|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
|George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Writings on Vivisection
The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them, that's the essence of inhumanity. - The Devil's Disciple
Cruelty must be whitewashed by a moral excuse, and a pretence of reluctance. - unknown origin
Atrocities are not less atrocities when they occur in laboratories and are called medical research. - unknown origin
various extracts from the Preface to Doctor's Dilemma:
Once grant the ethics of the vivisectionists and you not only sanction the experiment on the human subject, but make it the first duty of the vivisector. If a guinea pig may be sacrificed for the sake of the very little that can be learnt from it, shall not a man be sacrificed for the sake of the great deal that can be learnt from him?
We are, as a matter of fact, a cruel nation; and our habit of disguising our vices by giving polite names to the offences we are detestined to commit, does not, unfortunately for my own comfort, impose on me. Vivisectors can hardly pretend to be better than the classes from which they are drawn, or those above them; and if these classes are capable of sacrificing animals in various cruel ways under cover of sport, fashion education, discipline, and even, when the cruel sacrifices are human sacrifices, of political economy, it is idle for the vivisector to pretend that he is incapable of practising cruelty for pleasure or profit or both under the cloak of science. We are all tarred with the same brush...
Public support of vivisection is founded almost wholly on the assurances of the vivisectors that great public benefits may be expected from the practice. Not for a moment do I suggest that such a defence would be valid even if proved. But when the witnesses begin by alleging that in the cause of science all the customary ethical obligations (which include the obligation to tell the truth) are suspended, what weight can any reasonable person give to their testimony? I would rather swear fifty lies than take an animal which had licked my hand in good fellowship and torture it. If I did torture the dog, I should certainly not have the face to turn round and ask how any person dare suspect an honourable man like myself of telling lies. Most sensible and humane people would, I hope, flatly reply that honourable men do not behave dishonourably even to dogs.
...If you cannot attain to knowledge without torturing a dog, you must do without knowledge.
The only knowledge we lose by forbidding cruelty is knowledge at first hand of cruelty itself, which is precisely the knowledge humane people wish to be spared.
... You do not settle whether an experiment is justified or not by merely showing that it is of some use. The distinction is not between useful and useless experiments, but between barbarous and civilized behaviour. Vivisection is a social evil because if it advances human knowledge, it does so at the expense of human character.
Vivisection is now a routine, like butchering or hanging or flogging; and many of the men who practise it do so only because it has been established as part of the profession they have adopted. Far from enjoying it, they have simply overcome their natural repugnance and become indifferent to it, as men inevitably become indifferent to anything they do often enough. It is this dangerous power of custom that makes it so difficult to convince the commonsense of mankind that any established commercial or professional practice has its root in passion. Let a routine once spring from passion, and you will presently find thousands of routineers following it passionlessly for a livelihood. In the same way many people do cruel and vile things without being in the least cruel or vile, because the routine to which they have been brought up is superstitiously cruel and vile.
The natural abhorrence of sane mankind for the vivisector's cruelty, and the contempt of able thinkers for his imbecile casuistry, have been expressed by the most popular spokesmen of humanity. If the medical profession were to outdo the anti-vivisection societies in a general professional protest against the practice and principles of the vivisectors, every doctor in the kingdom would gain substantially by the immense relief and reconciliation which would follow such a reassurance of the humanity of the doctor.
various extracts from address at the annual meeting of the National Anti-Vivisection Society, Queen's Large Hall, Langham Place, London, 22 May 1900:
I have to admit, if we look facts in the face, that the English nation is not in the habit of allowing considerations of humanity to interfere either with its interests or with its pleasures.
Let us, then, taking the question on the utilitarian ground, admit that vivisections either have added or at some future time may add to our knowledge of disease and to our knowledge of the secrets of nature. But the next step in the argument is that experiments upon dogs and guinea-pigs and creatures equally unlike men and women can never be as conclusive as experiments on men and women. On the one hand, you are asked, are you going to set a few 'noments' pain to a rabbit agains't rhe hygienic salvation of the human race? Well, are you going to set a few moments' anguish on the part of your baby against it? Are you going to set a few moments' anguish to anybody on earth against it? If you once begin to balance the thing in that way, you will soon prove that you are justified not only in vivisecting dogs and guinea-pigs, but in dissecting every human being you can get into your power.
We are all in the doctor's power when we are ill. I myself have been vivisected. And why? Because I had to accept the doctor's word that it was necessary. He had me as much as any doctor ever had a guinea-pig in his power. I submitted; and the sole ground for my submission was my faith in that man's dealing with me honestly and mercifully. But if he had begun to argue in my presence in the way I have been describmg, I could not have helped asking, "Why should not this man sacrifice me if he thinks he can confer a benefit on humanity or advance science by doing so?" I suggest to you, ladies and gentlemen, that if you bring this home to the ordinary man he will see that it will lead him much further than he desires to go. He will see that even if he takes the most sordid view of it; if he puts aside all questions of syrnpathy or compassion; if he shares the view - not altogether so rare in England as I could desire - that there is something manly and characteristically British in not being too sentimental about those things, yet he must draw the line somewhere; and if he draws it in such a way as to include quadupeds only, the doctor may draw it a little higher up. He may say, quite logically, "Here is a person who will never be missed. If I perform an experiment on him in the interest of science, and anything comes of it, that man by his death under my scalpel will have done more for the world than he would if I merely cured him."
There are hundreds of paths to scientific knowledge. The cruel ones can teach us only what we ought not to know.
various extracts from reply to H. G. Wells in The Sunday Express, August 1927:
We have it at last from Mr Wells. The vivisector experiments because he wants to know. On the question whether it is right to hurt any living creature for the sake of knowledge, his answer is that knowledge is so supremely important that for its sake there is nothing that it is not right to do.
Thus we learn from Mr Wells that the vivisector is distinguished from the ordinary run of limited scoundrels by being an infinite scoundrel. The common scoundrel who does not care what pain he (or she) inflicts as long as he can get money by it can be satiated. With public opinion and a stiff criminal code against him he can be brought to a point at which he does not consider another five-pound note worth the risk of garrotting or sand-bagging or swindling anybody to get it. But the vivisector-scoundrel has no limit at all except that of his own physical capacity for committing atrocities and his own mental capacity for devising them. No matter how much he knows there is always, as Newton confessed, an infinitude of things still unknown, many of them still discoverable by experiment. When he has discovered what boiled baby tastes like, and what effect it has on the digestion, he has still to ascertain the gustatory and metabolic peculiarities of roast baby and fried baby, with, in each case, the exact age at which the baby should, to produce such and such results, be boiled, roast, fried, or fricasseed. You remonstrate with him, especially if you are the mother of one or two of the babies. You say, "What good is all this? You do not eat babies." He replies contemptuously, "Do you think, then, that I have any practical end in view? Not at all. My; object is to learn something I do not know at present. Like Cleopatra I have immortal longings in me. When I know all these things about babies I shall know more than Einstein, more than Solomon. I shall have eaten one more apple from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I ...."
"You will have eaten your own damnation, as Paul said to the Corinthians" is as good a reply as another to such a claim. The proper place in organized human society for a scoundrel who seeks knowledge or anything else without conscience is the lethal chamber.
The Anti-Vivisector does not deny that physiologists must make experiments and even take chances with new methods. He says that they must not seek knowledge by criminal methods, just as they must not make money by criminal methods. He does not object to Galileo dropping cannon balls from the top of the leaning tower of Pisa; but he would object to shoving off two dogs or American tourists. He knows that there are fifty ways of ascertaining any fact; that only the two or three worst of them are wicked ways; that those who deliberately choose them are not only morally but intellectually imbecile; that it is ridiculous to expect that an experimenter who commits acts of diabolical cruelty for the sake of what he calls Science can be trusted to tel1 the truth about the results; that no vivisector ever accepts another vivisector's conclusions nor refrains from undertaking a fresh set of vivisections to upset them; that as any fool can vivisect and gain kudos by writing a paper describing what happened the laboratories are infested with kudos hunters who have nothing to tell that they could not have ascertained by asking a policeman, except when it is something that they should not know (like the sensations of a murderer); and that as these vivisectors crowd humane research workers out of the schools and discredit them, they use up all the available endow ments and bequests, leaving nothing for serious research.