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The Cruelty Of Science
by [?]

IN the process of their experiments upon the bodies of living animals some anatomists do not, I fear, sufficiently realize that

The poor beetle, that we tread upon,
In corporal sufferance, finds a pang as great
As when a giant dies.

I am not for a moment challenging the necessity of vivisection, though distinguished surgeons have themselves challenged it; I merely contend that science is apt to be cold-hearted, and does not seem always to take into consideration the tortures she inflicts in her search for knowledge.

Just now, in turning over the leaves of an old number of the “London Lancet,” I came upon the report of a lecture on experimental physiology delivered by Professor William Rutherford before a learned association in London. Though the type had become antiquated and the paper yellowed in the lapse of years, the pathos of those pages was alive and palpitating.

The following passages from the report will illustrate not unfairly the point I am making. In the course of his remarks the lecturer exhibited certain interesting experiments on living frogs. Intellectually I go very strongly for Professor Rutherford, but I am bound to confess that the weight of my sympathy rests with the frogs.

Observe this frog [said the professor], it is regarding our manoeuvres with a somewhat lively air. Now and then it gives a jump. What the precise object of its leaps may be I dare not pretend to say; but probably it regards us with some apprehension, and desires to escape.

To be perfectly impartial, it must be admitted that the frog had some slight reason for apprehension. The lecturer proceeded:

I touch one of its toes, and you see it resents the molestation in a very decided manner. Why does it so struggle to get away when I pinch its toes? Doubtless, you will say, because it feels the pinch and would rather not have it repeated. I now behead the animal with the aid of a sharp chisel. . . . The headless trunk lies as though it were dead. The spinal cord seems to be suffering from shock. Probably, however, it will soon recover from this. . . . Observe that the animal has now spontaneously drawn up its legs and arms, and it is sitting with its neck erect just as if it had not lost its head at all. I pinch its toes, and you see the leg is at once thrust out as if to spurn away the offending instrument. Does it still feel? and is the motion still the result of the volition?

That the frog did feel, and delicately hinted at the circumstance, there seems to be no room to doubt, for Professor Rutherford related that having once decapitated a frog, the animal suddenly bounded from the table, a movement that presumably indicated a kind of consciousness. He then returned to the subject immediately under observation, pinched its foot again, the frog again “resenting the stimulation.” He then thrust a needle down the spinal cord. “The limbs are now flaccid,” observed the experimenter; “we may wait as long as we please, but a pinch of the toes will never again cause the limbs of this animal to move.” Here is where congratulations can come in for la grenouille. That frog being concluded, the lecturer continued:

I take another frog. In this case I open the cranium and remove the brain and medulla oblongata. . . . I thrust a pin through the nose and hang the animal thereby to a support, so that it can move its pendent legs without any difficulty. . . . I gently pinch the toes. . . . The leg of the same side is pulled up. . . . I pinch the same more severely. . . . Both legs are thrown into motion.

Having thus satisfactorily proved that the wretched creature could still suffer acutely, the professor resumed: