This "Great Testimony against scientific cruelty" was written by Stephen Coleridge in English language.

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Great Testimony
against scientific
Stephen Coleridge

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Great Testimony, by Stephen Coleridge
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Title: Great Testimony
against scientific cruelty
Author: Stephen Coleridge
Release Date: July 16, 2008 [eBook #26074]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)
Transcribed from the 1918 John Lane edition by David Price, email

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If the support of great and good men, famous throughout Christendom, will
avail to justify a cause, then indeed we who would utterly abolish the torture of
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animals by vivisection can never be put out of countenance.
Difficult would it be indeed to bring together the authority of so many
resounding reputations against any other act of man, since slavery was
The poets, philosophers, saints and seers of England have united to
anathematise it as an abomination, and as a deed only possible to a craven.
It seems strange that in the face of such authentic condemnation the horrid
practice has not disappeared off the face of the civilised earth, until it is
observed that it has received the shameless support of science, which for two
generations has usurped
an authority over conduct for which it possesses no
credentials. The modern prostration of mankind before science is a vile
idolatry. In the realm of ethics science is not constructive but destructive. It
exalts the Tree of Knowledge and depresses the Tree of Life.
How is the character of man elevated or purified by all the maddening
inventions of science? How indeed! Are we made better men by being whirled
about the globe by machinery, by the increased opportunities for limitless
volubility, or by the ingenious devices for mutual destruction? And how are we
morally advantaged by the knowledge of the infinite depths of space, the
composition of the stars and the motions of the planets?
The old Persian, when his far-travelled offspring returned with these wonders
to tell, replied: “My son, thou sayest that one star spinneth about another star;
let it spin!”
And Ruskin once remarked: “Newton explained why an apple fell, but he never
thought of explaining the exactly correlative, but infinitely more difficult
question, how the apple got up there.”
The dead and dreary law of gravitation made it fall, but the glorious law of life,
known only to God, drew it up out of the earth and hung it in all its inexplicable
wonder high in the air.
And I think herein is a very good parable applicable to ourselves and our age.
Science has found out that everything in the Universe is falling towards
everything else, or trying to do so, and we are so absorbed in this deciduous
discovery that we have forgotten to look up and observe the lovely things about
us that by God’s mercy have still escaped the withering touch of scientific
But Science has now moved beyond the comparatively innocuous
accumulation of mechanical discoveries, and advancing into the domain of
morals, has emerged in the sinister aspect of the defender of cruelty.
This may yet prove an usurpation that will lead to its ultimate deposition and
ignominy. A time is coming when mankind will have no ear for the advocates
of what all the great and good and wise have denounced as wicked.
If Science comes before the world declaring that cruelty is necessary for its
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advance, the world will one day tell Science that it can stop where it is.
In the meanwhile that there can be no doubt in the mind of any man as to how
the greatest leaders of thought and loftiest teachers of conduct have united in
their condemnation of vivisection, I have thought it timely to bring them
together, a noble array, in this book.
The seventh Earl of Shaftesbury consecrated a long life, and dedicated a great
position to the service of the poor, the weak and the lost. His life and work
were one of the chief glories of the nineteenth century. From early youth to
venerable age his hand was outstretched to assuage the miseries of the
helpless and to deal a blow at cruelty and selfishness wherever he discerned
By his efforts women were brought up out of coal mines where they dragged
trucks on all fours like brute beasts, by his protests
little boys were saved from
being forced to climb up inside chimneys risking their young lives and limbs
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that others might profit thereby.
He placed himself at the head of the fight against all cruelty to children and
became the first President of the Society to put it down, which has now
become great and powerful with officers in every town to guard child life and
protect the helpless little things from all manner of nameless sufferings.
He championed the animal world and raised his voice against the unspeakable
doings of the vivisectors, and the whole anti-vivisection movement was started
and built up under his wise and benign guidance, as first President of the Anti-
Vivisection Society.
He belonged to the period when those who worked in the field of philanthropy
were almost exclusively concerned in curing, if they could, the evils they
perceived around them; but he himself was a pioneer of the later school who
aim also at preventing
those evils. Those who went before him sought to
assist the poor and helpless, but while he endeavoured to do this with all his
heart, he also strove to destroy the causes of pauperism. He perceived that
physical squalor inevitably produces spiritual squalor, and that if we are to
make men think and live cleanly we must enable them to possess decent and
clean homes.
Others of his family in the past had served the State with credit in the great
public offices that satisfy men’s reputable pride and honourable ambition, but
none before him had served his fellow creatures during a long life with no other
motive than to bind up their wounds and aggravate the mercies of God.
His appearance when I had the happiness to know him intimately was noble
and memorable, and he won his way less by commanding abilities than by
weight of character. His large benignity repressed the expression of any small
or mean thought in his presence; and his arrival was sufficient without his
saying a word to elevate
the tone and manner of any discussion in which he
was expected to participate. He was incapable of asperity.
In the House of Lords there was conceded to him by universal courtesy a
special seat which he occupied independently of the change of parties, a
tribute of respect to his unique and distinguished position which as far as I am
aware has at any rate in recent years been paid to no one else.
He was a survival of the times when rank more recognised its duties and
received more homage than in the present day; for when I was young it was
still possible for the public to believe that peerages were only conferred on men
for serious and meritorious services to the country, and that those who
succeeded to them by inheritance were trained to recognise the large
obligations of their station.
He lived in a great house on the west side of Grosvenor Square, tempering his
august surroundings with a personal austerity. There he was easily accessible
to anyone who came to him for good
counsel and not to waste his own or his
host’s time.
Every cabman and costermonger in London knew him by sight and would take
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off his cap to him if he saw him in the streets, and the poor in the East End
knew his tall figure and distinguished countenance better than did the men in
the club windows in the West.
The beautiful monument to his memory in Regent Circus records that he was
“an example to his order,” and yet better than this stately panegyric is the
happy accident, if it be one, that the poor flower girls of London have pitched
their camp upon the steps, and have successfully defied all the efforts of Mr.
Bumble to remove them.
Miss Frances Power Cobbe was the original organiser and founder in
December, 1875, of the National Anti-Vivisection Society which until 1898 bore
the Title of the Victoria Street Society for the protection of animals from
Many years before, in 1863, there lived at Florence a man who trafficked in
torture named Schiff; “among the inferior professors of medical knowledge,”
says Dr. Johnson, “is a race of wretches, whose lives are only varied by
varieties of cruelty,” and such an one was this miscreant.
Miss Cobbe was then resident at Florence and was the correspondent of the
Daily News
, and in that paper she denounced the tortures inflicted on animals
by this dreadful man, which so affected her generous
heart that for the rest of
her life her chief preoccupation became the desire to put an end to such
In 1874 Miss Cobbe drew up a memorial to the Council of the Royal Society for
the prevention of cruelty to animals urging upon them “the immediate adoption
of such measures as may approve themselves to their judgment as most
suitable to promote the end in view, namely, the
restriction of vivisection
.” And
with indefatigable zeal she collected the signatures to it of a very large number
of the most distinguished men in England; among them were such names as
those of Thomas Carlyle, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, John Morley,
John Bright, Leslie Stephen, W. Lecky, B. Jowett, John Ruskin, Dean Stanley,
and Canon Liddon.
In view of the fierce advocacy of vivisection to which the present Lord
Knutsford has committed himself it is interesting to record that his father Sir
Henry Holland’s name appears among the signatories of this memorial.
The Council of the R.S.P.C.A. in 1875 displayed all the familiar characteristics
of the Council of to-day. On receiving this notable memorial they adopted the
device of promising to appoint a sub-committee to consider the whole question
of vivisection. Unlike the sub-committee appointed in 1907 “to consider the
whole question of sport” which never sat, it seems that this sub-committee on
vivisection really did sit once, after which no more was heard of it.
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Mr. Colam the Secretary was sent to call on the leading vivisectors to ask them
about their own proceedings; and the Council appear to have imagined that,
having asked the persons whose conduct was impugned what they thought
about that conduct, their function as representing the Society entrusted with
the protection of animals from cruelty was fulfilled.
Miss Cobbe, like many of us to-day, really wanted cruelty to animals stopped,
and she was not likely to be satisfied with such a farcical evasion, so she set to
work and
started the Victoria Street Society, and to her above all others
therefore belongs the undying fame and glory of first raising aloft the standard
of the imperishable cause for which that Society exists and strives.
In that memorable year of 1875 the great Society in Jermyn Street,
misrepresented by a collection of somnolent inefficients, turned their backs on
tortured animals and stopped their ears to their cries of agony; and all the
subsequent years are strewn with opportunities abandoned and duties
neglected which one by one have been undertaken by fresh Societies of
earnest souls who would wait no more while the Council in Jermyn Street
slept; and that the record should be maintained intact we have seen in the last
three years the generous public subscribe an enormous sum of money for the
care and cure of our horses at the war, only to discover that the Society is
ready to acquiesce when those horses, that are worn out in our service, are
sold abroad to the highest bidders!
Miss Cobbe during her long combat
against vivisection passed through
different phases of opinion as to the wisest parliamentary policy to pursue. At
one time she advocated restriction, at another total abolition, and I will not here
revive the domestic discussions and differences that were the consequence of
the diverse views entertained by equally reputable and earnest workers in the
cause. It is enough to recognise and acclaim the fine courage and ability that
Miss Cobbe brought to the service of suffering animals, and the splendid
edifice of the National Anti-Vivisection Society that was built up from the
ground by her capable hands.
She suffered one cruel betrayal when she entrusted to another too ardent
controversialist the translation of some German account of a severe
vivisection, and discovered, after the publication of the description in English,
that her friend had suppressed in the translation the statement in the original
that anæsthetics had been employed.
The ferocious attacks made upon her on
that occasion she bore with what
philosophy so exasperating a situation permitted.
Miss Cobbe was a remarkable person both in character and appearance, her
habiliments were quaint and practical, cut altogether shapelessly with immense
buttons symbolising the entire simplicity of her life and habits, her hair was cut
off short, and her whole aspect suggested cheerfulness, robustness, and
magnanimity. She was masterful in temperament, not always ready to listen
with urbanity to opinions she did not share, or to admit that her conclusions
could even conceivably have their foundations in doubtful premises. But these
very human characteristics in no way diminished the personal affection she
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inspired in those among whom she moved. She lived a fine courageous life,
and when she died, by an appropriate and beautiful coincidence, a dog was the
only witness of her last breath.
Cardinal Manning was among the early supporters of the Anti-Vivisection
movement, and was a Vice-President of the National Anti-Vivisection Society
till his death.
He occasionally attended meetings of the committee at my request to assist
the deliberations with his good counsel, and I remember one occasion when
Lord Shaftesbury came and took the chair, and both the Cardinal and my
father and the Bishop of Oxford were present to assist in an important decision.
I frequently went to the Archbishop’s house at Westminster to consult him; the
sumptuous cathedral and palace had not
then been built, and the house at the
bottom of Carlisle Place had an air of cold austerity; there were no carpets on
the stone staircase, and the large room in which the Cardinal received his
visitors had nothing in it but a bare table and a few cushionless chairs. He
accepted invitations to dinner from my father, but although he was gracious
and courtly, he ate nothing, and it was understood that no attention was to be
drawn to this abstinence. He cannot have eaten much anywhere, for he was
extremely emaciated.
He did a great service both to the cause of anti-vivisection and to his Church in
1882. It had been spread abroad, by whom, and on what authority, I know not,
that the Church of Rome had declined to support those who desired to put
down cruel experiments upon animals, and had declared that animals might
lawfully be treated like stocks and stones; to this shocking suggestion the
Cardinal gave a decisive and authoritative denial at a meeting at Lord
Shaftesbury’s House on the 21st of June.
His words were as follows:—
I know that an impression has been made that those whom I
represent look, if not with approbation, at least with great
indulgence, on the practice of vivisection. I grieve to say that
abroad there are a great many (whom I beg leave to say I do
represent) who do favour the practice; but this I do protest, that
there is not a religious instinct in nature, nor a religion of nature, nor
is there a word in revelation, either in the Old Testament or the New
Testament, nor is there to be found in the great theology which I do
represent, no, nor in any Act of the Church of which I am a
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member; no, nor in the lives and utterances of any one of those
great servants of that Church who stand as examples, nor is there
an authoritative utterance anywhere to be found in favour of
And later in the same speech he said:—
I do not believe this to be the way that the All-wise and All-good
Maker of us all has ordained for the discovery of the Healing Art
which is one of His greatest gifts to man.
Two years later at a Meeting at Prince’s Hall on the 26th of June, 1884, with
Lord Shaftesbury in the Chair, the Cardinal in a single pregnant sentence
dissipated the vivisectors’
constant careless confusion of the totally different
moral acts of killing animals and torturing them.
“It is clear,” he said, “that the words ‘kill and eat,’ and the dominion which the
beneficent Maker of all things has given to man over the lower creatures, does
not justify the infliction of exquisite torment in the name of Science.”
At that time Lord Shaftesbury was the greatest representative of the Church of
England and the Cardinal the acknowledged head of the Church of Rome in
this country and as they earnestly agreed in condemning the practice of
vivisection as wicked and abominable, it becomes impossible for those who
support it to bring to its defence any authorities on conduct at all comparable
with that of these two great and good men.
The Cardinal gave the impression of a consciously eminent
ecclesiastic, who was determined to lift his Church into greatness in
England by all lawful means in his power; his appearance was
ascetic, distinguished, and memorable; he was manifestly a man of
direct nobility of life, and
most lofty purpose—a great statesman for
his Church, leading an austere and detached life as an example in
every detail for the faithful in his community—a prince of the
Roman Church fulfilling his august function conspicuously and
faultlessly in full view of a critical public.
His care for the poor and the noble simplicity of his life found its most eloquent
evidence at his death in the discovery that his entire worldly possessions
amounted to sixty-eight pounds.
He had laid up his treasure where no rust and moth doth corrupt.
, 1889
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