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The Sanctuary of Mercy.. Caird, Mona.
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IN studying the relation of the human to the animal races, I have been greatly struck by the different spirit displayed by writers as regards this question—a question profound in its importance both to man and beast, but which, nevertheless, has scarcely yet risen into the realm of human speculation and morality. One seldom meets with any definite and fully thought-out statement on the matter: the disposition of the writer is displayed in chance utterances, passing allusions, which indicate the nature of the feeling rather than formulate an opinion.

As yet little or no attempt has been made to civilise our relationship with the teeming, eager life that swarms around us, a life infinitely more multitudinous and far-spread than our own, filling the world with more pangs and joys and fears and sensations in one day than its human inhabitants can produce in one year. Although as yet the whole dramatic, pathetic existence of these multitudes is practically unknown to us, I have found in almost all the poets—and invariably in the very great ones—a tender sympathy and sense of kinship with these creatures of the earth and air. Poets and seers hae shown that their hearts are large enough to include in their sympathy not only the dog and horse—so full of appeal in their generous fidelity to man—but the poor, hunted, despised creatures, whose very existence is an affront to our noble selves, whose poor little lives may be torn and tortured out of them by any savagely ingenious device that our High Superiority may discover for the infliction of a dreadful death upon the helpless “little brothers” whom St. Francis loved so tenderly. Our poets have felt, in flashes, by the very compulsion of the poet's heart, the great, beautiful truth of universal kinship, the unity of all life and its profound mystery; the healing that lies in sympathy—in a large, unsectarian sympathy with throbbing nerves and aching hearts, be they of man or beast; a love that stops at no poor barriers of genus and species, but goes out broadly and beneficently, as some page: 2 great wind of spring that thaws the aching earth and releases the ice-bound streams, and calls forth flowers and green things and all the joy of the world. In this we must see the image of our hope.

We are striving in this wonderful age to find a cure for human wretchedness, to break down miserable barriers of class and creed, to unite the human race in bonds of brotherhood, to stimulate the sympathies and calm the strife and suffering of the human lot. In this revolt against injustice and cruelty, are the unfortunate animals to be eternally left out in the cold? Are we to proclaim peace and goodwill to all men and yet remain the savage tyrants and tormentors of the beings who stand in most need of mercy, from their utter helplessness? The inconsequence, the treachery, the meanness of such exclusion must strike every generous heart and sound intellect merely when it is stated! Peace and goodwill to all that live—surely that must be the watchword of the future.
  • Be my benediction said
  • With my hand upon thy head,
  • Gentle fellow-creature!
When shall we be able, as a race, to repeat in one great chorus those tender words of Mrs. Browning?

In our present efforts towards a nobler, juster, kinder relationship of man to man we shall learn many things, discover many errors and many moral truths little suspected. And of these I think the greatest and least suspected in its full meaning and amplitude is that of our kinship and our duty to the creatures who have to find in us their Providence.

By whatever means and methods we may strive towards a better social state, let it never be forgotten that, in the last resort, salvation lies in the heart of man, or nowhere, and that all things which tend to harden that human heart, to bind it in a frosty spell of pitiless self-seeking—be the results never so much to our temporal advantage—must perforce help to destroy the impulses and sympathies that make for peace and social happiness. That which teaches us to torment the weak for any purpose whatever, and to inflict not swift death but slow torture on any living thing, will assuredly help to annul the efforts, however earnest and however wise, that may be made to establish peace and justice among the suffering nations. Strange that a thing so obvious should need insisting upon! It is sheer madness to ignore the very source and life-spring of human weal or woe—the heart and brain of man. Yet of page: 3 this madness the present generation is guilty, since it allows learned professors, on the plea of doing good to our bodies, to ruin our souls; since it still permits a law to remain on the Statute Book which gives a licence to physiologists to take a living, trembling creature—dog, cat, rabbit, frog—to tie it down on a board or trough, and there to cut it open and dissect its nerves and organs 1 : pierce its brain with red-hot wire 2 , fill its veins with gelatine, prussian blue, or any other substance that may seem good to its tormentor 3 : to cause inflammation of bones by inserting a red-hot needle as deeply as possible 4 , bake it alive5, pierce its liver with a needle 6 , inflame its eyes by piercing and then drawing a thread through the cornea 7 : inoculate the same sensitive organs with virus till they rot away in a putrefying sore 8 : inoculate horrible diseases into the blood 9 : create agonising inflammations of tissue 10 : inflict the lengthened horrible suffering of rabies 11 : make learned researches in the “paths of sensation” 12 and the nature of pain 13 —experiments that go on often for hours, and often require the victim to be kept alive in its agony for days and even months. 14

And all this is done ostensibly in the interests of mankind! All this is done to make human existence pleasanter and more comfortable! Verily I think that vivisectors are doing their level best to make human life absolutely intolerable! Can any

1 Prof. C.S. Roy's Experiments, as reported, in the Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, May 23rd, 1881, &c., &c.

2 Prof. David Ferrier, “The Functions of the Brain.”

3 Handbook for the Physiological Laboratory, pp. 97, 104, 113.

4 Handbook for the Physiological Laboratory, p. 159.

5 Drs. Lauder-Brunton and Theodore Cash, October number of “THE PRACTIONER,” 1884. The animals baked were dogs.

6 Handbook for the Physiological Laboratory, p. 160.

7 Handbook for the Physiological Laboratory, pp. 160-1-2.

8 Dr. E. Klein, F.R.S., “Further Report on the Etiology of Diphtheria.” (Appendix B.) I quote this not from original work (which cannot be obtained at the British Museum), but from various writers who have succeeded in obtaining it.


10 BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL, 1882, Feb. 11, p. 645.

11 Dr. Borel, in the PALL MALL GAZETTE, August 1889, &c., &c.

12(a) Prof. David Ferrier, “Functions of the Brain.”
(b) JOURNAL OF PHYSIOLOGY, vol. xiii., p. 773, December, 1892, &c.

13 Mantegazza, “Fisiologia del Dolore” (Physiology of Pain).

14(a) Baron Weber, “Torture Chamber of Science.”
(b) Royal Commission, QQ. 416, 5362, &c., &c.

page: 4 man be really willing that agony so shocking shall be undergone on the off-chance of his gaining something from it? If he cannot endure that thought for himself, if his very manhood revolts, as it surely must revolt, at the idea of this wholesale martyrdom for his sake, how can he bear to doom his fellowmen to the same intolerable burden?

Good heavens! of what unholy amalgam of flint and steel do the vivisectors suppose human hearts to be made, that they dare to tell us they commit such deeds on our behalf, tempting our baseness with promises of gain? What an insult is that bait! To what low, pitiful, unmanly qualities in us does the learned physiologist make his only too successful appeal! Every day, with our consent, under our laws, all over the Christian and civilised world, this anguish of dumb creatures is being suffered. And let it not be forgotten that vivisection is practised at an ever increasing rate, as the official returns show, and that it grows more ruthless and more terrible every year, as by the very law of our nature it is bound to do, unless some reaction sets in, unless some great national outcry is made against the practice of State-licensed cruelty. For the honour of human nature, let us abolish it in justice to these helpless ones: do not let us wait until we do it in sheer terror for ourselves! The practice is gradually extending to human subjects who are poor and helpless enough to be safely used in that capacity. Are we to sit still and acquiesce till human vivisection becomes an open and “respectable” industry?

Surely the people of England who possess so powerful a voting influence will not be so blind as to let it go on unopposed.

Their own interests, if nothing else, ought to rouse them to resist. They have but to question candidates for elections, and to refuse to vote for those who will not oppose the practice, and the law which charters it would have to be repealed. It is because these savageries are committed by men who are respected and admired that they are so terribly dangerous to our national morality and to our progress in all its aspects. The crimes of acknowledge criminals are ominous enough, but they need scarcely be considered in comparison with the chartered and applauded cruelties of men (probably honestly believing themselves to be not only justified but active in well-doing) who are looked up to as distinguished members of an honourable profession, and who are creating a moral standard—or rather destroying one—with every breath they draw. page: 5 Can this be called exaggeration if we remember that such men as these spend their whole lives in subjecting gentle unoffending creatures to the tortures of the damned? If only men and women could realise but for one moment those tortures, I am convinced that the practice of vivisection would be swept away in a great burst of national fury before another year had passed! But alas, nothing can reveal that hell on earth to the multitudes of men and women, absorbed, perforce, in their business and in their own many griefs. But let it be remembered that the animals in their anguish have no redress, no possibility of appeal, of combination, no consolation of faith, hope, or religion, none of the exaltation of voluntary sacrifice. There is nothing for them but the dark unimaginable horror of dumb, hopeless, ghastly suffering.

Dr. Hoggan tells us that after going through three campaigns where he saw many a sad sight, he saw none sadder than when the dogs were brought up from the cellars to be vivisected, the poor creatures appearing terrified, as if they knew that some cruel fate awaited them. They would try to appeal for mercy by begging, or licking the hands of their pitiless torturers; but always in vain. 1 Once it is recorded that the students were touched by the appeals of a poor little fox terrier, and tried to persuade the professor to spare it; but the learned gentleman said that he would teach them to give way to no such maudlin sensibility, and he vivisected the creature cruelly then and there, and also kept him to serve for further experiment on the following day. 2

People often talk judicially and “moderately” about vivisection, as if it were a question merely of human welfare and of medical science. Let me entreat those who take that view to try to realise the fate of a creature, seized and bound by strong ruthless hands, and tortured slowly, cleverly, delicately, exquisitely, sometimes with the muscles of the larynx cut, 3 so that the operator shall not be disturbed by its groans and cries; sometimes under the spell of the “hellish drug” curare (so called by Tennyson), which holds every muscle still and stiff—though the victim lies unbound in his

1 Letter to the Morning Post, Feb. 2nd, 1875.

2 Told to a friend of Miss Cobbe by a student who was present at the experiment—“The Modern Rack,” by Frances Power Cobbe.

3 Prof. Schiff, on “The Physiology of the Digestion.” Quoted by Baron von Weber, in “The Torture Chamber of Science.”

page: 6 trough—so that movement or utterance is impossible, while at the same time the whole elaborate network of sensory nerves is left free—nay, according to some experts, with heightened sensitivenes—to perform their terrible work of conveying sensation through the delicate, branching fibres to all parts of the agonised body; a network that seems to form a horrible garment of anguish in which the creature lies still and stark in an unimaginable martyrdom. 1

If after really understanding and conceiving all this, men and women could continue to sanction vivisection, then I think we should be driven to the awful conclusion that the average human being is so black and savage at heart that the sooner he is swept into nothingness the better: a creature beyond praying for—and not worth the effort of prayer! But the fact is—it must be so—that people do not realise the martyrdom that they decree or acquiesce in, the vivisectors having very cleverly and consistently managed to slur over the awful facts with graceful euphemisms—to put it mildly—so that vivisection is actually becoming to many another name for Science herself—Science the gentle and beneficent!

I firmly believe that some day it will be recognised by all that vivisection is, in fact, the arch-enemy of Science, whose teaching has ever been that Nature is one in essence, and that her laws are harmonious and not contradictory; but if her laws are not contradictory, how can it possible be that what is morally wrong should be scientifically right, that what is cruel and unjust should lead us to peace and health? We have never yet found this to be the rule in any other case. Why should there be an exception in this? Are there special natural laws in favour of the physiologist, that he alone should be held justified in pursuing legitimate ends by illegitimate means? Suppose Art were also to set up a claim to follow her sublime vocation by torture: suppose Religion reasserted her privilege by enforcing her teaching by fire and sword. If one

1 The celebrated vivisector, Claude Bernard, thus describes the effects of curare: “We shall see this death which seems to us to arrive so calmly and so free from pain, is on the contrary accompanied by the most atrocious sufferings that the mind of man can conceive..... In this motionless body, behind that glazing eye, and with all the appearances of death, sensibility and intelligence persist in their entirety.”—REVUE DES DEUX MONDES, Ch. ii., p. 173, and Ch. iv., p. 182, of bound numbers of the periodical.

page: 7 profession or calling may do evil that good may come, why may not all follow this Jesuits' creed? Science herself cries out against the false doctrine, the blasphemy of the vivisector.

If he be right—if we must act as fiends in order to gain angelic ends—then life is intolerable and preposterous; moral beauty is a sham, and goodness a foolish dream. There is no alternative. Yet those who swear allegiance to the medical priesthood profess an unshaken belief in moral law and progress. They profess this belief, while their actions proclaim their conviction that by the torture of the weak the strong will be benefited and blessed—in other words, that there is no such thing as moral law.

If only these upholders of the new priesthood would study the works of their masters—if only they would place side by side, for instance, Dr. Klein' s frank and repeated assertion that he cared nothing for the anguish of the animals 1 , or Richet's explanation of the vivisector's motives 2 , with Wordsworth's well-known lines—
  • Never to blend our pleasures or our pride
  • With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.
or Pope's—
  • Wider and more wide, th' o'erflowings of the mind,
  • Take ev'ry creature in, of ev'ry kind.
or his reproach to man—
  • Of half that live the butcher and the tomb,
  • Who, foe to Nature, hears the general groan,
  • Murders their species and betrays his own.
or Cowper's—
  • I would not number on my list of friends
  • (Though graced with polished manners and fine sense,
  • Yet wanting sensibility) the man
  • Who needlessly sets foot upon a worm;
or Shakespeare's— How shalt thou hope for mercy, rendering none? and the reproof to the queen in Cymbeline, who wished to try the effect of drugs upon the lower animals— Your highness shall from this practice but make hard your heart. Cymbeline, Act I., sc. vi. Can any sane, any generous mind doubt which is the truer and

1See his evidence given before the Royal Commission.

2“.... this scientific curiosity, which alone animates him, is explained by the high idea he has formed of Science. This is why we pass our days in fetid laboratories, surrounded by groaning creatures, in the midst of blood and suffering, bent over palpitating entrails.”—Prof. Richet, in REVUE DES DEUX MONDES, Feb. 15th, 1883.

page: 8 the better and the more trustworthy spirit; which will lead us straighter and further along the path of progress and peace: that of the vivisector or that of the poet?

It is this prophetic, universl element, this moral clairvoyance, that gives that large, tender, stirring quality to the work of the true poet, convincing as nothing else convinces, for we feel that it comes straight from the very source of Truth itself. We are bound to believe that he gives us good counsel when he bids us treat the poor beasts with tenderness and pity, and extend to them the sanctuary of human kindness and kinship. Let the vivisector say what he will, both reason and conscience tell us that there is no alternative to this conviction, except that this accursed universe is but the Devil's playground, wherein we are at once his playfellows and his victims: his victims in that we are doomed to suffer in so cruel a fashion the pangs of hunger, cold, anxiety, strife, toil, parting, disease, degradation, madness: his playfellows in that we imitate and join him in his ghastly business by inflicting in our turn, and for our own ends, pain unspeakable on those helpless ones, obviously our next of kin, whose weakness tempts the coward in us and inspires the fiend, while it leaves us seemingly unpunished, and free to wield our power for savage uses worthy of our leader!

It seems strange, indeed, that the human mind can be completely seduced from a truth which nevertheles it cannot fail to recognise when it is clearly placed before it. Yet from such a truth the vivisectors and their party have managed to seduce us! I defy any one who admits the existence of a moral law at all to deny that in the long run we shall lose and not gain by committing a deliberate wrong. I challenge such a person to honestly deny that the wrong and the cruelly so committed will in some way and at some time have to be expiated by ourselves and our descendants.

In how tremendous and profound and terrible a sense the following lines from Shelley are true—literally, bitterly, piercingly true, with the dreadful certainty of a law of Nature mankind will some day have to learn as regards this, “our meanest crime.”
  • Those who inflict must suffer, for they see
  • The work of their own hearts, and that must be
  • Our chastisement or recompense.
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