If the cure of disease and the prolongation and saving of life are worthy of the efforts of philanthropy, the founding of institutions for medical research by the aid of vivisection is a humanitarian act that cannot be too highly commended. The opposition of the Anti-Vivisection Society to the project of the Rocke feller Institution for establishing a farm in New Jersey, on which to raise animals for vivisection, is prompted, no doubt, by the best of motives; but it is an opposition which is founded upon ignorance and prejudice. 'fhe attitude of the anti-vivisectionists is due largely to an ungenerous, but too widely prevalent, conception of the spirit in which medical science pnrsues its investigations, particularly when they are directed to the field of research in which vivisection is practised. We have even heard it stated that the men who devote themselves to research by the aid of vivisection are prompted by motives of curioHity and an undue propensity for the use of a knife. We believe that, as a matter of fact, in the whole range of scientific investigation, it would be difficult to find a body of men who bring to their work a more sincere desire for the amelioration of the human race, or who f"llow their quest with more unselfish zeal and with less prospects of those pecuniary rewards which form the btimulus of most of the activities of life. It is a well-recognized law of natllre, everywhere to be observed, that the few are frequently called upon to suffer for the great good of the many; and it is by the sanction of this law that the temporary suffering inflicted upon animal life in vivisection is recognized as being merely an incident in the accomplishment of one of the most beneficial triumphs of medicine that the world has known. Were vivisection abolished, some of the noblest results of the past fifty years of medical research would be swept away, and several of the most terrible diseases would be given free rein to inflict their sconrge upon mankind. The small animals, upon which vivisection, if such it can be called, is practised, are used in the laboratories to test the anti-toxins, and also in the preparation of the Pasteur vaccines for the prevention of hydrophobia. Thus, at the Research Laboratory' of the Department of Health of New York, most of the animals are used for testing diphtheria toxin; and accord ing to Dr. W. H. Park, the Director of the Laboratory, there is absolutely no other way in which this antitoxin can be tested. As the rpsult of past experimental work on these animals and the use that is now being made of them, the number of deaths from diphtheria has been reduced to about twenty-five per cent of what it was twelve years ago. The guinea pigs are used also in the treatment of tetanus, or lockjaw; and as the result of experiments carried on with these little creatures, lockjaw has been practically wiped out in New York city. Formerly, some twenty-five or more persons died from lockjaw in a single year in this city. Now, thanks to the results obtained through the ]Jractice of this much-abused and utterly misunderstood vivisection, not one of the patients who were subjected last year to the anti-toxin treatment died, and the Director pertinently asl,s: "Are not the lives of twenty-five or more persons well worth the sacrifice of the lives of a few guinea pigs?" So also in the treatment of hydrophobia, the vaccine for its prevention can be prepared in only one way, usually by the use of rabbits; and frequently the only method of determining whether a dog has rabies is to inoculate a guinea pig with the virus from a dog's brain. This is done in the comparatively rare cases where the microscope fails to give the necessary information. The results in this particular case speak for them selves; for. whereas in untreated cases the death rate is twenty per cent, in New York city out of one thousand cases treated the death rate has been but one per cent. The government, moreover, sets its sanction upon the use of animal tests by requiring that its vaccines, before they ar.e placed upon the market, shall be tested by this method to insure their free dom from the virus of tetanus.
This article was originally published with the title "The Humanitarian Side of Vivisection" in Scientific American 97, 18, 302 (November 1907)