HC Deb 29 April 1927 vol 205 cc1233-46

Order read for Second Reading.


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

The Bill provides that it should be unlawful for any experiment of a nature calculated to give pain or to cause disease to any dog for any purpose whatsoever, either with or without anaesthetics, and that no place should be licensed for the purpose of performing any such experiment. I very much regret that this Bill should come on for Second Reading at so late a time. I appreciate that it is absolutely impossible for me and for my hon. Friend who is to Second its Second Reading adequately to state the case for and on behalf of the Bill and at the same time to give those who are opposing it and are responsible for the Amendment for its rejection which has been put down, an opportunity of stating their case. Therefore, it seems to me that the better course for me to adopt, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, is to state as far as I am able in the too short time at my disposal the arguments in favour of a Second reading. This is not the first time that this Bill has been before the House. On three occasions it has secured a Second Reading, on two occasions without a Division an I once with a Division, when it passed through the Committee subject to an Amendment which was suggested by the Government, and when, had it not been for an unfortunate accident which prevented it securing a Third Reading, it would undoubtedly have been placed upon the Statute Book. I would like to say at once that the Bill is not brought forward with any desire or intention to obstruct or hamper legitimate surgical or medical research. The general question of the vivisection of animals is not involved in the consideration of this Bill. The Bill applies to one particular animal, and one particular animal only, namely, the dog. The only question which arises is whether, if it becomes law, legitimate scientific research will be impeded and humanity suffer. I do not think that I shall have any difficulty in satisfying the House that it will not. In the process of doing so, however, I realise that I am dealing with a matter of enormous importance to the human race, and I am sure that hon. Members will forgive me if, in presenting my case, I rely upon statements made by eminent medical men rather than give expression to my own opinions, knowing that, coming from layman, very little weight probably would be placed upon them.

As hon. Members are aware, since this Bill wiz presented to the House a rather keen controversy has been waged in the "Times," regarding it and a short time ago two eminent medical men, Sir Charles Ballance and Mr. Walter Spencer, inserted in that paper a manifesto in opposition to this particular Bill. That letter dealt chiefly, in general terms, with the question of vivisection. In reply to that particular manifesto, a letter appeared from Dr. Fielding-Ould, who I think will be admitted everywhere by those connected with the medical profession in this country, to be one of the most eminent and distinguished members of that profession. I do not think I can do better, in support of my case, than read what he says. After referring to the statement which Sir Charles Ballance and Mr. Spencer had made, he went on to say: We cannot find any justification for the continued use of cats and dogs in research. These domestic animals have become, by close association with man, more and more sensitive, and, unless vivisectors can give convincing proof of the necessity, then their continued use for experimental purposes amounts to deliberate cruelty, and offends the moral sense of very many thinking people. He goes on to say: The onus of proving the necessity lies with the vivisectors, and at present there is no proof whatever, nor does Sir Charles Ballance attempt it. He also says, and I think hon. Members who have followed this controversy for years past will agree that such is the fact: It is the reasoned opinion of very many scientific men that dogs and cats may reasonably be exempted from experiment without impeding the progress of scientific research in the least. The House will observe that in this particular letter Dr. Fielding-Ould lays down a very definite challenge not only to Sir Charles Ballance and Mr. Spencer but to those members of the medical profession at large who advocate the vivisection of dogs. He states in definite terms that no proof whatever exists as to the necessity for experiments on dogs, and one wou'd imagine that, if the case of those who are opposing this Bill was strong, they would have accepted the challenge which was laid down, and would have written to the "Times" or to some of their publications providing the proof asked for. What happened? It is perfectly true that Sir Charles Ballance and Mr. Spencer considered it necessary to reply to the letter that was sent to the "Times" by Dr. Fielding-Ould, but I suggest to the House that in their reply they disclosed, and emphatically disclosed, their objection to this Bill, because again they make no attempt at all to rebut effectively the statements made by Dr. Fielding-Ould, but they give this reason as the chief reason of their objection to the Bill, namely: The Dogs Protection Bill is the thin end of the wedge, the object being to stop all research by vivisection in this country. I have already pointed out, in my opening remarks, that the general question of vivisection, not involved in the consideration of this Bill. Did time permit, I could quote many other eminent medical authorities who agree that, in the interests of science and of humanity, it is not necessary to make experiments on dogs. I would like, however, to repeat a quotation which was made in another place some time ago by Lord Banbury when introducing a Bill similar to this—a quotation from a speech made by Sir Lambert Ormsby in April, 1922, Sir Lambert Ormsby being a past President of the Royal College of Surgeons—


Of Ireland.


I accept that, but I venture to suggest that no hon. Member of this House will contend that an individual who occupies the position of past President of the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland, is not one to whom the greatest respect should be paid when he expresses an opinion on this question.


Hear, hear!


Sir Lambert Ormsby said: Experiments on dogs may now be discontinued. All that can be found out by physiological experiments for application to human beings has long since been discovered, and repetitions are unnecessary and cruel. I could quote other eminent and distinguished medical men on this question. I only want to remark, in referring to their opinions, that no one can charge these gentlemen whose opinions I have quoted this afternoon with being fanatics or cranks, or not having the interest of the human race at heart. I have very carefully studied the literature which has emanated from the Medical Research Defence Council upon this particular question, and hon. Members present here this afternoon have done the same. I have also carefully read the correspondence which has taken place, not only in medical journals, but also in the lay Press with regard to this question; and it is most significant that on no occasion, with one exception, to which I will refer, has any attempt been made by opponents of this Bill, or by those members of the medical profession, who are against the principles of this bill to prove that it is necessary in the interests of humanity that vivisection experiments should be made on dogs. I have stated that there was one exception. That exception is contained in a pamphlet issued by the Research Defence Society, which contains an article by Professor Starling, the Foulerton Professor of the Royal Society, in which he makes this statement: Why is the use of dogs so essential in medical research? No one will dispute that to gain a knowledge of living functions recourse must be had to living animals, and those animals must be such as can be kept in comfort and health within the precincts of a laboratory. On that point the House will observe that the question of convenience enters into the opinion which Dr. Starling has expressed. He goes on to say—and this statement is rather an important one: The ordinary farm animals are, therefore, excluded by this fact alone, but a more fundamental objection to their use, so far as information to be gained by experiments on them is concerned, arises from the wide differences which exists between the structure, functions and habits of their digestive organs and those of man. If that contention of Dr. Starling be correct, it might perhaps be argued that a very strong case almost a conclusive case is made out against the Bill which I have the honour and privilege of submitting to the House today; but I would point out to the House that this opinion of Dr. Starling is in direct opposition to the evidence which was given by one of the greatest medical scientists that this country has ever known namely, Sir William Osler, before the last Royal Commission on Vivisection, and that evidence was not contradicted by any other medical man or by anyone else. I desire to be perfectly fair, and I think it would perhaps be as well if I were to read the questions which were put to Sir William Osler, and the replies which he gave to them: You said that in many cases you thought that pigs were much more instructive animals to operate upon than dogs, apart even from the natural and wise sentiment with regard to dogs?—Yes. There are several other questions, but am sure the House will take it from me that the questions and answers I am giving do adequately give, not only the substance, but the detail of Sir William Osler's opinion. The evidence goes on: Is it then merely a matter of money with regard to the pig, that it would cost more than a dog?—The pig is a very difficult animal to handle of course. It has got stomach and intestines much more like those of man. To that extent it would be a more useful animal?—Yes, it would be better. The pig was used, of course, in old days. I suppose that Galen's experiments were largely upon pigs. So we have been told. Is there any difficulty in anaesthetising a pig?—I do not know. I have anaesthetised a great many animals, but I never tried a pig. At any rate, given a pig under an anaesthetic, it would be more nearly allied to man in its viscera than any other animal?—Yes. And to that extent it would be a more useful animal to operate upon?—Yes, I should say very useful. It will be seen that, as I have said before, the opinion of Sir William Osler is directly in opposition to that Which I have just quoted of Professor Starling. But the opinion of Sir William Osler. is not the only one that has been given upon this matter. I am quoting now from the "British Medical Journal" of the 5th November, 1898. I think everyone will agree that one of the most eminent and distinguished surgeons we have ever had in this country was the late Sir Frederick Treves, and, writing in the "British Medical Journal" of the date I have mentioned, he said this: Many years ago I carried out on the Continent sundry operations upon the intestines of dogs, but such are the difference between the human and the canine bowel that, when I came to operate upon men, I found that I was much hampered by my new experience, that I had everything to unlearn, that my experiments had done little but unfit me to deal with the human intestine. I would also call the attention of the House to what took place when this matter was considered by the Royal Commission. I admit they did not report in favour of the exemption of dogs but I would quote the words of Colonel Lockwood, who was then a Member of this House and was a member of this Royal Commission. It was only lost by a very small majority. To quota Colonel Lockwood's words: I can tell you by what a narrow majority the cause of the dogs' exemption was lost on the Royal Commission. It was lost by the very, very narrowest majority possible, and if my friend Tompkinson had been alive I think that one of our recommendations would have been in favour of the exemption of dogs. When this question was before the Royal Commission Sir William Osier used these words: I think we have all felt that it would be very much better if we could get animals other than, the dog to operate on. He quoted with approval the opinion of Dr. Cushing to the effect that There is naturally a feeling of regret in the minds of many—of none greater than our own—that animals, particularly dogs, should be subjected to operations, eve a though the object be a most desirable one and accomplished without the inflicting of pain, and did expense permit we would gladly have used animals with which there is an association of less acute sentiment on the part of all. I have given one or two quotations. I very much regret that the time at my disposal is not sufficient to enable me to give further quotations, because were I able to do so, I could satisfy the House without any reasonable doubt that we have an extremely strong case. But time does not permit.

There is one other matter with which I feel that it is necessary for me to deal. In some of the letters which have appeared in the Press doubt has been expressed whether, under the safeguards which are imposed, animals actually suffer pain in consequence of these experiments. I do not think any member of the medical profession will dispute that in many cases very great and acute suffering is involved to the unfortunate animal who is the subject of such experiments. It is clear from the Report of the Commission and from the evidence given by the Home Office expert, Mr. Thane, that there is a great deal of pain and suffering involved in certain cases. I would here, again, quote the opinion of Dr. George Wilson, Medical Officer of Health for Warwick, and a member of the Royal Commission on Vivisection, and President of the State Medicine Section of the British Medical Association. The quotation is from his Presidential address to the British Medical Association when occupying the chair of the Department of State Medicine at a meeting of the Medical Association at Portsmouth in 1898. He says: I boldly say that there should be some pause in these ruthless lines of experimentation. I have not allied myself to the anti-vivisectionists, but I accuse my profession of misleading the public as to the cruelties and horrors which are perpetrated on animal life. When it is stated that the actual pain involved in these experiments is commonly of the most trivial description, there is a suppression of the truth, of the most palpable kind, which can only be accounted for by ignorance of the actual facts. I admit that in the mere operation of injecting a virus, whether cultivated or not, there may be little or no pain, but the cruelty does not lie in the operation itself, which is permitted to be performed with-out anaesthetics, but in the after-effects. Whether so-called toxins are injected under the skin into the peritoneum, into the cranium, under the dura mater, into the pleural cavity, into the veins, eyes or other organs—and all these methods are ruthlessly practiced—there is long-drawn-out agony. The animal so innocently operated on may have to live days, weeks or months, with no anaesthetic to assuage its sufferings, and nothing but death to relieve.


Was that in 1898?


Yes, in 1898.


And it is worse today?


My hon. and learned Friend has questioned me in regard to the year, but I think he will agree that these conditions to a great extent exist now. I will quote the opinion of Dr. Fielding-Ould who is a medical man, upon whose word the greatest authority and weight can he placed. He says: Consider a case of 'brain surgery' in which after removal of part of the brain the animal is allowed to regain consciousness and subsequently to drag out weeks of a painful convalescence. It is apposite also to mention cases in bacteriological work, to which no reference is made by Sir Charles Ballance. Often it happens that in the interests of research an emulsion of a virulent germ is injected into the abdominal cavity of a living animal (without an anaesthetic) and the creature is left to develop the disease with all the agonising accompaniments of peritonitis. 1 think my hon. and learned Friend will not take exception to that statement on the point of date, because that letter was written by Dr. Fielding-Ould on the 30th March of this year. There is only-one further point which I wish to make I have a number of extracts from the medical journals particularly from the "Lancet" and other journals, giving particulars of operations and experiments which have been performed during the last few years which show beyond any question that these unfortunate animals which are experimented upon do suffer great agony and misery.

There has reached me during the last few days a pamphlet which relates to a petition which I presented to the House yesterday. That petition was prepared by the National Canine Defence League. The pamphlet, which has been issued by the Research Defence Association, suggests that in that petition certain untrue statements appear. Inasmuch as I am chairman of the National Canine Defence League, the House will forgive me if I refer to this particular matter and say that the statement contained in this particular pamphlet is absolutely untrue.

The petition I presented, which is part of a larger petition and is signed by 300,000 to 400,000 people from all parts of the country, merely expressed their opinions on the question involved in this Bill and does not contain the statement complained of in the pamphlet in question. I regret that the explanation I made in the public Press was not referred to by the Research Society. Some years ago another petition was Drepared, based on the actual facts as communicated to the National Canine Defence League by irreproachable authorities and it contained a reference to "revolting experiments" before classes of students. I have ascertained that by an oversight a. few reprints of an old form of petition, which ought to have been revised and brought up to date were used This pamphlet suggests that those who signed the petition I presented were influenced by such statements as these. When my attention was drawn to the statement in this older petition, 1 immediately communicated to the public Press and explained the circumstances of the case and expressed my regret at the oversight and that petition was actually withdrawn. I much regret that the Society should not have accepted my word on that particular matter and should have issued the pamphlet to which I have referred. I have not time to pursue the question any further this afternoon, but what I have said undoubtedly constitutes a strong case in support of the exception of dogs from vivisection and experiment. I appreciate the fact that it is too late in the afternoon for me to get a Second Reading of the Bill to-day but I hope it may be possible to get the Bill passed into law some time during the Session. I regret also that I have not had sufficient time to place the whole of my case before the House and I hope hon. Members will remember that in moving the Second Reading to-day I have not said everything that can be said in favour of the Bill.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

I beg to second the Motion.

I should like to associate myself with the remarks made by the Mover in expressing regret that sufficient time has not been left to the opponents of the Measure to develop their arguments against it. Possibly the proportion of time granted to the discussion of women this morning and dogs this afternoon adequately represents their relative value. I must disassociate myself with any views expressed by anti-vivisectionists. I am not an anti-vivisectionists. I believe, and I am ready to accept the fact, that vivisection is necessary for the protection and extension of human life, but what I am not satisfied about is that dogs, as such, are necessary for these experiments and that the vivisection of dogs will actually result in the saving or extension of human life. It is as a dog lover that I am addressing the House this afternoon; a dog lover who desires by means of this Bill to safeguard and protect the life and health of our verv best and most loyal friend. I am confident that in taking this action I am representing a growing body of opinion outside this House—a body of opinion which resents and looks with horror upon vivisection of dogs, and regards it as a blot on our highly developed civilisation and on the twentieth century. It is a practice which is degrading to us and degrading to what we stand for as Christians and civilised people. That this is no new view is, I think, proved by the writings of those great translators of public opinion in the past, Carlyle, Ruskin, Browning and many others. Indeed, it was Rowland Hill, I believe, who wrote: No man's religion is worth anything if his dog or his cat is not the better for it. Of late years we have come to the efforts made by that great humanitarian and dog lover, Lord Banbury, who once graced this House. This is practically Lord Banbury's Bill. We realise that we have not alone in this House, but throughout the country, a very powerful opposition to face, and, as I said before, we bitterly regret that that opposition has not had a chance to express itself so that we in turn can see what we are up against. The trouble with our opposition is that it is a very vocal opposition, as has been seen in the Press in the last few days. It is also backed up by a section of the medical Press and profession. Therefore, it constitutes, and would have constituted, a very serious barrier to our efforts to get this Bill through Second Reading. I feel, however, that if at the end of my few remarks I may have succeeded in seducing from their misguided allegiance some of the opponents of the Bill, I shall not have failed.

Let us consider the Bill. As my hon. Friend said, it is a Bill of extreme simplicity. It is designed merely to prohibit the performance of any actual experiment which would give pain or disease to dogs for any purpose whatsoever. Of course the idea ultimately would be to amend the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876 accordingly. In asking for this concession we are not basing our claim on sentiment; we base it on logic, on experience and on common sense. I would like to bring to the notice of the House some figures showing the growth and diminution of certain diseases which are spoken of in connection with vivisection. Before doing that, I will deal with the chief argument used by vivi-sectionists in favour of their practice. It is that experiments on animals, including dogs, are justified and necessary in order to ascertain the probable effects of such experiments on human beings, and so to save suffering and to prolong human life. Were that contention proved to my satisfaction I should not have another word to say on behalf of this Bill. But has it been proved? What does Professor Lawson Tait, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, say: The fact is that diseases of animals are so different from those of men that the conclusions of vivisectionists are absolutely useless.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

In what year did he say that?

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

I cannot say offhand.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

Twenty-five years ago.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

I submit that a learned gentleman's statement does not alter with the passage of time, more especially in the profession of doctors who, I assume, have certain permanent beliefs in their profession, In confirmation of that statement let us take a few of the diseases for the cure of which vivisection experiments are being carried out. In the last 20 years the death rate from cancer—one of the most deadly menaces to our life and happiness at the present time—has increased by 46 per cent. In the same period the death rate from diabetes has increased by 55 per cent, and the death rate from thyroid diseases has increased by 85 per cent. These are diseases which vivisection is intended to relieve and cure. Take, on the other hand, diseases the cure of which largely depends on open air, more sanitary and hygienic conditions of life. We find that the enteric death rate in 20 years has gone down by 89 per cent., measles 60 per cent, and scarlet fever 77 per cent. These are startling figures and ought to provide food for thought in the future, if not this afternoon. Though I am not prepared to accept these figures or the views which I have quoted as conclusive proof that vivisection is useless; or fails in its purpose. I suggest that they call for very serious consideration and, at any rate, provide an adequate case for the removal of dogs from the activities of the vivisectionists. But there are other reasons.

Firstly there is no acceptable proof that experiments on dogs offer any results which cannot be obtained from other animals. Secondly, dogs are of such a highly developed and sensitive intelligence that, of necessity, they feel pain and discomfort mare than animals of a lower and coarser mental calibre. Lastly, dogs, in my opinion offer a companionship to man such as no other animal can offer and, if only for that reason, I suggest that dogs demand more from us than any of the other lower animals can properly expect. It is the realisation of those facts which accounts for the punishment meted out to those who are guilty of deliberate cruelty to animals. That is where the anomaly suggests itself. We see a man sentenced to two months' imprisonment for wilfully ill-treating his own pet dog and, on the other hand, we see a man licensed to ill-treat somebody else's pet dog! What is the possible agreement and reconciliation between those cases? In my opinion there is a very definite reason for this Bill being postponed until another occasion. I have no quarrel with the eminent investigators and pursuers of the truth who conduct these experiments but I have a quarrel with the law which permits such experiments to be carried out.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."

In the space of half a minute I have the opportunity and great responsibility of moving the rejection of this Bill. The Mover and Seconder are very different people from the Elijah who left his mantle behind when he soared in his chariot and horses to another place. We cannot meet the case put before us to-day in one-quarter of a minute, but we can meet it fully and will be glad to do so at any other time. If any anti-vivisectionists or people in favour of this Bill wish to have a meeting in this House or anywhere else, we shall be glad to meet them on even terms, and we shall beat them every time, and may I add a last word by quoting from Richard Lovelace and saying to the dog: I could not love thee, dear, so much, Loved I not children more.

Major-General Sir RICHARD LUCE rose—

Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed,

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKEK adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.

Adjourned at One Minute after Four o'clock until Monday next (2nd May).