Physiological research and the vivisection act
Professor Lovatt Evans, ll.d., d.sc, f.r.c.p., f.r.s.
The Annual General Meeting of the Society was held at Manson House, 26,Portland Place, W.l, on Thursday, June 9th, 1949, with the President, the Rt. Hon. Lord Hailey, in the chair, supported by Professor A. V. Hill, c.h., sc.d., f.r.s., Chairman of Committee.
The Eighteenth Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture was delivered by
Professor C. Lovatt Evans on "Physiological Research and the Vivisection
Lord Hailey, in introducing the lecturer, said that it was very bad manners on the part of a chairman to stand between an audience and its lecturer for longer than to introduce the lecturer, and he doubted very much whether that was necessary on this occasion. Professor Lovatt Evans's name was famous in experimental physiology. He had been honoured by many great Institutions, and there could be nothing more interesting to the Society than the subject about which he was to speak, nor anyone better qualified to speak on it.
Professor C. Lovatt Evans :
I regard it as a high honour to be asked to deliver one of the Stephen Paget Memorial Lectures, which remind us of the great service to science which was done by our founder. The purpose of these lectures is not so much the communication of the results of original research, an objective better attained by the various specialist societies, as the combating of falsehood, expressed or implied, regarding methods of medical research.
This Society emerged out of a Committee which met at Stephen Paget's house at 70,Harley Street, on January 27th, 1908, and Paget, its founder, was elected as its first Hon. Secretary, an office which he filled with unbounded zeal and devotion until his death 18 years later. The committee of founders itself arose from another committee, presided over by Starling, which was preparing evidence for the very long and exhaustive Royal Commission of 1906-12. It was clear that the more absorbed scientific men, together with all the resources at their command, became in carrying on their work, and the less attention they paid to the agitations of the ignorant or malicious, the more liable were their results and methods to be either ignorantly or deliberately misrepresented by bodies of people banded together for that purpose, and having at their disposal large sums of money devoted, not to doing anything positive, but solely to propaganda of an obstructive character.
I believe that the political cartoonist of an evening paper once described himself as a "nuisance dedicated to sanity." The anti-vivisection societies I would say are a nuisance. Two instances will suffice.
Just after the death of Stephen Paget the Society received from an anonymous letter-writer a copy of a prayer of a blasphemous character, praying for the speedy death of all the vivisectors and the deliverance of the world from their wicked work, and beneath it the words, "This has done it regarding Stephen Paget."
The following quotation from a recent Anti-Vivisection Journal gives an impression of the views of the younger generation: " A Debate was held by the LondonUniversityDebating Unionon November "23. Mr. Bruce Elsmere was called upon to speak to the motion 1 That vivisection should be abolished.' He was opposed by Dr. Alfred Schweitzer, a professor of physiology. Each of the protagonists was seconded by a student. Mr. Elsemere was at the disadvantage of having a seconder who was evidently not in sympathy with the case, and who appeared to be more concerned with amusing his fellow-students by his extreme and absurd remarks than in supporting the motion. Mr. Bowker (National Anti-Vivisection Society), Mr. Lionel Dole (National Anti-Vaccination League), Mr. Risdon (London and Provincial Anti-Vivisection Society), and Mr. Rodenhurst (B.U.A.V.) attended the debate and were allowed to make short speeches in the general discussion. Apart from these anti-vivisection visitors there appeared to be no supporters of the motion, which was rejected by the lusty shouts of the ' Noes'."
The word " vivisection " has, and was intended to have, an unsavoury sound. As Tristram Shandy's father said, " —was your son called Judas,— the sordid and treacherous idea, so inseparable from the name, would have accompanied him through life like his shadow, and, in the end, made a miser and a rascal of him." And so our opponents have often pretended—when addressing the more ignorant—that, in fact, vivisection always is what the •name implies, a cutting up alive, and also forget to deny the implication that all the subjects are fully conscious. And so some of the people are fooled all the time, and the nimble pennies of schoolchildren, the widows' mites, the cheques of fox-hunting squires, and the legacies of kind old ladies swell to a tide of hundreds of thousands of pounds, all of which is used directly or indirectly, to obstruct and hinder medical and scientific research.
It might be expected to-day, when nearly everyone has some sort of education, that it would be sufficient to present the facts to the public and let them judge for themselves. Anyone with experience of mankind knows that this is far from being the case—not only is the subject often highly technical, but the public, or a large section of it, apparently likes to be deceived, and often enough not even seeing is believing.
For example, last winter, some 300 people carrying torches and lanterns stayed out till after midnight on Twelfth Night to find whether two hawthorn trees at Kingsthorn and Orcop, nearHereford, bloomed at midnight. Several people swore that green shoots appeared, others saw blossom and one man said, " The tree began to open its buds on the stroke of midnight. In 20 minutes it was covered with blossom." But, as the newspaper reported, " others remained sceptical."
Why is it that our fellows, often so observant and logical, are at other times so simple and credulous ? It is, I believe, because, as Fielding said : "... we reason from our heads, but act from our hearts. Nothing can differ more widely than wise men and fools in their estimation of things, but, as both act from their uppermost passion, they often both act alike." In other words, where sentiment is concerned, and this includes matters of politics, love and religion, logic is of little avail: the fundamental appeal qf the anti-vivisection movement is, as everyone knows, to that deeply placed sentiment for animals which is so characteristic a part of our national character. All the attempts at logical argument which they produce, all the appeals to so-called " world-famous " authorities on medical science which they trump up are mere red herrings, and well they know it! Their appeal (usually for money) is a purely sentimental one, and therein lies the hopelessness of arguing with them. I would be the last to deny that I, too, have a sentimental feeling towards animals. Who could contemplate without a wave of feeling the superb beauty of movement of a cat, the faithful eyes and intelligent behaviour of a favourite dog, the frisking of lambs in springtime, the gentle deportment of cattle or the noble bearing of the horse ? As a biologist one rejoices in the wonder and mystery of all living things, and would wish harm and pain to no creature. But with one qualification ! And that is that there are degrees and proportions of sentiment which most of us feel bound to preserve.
The " earliest pipe of half-awakened birds," or the song of the soaring lark are of entrancing delight to us, but the sound of children singing in chorus is even more melting and, in my opinion, transcends in beauty and emotional content all other auditory experience. Would you willingly and gladly, as the anti-vivisectionists say they would, by withholding diphtheria immunization, have even one fewer of those children's voices ?
In 1916 I experienced a German gas attack, when 800 strong and healthy men were brought in a few minutes to death or intolerable torment. Would I, in these circumstances, blush to be a vivisector and to try, by sacrificing a few dogs and cats, to help relieve that pain or obviate those untimely deaths ? I would not. Yet one anti-vivisection writer said that he would regard that as " an attempt to obtain such knowledge by immoral and illegitimate means and consequently unjustifiable in any circumstances whatever." He further asserted, though on what evidence is not stated, " that it was the soldiers themselves who showed by their manly protest their determination to refuse any benefits that were to be derived from the torturing of innocent and helpless animals." You see that although, since we are but human, all our reactions are tinctured with sentiment, the object and degree of the sentiment differs. Most people prefer to be human and to give first place to our fellow men. But politicians, of whatever party, are fully aware that the vivisection question is based on false sentiment, and accordingly, where-ever possible, they treat it with due caution.
It is no matter for surprise that physiology comes in for a good deal of the abuse from the anti-vivisectionists. The reason is that their data, and such distorted ideas as they have, are based very largely on work done
many years ago, when physiology was the most active of the medical sciences and also because, to those whose acquaintance with the matter is limited to the knowledge that physiology deals with the functions of the body, it would be natural to suppose that the best way to find how the body worked would be to open it up, regardless of pain, and have a look.
It must be admitted, not without some feeling of pride, that nobody could minimise the importance of physiology to the theory and practice of medicine. Every medical man knows that he cannot take any step in diagnosis, prescribe any reliable line of treatment, or give any prognosis whatever without utilising, at every turn and with every thought, knowledge which has been obtained as a result of experiments on living animals, and which could not possibly have been obtained in any other way. The evidence for this naturally cannot be conveyed in a few words of two syllables which can be understood by the inexpert. It is conveyed in many thousands of published books and papers from all parts of the world, and in many languages, written by people who have devoted their lives to the subject, and on this matter they are unanimous. But sentiments can be stirred up in 3ll people, and with words of few syllables, by those who make it their business.
These are some features then, of the anti-vivisection movement. Sentimental and wrong-headed it may be, but do not suppose that it has done us only harm, or even that it has done our work any lasting harm at all. There is the appalling waste of time and the annoyance of the occasional law-suit—but we always win, and are duly grateful for the laws of libel and slander. There is the irritation of receiving, but the amusement of reading and exhibiting, anonymous letters of an abusive, threatening, blasphemous or obscene character, as the writer's taste guides htm. But in spite of these things, I believe the opposition of anti-vivisectionists has done us on the whole more good than harm. First, it has brought the attention of physiologists to the fact that their work was capable of gross misrepresentation by the mischievous or ignorant; second, it has drawn them closely together and thus furthered the development of the subject, and third, it has given us an Act of Parliament which, together with the Acts regarding libel, while safeguarding the animals, protects us from malicious persecution.
Formation of the Physiological Society
The establishment in 1874 atUniversityCollege,London, of the first chair of Physiology inGreat Britainsignalled the initiation of a rapid growth of that subject, in which we then stood far behind the continental countries. But it also coincided with, and possibly to some extent provoked, a vigorous controversy on the vivisection question which had two very important consequences.
One consequence was the appointment in 1875 of a Royal Commission to report and advise on the matter. It was obviously important that this enquiry should be held and the attitude of the Government defined before the whole question became prejudiced. This Commission had the express support of Queen Victoria who, indeed, conveyed to Lord Lister her wish that he should, in the meantime, use the weight of his authority by speaking against the use of animals for experiment. This he declined to do, pointing out that " any attempts of that kind might prove very injurious by checking enquiries calculated to promote the best interest of Her Majesty's subjects."
The Royal Commission eventually reported in 1876 and a Bill to regulate these experiments by Act of Parliament was advised. The Act, 39 & 40 Vic. cap. 77, was drafted and passed, receiving the Royal assent, and so becoming law, on August loth, 1876. The conditions for issue of licence and certificates which this Act imposed, and the scope of the various certificates, were much as they are now, except that Certificate " D " has never been put to practical use. So far as I know, the only other countries which have licensing laws for experiments, together with inspection, are Eire, Sweden and two cantons of Switzerland, though limited legislation has been introduced in Poland, Norway and Denmark, some Australian states, Belgium and Czechoslovakia, and was also introduced in Hitler Germany and Austria. In no country is vivisection totally prohibited, nor is any such prohibition ever likely or possible now.
We physiologists have now no complaints to make regarding the administration of the Act in this country. Rather we regard it as a welcome protection to us, and in the long run as a saver of time. It is far otherwise for example, in theUnited States of Americawhere apparently any crank can demand admittance to a laboratory and create a disturbance. As Vice-President Ivy, of Chicago, said, " If physiologists and physicians did not constantly oppose anti-vivisectionists, the chief means of medical progress relative to the cause and treatment of disease would be cat astro phically curtailed within a period of four years, because within that period every State legislature would pass an anti-vivisection law. If such a law were passed, tens of thousands of persons would be condemned to suffer the consequences of disease the cause and treatment of which is now unknown."
The second consequence of the anti-vivisectionists' agitation was even more beneficial. Physiologists feared that, as members of the Government then, as now. were on the whole grossly ignorant, or contemptuous, of science, representations made to them by prejudiced persons might lead to disastrous results in the framing or administration of the new Act. Accordingly, Burdon Sanderson, the new Jodrell Professor at University College, invited a number of physiologists, and others like G. H. Lewes and T. H. Huxley who were interested in the subject, to meet at his house at 49, Queen Anne Street, W., on Friday, March 31st, 1876. At that meeting Michael Foster, who at that time was praelector in Physiology at Trinity College, Cambridge, proposed " That an association be formed under the name of ' The Physiological Society ' for promoting the advancement of Physiology and facilitating the intercourse of physiologists.'' The proposal was seconded by G. H. Lewes, and so the Society, which was to have so great an influence on the development of physiology throughout the whole world, had its beginning. It was originally a dining society of not more than 40 members, and was to have six meetings annually. Rule XI laid it down that the annual subscription was to be ten shillings and added, " The charge for dining shall be additional." An inaugural dinner, Michael Foster in the chair, was held at the Criterion Restaurant, in what was then called Regent Circus, on Friday, May 26th, 1876, when there were 22 members and 14 guests. All their names have become famous in the history of medical science, and it is interesting to note that in those days when such expressions as " international amity " were not yet prominent in the vocabulary of politics, four of the guests were distinguished foreigners. I doubt whether their visit involved anything more elaborate than a personal invitation in some member's own fair hand, the packing of a small handbag and the journey toLondon. We may be sure that it did not rock the foundations of government in any country.
The presence of these four men was symbolic of the close international friendship between physiologists which has since survived two world wars and several totalitarian regimes, and out of which grew the International Physiological Congresses, which we also owe to a suggestion by Michael Foster, and which first met at Basel in 1889, and most recently at Oxford in 1947.
The Physiological Society and the Government Bill
In its early days the Society only met at dinner, which at first was held at The Waterloo Hotel, 85, Jermyn Street, and the first business, at its first Ordinary Meeting on November 9th, 1876, dealt with the wording of one of the certificates required under the Act, and with applications for grants to The Government Grants Committee of the Royal Society. By March of the next year it appointed a committee to consider a complaint from one of its members regarding the working of the new Act, and its report submitted at the meeting on May 10th, 1877, instanced cases in which certificates had been suspended or refused. The Society then resolved to submit to the General Medical Council a statement of the facts in the hope that suitable action might be taken. This apparently did not produce much effect, so in December, 1S77, a committee was appointed to bring the essential facts before the Home Secretary, particularly as regarded the impediments thrown in the way of therapeutic experiments. It appears that Lauder Brunton had had a certificate suspended and it was subsequently decided to invoke the aid of the presidents of the Royal Colleges on his behalf. That action was not taken, however, because shortly afterwards the Home Secretary removed every restriction on this certificate. Nevertheless, physiologists still felt that a beaurocratic sword of Damocles hung over them and it was next suggested that an address " on the necessity of animal experimentation " by Robert McDonnell, of Dublin, an original member of the Society, and a pamphlet by Professor L. Hermann, of Konigsberg, and other essays should be procured and distributed in order that the truth should be made available to politicians and to any who really wished to form an unbiased opinion on the matter.
In 1881 a committee was formed and Ernest Hart, Editor of the British Medical Journal, gave his views, and Sir James Paget, father of Stephen Paget, together with Huxley, Lister and others were asked to consider the preparation of articles for the Press. Nothing, however, came of this.
Later, in December, 1881, another committee prepared a Report on the working of the Act. It was stated that there had been many instances of interference with work on the part of the Home Office and three test cases were selected. These were Fraser's work on the action of the "Borneopoison," Brunton's on the treatment of snake-bites and Lister's on the arrest of arterial haemorrhage. These were passed on with other information to theLondonExecutive of the International Medical Congress which was in communication with the Home Office on the subject, and the committee for the time being left the matter in its hands. The committee meantime advised " that workers in Physiology should only apply for such Certificates as are necessary for their special purpose, that they should always be prepared to show their scrupulous attention to the provisions of the Act . . . and that they should never be deterred from applying for the necessary Certificate by the chance or the certainty of its being disallowed."
At last, in 1882, the first prosecution occurred : it was that of Ferrier for work in conjunction with Yeo, who alone had a licence. It was proved that only Yeo performed the operations and the case against Ferrier was dismissed. As in all subsequent legal actions we can record with gratitude the valuable help given by the British Medical Association in connection with this case.
Yeo, however, seemed still to be under a cloud and complained that he had had applications for certificates disallowed ; the matter was therefore taken up by a body called The Association for the Advancement of Medicine by Research, at 33, Harley Street, the Honorary Secretary of which was Mr. Clinton Dent, a surgeon to St. George's Hospital. This body had various functions which have since been separated off and performed by other organisations, but one of them was that it gave competent technical opinions to the Home Secretary if he requested them. After the Report of the Royal Commission of 1906-12 these advisory functions were taken over by the Special Committee, a body which still gives expert advice to the Home Secretary. It was as well that this change was made, since the Association for the Advancement of Medicine by Research concerned itself, among other things, with the dissemination of the truth concerning animal experiments and therefore was an obvious political target for agitators. Relations with the Home Office were further clarified in 1895 when Dr. Ruffer submitted to the Physiological Society the contents of a letter from the Lawr Officers of the Crown defining more clearly the implications of the Act.
Two further points at about this time indicate that resistance to anti-vivisection propaganda was stiffening. The first was a resolution moved at the Physiological Society in 1896 by Starling and seconded by Horsley, affirming " that it is undesirable that any members of the Society should accept a teaching post in Physiology at any school where the authorities prohibit the laboratories from being licensed for experimental work." It was carried unanimously. The second, in 1897, was the voting of a sum of money by the Society for the purpose of obtaining Counsel's opinion on a recent anti-vivisection libel on two of its members, W. M. Bayliss and L. E. Hill. The Physiological Society also later, in 19.08, empowered its committee
to utilise invested funds in arranging lectures on the value of vivisectional methods, but since the Research Defence Society was founded about that time, and took over that work, the suggestion fell through, and the Physiological Society instead made a grant to the Research Defence Society.
Libel and Other Actions
Controversy in speech and writing on all sorts of topics to-day is very mild when compared with what it was in the past. The general arguments used by the anti-vivisectionists are rather like those advanced by the small son of a barrister who was accused by his father of breaking a neighbour's window. " In the first place, I didn't break it; in the second place, if I did break it, it was an accident; in the third place, it was useless and he's a bigamist." The parallel is that we inflict torture ; if not, it is not because we don't wish to, and in any case what we do is useless and we are immoral people. In the past, the last argument has been much employed, but to-day carries no more conviction than did uncle Toby's Argumentum Fistulatorium.
I can remember one pamphlet in which portraits of men distinguished in physiological or medical research involving the use of animals were paired with portraits of poets, painters, divines, etc., and underneath each pair was a sentence inviting the comparison of, for example, the coarse and sensual features of the one with the spiritual and benevolent expression of the other. A well-known writer is perhaps the last surviving exponent of this type of argument. " The vivisector-scoundrel," he said (and even that was over 20 years ago), " has no limit at all except that of his own physical capacity for committing atrocities and his own mental capacity for devising them " —and later—" it is difficult to resist the conclusion (not that any normal person wants to resist it) that only imbeciles can be' induced to practise vivisection and glory in it." One of the reasons why vulgar abuse and downright prevarication have fallen out of favour is that they do not pay, as the results of various actions at law have shown. The first, and most memorable, of these was the famous Brown Dog Libel Case, in which the late Sir William Bayliss sued the writers of a book for libel and was awarded .£2,000 damages. The proceeds were generously donated by him to the Physiological Department of University College, where the investment still returns an income which is put to a useful purpose. As a rejoinder, an anti-vivisectionist later on took up two libel actions, one of which was withdrawn and the other lost. In brief, no court verdict concerning experiments on animals has ever gone against us.
The next most interesting case was that of a dog which was stolen and which, after passing through many hands in an incredibly short time, was eventually sold to my department. The owner, mysteriously enough, came .to enquire for it, and since his description tallied, the dog was returned to him, unharmed, as he, happily for us, stated in writing at the time ; he also volunteered to add his thanks for the way we had treated both him and the dog. Judge of our surprise when he presently prosecuted us, and of our own satisfaction when it turned out that his solicitors happened, by a curious chance, to be also the solicitors to an anti-vivisection society. The case was dismissed, and after many damaging statements as nearly actionable as possible, had been made by their propagandists, and many anonymous letters had been received by us, and after one of the dog-dealers in the case had appeared (I think only once) on an anti-vivisection platform, the tumult suddenly died down and there was a great calm.
Supply of Animals
The case of the stolen dog is still significant, however, because it gives point to an important aspect of the subject, namely, the supply of animals for experimental work. There are three sources of supply—purchase in open market, breeding for the purpose, and, for dogs and cats, the use of ownerless and stray animals from the cities. It is dogs and cats which are especially needed, but which present the especial difficulties in supply for physiological research work, and it would seem reasonable to utilise, for experiments under licence, and with proper safeguards, a small fraction of, the many thousands of stray animals which are annually destroyed in our cities. The anaesthetisation methods we use are at least as humane as those employed in lethal chambers, the anaesthesia would be maintained throughout the experiment, and the animals would be as certain of a painless death in the one case as in the other. We are, however, a sentimental and unrealistic nation where animals are concerned, and there is an unfortunate clause in a Police Act of 1906 by which the handing over for destruction of stray-animals is at present obligatory.
This has played direct, as perhaps it was intended to do, into the hands of the anti-vivisectionists, since by compelling us to purchase animals in the open market it not only puts us to great expense but also exposes us to the risk of having stolen animals sold to us, in one way or another, and further opens up the prospect of vague but damaging suggestions being made.
As regards the expense of purchase, this, though no less important than formerly, is now less of an obstacle, because in the long run it is borne by the tax-payer, but it is a pity for money to be wasted when taxation is so high. The remedy is simple, but the issue so charged with sentiment of political import that I fear that no politicians of any party would take the risk of applying it. With the other mammals the simple and practicable solution is that of having them bred for the purpose, but with dogs, and especially with cats, the cost of this would be enormous. An expert has calculated that owing to overheads and low survival rates, it would cost about £15 to produce a healthy adult cat in captivity, but I have little doubt that such knowledge would weigh lightly against the exigencies of political timidity.
There have been two Royal Commissions on the subject of vivisection. The first, which began in 1875 and reported a year later, led to the introduction of the Act. and was largely due to representations made by the medical profession itself, and not, as often supposed, by anti-vivisection societies. The second, which began in 1906 but did not report for six years, was, on the other hand, largely the result of an outcry by the anti-vivisectionists. The pandemonium was not lessened when it became known that the names of no anti-vivisection agitators were to be found among the commissioners, and some societies on that ground refused to give evidence. Three out of the nine commissioners, however, showed themselves inclined to favour, or seriously to consider, the anti-vivisection claims, but nevertheless, after a most exhaustive examination, the final verdict of the commissioners was unanimous. Paragraph 27 of the report contained the following important conclusion, " 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, 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." On the whole then the conclusions were entirely in our favour.
Whether there will be another Royal Commission in the not far distant future is doubtful. Members of Parliament, or even Ministers of the Crown, not infrequently, though perhaps rather thoughtlessly, lend their names in support of anti-vivisection activities, and this periodically encourages agitators to attempt to provoke public opinion in that direction. But Government Departments are now themselves so fully committed to the encouragement of research as to make it unlikely that another enquiry would be envisaged, or that one could be of any use or satisfaction to anyone. Should there be one, it would, according to analogy with the past, probably sit for 20 years and produce nothing really new.
Physiological Research To-day
I shall not refer to medical research work in subjects such as immunology, therapeutics and other fields, since I am perhaps, and for similar reasons, almost as little qualified to speak in its favour as the anti-vivisectionists are to speak against it. I shall confine myself to physiology which I would remind you is still, as it always has been, the fundamental basis on which medicine is built, and around which it is integrated. Ever since the time of W:illiam Harvey, i.e., since early in the 17th century, it has been recognised that scientific knowledge in physiology can only be got by experiment, and not from speculation or mere observation.
During the phase of rapid development of the subject which took place in the latter half of the 19th century, and which had its origin on the Continent, there was active experimentation on all the main organs of the body. The methods and apparatus employed were relatively simple and easy to understand : they were also easy to misunderstand and to misrepresent, and this applied especially to methods for inducing and maintaining anaesthesia. These, though efficient, were simple but clumsy according to modern standards, and consisted mainly in the use of volatile anaesthetics with or without the preliminary administration of morphia for dogs. There never was any belief or pretence that curare was an anaesthetic, nor is there any reason to suppose that curare was ever used in lieu of or without a general anaesthetic for operational work in this country. It was recognised as fully then as it is now that the purpose of a physiological experiment would usually
be frustrated if pain was experienced by the animal, and for that reason, if for no better one, experimenters were careful to avoid the infliction of it. Of experiments involving survival, i.e., under Certificate " B ", or of those carried out under Certificate "A", i.e., without an anaesthetic, there were at that time relatively few ; the great majority of physiological experiments being under licence alone." Out of these experiments there grew up a great body of physiological knowledge which has continued to expand at an ever increasing speed ever since, and which has provided a firm foundation for all branches of medical, surgical and obstetrical knowledge and practice. The clamour and obstructions of the enemies of science have in no way altered its course or changed its procedure, but have rather stimulated and strengthened it, by holding physiologists together. And especially it has, by directing their attentions to the possibility that cruelty might thoughtlessly be perpetrated in the name of science, encouraged them to be most meticulous in avoiding it.
Modern physiology is a very different thing from its early beginning. The control of anaesthesia by the use of gaseous or of non-volatile anaesthetics has been brought to a fine art, and the latest developments in aseptic surgical technique and in chemotherapy are in constant use to enable survival experiments, where these are essential, to be carried out under the most favourable conditions for the animal's welfare and comfort. Developments in animal husbandry allow of Certificate "A" experiments to be carried out under the best conditions, and the general public can form an idea of the amount of suffering which nearly all such experiments involve if they care to look at cages of well-kept animals at any properly managed pets store.
Experimental physiology, like its subject matter, is now so technical and often requires such complicated apparatus, that it cannot be understood by the inexpert. This is in the nature of all scientific advance. The time has already come when specialists in one branch of physiology cannot fully comprehend or criticise the work of specialists in other branches : those totally ignorant of physiology cannot criticise modern work at all without making fools of themselves. This, though obvious, does not always deter them, however.
Prominent among the rapidly-developing branches of experimental physiology is that which deals with human physiology, which has grown out of all recognition during the last two decades. New techniques and apparatus enable quite astonishing observations to be made on normal or diseased human subjects. For example, the rate of blood flow through brain, lungs, kidneys, or limbs, or the pressures in the heart, arteries or veins, can be measured ; the activity of muscles and nerves, or even of their individual fibres, or of nerve centres in the brain, can be recorded : and nerves can be sectioned or stimulated and the effects seen or measured ; the transit of materials through the alimentary canal or blood stream observed ; the volume of blood in the body or the span of life of red blood cells measured. And so on. .Out of these experiments and observations further knowledge will arise and still more remarkable achievements will come about in the future. Of this we can be confident.
Does all this bear any relation to experiments on animals ? It certainly does, and in a two-fold way. In the first place none of it would have been possible at all without having had as a starting point a large body of reliable physiological knowledge, and all this knowledge—not some of it, but all of it—rested on the results of earlier work on animals. The subjects of" experimental human physiology and medicine are now in active process of collating and comparing the results of recent work on man with the content of classical physiology derived from animal experiments.
It is surprising to what an extent this recent work has vindicated the findings of past generations of physiologists. The comparison shows that, contrary to the assertions of anti-vivisectionist propaganda, the results of experiments on the higher animals do enable us to draw conclusions, often far-reaching ones, regarding the physiology of man, since the resemblances are much more conspicuous than the differences.
In the second place, it is often found in the course of these experiments on man that new and inexplicable facts crop up. Further analysis of the factors concerned is indicated, and the worker then returns for the elucidation of his problem back once more to animal experimentation. And so the exchange and interplay, the continual growth and unfolding continues and will continue without end. No agitation or propaganda has ever deflected us from our path, and, happily, none can now ever succeed in doing so.
At the close of the lecture,
Major Hume moved a vote of thanks to Professor Lovatt Evans for an extremely interesting and entertaining lecture. He rather gathered—he did not know whether he had misunderstood the lecturer—that he did not like anti-vivisectionists. But apart from that, there was a great deal in this lecture which was of historical interest. Among matters of history had been mentioned much they would all like to remember. He hoped the lecture was going to be published and that the history which it contained would be put on record.
He himself looked upon these matters more from the point of view of the animals than of the scientists, although brought up in science himself. It was. as the lecturer had said, a question of weighing one sentiment against another. It was not possible to get rid of all sentiment, which was the basis of all their actions. But it was necessary to set one sentiment against another ; sentiment was quantitative and yet not measurable. The task of research workers to-day was so intricate and specialised, as the lecturer had said, that only a specialist could really understand the factors which had to be weighed in the balance in determining whether experiments should be undertaken or not. This did lay upon research workers a very great • responsibility for seeing that their research was legitimate and humane, because the ultimate decision did really rest with them.
The Vivisection Act, as the lecturer had suggested, was a typical English Act, rather illogical and archaic. A case could be made out for regarding it as " eye-wash," and yet it was not. If one wanted to understand it one should compare the procedure under which animal experimentation was undertaken in this country with the procedure followed in certain foreign countries. He remembered Professor Starling telling him that in his opinion a great deal of French and Italian physiology had been vitiated by the failure to eliminate the effect of pain. He felt, therefore, that the protection of the laboratory animal did depend upon the research worker, and one looked to the research worker to give his mind to this subject in a way that most British research workers did in order to ensure that the most humane treatment for the animals was accorded.
It therefore gave him great pleasure to move this vote of thanks because he felt that in doing so he was thanking one who was both a scientist and a humanitarian. The lecturer had been stimulated by the " kind " letters he had received from anti-vivisectors, but he was evidently one who was able to weigh the rights of laboratory animals against the aims of science and the benefits which science did confer upon both men and animals. a
Dr. N. G. Horner, in seconding the vote of thanks, said that he had no claim at all to speak beyond expressing the pleasure and appreciation with which he had listened to the lecture. He could claim to be an old acquaintance of the lecturer, and he was also a young admirer and friend of Stephen Paget 40 years ago. He was only one who had tried to take an intelligent interest in and give a warm support to their Society, and he seconded most heartily the vote of thanks.
Lord Hailey, from the chair, said that he was sure that everyone present would wish to express their thanks and appreciation to the lecturer. The lecture contained a great deal of material apart from the scientific portion of it which many of them would like to have on record when they met their anti-vivisectionist friends. It described the history of the Act and of the various Commissions, and what the lecturer had said was something which they would do well to bear in mind when wild charges were brought against them on the ground of a lack of humanity. He was afraid that he could make no particular contribution to the subject under discussion, but he might mention one sidelight upon the history. QueenVictoriawas deeply opposed to vivisection ; she was also opposed originally to the use of anaesthetics. It was decided, therefore, to send to her a Bishop, who was a great friend of hers, in order to persuade her to alter her opinion on the subject of anaesthetics. She, of course, belonged to a generation who believed that pain was one of the ordinances of God, and that nothing should be done about it. The Bishop was a man of the world, and he reminded QueenVictoriathat God, on one occasion, removed a rib from Adam, but that before He did so He caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep. From that date, and as a result of that argument, QueenVictoriasupported anaesthetics !
The vote of thanks was accorded by acclamation.
The Ordinary Business Meeting of the Society then took place, Lord Hailey remaining in the chair.
Professor A. V. Hill (Chairman of Committee) presented the Annual
Last edited: 20 May 2015 12:17