HC Deb 30 April 1889 vol 335 cc877-88

(1.) "That a sum, not exceeding £48,751 be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1890, for the Salaries and Expenses in the Department of Her Majesty's Treasury, and in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, and also the Expenses of the Statute Law and State Trials Reports Committees."

Resolution agreed to. (2.) "That a sum, not exceeding £79,668, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1880, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Her Majesty's Sectetary of State for the Home Department and Subordinate Offices.

Question proposed, "That the House do agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

*MR. B. COLERIDGE (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

In consequence of my not moving my amendment on this Vote yesterday, the House was enabled to pass the Vote, and practically some time was saved. I now desire to move the amendment, and I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, the Home Secre- tary (Mr. Matthews), as it is a matter that must take some time, and as we were not aware what would be the result of the motion moved to-day with reference to the taking of report of supply after twelve o'clock, to allow the Vote to be postponed. As the right hon. Gentleman does not indicate his views on the subject, I must move the Amendment that stands in my name—namely, to reduce the salary of the Inspector under the Vivisection Act of 1876 by the sum of £50. The Act of 1876, which was passed in consequence of a feeling that some restriction should be placed on operations on living animals, was really a compromise, and did not meet the views of either one side or the other on the question of vivisection. The object of the opponents of vivisection is that the Act should be thoroughly efficient, and in order to do that, we maintain that the Inspector should be a man who has a real desire to limit as far as the Act permits operations upon living animals. The present Inspector is not such a person. Under any circumstances the reports which he submits must be entirely framed on the reports of the persons who perform the operations. Since this gentleman has been appointed, the object and aim has obviously been to accept those reports as gospel truth, without inquiry and investigation as to whether or not they can be depended upon. When Sir Erasmus Wilson left a handsome bequest for the furtherance of science, a number of gentlemen signed a round robin to the Royal College of Surgeons, who were intrusted with the disposal of the money, desiring that the money should be devoted to the purpose of providing a nation al physiological laboratory, and one of the clauses of this round robin contained this re-mark:— It is a national discredit that we have nothing in London like the splendid laboratories which exist not only in the capital cities of Europe, but in comparatively small towns such as Bonn, Strasburg, and Leipsic. I will give the House some indications of the character of laboratories which these gentlemen thinks it a national discredit we do not possess. This is the sort of thing which the Inspector under the Act is anxious to see repeated in this country. I quote a document which describes what is going on in Strasburg. In that town there lives a Professor Goltz, and I find he introduced a new method by which larger portions of the brain were torn away and washed out by means of heated spring water, after the skull had been pierced in several places. The crater-shaped cavities thus formed were washed out. A dog with five holes bored in the head, and with the loss of nearly half a brain lived from February 14th to March 15th. Only young dogs are suitable for these experiments, and he says No one has succeeded in destroying the brain so extensively and handling it so roughly, while still preserving the creature's life as myself. In the case of several mutilated dogs, I decided to put out the left sound eye, in order to estimate correctly the functions of the eye maimed by the loss of the brain.' On the 8th November, 1875, two holes bored in the head of a bull dog, and the brain washed away. The animal becomes blind with the right eye. On December 11th, I took the left eye.ball out. Fresh disturbance of the brain on the 5th of February, this time on the right side; dies on February 15th. Then we have an account of a very clever, lively, young female dog which had learnt to shake hands with both fore paws, and which had the left side of the brain washed out through two holes on the 1st of December, 1875. Here is Professor Goltz again— After I had laid bare the bone behind the ear of the pigeon. I bored out bit by bit, with the help of a sharp hollow chisel, the ear labyrinths on both sides of the head. In those cases where I endeavoured to destroy entirely both labyrinths, the birds died soon after the operation, with violent rolling movements or somersaults. Describing another operation on a dog, he says:— The sanguinary part of the operation begins with the insertion of the cannula to supply artificial respiration. The insertion of the cannula proves that the drug curare, which destroys all movement, while leaving sensation absolutely unimpaired, was administered. Then the right carotid artery is dissected out. Afterwards, while artificial respiration is being set up, a square opening is made in the left wall of the chest with a knife and the bone scissors. The opening is extended far into the right pleural cavity, and widened downwards, till it reaches the diaphragm, which is severed from the ribs. After this the catheter is introduced from the right carotis into the aorta, and from thence to the left ventricle of the heart. We have repeated this experiment six times. This is the class of experiments that goes On in Strasburg. The operations at Leipsic are still more horrible. I find that the spinal cords of two dogs were severed, and after some weeks they were scalded. The animals survived the scalding for six or ten days, and then. after a continual fall of temperature died from putrefaction. Three other dogs whose spinal cords had been cut through, survived the subsequent scalding three days, one week, and three weeks respectively. A large sheep dog succumbed 36 hours after having its hind quarters immersed three times in scalding water. A young, active, and very lively dog, which had survived the infusion of blood from a scalded dog 31 days previously, was scalded for 45 seconds in water at 100 degrees centigrade (boiling point), up to the middle of its body. Experiment 21—rabbit scalded. The animal groans. Is bled to death after one hour and ten minutes. Experiment 31—a dog burnt for 30 seconds in boiling water. On the next day morose, very dejected, no appetite. Died 44 hours after the burning. Then we have a young, active dog, subjected to transfusion of the blood of a scalded dog. Four days afterwards it was much exhausted, staggered on its feet, perhaps from hunger, and was killed. Violent scalding of a dog. It died after eight hours. Young active dog killed on the fourth day after the injection of overheated blood. These are only instances of numberless cases of the same character. Well, Sir, we say that any man who says it is a national discredit that England does not possess laboratories similar to those at Strasburg and Leipsic, is absolutely unfit to be an Inspector under an Act, the object of which is to prevent cruelty to animals. Now, Sir, will it be believed that this Gentleman who has been appointed to be not a partizan but a judge, is an old vivisector himself? He was one of the Royal Commission, and. no one who reads his evidence can fail to see that his whole object was to reexamine from the point of view of the vivisectors all the witnesses who had been pulled to pieces in cross- examination. I find that in connection with. Dr. Sharping the Inspector conducted some experiments regarding asphyxia—which means seeing how long animals will live before they they are finally choked. I am aware that it is exceedingly difficult to find out whether the reports of experiments are or are not. to be believed. We have been refused permission by the Home Office to see who does and who does not hold licences under the Act. We have asked to be allowed to inspect the places that are licensed under the Act for the performance of experiments, and we have again been refused. Lately the gentlemen who make these experiments have ingeniously refrained from giving the dates, nor do they as a rule give the places. I take the report of the Inspector for 1888, and I find that Dr. John A. McWilliam is put down as having operated upon 12 animals. He holds a simple licence. He has only operated in this last year because this is the only year in which he has held a license. In the Journal of Physiology of this year—Vol. IX.—I find a report given by this gentleman of his operations. He begins by saying: "The following investigation was conducted on the hearts of various mammals—cats, dogs, rabbits, hedgehogs, guinea-pigs, and rats." He says the experiments were performed "partly on the excised heart" and "partly on the heart in situ." Any experiments on the heart in situ must be conducted while the animal is alive. Then he say "artificial respiration was employed." This speaks volumes to us, because artificial respiration is only necessary where the drug curare is employed. This drug, as I have already said, does not destroy sensation though it takes away all motive power. What we say is that curare, when employed with any other drug, renders the anæsthetic absolutely valueless. It is impossible to say when the effect of the anæsthetic has passed. What these gentlemen do is to strap the animal down, give it a whiff of chloroform and administer curare, after which it remains motionless till the end of the operation. Well, he says: "The chest was laid open; in some cases the pericardial sac was left intact, but in most of my experiments it was opened and the heart fully exposed." Then, he says: "As the result of a large number of experiments on the mammalian heart, I find," so and so. Another of his statements is: "In the second series of experiments the heart was examined in situ, with the normal circulation going on;" and another: "My observations on the action of the mammalian heart as seen after the thorax has been opened lead me to conclude," &c. Then, he says: "In mammals (cat and rabbit) I have made a considerable number of experiments on this point." The House may take it from me that in that case the heart was in situ. Speaking of another experiment, he says: "I have on several occasions performed such experiments." Well, I say that no reasonable man could read all this and come to the conclusion that they represent experiments upon 12 animals and 12 animals only. Sir, these experiments involve practically the turning of animals inside out. And in view of the facts which I have quoted to the Committee, I venture to submit that unless you have an Inspector, who is, so to speak, a suspicious Inspector and who will not take these gentlemen's reports as prima facie evidence without investigation, you are not doing your duty and carrying out the spirit of the Act. I have gone carefully into this matter, and I believe that at present the Act is doing more harm than good, because it has lulled public suspicion, and prevented people from believing the things which are going on. You have made them think that these things do not occur. I have very nearly come to an end of what I have to say, but there are just one or two matters further, which I should like to touch upon. I must again refer to this Report. It is an extraordinary document, and I ask the attention of the Home Secretary to it with a view to explaining its terms. In the first place, it divides the certificates held by each licencee under five heads, which are numbered respectively, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. But in another part of the report you have six divisions headed respectively, a, b, c, d, e, and f, and I have tried to find out what f is supposed to represent. It does seem to me most curious that having divided one part of the Report under five heads represented by numerals, you should in another part have six heads represented by letters. But now, Sir, I come to the language of the Report itself. This gentleman has been an inspector who does not inspect, although usually the first function of an inspector is to inspect. Well he has this year, and I hope not for the last time, although it is the first, inspected. But there is not much use in his inspecting a laboratory if it is known beforehand that he intends to do so, and still less is it of any use to inspect it when there is nothing going on, because a mere inspection of the place of experimenting, and of the elaborate and carefully prepared instruments which are devised with the horrid ingenuity of man for the carrying out of these experiments is not what was contemplated by the Act. He says:— In table 1 will be found the list of places registered in different buildings, and all these places have been visited by me during the past year and found to be well adapted for the purpose for which they were licensed. Does he mean they are airy, light, or what? Does he mean that the instruments are efficient and the knives sharp, and that they were well adapted for the purpose of the licencee? And then he adds: The arrangements for the comfort of the animals were in every way satisfactory. Did any one ever hear such language? Does he mean that the animals are comfortable when being operated upon? Does he mean that they are comfortable before dying or after the operation? That they are comfortable before the operation is not at all unsual, because one of the leading lights in the vivisection world has recommended vivisectors to carefully prepare their patients, to take young and active animals and feed them well before they are operated upon. because the more lively and vigorous they are at the time of the operation, the better the scientific result. Therefore, no doubt, these gentlemen treat the animals well before they op rate upon them. I do ask any fair minded man whether such a statement in what is supposed to be an unbiassed Report is not a public outrage and a matter calling for comment on the spirit which actuates an official who is appointed for the purpose of pev enting cruelty to these animals. Now the inspector continues in his report:— One of the main objects of the Act was to secure the avoidance of pain being inflicted on living animals that were the subject of experiment, and my attention has been especially directed to the efficient carrying out of this provision of the Act. Sir, I wish to ask in what way has the attention of the inspector been specially directed to this matter. He says:— It is important to observe that comparatively few vivisections properly so-called, that is to say experiments involving a distinct surgical operation on a living animal, have been practised during the past year. Now, Sir, we say that we have good reason to doubt the correctness of this part of the Report. The Report should be unbiassed, and the man who is an inspector under the Act ought, if anything, to sympathize with the animals whom he is placed there to guard and see that they are not in any way unnecessarily operated upon. I do not propose now, Sir, to enter into the main question of vivisection. It is not material to this debate. I have only directed attention to facts connected with this Report, and I think that the facts which I have laid before this House justify me in saying that we ought now to take a stand and insist that the Act shall be properly carried out. We believe that the only safeguard—the only way in which it can be properly carried into effect, is by having as an inspector, a man who is not the creature and the chosen inspector of those whom he is appointed to inspect. He ought to be, rather, out of harmony with their desires, and in harmony with those who take the part of the animals. My point is that he is not the right man for the post, because at heart he is a friend of vivisectors.

Amendment proposed, to leave out "£79,668" in order to insert "£79,618."—(Mr. Bernard Coleridge.)

Question proposed, "That '£79,668 ' stand part of the Resolution."


I have rarely heard the privileges of the House more entirely abused than by the personal attack which the hon. and learned Member has thought fit to make upon a scientific man of great eminence who has for ten or twelve years discharged his duties to the entire satisfaction of successive Secretaries of State. The hon. and learned Gentleman has based his attack as far as I can gather on a statement by the inspector that he thinks a laboratory of vivisection in this country would assist in scientific research, and therefore be a desirable thing, and in order to give venom to that charge he referred to a number of things which Professor Erichsen has no more to do with than the hon. and learned Member himself. I venture to say that the Professor is no more connected with the experiments which have been conducted at Strasbourg than is the hon. and learned Member. He has had nothing to do with those cruel and unjustifiable experiments. The hon. and learned Member has suppressed entirely the fact that, under the Vivisection Act, the things he mentioned are impossible in this country. He did not tell the House that curare is not allowed as an anæsthetic in this country, and he describes experiments which are absolutely prohibited in this country.


They are not.


The Home Office never grants certificates for experiments on cats and dogs except certain certificates of fitness are forthcoming, and the Act declares that curare shall not be an anæsthetic. Therefore, these experiments are illegal and may be followed by penal consequences, and I assure the hon. Member I should not hesitate to prosecute any man detected in carrying them out in this country. The hon. and learned Member will find that Dr. J. A. McWilliam does not hold Certificate E, and therefore he could not have performed these experiments in this country.


Dr. McWilliam tens us himself that these experiments were made in the University of Aberdeen.


Yes the twelve were, but the hon. Member himself read from the article accounts that apparently related to many more than twelve experiments. Dr. McWilliam only went by Certificate C, which does not enable a man to perform an experiment on a dog or a cat. In England, under the Vivisection Act, a man cannot perform such an experiment without having Certificate E, and if he does so he does an illegal act, and undoubtedly would be prosecuted.


I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will pardon me. Any man who holds a simple license can vivisect a dog or cat under an anæsthetic.


But the licenses are not given by the Horne Office, except upon the production of the certificate required by the Statute. That is the invariable practice. I never give Certificate E, which licenses an experiment on a dog or a cat, unless it is accompanied by Certificate B, which states that insensibility cannot be brought about without necessarily frustrating the object of experiment. Therefore it really seems to me the hon. and learned Member's charge is based upon foundations that have given way. The hon. and learned Member finds fault with Professor Erichsen because in his Report he refers to the condition of the places where the experiments are performed. I may say that of his own motive Professor Erichsen has introduced improvements in the system. He has advised me against licensing private houses for the performance of these experiments, and as a result of his advice the places where they are now performed are public institutions where a certain publicity attaches to them, and where persons are present who understand the subject, and can see that the thing is done in accordance with the law. This I belive to be one of the greatest and most valuable checks and safeguards that could be introduced. Of course, if an experiment is performed in a private house or private room, it is liable to abuse, but in public places such as the Brown Institution, Owen's College, the University of Aberdeen, and so on, there is always an intelligent and enlightened audience at hand, able and ready to check anything like abuse. It is part of the Inspector's duty to report on these places. Professor Erichsen, who is certainly about as eminent a scientific man as we have in this country, as far as he possibly can superintends and is present at the experiments performed. The hon. and learned Gentleman says Professor Erichsen has not time to inspect enough. It is no doubt impossible for him to inspect all these places, and to view all the experiments, and, therefore, I obtained, this year, the sanction of the Treasury to give him an assistant who shall be present while these experiments are being performed, and judge whether the conditions on which the licenses are granted are properly carried out. In consequence of the curious reticence of the hon. and learned Gentleman, the House may not be aware that the provisions of the Act are express, that experiments likely to cause pain must be performed under the influence of an anæsthetic, and that when the influence of the anæsthetic is exhausted the animal must be killed to prevent its suffering pain. In order to obtain exemption from these very stringent conditions, certificates must be obtained from very eminent persons in the country, the President of the Royal Society, for instance, that it is absolutely necessary that anæsthetics must be used and that the animal must be killed the moment the effect of the anæthetic has worn off. It is, of course, impossible that these experiments in vivisection can always be conducted without pain, according to the testimony of medical men. I am not myself enamoured of this system of physical research. The whole of my instincts are opposed to it. But Parliament has sanctioned it, and what we have to do is to see that the experiments are conducted in the best way possible upon the conditions prescribed ' by the Act. As far as I have had an opportunity of observing Professor Erichsen's conduct, he does most conscientiously and jealously endeavour to carry out the provisions of the Act. At his instance many prosecutions have been initiated, and in some cases we have proceeded to great lengths. Certain experiments or operations were undertaken in Cheshire and in the Welsh counties with a view to discovering a cure for foot and mouth disease or pleuro-pneumonia. I myself was of opinion that they ought not to be regarded as experiments that came under the Vivisection Act, but Professor Erichsen took a more stringent view and prosecutions were instituted, I own a little to my regret, against a gentleman who has since, I believe, established a means of curing these dangerous and fatal diseases among cattle by what he called the experiments he conducted, but which I regarded as an experimental method of treatment. I believe Professor Erichsen is not only a humane man but a man of considerable eminence in his walk of life, and that he discharges his duty in a manner worthy of the commendation and not of the blame of the House. I trust the amendment will be negatived.

*MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe Div.)

I regret that the Government did not accede at once to the suggestion of my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. B. Coleridge) that the matter should be postponed. We are now witnessing ore of the evil effects of the new rule passed this afternoon. It certainly was never was intended that we should be kept here after one o'clock discussing a matter of great interest to a large number of Members. The promise of the Board of Trade was specifically that the rule would only be rarely put in force. I therefore move the adjournment of the debate. The almost hysterical speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Matthews) has in no way disposed of the calm and well reasoned address of my hon. and learned Friend. The question has come suddenly upon most of us, and I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will consent to the adjournment of the debate.

Motion made and Question proposed "That the debate be now adjourned"—(Mr. E. J. Ellis).


Of course I had not forgotten the conversation which took place when the new rule was discussed this afternoon, when a feeling was expressed on our own side of the House as well as on the opposite side, that no great strain should be put upon hon. Members in consequence of the passing of the Resolution. When the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Coleridge) rose, I did not observe that any objection was expressed in any part of the House to going on, and I certainly did not think the hon. and learned Gentleman was going to raise the whole Question of vivisection. I regret exceedingly that so lengthy a discussion should have taken place, because it is not the intention of the Government to have prolonged sittings at this period of the Session. Under the circumstances, I cannot resist the Motion for Adjournment.

Debate adjourned till Monday next.