KNOWLEDGE AND THERAPY
One of the most appalling forms of exploitation of animals - if not the most appalling of all, for the tortures it implies - is undoubtedly the use of them as subjects of systematic experimentation, be it for the sake of mere scientific curiosity, be it with the definite purpose of discovering new and better methods of fighting disease in human beings, and, occasionally, in animals themselves.
The animals are either vivisected, that is to say that their organs are experimented upon while they are still alive-sometimes, but not always, under an anesthetic- or else they are injected with the germs of different diseases - turned into artificial patients - for the sole purpose of giving doctors and students an easy opportunity of studying those diseases and of discovering improvements upon the known methods of curing them. The two main reasons invoked to justify the atrocities committed in both cases - the "right" of man to increase his knowledge of nature, and his "right" to defend his life at any cost, - cannot be said to concern, each one, a separate class of experiments, for in research work, everything is connected. From the results of a series of experiments carried on today for the sake of pure curiosity, it may happen that light will some day be thrown unexpectedly upon some disquieting question of practical therapy. All arts apply some sort of information or other to their particular purpose, which is practical. And as the art of healing is no exception to that rule, it would be unscientific to justify the inoculation of animals for the immediate purpose of finding out new serums and other remedies, without justifying at the same time any experiments on the same, undertaken in order to acquire a more accurate knowledge of the mechanism of life. The two stand or fall together.
The two seem to be, in the eyes of those who support them, more difficult to condemn than most of the other forms of exploitation of animals of which we have spoken up until now, except, perhaps, than the custom of killing animals for food. Meat is supposed to contain "indispensable" elements of nutrition, and the horrors of the slaughterhouse industry come, therefore, under the same category as those involved in scientific research. "Helping man - the master species - to live" is always, to many people, a "noble" work, as least a "necessary' one, whether it be carried on by simply feeding him according to his needs (or tastes), or by "acquiring whatever such knowledge" as might be immediately utilized for the cure of his diseases, or stored up as useful information for the benefit of future research workers, "benefactors of humanity." People do not care, in one case or in the other, what sufferings the so-called "noble" work might imply for creatures other than man. The "master species" should, in their eyes, come first.
After man's right "to live," the right the most broadly recognized and the most strongly defended is that "to think," which is inseparable from the right to know, for it is only by getting to "know" the secrets of nature better and better that man can grow to think more and more accurately, to build a philosophy of life nearer and nearer to unshakable realities-to acquire the understanding of "truth." Is it not so? Our scientists, greedy of information if not of actual knowledge, believe it, at least. And as thought and knowledge are the supreme functions of man-his justification, that is to say-man is, according to many, far more entitled to inflict pain upon creatures in order to enable himself to know more than he would be, for instance, in order to look more attractive, or to amuse himself, or even to get his hard work done for him cheaply and well. After all, there are plenty of amusements besides hunting, circuses and bull fights (or cock fights); there is plenty of stuff to wear, apart from animals' skins, even in cold countries; and days are corning when furs, and even leather, will possibly be replaceable by plastic materials, and when machines will be made to do all the hard work that there is to be done in the world. But how to know about the different brain centers of a dog without experimenting upon it, even if that implies hours of incredible torture to the dog? The cruelties for the sake of dress, sport or transport, seem to many people less unavoidable than those perpetrated in the name of those two "higher" causes: the "saving of man's life," and the advancement of man's "knowledge"- the "progress of science."
In the increasing literature of all the noble societies formed in recent years for the defense of animals against the claims of fanatical "saviors of human life" and champions of "knowledge" at any cost - the different anti-vivisection and anti-vaccination leagues - much has been written to try to prove that experimentation on animals is useless, from the very point of view of the experimenter and of the scientist in general, i.e. that it does not yield the positive results that man mostly expects from it, and therefore that it boils down, most of the time if not always, to wanton cruelty. Much has been written to prove that no substantial scientific information was gathered through the practice of vivisection, which could not have equally well, if not better, been gathered through some humane and far more simple channel. Much has been said to point out the utter futility, the childishness - the silliness -of some of the most atrocious experiments performed in our times on dogs and other animals. Much has been done to counteract the results of an obnoxious widespread "health" propaganda among the public, and to point out, both to the possible patient and to their guardians (in the case of children) the tragic aftereffects that vaccination and "preventive" inoculation do bring about, more often than many of us imagine.
All this is well and good as a means of practically impressing the populace. The average man, though not sufficiently depraved to encourage "useless" atrocities, is quite selfish enough to excuse any cruelty to dumb beasts as long as he believes it to be, in the long run, profitable to his own species. And as, in modern times, the average and less-than-average man's views seem to be the only ones to count, he is the first power to tackle. The anti-vivisection and anti-vaccination leagues are moved by the noblest of intentions when they publish the opinions of eminent scientists concerning experimentation on animals either as gross, inaccurate and primitive, and therefore useless, or even as misleading in its results, and ultimately pernicious from a scientific point of view. Their aim is to move the governments of all so-called civilized countries to make the crimes in the name of knowledge and therapy illegal and severely punishable as soon as possible. And they naturally insist the most upon the one argument most likely to appeal to the vulgar, hard-hearted, utterly selfish average man who, after his own little person and his immediate kith and kin, values the "human race" above everything, incapable as he is of feeling his ties with all living Nature beyond it. The argument may be the cleverest one. It may be also a strong and entirely honest one, founded on undeniable facts. It may be indeed that all the revolting atrocities of Pavlov and others, which dishonor our times, and all the horrors committed on animals in the past, from Claude Bernard to Galen, and from Galen probably to the dawn of history, under the pretext of gathering information about the mechanism of nature, or of finding out new means of healing patients; it may be, we say, that all those horrors rolled in one are but a grim piece of silliness, a monstrous farce, of no more consequence, for the real "advancement of science," than the pllay of those devilish children who torture beetles, worms or ants, just for fun. It may well be so. We are neither in a position to assert that it is so, nor to deny it, not being ourselves versed in any of the particular sciences or techniques in the name of which the crimes we have referred to are ordinarily perpetrated. What we have to say is of a different order altogether.
We do not know whether vivisection has or not ever yielded scientific information of any value, which could not have been obtained otherwise. We do not know whether vaccination and inoculation have or not any real efficacy as a preventive measure against certain diseases, be it smallpox, typhoid, diphtheria or any others. We do not know whether certain serums, taken from animals, have or not a curative effect in most cases. We do not know whether certain human patients can or not expect to save their lives by taking liver extracts or meat extracts, or by drinking animals' blood, or by using still more gruesome means of therapy recommended by village healers. We do not know, and we do not care to know. T o us, whatever be their results from a scientific point of view, all those practices are damnable in themselves, on the sole account of the tortures they imply- tortures inflicted upon sentient creatures of any species whatsoever.
And even if they were of the greatest immediate service to the human race; even if they actually had led, or were rightly expected to lead, to the greatest discoveries concerning both our knowledge of Nature and the means to fight disease and to prolong our lives; even if they could reasonably be expected to give man the power of calling the dead to live again, we would, nevertheless, characterize them as damnable, and consider with indignant horror whomsoever it be who indulges in them, or encourage or tolerates them by his or her cowardly silence, instead of raising against them, at every possible opportunity, a stern voice of protest. As for ourselves, we declare in absolute earnestness that if, for consenting that any atrocity be committed upon a pig, a rat, a toad, or a still meaner creature, we could be given at once the stupendous power to call back to life not the ordinary dead (as worthless in general as the ordinary, insignificant living) but any One we might choose among the great expounders of integral truth and lovers of all life, who flourished in the remote or recent past; and if we could be given the unthinkable joy of seeing the whole present world handed over to Him that he, visible in the flesh for the second time, might rule over it forever, still we would refuse.
For no reign of integral truth can stand upon a compromise with the great Law of love. And any of the great Ones whom we would be tempted to call back would blame us for making such a compromise, which He would look upon as the most shocking denial of all that he stood for and as an insult to Himself.
In other words, even if it were possible to promote, as by magic, the establishment of the very reign of perfection on earth, it would be criminal in our eyes to do so at the cost of the deliberate torture of a single innocent creature¹. And if this - the highest of all ends - could by no means justify any atrocity whatsoever (were any, perchance, indispensable, in order to bring it about, which of course seems absurd), then what can one say of the ordinary ends alleged in defense of the revolting exploitation of animals "for scientific purposes": the mere increase of man's information concerning the phenomena of life; the mere saving of human life-in admitting that those two ends are effectively served?
(¹Such human beings as are actual [or even potential] enemies of Life - or of a socio-political order rooted in truth [i.e.- in harmony with the Laws of Life] - are, of course, anything but innocent creatures, in our eyes.