7 MARCH 1885, Page 14


[TO THE EDITOR OF THE " SpEcrAron."1 SI R,—The question of what Mr. Morison calls "scientific Vivisection" acquires at this moment a special and pressing importance from the announcement just received that the Oxford authorities have again stolen a march upon us, and intend to bring before Convocation on Tuesday next, March 10th, their proposed additional grant of £500 a year to Dr. Burdon Sanderson's new Vivisecting Laboratory. Under these circumstances, I venture to hope you may allow me, in spite of your expressed intention of closing the correspondence, to say a few words supplementary of Professor Freeman's admirable letter in the Spectator of Saturday week, in reply to what I can only call at best the plausible sophisms of Mr. Morison's article in the Fortnightly Review. I confine myself here to his two leading points,—(1), the allegation of odium. theologicum ; (2), the allegation that opponents of Vivisection are indifferent to other forms of cruelty to animals. Both pleas seem to me to refute themselves, though it would not be difficult to write a volume in refutation of either. But I must content myself here with the briefest possible statement.

1. Mr. Freeman is unquestionably right in saying that the charge of odium. theolagicum simply means, as a rule, the odium anti-theologicum of those who bring it, though I should be sorry to impute such a feeling to so accomplished and liberal-minded a writer as Mr. Morison. My concern, however, is with his argument, not with him ; and his argument, in this case, is something more than paradoxical. Whether there are any priincifacie grounds for imagining biology to be, as astronomy and geology were once considered, " dangerous " to faith in Revelation, I must honestly confess myself too little versed in science to be at all aware. But this I do know,—that, whereas for above ten years I have been actively engaged in supporting the anti-Vivisection movement, and eat for several years on the Committee of the International Association (now united with the Victoria-Street Society) for its total suppression, not only did such an idea never cross my own mind before reading Mr. Morison's paper, but never once did a whisper of it reach me from any of those—including most of the leading opponents of Vivisection—with whom I have been officially or otherwise brought into contact in dealing with the matter. Nor is this all. Anybody who will take the trouble to cast his eye over the list of Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the Victoria-Street Society —which is the main organisation for carrying-on our work—will perceive at a glauce the grotesque unreason of Mr. Morison's indictment. He will there find, indeed, the honoured names of Lord Shaftesbury, Cardinal Manning, and four eminent Prelates of the Established Church, representing very different schools of thought (not men very likely to unite in a common theolvical c:usade); but he will also find names so little identified with any theological or ecclesiastical prepossessions as those of Lord Coleridge, Lord Tennyson, Mr. Browning, Mr. Mundella, and Mr. Stansfeld. And it is notorious that among the most emphatic and powerful advocates of the same cause are Professor F. Newman and Miss Cobbe, both, no doubt, persons of deeply religious mind, but both avowedly standing aloof from all recognised forms of Christian orthodoxy. To charge such a miscellaneous assemblage with odium theologicuns is as reasonable as to impute it to the Royal Society or the Forty of the French Academy.

2. But Mr. Morison thinks we are indifferent to other kinds of cruelty to animals—such, e.g., as coarse brutality, or what he designates " bucolic Vivisection "—and are, therefore crotchetty or insincere. That is much like saying that a strenuous supporter of the S.P.G. is indifferent to the festering mass of heathenism in the streets and alleys of London ; it is to forget that in this world, and notably in this age of the world, division of labour is an inexorable condition of success. A Society much older than any of the Anti-Vivisection Societies has long been working, though, I fear, with very inadequate results, for the remedy of some of the abuses referred to, to which many members of the Victoria-Street Society belong, while it has the hearty sympathy of all of them. Other points of Mr. Morison's were often spoken of at Committee meetings of the International, and there was but one feeling among us on the merits of the question ; but we were equally agreed on what appears to me the obvious verdict of common-sense, that to include their diverse, though cognate, objects in the same programme would be, not to secure a general reform, but to make all reformation hopeless. To put all four eggs in the same basket is to precipitate a general smash. There are, indeed, special reasons, which I have dwelt on elsewhere, but need not discuss here, for considering " scientific Vivisection " a far graver evil from an ethical point of view than " bucolic," and other forms of cruelty to animals ; and these considerations apply with tenfold force to a School of Vivisection at Oxford. But this I will promise Mr. Morison. If he or his friends will organise a scheme for the reform of many or all of the various abuses he enumerates (I reserve the question of hunting, where there is much to be said on both sides), he may count on the cordial sympathy and, so far as their opportunities allow, the support of all opponents of Vivisection. But the natural upshot of his argument, and what appears from his final paragraph to be its intention, is not to urge that we should undertake a simultaneous reform of all these abuses, but that as it is plain they cannot all be reformed together, we should let them all alone. And if this suicidal paralogism be the last word of the ablest independent apologist for Vivisection who has yet appeared, we may well be thankful, with the patriarch of old, that " our adversary bath written a book."

Into the general question I do not enter here, but before concluding, I may just remind your Oxford readers that if they wish to ascertain for what sort of purpose this fresh grant to the Laboratory is wanted, they cannot do better than study DrBunion Sanderson's own "Handbook of the Physiological Laboratory," or that larger and yet more horrible " receiptbook " for the torture-trough, the late Claude Bernard's " Physiologie Op6ratoire,"—a writer who confessed, however, with a frank brutality of cynicism, at the close of his mis-spent life:—" We come to you with our mouths full of promises, and our hands empty of results."—I am, Sir, &c., March 5th. H. N. OXENIIA31.

[We had much wished to close the controversy on the " bucolic " phase of Vivisection, but can hardly refuse at so critical a moment to let so distinguished a man as Mr. Oxenham say his say.—En. Spectator.]