Main menu
Select a language

A limited dominion

Before I begin to unfold my theme, I hope you will allow me, my Lord President, to offer an antiphon of tribute to Professor David Smyth. I had not the pleasure of his acquaintance until about a year ago. I had read his book, Alterna­tives to Animal Experiments, in a crowded aero­plane crossing the Atlantic, Such is the quality of the writing that, despite the distraction of the clouds in their beauty without and of in-flight kinematographic pathology within, I detected on page 130 a statement it variance with the whole argument of the book. 'Whatever scien­tists can be accused of,' it laid, ‘a willingness to try something new is not one of them.' Surely, I said to myself, the logic requires, not ‘a willingness’ but 'unwillingness' - there must have been an error of transcription somewhere along the line. On my return toEngland I wrote to Professor Smyth, and had from him a charming letter in reply. It was indeed an error, of a sort which so easily evades the scrutiny of those most familiar with the text. In subsequent meetings, notably when he came to give evidence to the LD50 Committee at the Home Office, I found in him conjoined a tough, tenacious mind and a warm, encouraging, friendly heart. His book is the child of this conjunction, of intellectual integrity with humanity. If a memorial 10 him were in contemplation, I would venture to suggest the funding of a research project v.' find an alternative to that test which, from three clear statements in the book (pp 68, 167, 169), he found the most worrying of all, the Drabre test on rabbits’ eyes. This, as the spearhead to those other, eminently sensible and practical measures which he proposed at the end of his book pp 169-70), would be a fitting recognition of his labour to bring the utmost humanity to the use of animals in laboratory research. For­give me if I tread where, as a stranger, I ought not. It is because I take his last work, for this Society and for physiological research, with a proper seriousness, that I am, perhaps, over­bold. Presuming on your charity, I turn now to my theme.




A moralist approaches the Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture with anxiety. He is aware of the tradition in which he is invited to stand, of the weighty lectures given in recent yean, notably by the President, who argued out the ethics and by Professor W D Paton, who argued from the science, in defence of the use of animals in experimental work. My own title derives from a sentence in Professor Paton's lecture last year: 'The biblical statements that man has dominion over animals, and is worth more than many sparrows, become simple fact.' My first anxiety attends capacity: capacity to keep up such a standard for another year.


My second is material to the subject itself. Why, I ask myself, should we choose commemorate Stephen Paget with an annual expiatory rite of this sort? Are we so unsure of ourselves, so doubtful of the propriety of our actions, that once a year we must come together to assure ourselves that in our use of animals in research we do no wrong? Have I compromised myself in succeeding to this Lectureship? I have, in the course of recent duty, identified myself with the researchers in trying to understand why they use animals and how they use them. I consented to their work every time I joined the affirmative advice to the Home Secretary for the granting of licences to experiment. I am open therefore to the charge of partiality. I have not identified myself with the animals, except - so far as man can - in imagination; though some reading of the literature written forcibly on the animals' behalf tells me how widely imagination can extend and how limited is my own. Taken together, these two anxieties are crippling.


Several limes I have wished that I had offered you an appreciation of Stephen Paget's literary work, and of his place in that remarkable family of his, instead. I bring you, in consequence, not another defence of the use of animals in experi­ments - certainly not a knock-down defence; but rather an example of one moralist at work, trying to analyse the problem.


Each man's method is his own. That is toler­able, so long as he can commend his thinking to the understanding of others. But no man, in any discipline, starts from scratch. His work grows out of a tradition. He may advance the tradition, or overthrow it; but it starts from within it. My tradition is in the historical theology of the Church of England, in which the Elizabethan Richard Hooker mediated something of St Thomas Aquinas, and so of Aristotle, to the modern English world. And Hooker was wont to judge a practice by three tests: reason, tradition, and Scripture. Was the thing reasonable in itself? Has it commended itself to Christian conscience in tradition? and was it not contrary to God's word revealed in Scripture? If it passed those tests, it was lawful for Christian men. That is not a bad method for a moralist today; though he would wish to apply the tests somewhat differ­ently. Certainly he could draw no sharp divide between Bible and tradition as his forefathers could; for he would read the Bible now, not as God's dictated word, but as a record of man's experience of God in certain historical and unique periods of God's self-revelation - in short, as the fount and early course of a con­tinuing tradition, uniquely authoritative in some of its parts, but in none discontinuous with the whole.


The critical questions before us have been pushed hack, in recent years, behind the moral question, What may man properly do to animals? to the relational question, How does man stand towards animals? in what ways is man different, superior? on what difference or superiority may he ground his claim to use animals for his pleasure or convenience?


To these questions the tradition gives no con­sistent answer. The contradictions face us in any museum or gallery of art; they cry out from legend, ballad, fable, chronicle, from the sung and spoken and written word. Animals have fought for man in war - horse and mule, ele­phant and carrier pigeon; they have toiled for him on earth - oxen, bullock, sheepdog, the canary in the miner's cage; they have suffered for his sport, in the arena, the cockpit, the shoot, the chase. Sometimes they take sweet revenge -the vicarious revenge, for instance, of the Indian tiger in the Victoria and Albert Museum, eating a British subaltern, with a mechanism contrived within, which, when wound, articulates (he victim's screams of agony. Man's servant, man's victim, man's foe - yet also man's friend, the companion of his stableyard, and hearth and home. I recall a farmer, old and lame, leaning on a wall high above Dent and Barbondale. He had spent the day up there alone, while they shot and buried his work-worn horse in the dale below - too close a friend to be sent to the knacker's yard, or to be seen to die. These are the contrasts, and more besides, in the traditions of Western man, to look no further afield. There is no moral consistency there, unless it be in sustained contradiction.


Animal's friends today often speak as though they were the first to champion the cause, to protest against cruelty. That claim is too bold. A moralist would wish to search his sources - the medieval manuals for confessors, the voluminous tomes of the moralists and casuists of Tridentine Rome, the sermons and directories of Reformed preachers and Anglican divines. Not infre­quently there has been a gap between formal moral doctrine and general practice: for cen­turies this was true, for instance, about the free­dom of consent in marriage. It may have been still with animals: the question invites examina­tion. Certainly philosophers dispute whether it was Descartes himself or his followers who so sharpened the mechanistic view of animal be­haviour as to justify deaf insensitivity to animal suffering. And Hogarth, be it remembered, has left us his cartoons of protest, dated 1751, de­picting 'The Four Stages of Cruelty', from animals to men. There was, in fact, a mounting revulsion from cruelty, including cruelty to animals, in the eighteenth century - witness A Dissertation on the Duty of Mercy and the Sin of Cruelty to Brute Animals, by Humphrey Primatt, 1776[1] - with obscure Puritan origins in the mid-seventeenth century. The Liberties of the Massachusetts Colony, adopted in 1041, legislated to protect domestic animals: 'No man shall exercise any tyranny or cruelty towards any brute creatures which are usually to be kept for man's use’.[2] Moral mutations occur in history from time to time, for good as well as for bad; and this appears to have been one of them. Perhaps we are witnessing a new lease of life for it now. Certainly contradiction is a fact in the tradition.


The Bible, even when, as we would say, rightly used, does not remove it. (By 'rightly used' I mean, not as a quarry for proof texts plucked out as oracles to prove whatever the plucker would prove, but as a record of com­munity experience, changing radically from place to place and from time to time.) The dominating fact about the biblical evidence -commonly overlooked - is that throughout the Old Testament period the Hebrews, in common with all other peoples of their time, sacrificed animals as a religious duty. The Christians repudiated that, not for moral reasons - be­cause it was held to be cruel - but for theological reasons, because the all-sufficient self-offering of Christ had made it all unnecessary. It is against this background that we have to explore the relational and the moral questions which are our task.


How did the Jews come to those insights which they recorded? By reflection. Animals formed part of their life. Those perennial uses and abuses of animals which I sketched above were part of their daily experience. They reflec­ted on that experience in the light of their experience of God. So in the Psalms we find paeans of praise 10 God uttered by man on be­half of all creation - animal and man together, in common dependence on God's creative and sustaining hand.


'Beasts and all cattle: worms and feathered fowls,

Kings of the earth and all people: princes

and judges of the earth.

Young men and maidens, old men and


Praise the name of the Lord.'

'Let everything that hath breath: prabe 'he


{Psalms 148, 150)


Men were aware of their power over animate, and of their use of that power. Reflecting also on this, they said it must be so because God made it so - there could be no ether explanation in the religious mind. So they wrote of their power in terms of God's grant, of dominion, lordship, authority to rule:

‘Thou makest him to have have dominion of the

works of thy hands; and thou hast put all

things in subjection under his feet;

All sheep and oxen: yea, and the beasts of the field;

The fowls of the air and the fishes of the sea: and whatsoever walketh through the paths of the sea.

O Lord our Governor, how excellent is they name in all the world.’

(Psalms 8)


At some time - no matter when - they told of this grant in the words of myth, imagining a time, or days, when the grant was made. These myths have come down to us in Genesis, in the stories of the Garden of Eden {Genesis 1 and 2) and the covenant after the Flood (Genesis 9). Emphatically the experience, and the reflection on it preceded the writing: men did not wait until they could read Genesis 9:3 for permission to eat meat.


From the understanding of relationship, reflection led them further to the morality - to declare how animals should be treated. As realists they knew of a state of enmity between them and those animals in the wild which threatened their own life, as we know enmity with viruses and bacteria which threaten ours. But for those which they domesticated and used, their morality dictated a high and humane concern; and this we find expressed, partly in the codes of law or instruction (torah) embodied in the literature, but also in the psalms and myths - in the language of dominion.


Dominion is, of course, an English word, used interchangeably with lordship, by those late medieval Englishmen who translated the Bible, first from Latin, then from Hebrew and Greek. Cradled in a feudal civilization, they knew what lordship meant: not absolute, despotic power, but a complex of rights or claims inextricable from responsibilities - the first conditional upon the second. A 'good lord' was the protector of his subjects - that was his duty, the ground of his claim upon their services. Even the King him­self, the sovereign lord, was not exempt: he was called to account for failure in his responsibili­ties. The sense of a limited, constitutional dominion, is written into the Latin Bible in words which carried this protective, custodial obligation throughout the Latin-speaking middle ages. For the grant of dominion we find the words constituisti eum, et praesit and dominamini (Psalm 8, Genesis I :26, 28). Man's duty in the Garden of Eden is ut custodiret, that he should replenish (not devastate) the earth, keep and cherish it, like any custos, warden or keeper, with 'custody' over forests, warrens or parks. Lords, in this tradition, were not tyrants with absolute power.


I may, of course, have erred in thus reading a feudal, constitutional, limited dominion into this combined relational and moral tradition. But I do not think so. This interpretation is required by the theology and moral understanding of the Old Testament itself. In its developed formula­tion, all the land was subject to God who was its Lord and King - the Psalms affirmed this again and again. Even kings were subject to his sovereignty; their rule was to be subject to his law, within his covenant; and God's covenant -God's protective righteousness - was with "every living creature' that was with man, as well as with man himself. (Genesis 9:8f.) Hence man's dominion over the beats must be limited, righteous, merciful. Hence in the developed codes of law, especially in Deuteronomy, six centuries before the Christian era began, we find all the rules the conservationist could look for, protecting the soil, the trees, the oxen at the plough or the threshing Door, the beast of bur­den, the mother bird and the fledglings in the nest.[3]


The New Testament has little to add to, or to detract from, this - except the repudiation of animal sacrifice. Jesus assumed it all: God cares for the sparrows, yet man is of more value than many sparrows; a man's care for his beast (loosing him and leading him to water, or pull­ing him, pack laden, from the ditch) is used as a model, a fortiori, of God's care for man. St Paul gets into trouble with animal lovers for arguing the same point, though more eliptically, from one of the Old Testament protective laws, 'Thou shall not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn' -but let him grab a mouthful now and again. St Paul says, 'Doth God care for the oxen:" - not as expecting the answer 'No', but as a rabbinic way of arguing a fortiori - 'he cares even more for us'.


This, summarily written, is the biblical con­tribution to tradition, to our Western relational and moral experience. Of course it answers none of our questions. It was not intended to: our questions were not then raised. It gives us, however, certain points of reference within which we have to reason out these answers for ourselves; and where those points commend themselves to us in conscience — as many of them do - there they exert moral claims.



I pass now from tradition, including Scripture, to reason. Reason is, par excellence, the province of the philosophers (though theologians also would claim a corner in it; man does not live by revelation alone). The philosophers have been very busy in this field of late; one or two of them writing books about animal rights and libera­tion, and others tearing those books apart with­out benefit of anaesthetic. Notable among the books are Peter Singer, Animal Liberation (1975) Stephen R L Clark, The Moral Status of Animals (1977). They were anatomized in the journal Philosophy, in April and October 1978 (vol 53, nos 204. and 206). Mr Singer has invented or taken up a new moral offence called 'speciesism'. As 'racism' (as they call it now) and 'sexism' have come to mean the grounding of improper discrimination upon differences of race or of sex, so 'speciesism' perpetrates the same offence on the ground of difference of species: we use animals for our own ends only because we are of a different species from theirs, and that is a moral wrong. Our differences give no ground for such abuse. The philosophers, with rare unanimity, tell Mr Singer how wrong he is, though they range widely in their methods of attack. Mr Clark's book, Miltonic in imagina­tion and literary style, pleads with passion for a world without stress or pain (we drink milk in guilt, because at the cost of emotional stress to weaned calves) - except for physiologists: The physiologist is a man of science, deaf to screams and blind to blood' is one of his attributions (p 139), and men of science must be made to feel uncomfortable. Clark has strong arguments, and some sharp shafts of moral truth- for eample, ‘Let it be that animals have no rights:they can still be wronged’ (p29). But he delights too much in mocking his adversaries, caricaturing their position by polarizing, and by attaching their positions, in the name of logic, an illicit entail- as though a defended use always entailed flagrant abuse. I quote one compressed example:

            ‘Biomedical experiment is to be justified on the grounds that our current desires count for more than our victims’ pains. It will be on grounds like these that experimenters begin- if they have not begun already- to employ aborted, but still living, foetuses as biological material. If we find this disgusting- as it surely is to any uncorrupted sensibility- we must ask why we hide our disgust at experimental treatment of animals.’ (p70).


We should, however, takeClarkat his serious best in order to engage in good argument. In a chapter entitled the Dream of Reason he writes:

            ‘My point is really a very simple one. In human relationships the ability to live happily in love and charity with our neighbours, working at tasks to which we can seriously devote ourselves, is often weakened or destroyed by fantasies about one’s own status or the character if a would-be friend…But we are nevertheless convinced that people are better off when they can love and work, when the heat’s affections are not stifled. I am merely extending this principle to our relations with the non-human. A world-picture which permits the recognition of other living creatures as affectionate, curious, appetitive and the like and allows us to live together in friendship is plainly, pragmatically, better than one which pretends to licence a total separation of man and beast.’ (p133f).


HereClarksets up his poles: an affectional relationship, of a sort which we would call characteristically human, between men and animals on the one side, and a ‘total separation’ on the other. Elsewhere, while exploiting the ‘slippery slope’ argument from ‘putting down’ animals to ‘putting down’ battered babies, he writes that we have no longer the defence against this which our medieval ancestors had ‘by positing an absolute metaphysical difference between animals and men’ (p75).


But this ‘absolute metaphysical difference’, this ‘total separation’, is itself a creations of the philosophers who invented an entity called the soul’ and taught that men have it and animals have not. Though this baneful dualist tradition embedded itself in later Christianity and persists there, it was utterly alien to the belief in a unified personality carried from the Hebrew consciousness into early Christian theology. The soul was the material self, living, not an immaterial extra. And far from man being separated from animals by his possessing and their lacking this soul, anima, man and beast were bound together by a common possession, breath, spiritus. ‘Let everything that hath breath- omnis spiritus, omne quod spirat- praise the Lord.’ It may be, then, that the relational model found in the older theological tradition gives us a better ground for a contemporary morality concerning animals than that intruded from the philosophical tradition. If so, Clark had good ground to stand on- if only he had stood on it and not danced.



A morality of the experimental use of animals must stand, the, not on an identity or even kinship- a seductive metaphor- between animals and men, and not on an absolute metaphysical difference or total separation between them; but on their likeness in certain significant respects and their difference in other significant respects. The abiding value of the articles in the journal Philosophy to which I referred lies in their philosophical dissection of these points of similarity and difference. The use of animals in medical research presupposes a range of biological similarities; without this the research would not be mounted, because the relevant extrapolations (limited as they are) from animals to men would lack foundation, would not be valid. The necessity, and indeed the possibility, of a morality to control such experimental use presupposes a difference between animals and men –simply that men are capable of pursuing moral judgements, as we try fumblingly to do this evening, and acting upon them, and of pronouncing themselves guilty when they fail, while animals are not. That men can initiate limited relationships, domesticate or condition certain animals into responses which, in young children, say, would merit praise or blame — as they can teach some animals to mimic human communication and speech - is morally irrelevant, except in so far as it demonstrates further the significant difference between ani­mals and men. Men attach obligations to this awareness of similarity and difference, and animals do not. Animals and men are alike as members of biological species; men differ in that they are members of a moral community as well.


Moreover, the context in which this morality has to be determined is not the ideal, paradisal world of Mr Clark's "Dream of Reason". It is a world in which sentience inevitably entails sensitivity to pain, suffering. At the human level it is a world in which children have to be weaned as well as calves, in which we can inflict political, social and physical torture upon our neighbours as much as live with them in love and charity. At the natural, biological, level, it is a world in which survival depends upon pre-dation, the higher preying upon the lower in the food chain. Man is the most intelligent among the predators, the most demanding and per­haps the most greedy. His difference from the rest shows itself when he stops to reflect; to ask himself why he is a predator, whether he ought to be, and if so, how? The moral value of the vegetarian and the vegan in this regard is that they keep these questions alive. Though they cannot totally escape from the predatory food chain, they remind us of its cost and so of the moral restraints which our having dominion lays upon our superior power. In the same way, those who protest against the experimental use of animals while they benefit from it day by day, in the enjoyment of their health and well-being, keep us sensitive to the sensitivities of the animals which we use. Even the creatures that we are justified in using are not to be seen as existing only to be means to our ends."[4]


The experimental use of animals, then, is to be seen factually as a special and sophisticated case of predation: man's use of animals in the interest of his own well-being or survival. Morally it must be assessed as an aspect of man's dominion, that is a use of his power for which he is morally answerable both in aim and in method. The justification of the aim has been the recurring theme in earlier Stephen Paget Lectures. The basic principle was stated by Sir John Fletcher Houlton, FRS, a Lord Justice of Appeal, as long ago as 1907: Those... who are desirous of extending ... experimental research in the curative sciences consider not only the pain that is inflicted, but they consider the pain that might be prevented, and they hold them­selves responsible for permitting pain which they could stop, just as much as for indict­ing pain deliberately."[5]


The argument has been refined many times then, and validated on any utilitarian basis by success, as Professor Paton demonstrated last year, in the notable advances in medicine stemming from research in animals. But the focus remains where it was, on the question of pain.


An ethics of the practice must begin by taking seriously the capacity of animals to suffer pain and stress. If then it be granted (as we must, if only from introspection) that pain" is an evil, it would follow that it is immoral to inflict pain not justified by necessity, no less drastic resort being available. Cruelty means precisely the inflicting of pain beyond necessity and without just cause. There must be a proportion between the degree of pain inflicted and the gravity of the necessity and the benefit which the infliction is calculated to yield. Capacity to suffer pain, and, even more important, to experience that attendant evil which we call distress, increases with neural development, with the highest intensity, pro­bably, in those animals which stand closest to man. The existing law, the statute of 1876, recognized that ancestral closeness or proximity which comes of domestication: it gave special protection to cats, dogs and equidae. The new understanding of biological proximity, of close­ness in neural development, calls for a recogni­tion of moral proximity also, a degree of protec­tion closer, if not equal, to the protection we extend to our own kind. The Report of the Home Office Committee on the LD50 Test (1979) recommends therefore that 'the use of primates for experiments of all sorts should be subject to the same safeguards as the Act provides in the case of cats and dogs' (para 20). P E Devine, a philosopher, argues further that 'it would be wrong to kill, maim or inflict pain upon a chimpanzee except [in] circumstances where it would be right to do these things to human beings' - and except that it would be less ob­jectionable painlessly to kill an incurably ill chimpanzee than an incurably ill human being.[6] The moral choices here are more acute because, generally, the closer the animal stands to the human being, the more useful it is in research for human benefit.


The avoidance of undue pain - an obligation felt as strongly by medical researchers and laboratory technicians as by the champions of animal welfare outside — requires restraints upon the number of animals used and upon what may be done to any particular animal. The new precision in the statistics presented annually to Parliament by the Home Office makes it possible to know more of the purposes, medical and non­medical, for which animals are used experi­mentally in this country.[7] The Report of the Home Office Committee on the LD50 Test (1979) draws particular attention to the over­use of that test to give unnecessary precision in the estimate of the toxicity of non-medical sub­stances, like the ingredients of household detergents, cosmetics and soaps. When the toxicity of a substance is so low that a very large quantity of it would need to be ingested to cause ill-effect, a highly precise LD50 rating is unnecessary. The same is true of medical sub­stances for which there is a wide range between the normally effective dose and a toxic or lethal dose. It is morally important to persuade of this truth not only the manufacturers of these pro­ducts but also the regulating and licensing authorities, at home and abroad, particularly now in the European Economic Community (EEC). If a manufacturer hopes to market his goods abroad, his safety evaluation will have to satisfy the regulations of the most stringent of the countries concerned. It is therefore morally important to secure internationally an aware­ness that standards may be set unnecessarily high, for which animals suffer beyond necessity.


There are moral imperatives, however, nearer at home. Degrees of necessity range widely from experiments required by medical research on the one hand to the safety evaluation of unnecessary products on the other. The argument is not that we could do very well with­out cosmetics, toilet preparations and the like, or that people who use them should do so at their peril. It is that the marketing of a boundless variety of these substances, and the public appetite for novelty, requires the repeated testing of new ingredients or combinations of them when the old are adequate to the task. Risks from accidental ingestion by children could be reduced by less seductive and more secure packaging. If the public is in earnest about the professed concern for animals, it will look to its own preferences and the cost it pays for protection from unnecessary risk.


Numbers are significant, though they may deceive. If a thousand animals suffer pain, there is no calculable or perceptible aggregate of pain: each animal suffers its own pain, and no more. That is no warrant for indifference whether a thousand suffer when a hundred would have sufficed, because the suffering of each animal is of moral concern in itself. I leave aside the economic inducements to reduce numbers - and they are strong, for the cost of animals is high; my concern is with the ethics of use. Minimum standards for the restriction of suffering are set by law and regulation, super­vised by the Home Office. Public interest in experimental animals is at present high, and practice must remain sensitive to well grounded moral pressure; though we may properly ask the viewing public to examine its own preferences and practices as a test of the quality of its con­cern. There are voyeurs of pleasure: and there are voyeurs of pain. Real progress in the humane treatment of animals can only come, as indeed it does, from practitioners themselves: from researchers, in the refinement of experimental design and the exploitation of all possible techniques preliminary or alternative to in vivo tests; and from animal technicians, in their handling and supervision of animals in their care. The LD50 Report, having isolated the period immediately preceding death as the time when animals in toxicity trials are most likely to suffer pain, recommends that testing should be so timed that animals are not alone and un­supervised when this time is likely to occur: a technician should be at hand to despatch the suffering animal painlessly as the statute re­quires. Progress requires the bringing of the lowest standards up to the level of the highest; and the drafting of a Guide to Good Laboratory Animal Practice, like those already in use in some establishments, might help to achieve this.


Lord Halsbury's Bill, now before Parliament, would require it.


There are particular cases in which the final judgement may not be left to the practitioners or to the routine licensing officers, but reserved to the Advisory Body appointed by the Secretary of State. Their task is demanding, requiring judgement on the scientific validity of the pro­posal, on the likelihood of its advancing physio­logical knowledge, the saving or prolonging of life or the alleviation of suffering, and on the ethics in terms of proportion - the foreseeable distress weighed against likely benefit. Decisions are not easy, even when the pain is only inci­dental to the necessary procedure. What is very difficult to justify is the deliberate infliction of distress or pain in order to study reaction or result, for example, 'learned helplessness'. There is unfortunately, enough suffering of this sort already observable in humans themselves; there is no warrant to torment animals as well. Neither may such a body be swayed by the plea that, if this experiment is not licensed here, it will be done abroad, where controls are less stringent. Our duty extends so far as our writ is effective. If it cannot oblige further, at least our refusal may give pause to others who might too lightly con­sent.


Britainwas (I believe) the first among modern states to legislate for the protection of animals used in experiments. The Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 is now over one hundred years old. It is time for a new statute to peg the advances in method and in moral obligation made during this time. Lord Halsbury's Laboratory Animals Protection Bill, notable for its having been constructed by those with techni­cal and ethical experience of the practice, affords an opportunity. We would wish Lord Halsbury well, both in the necessary public scrutiny of the Bill which must precede its enactment, and in its arduous course through Parliament. Without entering now into all the questions it might raise, I would venture two comments on it. First, I would wish to add competence to the care and compassion prescribed for the treatment of animals in clause 2 section (k). Secondly, I would hope that, following recent practice in the Home Office, a place will be found in the pro­posed Advisory Committee for one or two independent members not engaged in scientific research or the related industries; there is room for them in the three unassigned places, and their presence would exemplify the inter­disciplinary way in which relevant ethical judgements are now made.



It may be that this lecture, given at the courteous invitation of practitioners by a non-practitioner, may have done nothing to commend the inter­disciplinary co-operation for which I have just asked. No one is more sensitive to this possibility than its author. Allow him at least to declare his intent. Standing, as he does, in the open, in the crossfire in what is too often a polemical ex­change, his intent has been eirenical: to indicate a ground on which researchers and associates for animal welfare may work together for a common end, the reduction of suffering and distress in human kind and in animal kind, and the reduc­tion of contradiction where the interests of those two kinds do not coincide. Contrasting the ethical sensitivity of the present with the latitude allowed in the past, there is hope of progress. Such progress, I mean, as that which Pope John Paul II spoke of before the Assembly of tie United Nations on the 2 October 1979, in terms apt to my theme:


'The progress of humanity (he said) must be measured not only by the progress of science and technology, which shews man's uniqueness with regard to nature, but also and chiefly by the primacy given to spiritual values and by the progress of moral life. In this is manifested the full dominion of reason, through truth, in the behaviour of the individual and of society, and also the control of reason over nature; and thus human conscience quietly triumphs, as was expressed in the ancient saying. Genus humanum arte et rations vivit.[8]




[1] See A R Kingston, 'Christian Duty and Animal Welfare’ Theology LXXI, l968 p251.


[2] Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500-1800. (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1979), p162f.

[3] Passim in two codes of law, the 'Book of the Coventant' in Exodus 20 and 21-23, and Deuteronomy 12-16; especially Exodus 20:10; 23:5 and 12; Deuteronomy 5:14; 22:6-7; and Leviticus 22:28. Rabbinic gloss on Deuteronomy 11:15 forbade a man to eat before be had fed his beast; a man was for­bidden to purchase a beast for which he could not provide. There was a strong Rabbinic tradition against causing animals pain; some Rabbis taught that God would treat men as they treated their beasts.


[4] Editorial, Philosophy 53, 1978, p 434

[5] Quoted by Professor Henry Barcroft in an unpublished paper.

[6] 'The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism', Philosophy 53, 1978, p 495.


[7] Experiments on Living Animals. Statistics 1977. HMSO, Cmnd 7333, 1978.


[8]  'The human race lives by reason as well as by technical skill.'


Last edited: 26 May 2015 11:39

Main menu
Select a language