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Huxley wrote to Darwin on October 30th, after Klein had provided his evidence: The Commission is playing the deuce with me.I have felt it my duty to act as counsel for science, and was well satisfied with the way things are going.
What we would humbly recommend to your Majesty would be the enactment of a law by which experiments upon living animals, whether for original research or for demonstration, should be placed under the control of the Secretary of State, who should have powers to grant licenses to persons and, when satisfied of the propriety of doing so, to withdraw them.
No other persons should be permitted to perform experiments.
I cannot think of any one step which has been made in physiology without that aid.
Now with regard to trying a painful experiment without anaesthetics when the same experiment could be made with anaesthetics or, in short, inflicting any pain that was not absolutely necessary upon any animal, what would be your view on that subject?
But on Thursday, when I was absent, (Dr Klein) was examined; and if what I hear is a correct account of the evidence he gave, I may as well throw up my brief.
I am told he openly professed the most entire indifference to animal suffering, and he only gave anaesthetics to keep the animals quiet!And it was only a few years later that Vital Brazil, head of the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo, developed the first antisera to South American poisonous snakes.Amongst the witnesses was Charles Darwin, and to quote him briefly: The first thing I would say is that I am fully convinced that physiology can progress only by the aid of experiments on living animals.But Victorian Royal Commission reports are nothing if not deeply specialist; they are neither distinguished by their typography or by their illustrations. This particular lot was padded with a string of other equally esoteric Royal Commission reports, which meant that the transport costs were almost as great as the costs of the books themselves.Amongst the other reports I acquired was the 1876 Royal Commission on Vivisection.Although references to animal research have existed in popular culture since at least Shakespeare’s time, from the 1850s onwards, concomitant with the rise of physiology and also stimulated by the discovery of the anaesthetics, chloroform and ether, there was debate in both the public and specialist press about the propriety of experiments on living animals.The appointments of Professors of Physiology at a small number of British Universities fuelled the debate.The report itself was issued on 8 January 1876, and commendably is only 15 pages in length, but for those of us that worry about evidence-based reports, it was backed up with 6,551 paragraphs of evidence. Other luminaries who gave evidence included Joseph Lister, Charles Darwin, Sir William Gull and a panoply of the great and the good of 19th century science and medicine.A few quotes from the report itself will suffice to indicate its general tenor.I declare to you, I did not believe the man lived, who was such an unmitigated cynical brute as to profess and act upon such principles; and I would willingly agree to any law that would send him to the treadmill.The impression his evidence made on Cardwell and Foster (two of the other commissioners) is profound; and I am powerless (even if I desire, which I have not), to combat it.