December 10, 1907: A riot breaks out in Trafalgar Square in London. Medical science seeking answers to questions of anatomy and bodily function used the technique of vivisection. This involves surgery on living organisms, usually animals with a central nervous system. Today the practice has been replaced by less invasive animal experimentation resulting in non-mortality for the subject. Only cancer research still uses vivisection as a method of research.
Frances Power Cobbe founded the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) in 1875. Animals were being studied either with or without the use of anesthesia. Information was gathered in front of lecture classes via vivisection. This outraged many Edwardian English folk. Some of the more famous lecturers who used vivisection as a teaching method were attacked verbally and physically. The NAVS, with the support of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, were able to pass the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876.
In December of 1902, a stray brown dog weighing about 14 pounds was operated on and his pancreatic duct was tied off. He then lived in a small cage until February 2, 1903 when he was again brought before medical students and Physiologist Ernest Starling opened the dog’s abdomen. Next, Physiologist William Bayliss examined the salivary glands after making a second incision in the dog’s neck. Finally, student and future Nobel Laureate Henry Dale removed the dog’s pancreas and then killed the dog. The doctors said the dog was anesthetized by the use of morphine, chloroform, and ether without the crowd knowing it. The dog became a cause célèbre.
A statue of the Brown Dog was erected at Battersea in 1906. Medical students were angered by the wording on the plaque. Bayliss, who discovered hormones by using vivisection, sued for libel and won. The statue had a 24-hour guard. On this day, about 1,000 “anti-doggers” marched through the streets of London and clashed with suffragettes, trade unionists, and about 400 police in Trafalgar Square. The resulting melee is known as the Brown Dog Riots. The statue was removed in 1910 and finally replaced with a new statue in 1985.
“In Memory of the Brown Terrier Dog done to Death in the Laboratories of University College in February 1903, after having endured Vivisection extending over more than two months and having been handed from one Vivisector to another till Death came to his Release. Also in Memory of the 232 dogs vivisected at the same place during the year 1902. Men and Women of England, how long shall these things be?” – from the Brown Dog statue
“As we go walking after dark,
We turn our steps to Latchmere Park,
And there we see, to our surprise,
A little brown dog that stands and lies.
Ha, ha, ha! Hee, hee, hee!
Little brown dog how we hate thee.” – One of the songs the rioters sang as they marched
“The dog struggled forcibly during the whole experiment and seemed to suffer extremely during the stimulation. No anaesthetic had been administered in my presence, and the lecturer said nothing about any attempts to anaesthetize the animal having previously been made.” – Liouse Lind-af-Hagbey
“This monument replaces the original memorial of the brown dog erected by public subscription in Latchmere Recreation Ground, Battersea in 1906. The sufferings of the brown dog at the hands of the vivisectors generated much protest and mass demonstrations.” – inscription on new statue’s plaque
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: Vivisection comes from the Latin word for alive, vivus, and the term for cutting, sectio. The purpose for this is to gather information that is not available via other methods. When done on humans, it is considered to be a form of torture. Today, the practice is regulated by external ethical review boards and is governed, at least in the English speaking world, by laws. The US, UK, and Australia all have laws that regulate both the allowable reasons and the treatment modalities with all countries having measures to avoid or lessen the animals’ pain. Even without the use of cutting, the animals of the world have gained some rights through the laws concerning animal testing. Many countries implement laws but they are jurisdictional and the vary greatly around the world. The US has several laws regulating testing on animals. These regulations do not cover a wide range of animals and testing continues with some outrageous practices still in use.
Also on this day: Stop! Go! – In 1868, the first traffic signal is used for the railroads.
Nobel Prizes – In 1901, the first Nobel Prizes were awarded.
Two Marks – In 1884, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published.