The holders of licences should be bound by conditions, and breach of those conditions should entail the liability to forfeiture of the license, the object of the conditions should be to ensure that suffering should never be inflicted in any case in which it could be avoided, and should be reduced to a minimum where it could not be altogether avoided.This was the first statement, in a way, of the 3 Rs. The result was a Bill placing animal experimentation in Great Britain – akin to the study of human anatomy - under the supervision of the law.
Knowledge goes before the application of knowledge, and the application of a discovery is seldom foreseen when the discovery is made.
‘Who,’ says Helmholtz, ‘when Galvani touched the legs of frogs with different metals, and noticed their contraction, could have dreamt that …Europe would be traversed with wires, flashing intelligence from Madrid to St Petersburg with the speed of lightning…’ Of course that was right then, and it is true now.
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.
These included the discovery of the circulation of blood, the discovery of the lacteal and lymphatic system of vessels, and Sir Charles Bell’s discovery of the compound function of the spinal nerves.
Sir James Paget identified the challenge of discovering an antidote to snake poisons, citing the “many thousands of your Majesty’s Indian subjects who perish annually from snake bites.” Indeed, less than 20 years later Cesaire Phisalix and Gabriel Bertrand, together with Albert Calmette presented to the French Society of Biology on the 10 of February 1894 their independent work on the development of an anti-venom against Viper venom and Indian Cobra venom respectively.
But the evidence that probably had the greatest impact of all was that of Dr Emanuel Klein, a physiologist working as an Assistant Professor in the Brown Institute.
He appeared completely insensitive to the suffering of animals.
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.