Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Madam President

I am her today under the auspices of the Broome County Medical Society. It is a part of the effort of the medical profession of the State of New York to prevent the passage of antivivisection bills introduced this year in the Legislature at Albany. As you know the antivivisectionists oppose all experiments on animals. As you know the wedge they usually specify dogs, for reasons to made clear later. As you also know doctors and all scientific workers are fully persuaded of the high value of animal experimentation. The outstanding champions of the antivivisectionists are the Hearst publications and Irene Castle MacLaughlin, the former dancer. Their rallying place is Chicago. A few years ago, I visited one of their exhibits in Chicago. The man in charge regaled me with the usual propaganda. In answer to my question, if he would refuse to experiment on or sacrifice a mouse to save his child, he emphatically answered, "Never". If he wasn't lying, it is hard for me to understand the workings of such a mind, to appreciate such an attitude, to grasp such a person's philosophy of life.

What are the claims of the antivivisectionists?

That all use of animals for experimentation or other scientific use is wrong. Just where shall the line be drawn in the use of animals for man? Is it right, or is it not, to sacrifice them for their meat, hides and another animal product especially glands? Is it right, or is it not, to kill them furs? We are often squeamish about the fact that all our food necessitates the death of some living thing. It would seem proper and justified that any reasonable use of animals should be made to prevent or cure disease not only in man but in the animals themselves; to educate and train students in medicine; to promote the advance of science. This brings us to the second of their arguments which is that.

Vivisection has never been of any value (or at least of very little value), has never produced or contributed anything to human welfare. There is not a reputable or recognized scientific worker of any standing in the world who will agree with that statement. The statement is entirely false. In surgery, not only the training of surgeons and the study of the production and results of disease but the solution of the basic problem of bleeding, such pain and infection would have been impossible without the use of animals. In the field of medicine, for example, animal experimentation has given to the world insulin for diabetes (at the cost of thirty dogs); the use of liver in anemia; the technic of plasma and blood transfusion; the working out of artificial respiration and resuscitation; the conquest of rickets and diphtheria; the dosage determination of drugs, such as the Sulphur group and penicillin. Nearly every advance in dealing with human suffering and preventable death has been made possible, wholly or in great part, through work on animals. If you are interested further red Howard W. Haggard most readable and informative book, "Devils, Drugs, and Doctors".

Reduction of deaths from childbed fever from 20% to less than one half of 1%. Their third argaman is that.

Vivisection is cruel; that the animals are, purposely or carelessly, subjected to great suffering. This statement is also entirely untrue. It is quite impossible, even fantastic, to imagine that all the workers in the field of animal experimentation are deliberate sadists, or even the birds have contributed much by far too human welfare than the dog. The use of the word in a disparaging sense is widespread. We say a dog's life, dirty as a dog, you dirty dog. One of the favorite pictures of the AVs, is one showing some boys asking a laboratory worker, "mister, have you seen our dog"? In theatrical parlance, pure corn. IN New York State every year 130,000 dog is destroyed in pounds or other places. Could they not be put to some use? The AVs has been called the Park Avenue Pekinese crowd. There are many things in America that are more worthy causes than the use of dogs for science in this country.

These bills have been killed in the Assembly committee and are probably out of the running for this year. They will be introduced again as they have been for fifty years. The doctors and scientists are beginning to be sick and tired of being called upon constantly to defend themselves and their work. The campaigns of the AVs and such ill are of vital interest to the public at large. There has been organized "The Friends of Medical Research". Support it, for the Avs, are well financed, well organized and very vocal and quite unscrupulous. This is your fight. Which is worth more a baby or a dog.

Originally published: Wednesday, June 27, 2018; most-recently modified: Wednesday, May 22, 2019