HC Deb 03 June 1921 vol 142 cc1478-82

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Hon. Members will not require any lengthy explanation as regards a Bill which has already passed Second Reading on three different occasions, twice without a Division, and once by a considerable majority. If any hon. Member be under the impression that by passing it he will injure the cause of vivisection, I will read an extract from the "Lancet" dated 31st May, 1919: This is not to say that such knowledge could not have been acquired in any other way. Therefore having the admission of the "Lancet," the well-known and recognised authority of the medical profession, it is evident that the knowledge which the medical profession say is acquired by experiments on dogs can be acquired in another way. I will conclude by quoting from an American poet and writer. I do not know his name, I wish I did, because he is evidently an extremely able and humane man— The best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has he may lose. It flies away from him perhaps when he needs it most. A man's reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honour when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure sets its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog. A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer. He will lick the wounds that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journeys through the heavens.


This is the third or fourth time that I have had to speak on this Bill, and, naturally, it is rather difficult to say anything new. I know that is not always necessary in Debate. I will summarise the chief objections which we, as a scientific and medical profession, have against the Bill. I am a dog lover—all my friends are dog lovers, and we sympathise with the passages read by the right hon. Gentleman. It is not that we dislike dogs, but that we cannot afford to lose the experience that can be gained from them. The first thing that we assert, in contradiction to the "Lancet," is that there are many fields of knowledge that we must explore if we are to advance the science of medicine and do our duty in the fight against disease, and some of the fields of observation that we gather from the dog are quite necessary. It is not simply a question of vivisection.

The animals that are usually used in experiments fall into four classes: these are the small rodents; rats, mice, and guinea-pigs; dogs, cats to a smaller extent; horses, rabbits, and apes. Other animals are only occasionally used. Rodents are almost entirely used in connection with investigations respecting infectious diseases. Horses are used not so much for experiments as for commercial purposes and for the producing of serum, such as tetanus anti-toxin, which saved so many lives in the late War. The animal has to be infected with the disease. The dog and the ape are really the only two animals from which we get the main part of our knowledge as regards the processes of health and disease. It is quite true that most of the work could be done with apes, not so conveniently in some cases, certainly not so cheaply. But one or other must be used, for various reasons. In the first place, if we want to get results that we can apply in the treatment of disease, we must have animals whose mode of life resembles man's, who live under the same conditions as man, whose food resembles man's, and the chemical changes in whose bodies are on the same lines as man's. These are really the only two animals that fulfil those conditions. I know the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) is not out for humanitarian purposes. It does not matter to him what animals we vivisect so long as they are not dogs, and therefore why not use apes? There are various objections. In the first place there are not so many apes in this country. In the second place, the apes are not so easily handled. They are not so tame as dogs. They are more like spoiled children. Put a dressing on a dog and he does not trouble so much about it. In a few hours he apparently forgets about it. But the ape does not forget. He never rests satisfied until he has torn open the stitches and vitiated the whole experiment. It would be extremely difficult to carry out many delicate operations, which do not hurt the animals in the least.

Then there is one consideration which the right hon. Baronet, like a railway magnate, despises, the expense. We must take account of the question of expense. The men who are engaged in this sort of work are in the great majority of cases poor men. They do not spend their money on pleasure but on instruments and other things they want for their experiments; and to ask the poor man to buy such expensive animals as apes is out of the question. I would be very much surprised if this House would pass any Vote for a laboratory if they found that apes were being used instead of dogs. There would be an economical outcry against it. The results which have been got from the experiments on dogs are of the greatest value. To begin with, the observations which have been made on dogs are the groundwork of our whole knowledge of the healthy processes of human nature. Physiology, the science of health, is based almost entirely on observations on dogs. It is said by opponents that they would not so much object to experiments if they led to a practical result. But it does not do to despise knowledge because it has no immediate utilitarian outlook. Almost all the great sciences have begun in insig- nificant things. I am in the presence of one of the greatest scientists of the day. Even the science of electricity arose in connection with a trivial thing. My teaching was that a lady was preparing frogs for the table and hung them on a nail. When her husband touched them he observed certain contractions in the legs. He investigated the matter, with results that are well known to-day. Take investigations in regard to certain diseases. In cases of malaria the spleen is very much enlarged. The spleen is very fragile, and a blow will—

It being Five of the Clock, the Debate stood Adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Friday next.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3, till Monday next (6th June).

Adjourned at One minute after Five o'clock.