HC Deb 29 April 1898 vol 56 cc1511-4

I beg to move for an address for Return showing the number of experiments performed on living animals during the year 1897, under licences granted under 39 and 40 Vic, c. 77, distinguishing painless from painful experiments (in continuation of Parliamentary Paper No. 239, of Session 1897).

MR. J. G. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)

Before this Motion is put I wish to make some few observations in reference to this Report, and to ask for a few additions to it which the right honourable Gentleman may see fit to grant. The Motion now made is practically in continuance of former Motions of a similar character that have been made from time to time.


I understand that the honourable Member is not proposing to oppose the Return. He is only intending to offer some suggestion.


Quite so. I would not have taken this rather unusual course of making observations upon a Motion for a Return of this nature if it were not for the fact that every question asked on this subject has been carefully suppressed from the public through a section of the Press. The first thing that I am going to ask the right honourable Gentleman to do is to amend the Return in this way. At present the public is given to understand that each experiment on a living animal is confined to one living animal alone. But an analysis of these Papers shows me that such is not the case. Each experiment is made not in the sense that the public understand it, upon one animal alone, but upon a series of living animals, sacrificing sometimes 40 or 50 to one experiment. I am going to ask the right honourable Gentleman if he can show by the Reports how many animals have been experimented upon for the purpose of scientific research. Last year there were no fewer than 7,500 experiments, and that, according to the Report, would lead the public to understand that only 7,500 animals have been experimented upon. That is not the case. Each of those 7,500 experiments represents an indefinite number of animals sacrificed for the purpose of scientific research, and I think it would be useful for the public to know the exact number of the animals so sacrificed. Another matter on which I wish this Return to be amended is this: in the address that the right honourable Gentleman has put down on the Paper, which is a continuation of former addresses, a distinction is carefully drawn between "painless" and "painful" experiments. That distinction, according to the Reports, is a fallacious and deceptive distinction, and I will tell the right honourable Gentleman why. The experiments described in the Reports as painless are experiments performed after hypodermic injections; but the effects of such experiments—the after-effects—are extremely painful. You inoculate animals with various diseases. That inoculation itself is practically painless; but what are the results? We all know the painful after-results of the administering of anæsthetics. During the time of the actual operation, it may be described as "painless," but the pain that follows consciousness is fearful and excruciating. I want such experiments as these to be enumerated in the Report. I want it to be an honest Report. In order to describe what I mean in reference to inoculation, hypodermic injection, and the application of anæsthetics. I see from this Report, which is the Report of which the Return asked for to-day will be a continuation, that these experiments are most eminently painful—for living animals are given such diseases as cholera, diphtheria, small-pox, and many other painful diseases. These are described as painless experiments, because they are painless at the time; but I do not think that the public ought to be deceived in this manner. There is one thing more I would ask the right honourable Gentleman to do. In former Reports, with the exception of the last two years, the number of visits which were paid by the inspectors appointed to see these establishments are not returned at all, so that we do not know anything about it. The average number of visits comes out a about one or two a year to each establishment. I thank the House for allowing me to speak upon this matter, and I hope I have not trespassed upon the indulgence of the House by calling attention to these facts. To briefly summarise, I want information as to the actual number of living animals experimented upon; I want the number of animals which are dealt with by inoculation and other means for such horrible diseases as small-pox, cholera, and diphtheria, and other diseases to which flesh is heir; and then I want the inspectors' reports, stating the number of times they have inspected these institutions.


This is simply a continuation of the Report of last year, and I must dispute some of the assertions that the honourable Member has made. I do not think the Report is dishonest, but whether it goes to the extent of the honourable Member's wishes is another thing. He has not made his wishes known to the Home Office, so that we might alter the Report in the direction he wishes. If he will do that I will undertake that it shall be considered with a view to altering the Return for another year. That is all I can say now. Inasmuch as many honourable Members are waiting for the Report, no alteration in its form can be made; but the matter can be considered with a view to next year's Report. In saying that I must altogether dispute the remark that he has made as to the number of animals experimented upon, or as to the Report being misleading. It is a perfectly fair and honest Report as far as it goes. If the honourable Member has any other suggestions to make, we will consider them with a view to another Report next year.


With reference to the right honourable Gentleman's remark about the Home Office not knowing, I must, in justice to myself, say that I have literally bombarded the Home Office about this matter.

The Return was agreed to.

Instructions to Committee.