HC Deb 14 May 1924 vol 173 cc1353-7
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prevent the payment out of public funds of moneys for experiments on living animals. The object of the Bill is to prevent the spending of public money on the subsidising of vivisection experiments. In no way does the Bill interfere with experiments being carried on by private experimenters under licence, as at present, but a large sum of money is being spent by the Ministry of Health in subsidising these experiments. Last year we spent approximately, as far as I can gather, £130,000, which I think is much too large a sum, and objectionable for many reasons. I do not know exactly what the figures are for this year, as I have been unable to get them, but we may take it that they will be approximately the same unless this Bill becomes law. During the same time we are spending, for England alone, not counting Scotland and Wales, £70,000 less this year on providing milk for expectant mothers and on child welfare under the special powers of the Ministry of Health, and I put it to the House that it would be much more valuable if this money could be spent on providing milk for expectant mothers and in helping creches in poor districts, and for other useful purposes, which everyone admits are good, while the utility of these experiments is doubtful.

It might be said, against the Bill, that vivisection experiments have been a great cause of discoveries in the medical world, and that I myself have recently benefited by such discoveries. As a matter of fact, that is not so. I underwent recently a very severe operation—I am now anticipating a most obvious line of criticism—and was attended by a very skilful surgeon, who got his skill by hundreds of experiments on human beings like myself. That is where his skill came from, and not by practising on living animals. I do not propose in any way to interfere with bacteriological experiments or with ordinary medical research experiments; I wish only to prevent money being spent on this particular type of experiment. I introduced the same Bill on 10th May, 1922, and a number of hon. and right hon. Members now in the House, drawn from all parties, supported it. Many prominent members of the Conservative party voted for the Bill, and of the members of the Labour party then in the House, practically the whole strength went into the Lobby for the Bill, including the present Secretary for Scotland, the Lord Privy Seal, the Home Secretary, the Minister of Labour, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Secretary for the Department of Overseas Trade, and the Under-Secretary for Education. The Minister of Health was not then in the House, although I think I could have counted upon him if he had been here. The Prime Minister was not here either, and I have not sounded him on the matter, but 102 Members voted for the Bill, and I think, at any rate, we ought to give the Bill the opportunity of being brought in and taking its chance of further progress. I think I have said enough to show that it is a good Bill. It is very simple, consisting of only four Clauses, of which one is the citation Clause and one is concerned with the definition of public money. The first Clause simply says that public money shall not be used or applied for the purposes of vivisection experiments, and the other Clauses are the ordinary formal Clauses. The Bill could not be simpler, and I think its object is good.


May I congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) on the very eloquent way in which he has pleaded the anti-vivisectionist case? I would suggest, however, that if he could have substantiated any of his claims by either reasons or facts, he would not have had to rely solely upon eloquence in introducing the Bill. I am reminded of the words of Goethe, that nothing is so terrible as active ignorance. I would first like to try to dispel the erroneous idea that some hon. Members have of the way in which medical men conduct experiments. Let me assure the House that we do not put on the robes of the Klu Klux Klan and steal out in the early hours of the morning to capture a vocal tom-cat, and then bring him into our laboratories and ruthlessly and callously cut off his head. We do not do anything of the kind. Our laboratories are open to all. They are open to Government inspectors, and it is here that part of the money is spent. They are also open to any anti-vivisectionists who may care to see how our experiments are conducted. I would like to submit that more money rather than less should be spent on animal experiments. In every experiment upon an animal, that animal is under an anæsthetic, and, therefore, it does not feel any pain whatever.

We will take some of the more common diseases, diabetes, for example. Insulin, the great modern cure, is a preparation of one of the internal secreting glands. All makes of insulin must be treated on rabbits before they can be given to human beings. Without experiments, therefore, on animals, I would say that there would be a number of diabetic patients who would not be alive to-day. Ask any diabetic person if these experiments are not justifiable. Adrenalin, which is used for hæmorrhage pituitary during childbirth, and a number of other preparations, are all of animal extraction. I will go as far as to suggest that no doubt my hon. and gallant Friend will, in years to come, give up some of his anti-vivisectionist ideas and resort to the rejuvenating properties of monkey glands. Again, there are some drugs which must be standardised before they are safe for human use, and standardisation can only first of all be carried out on animals. The best known drug in this category is Salvarsen, which is used in the treatment of syphilis. If you deny us the standardisation, we shall be unable to treat with safety this terrible disease.

Then, again, the national milk supply is kept free from the tubercular bacilli, namely, the germs of consumption, by inoculating guinea-pigs with the suspected milk. Are we going to prevent the Government from carrying out these measures in order to give to the people tubercular free milk? Again, I am sure the hon. Members above thy Gangway will know how useful canaries and white mice are to safeguard the lives of our miners. They have had to be used, and are we going to withdraw this safety valve from our miners? Surely their job is dangerous enough already. Again, we are experimenting on rats day after day in order to try to find a cure for cancer. We have to do it; humanity demands it. May I remind the House of the great and self-sacrificing work carried on by research workers? If you deny them the right to experiment on the lower animals in order to benefit mankind, they will be forced, from the highest of motives, to experiment upon themselves. They have done so in the past—and hon. Members know the number of martyrs to science—and they will do it again in the future, but I would suggest that to compel them to do it again is not exactly the spirit in which this enlightened House should acknowledge their great and noble and self-sacrificing work.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy, Mr. Foot, Mr. Scrymgeour, Mr. Trevelyan Thomson, Mr. Ayles, Mr. Mills, Rear-Admiral Sueter, Mr. Wignall, Sir Philip Richardson, and Mr. Hogge.