last ten to fourteen years. Before that time we had in diphtheria antitoxin an agent which was partially successful in overcoming the most dire effects of diphtheria. Yet despite the use of antitoxin, the notifications of diphtheria in this country annually for the period 1932 to 1942 averaged 55,125 and of those cases 2,783 died.   Then came the public campaign for active diphtheria immunization and gradually, with a widening of immunization, the incidence declined. The latest detailed figures which I have are those for 1956, and in that year, as compared with an annual incidence of diphtheria in this country before 1942 of over 55,000 per annum, there were 53 notified cases of diphtheria. Compared with 2,783 deaths annually from diphtheria there were in 1956 eight deaths, with one fatality in an immunized child of two. How does the anti-vivisectionist explain these dramatic changes? He says that they are but examples of the general fall in the incidence of infectious disease, which is due to better housing and nutrition and improved general hygiene. But this does not explain the sharp and immediate drop in diphtheria which followed the full immunization programme, nor that when deaths occurred they were in the non-immunized, or in the imperfectly immunized: for example, in 1955 of the ten children under the age of 15 who died nine had not been immunized and one had been immunized over ten years previously. In 1955, the Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health reported that this:—

"was the second year in which it has been possible for the epidemiological division of the Ministry in co-operation with the medical officers of health to obtain a report on individual notifications. An analysis of details available from all but four of the 227 cases in 1954 and 1955 shows that out of 223 cases under 15, 121 (14 deaths) had never been immunized. 44 cases (two deaths) had a history of partial or complete immunization more than five years before the attack and 58 (no deaths) cases had been immunized within the last five years. There were eight deaths in 60 cases (13.3 per cent) in the 1-4 age group, four deaths in 100 cases (4 per cent) in the 5-9 age group, and three deaths in 64 cases (5 per cent) in the 10-14 age group. In the under one age group there were three cases with one death. The need for early immunization and for the booster dose is emphasized in these figures."

 

Many infectious diseases have not decreased in incidence despite better hygienic conditions, for example, measles, though its fatality rate is now only about one sixth of what it was before the introduction of the sulpha drugs and anti­biotics. We owe our knowledge of these drugs, as Sir Howard Florey pointed out in an earlier lecture, to animal experiment. It was in animals that their beneficial effects were first demonstrated, and animals are necessary for their   standardization   and   tests   of purity.

 

Their triumphs are perhaps too recent to need re-telling. Many of them have been narrated in earlier lectures, so that I shall confine myself to only two examples. One of the most tragic diseases which we saw particularly during the First World War, was cerebro-spinal meningitis. In the American Civil War the death rate from cerebro-spinal meningitis was 90 per cent. In the First World War, as a result of the intro­duction of anti-meningococcal serum, the death rate was reduced to 30 per cent. During the Second World War, as a result of the exhibition of sulpha drugs, the death rate was reduced to 3 per cent, and in many epidemics was much smaller. Childbed fever or puerperal sepsis, as it was called, showed a distinct decline with the introduction of the sulpha drugs. The incidence was about 50 per cent of what it had been previously, and with the introduction of penicillin, the incidence was one-tenth of what it had been previously. Moreover, many diseases hitherto almost invariably fatal, such as pneumococcal and tuberculous meningitis, and subacute bacterial endocarditis, now fre­quently yield to antibiotic treatment. And no one who has seen personally the modern treatment of yaws and the sulphone treatment of leprosy can have any doubts about the immense value of the chemo-therapeutic agents. A few months ago, Dr. C. A. Egger, in a letter to The Times about the sulphone treatment of leprosy wrote:—

"I think we all realize that there is a danger of a new medicine being greeted as a panacea, but this should not overshadow the fact that the treatment of lepers by sulphone preparations has heralded a new era in which the attitude of the lepers has changed. They now come forward for treatment willingly, and these drugs have given both patients and doctors a new and hope­ful outlook which previously was entirely lacking."

I referred earlier to the fatality rate in measles having dropped although the incidence of the disease is unchanged, despite improved general hygiene. The lower fatality rate is due to the fact that most deaths in measles occur from secondary infections, and now these can be controlled with the therapeutic agents I have discussed.

It is of interest that despite better housing, nutrition, and hygiene some infectious diseases are commoner, notably poliomyelitis. It is only as a result of animal experiment that the explana­tion for this, and the production of the vaccine which diminishes the incidence of paralytic poliomyelitis by 60-80 per cent, have been forth­coming. Poliomyelitis has been shown to be due to a virus, a micro-organism so small that unlike bacteria it cannot be seen even with the most powerful microscope which uses visible light, though it can be demonstrated with the electron-microscope, and unlike bacteria, it cannot be grown outside the body, but only in living cells. Fifty years ago, it was shown that the virus of poliomyelitis can be transmitted to monkeys. Later, investigation revealed that there were several forms of polio virus, some causing little or no paralysis, and others causing severe and extensive paralysis: infection with the former often prevented a subsequent infection with the latter, so that where infection with a mild virus was widespread it was unusual to find cases of paralytic poliomyelitis developing later. But the virus is excreted by the bowel, hence where sanitary measures are poor there is widespread infection, often of a mild type in infancy, and hence paralytic cases are rare in later life. These facts explain why the preven­tive measures which have been so effective in controlling other infections spread by excreta have but little value in poliomyelitis; indeed, they appear to do harm by delaying the onset of the disease until a later age when more severe paralysis so commonly occurs. The need for monkeys in the preparation, standardization and purity tests of polio vaccine has had such publicity recently in the Press that I need not labour the part which animal experiment plays here.

 

I could by turning to other fields, such as the effects of vitamins on nutrition, the influence of glandular therapy in cancer, advances in anaes­thesia, etc., quote dramatic examples of what medicine owes to animal experiment. It is only the woefully ignorant or wilfully blind who will fail to acknowledge this.

 

It is moreover, clear from these examples that the crucial knowledge yielded by animal experiment was not already known through clinical observation and experience. To ask whether it would have been possible to achieve this knowledge without animal experiment is to pose a hypothetical question, and the onus of proof lies on those who assert the affirmative. Suffice it to say, that other methods in many fields have failed where the knowledge gained from animal experiment has succeeded. What then of the final allegation made by the anti-vivisectionists that “since the final experiment must be made on man, this is the first valid experiment and all which preceded it are indecisive and often misleading”. No one denies that animals differ in many respects from man. Sir Howard Florey instanced the striking toxicity of penicillin for guinea pigs, and we know that most animals are resistant to infec­tion with the polio virus. But the similarities are more striking than the differences, and the investigator selects the animal which is most suitable for his purpose. This has been the method used by all physiologists, includingHarvey. It is by these preliminary animal experiments that we are able to define whether the results are applicable to man, and the conditions of maximum safety for human experiment. It is, indeed, the same process by which the aeroplane engineer works with his models in wind tunnels before building the prototype which is to be flown by man. To allege that "the first valid experiment was that of the trial flight, and all which preceded are indecisive and often misleading" is palpably false. In my own school and elsewhere experiments are being carried out which aim by mechanical and biological means to maintain the circulation to the brain, whilst more prolonged operations than are now possible can be carried out on the heart. These clearly must reach a sufficiently promising stage of development when tested in animals before they can be applied to man.

 

I do not claim that fallacious inferences, unscientific analysis of data, and unfounded assertions are confined to the literature of anti-vivisectionists, but in extensive reading in many fields I have yet to find anything comparable to the anti-vivisectionists’ errors in these respects. I propose in this latter part of the address to illustrate their shortcomings from examples culled from their literature.

 

Amongst the commonest practices which lead to misrepresentation is that of quoting part of a statement out of its context. But this is a practice which the anti-vivisectors not only use but attempt to justify. Let me quote from the Animals' Defender, April 1957, page 47. In a paragraph headed "Out of Context" occurs the following :—

"It is considered a term of reproach to say that something has been quoted 'out of con­text' but there are occasions when the very fact of isolating a passage from its surrounding verbiage may throw it into full focus.

 

We propose to use in these columns from time to time such quotations, deliberately taken out of context, to illustrate the highlights of controversial topics."

 

If I write, "it is a mistake to believe that clinical observation suffices to illustrate all aspects of disease," it would clearly be grossly misleading, and indeed it is discreditable, to quote only part of this, namely, "clinical observation suffices to illustrate all aspects of disease." This conveys a meaning diametrically opposed to that of the full sentence.

 

Another objectionable tendency is to general­ize from the particular, asserting for example, that since animal experiment in the field of cancer research has not yet led to a cure for cancer, all animal experiment in every field of biological research must be useless.

 

Examples of the suggestio falsi abound in anti-vivisectionist literature. For example, an article in the Medical World, January, 1957, stressed that whereas such surgical procedures as tendon transplantation may be of value in paralysis in the lower limbs, they "can do little to restore function to the more complex upper limbs—a fact to be remembered in choosing the site for immunizing injections". The Animals' Defender of April, 1957, page 44, comments on this by saying that the significance of it "is in the tacit admission of the tie-up between immunizing injections and of paralysis following a polio injection”. The word "tacit" is clearly meant to suggest that doctors have not acknowledged or have endeavoured to hide this association between the limb which is the site of vaccine injection, and the onset of paralysis, when it occurs. But as anyone familiar with the field knows, this has been stressed, and the informa­tion widely disseminated, together with other known factors about the precipitation of paralysis, such as physical over-exertion, and operations on the mouth and throat. Again, in the Animals' Defender, of May, 1957, page 49, it is claimed that certain cases of diphtheria are included in the Ministry of Health's Annual Report, under the heading of "Never been immunized" but in fact there is no such heading in the Report. The heading is "Never immun­ized or immunized before 1951." But it is not only the false suggestion but the wilful exclusion of facts which do not fit in with the picture it is intended to paint. Perhaps no better illustration than this can be found in the alleged incidents inBirmingham. The allegations were thus described by a well-known anti-vivisector:—

"Another more or less accidental light was thrown on laboratory practices by a Sunday paper on April 14 of this year, under the heading 'A Room of Horror.' It gave an account of what a window-cleaner had seen during the course of his duties at theBirminghamUni­versityMedicalSchool. I asked the editor of the paper if he would be kind enough to give me the name and address of the window cleaner as I wished to verify the story.   This he kindly gave me, but was otherwise reticent. I was told afterwards that he had been threatened with legal action. The window-cleaner corro­borated what had appeared in the paper. He said that he had seen small animals fastened to the table with pins. He had seen yelping dogs crawling about the floor with tubes sticking out of them, he had seen three dogs lying on the ground trying to catch drops of water from a dripping tap, and he had seen a live rabbit thrown into an incinerator by a girl student. The window-cleaner said that such sights had been commonplace for some years. He had hesitated to do anything about it because he was afraid that his firm would lose the contract and that his mates would lose their jobs. But at last he could stand it no more."

 

But what were the facts? They were that this case was fully investigated by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and that the Society took no action. It was also thoroughly investigated by an inspector from the Home Office, and he found that the allega­tions were quite unjustified. Moreover, in a later interview with the Press the window-cleaner virtually retracted most of what he had said in the first instance. He stated that he was "not a bit sure," that he "couldn't really tell," and that in any case he was a lay man and did not really understand.

 

You will note also how in describing these and other episodes the anti-vivisectionists use words of the strongest emotional content; vaccination is described as "injecting filth", excision of the eye becomes "tearing the eyes out", procedures are always "revolting, terrify­ing", and the rest, and a most unworthy but typical example of this tendency is seen in the description of those who carry out animal experiments, as people who "claim exemption from the laws of human decency, and demand ever increasing facilities and funds for their sadistic pursuits". The anti-vivisectors never concede that those engaged in this work are actuated by the highest motives in their desire to alleviate human suffering. For the anti-vivisector the physiologist is always guilty of wanton cruelty, sadism and the like, and more recently there has been the tendency to ascribe the desire to carry out animal experiments to the commercial incentive, which follows the production of drugs and vaccines. Quoting the results of one pharmaceutical laboratory the Animals' Defender writes. "whether vaccines and similar products really do protect against disease may be doubtful, but there can be no doubt whatsoever that from their production comes adequate protection to the investors who hold X's shares.” It is well for all of us to combine whatever views we hold with one of the variations of the golden rule, that we should not attribute motives to others which we would not have attributed to ourselves.

 

If I were setting an exercise to students of logic to detect fallacies, I could choose no better example than that of the anti-vivisectionists' quiz, published in Animals' Defender. Prac­tically every question begs the question, or admits of an equivocal answer, or has a suggestio falsi. Again, there is a complete lack of perspective in reporting, for example, the ill-effects of antibiotics. The report of the British Medical Journal, March 30th, 1957, of two patients who suffered from severe reactions to penicillin by mouth are noted in the Animals' Defender, but no mention is made of the hundreds of thousands of patients who have received oral penicillin with no ill-effect, but with immense benefit, and often it has proved a life-saving measure.

Perhaps I might in conclusion quote a personal example which illustrates how a simple state­ment is misreported. In a speech I made recently I mentioned that, based on our know­ledge of vitamins, much of which had been derived from animal experiment, the Govern­ment had during the War introduced a Welfare Foods scheme, which resulted in the practical disappearance of scurvy and rickets from this country, and that after the War we had main­tained this Welfare Foods scheme, whereas in many countries there had been evidence of nutritional deficiency, because for various reasons there had not been applied the nutri­tional principles underlying our scheme. This was commented on in the Animals' Defender, September, 1957, page 96 as follows :—

"If we accept it at its face value some signi­ficance should attach to a report in the Daily Express (July 30, 1957) which complains that this same welfare food scheme was so riddled with dietetic fallacies that ‘. . . many children have been dosed with far too much vitamin D in the form of cod liver oil and dried milk. The excess is believed to have been causing a damaging bone and blood condition called hypercalcaemia. In an inquiry described in the report nearly 40 per cent of the six-month-old babies were getting dangerous doses of vitamin D.’ And remember that Lord Cohen stated that ‘The knowledge’ on which these welfare foods were based 'came from animal experiments.'"

 

But what the Daily Express is alleged to have reported, bears no relationship to the official report on this problem of vitamin D in excess. If the writer had read the report he would have appreciated that the excess of vitamin D did not arise primarily from the Welfare Foods scheme, but from various cereal foods which had been fortified with vitamin D, and from other vitamin preparations used as foods or tonics, which again were outside the Welfare Foods scheme.

 

Had time permitted I could arraign the anti-vivisectionists on several other charges of disregarding rational thinking in their reports, and in their assessment of the value of animal experiment, but I hope that enough evidence has now been attested to satisfy any reasonable persons of the immense contribution which animal experiment has made to medicine. I have the impression that not even the anti-vivisectionists are now convinced of what they earlier held, namely, that animal experiment is useless, for in the recent House of Lords debate Lord Somers was prepared to say that "if these experiments are justified by a wholesale allevia­tion of disease, then to a point—a very limited point—may I make it clear, they are justifiable". This certainly undermines any ethical arguments used by the anti-vivisectionists, and again, Lord Somers says’ "I say if the scientific profession finds it impossible to alleviate human disease without these experiments, and is convinced that, with the experiments, it can alleviate them, then I would say that a limited amount of experiments, under very strict supervision and control, is justifiable."

All those interested in the work of this Society must welcome this trend. A great share of the credit for exposing the fallacies and the tortuous methods of those who oppose animal experiment goes to him whom this lecture commemorates. It was he who made known so widely the beneficent results of animal experiment, whilst many were indifferent to the need for research defence. He convinced all but the blind to reason that those who seek to advance medical knowledge by animal experiment are motivated by the highest ideals; that they are humane men and women who would recoil from the infliction of avoidable pain and suffering on animal or man; but that they would resist any measure which thus conditioned would weaken or thwart their efforts to capture the means whereby the suffering of mankind, and be it said of the whole animal kingdom, might be lessened. We salute in humble admiration and gratitude the memory of a great man.

 

Vote of Thanks

 

Professor C. A. Keele, F.R.C.P., said he was very pleased to have the opportunity of proposing a vote of thanks to Lord Cohen for his interesting lecture. He only wished it could have been delivered before an audience of anti-vivisec­tionists. He had found that those who per­formed animal experimentation in the course of their work rather tended to take it for granted that the present laws which controlled those experiments would always continue and that the conditions under which they worked would go on for ever, but when one read of attacks such as had occurred in the House of Lords on this whole question it was clear that there was need to be eternally vigilant. While it was perhaps unnecessary to imitate Stephen Paget literally, and go round the country' speaking in Hyde Park and standing outside the anti-vivisectionist headquarters with placards, at any rate they had to keep on guard, and they were extremely fortunate in having such a powerful protagonist as Lord Cohen to represent the views of the Research Defence Society in the highest councils in the land.

Professor Keele wished to take the oppor­tunity of thanking Lord Cohen not only for delivering an address in his usual flawless manner and with unparallelled clarity but also for all that he was doing in another place, for which the Society was extremely grateful.

 

Sir Henry Dale, O.M., G.B.E., F.R.C.P., F.R.S. said he was very pleased to second the vote of thanks. Lord Cohen had given a very remarkable demonstration of the kind of misrepresentation they had all at one time or another had to face. He himself was possibly the only animal experimenter who had been attacked on account of cries of agony produced by his experiments during a period of three weeks in which neither he nor any member of the staff of the Institute —nor any animal—had been present. When the National Institute for Medical Research was to be opened in the rather vulnerable district of Hampstead with its elegant residential popula­tion, a tender-hearted lady in Frognal had evidently found an opportunity of getting into the premises to discover when the torturers and their victims were going to arrive. According to her information this was to be the 1st April, though in fact it was not until the 21st that anyone was there. Promptly on 1st April, however, the lady had begun to hear the yells and cries of dogs in agony and had reported to the Home Secretary. She had stationed herself from dawn to dusk in an attic at the top of the house with a pair of field glasses, with which she scanned the whole area of the grounds of the Institute but had failed to see a dog, which must therefore have been confined. As the yelling swelled, of course, the door of the torture chamber was opened; as it died away, the door of the torture chamber was shut.

Fortunately, said Sir Henry, he had been able, when the matter was brought to his notice by the Home Office, to produce documentary evidence that there had been nobody there at all and no dog.

 

That was perhaps a rather unusual instance of the way the imagination could work.

 

They were very grateful indeed to Lord Cohen for the time he had given, for the care with which he had assembled his examples and for the grace and eloquence with which he had delivered his address.

 

The vote of thanks was accorded by acclama­tion.

 

Those members of the audience not members of the Society then left the meeting

 


Main menu
Select a language
Search
Loading