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The British Catholic debate over vivisection, 1876 – 1914: a common theology but differing applications

  • William M. Abbott (a1)

Abstract

This article analyses the motives behind the conflicting positions taken by Victorian Roman Catholics over the issue of vivisection. Catholics defended or attacked vivisection for widely varying reasons; there were less two schools of thought than a mosaic of arguments from which to choose. While there was substantial agreement over basic theological principles, the application of those principles to the vivisection debate varied depending upon the writer’s social, political, and scientific attitudes, which in turn were affected by professional occupation. The debate included laypeople as well as clerics, with some of the former affirming a more liberal and less theologically rigorous approach to animal rights.

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I wish to acknowledge and thank Dr. Betsy Bowen, Dr. R. James Long, and Dr. Ralph Coury for examining and commenting upon earlier drafts of this article.

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1 The Zoophilist, 2 April 1894, 293; see also Edward Berdoe, in ibid., 1 March 1894, 285.

2 For the sake of brevity, this article will refer to non-human animals simply as animals.

3 In his 338-page biography of Manning, for example, Vincent A. McClelland devotes two pages to the Cardinal’s participation in the anti-vivisection movement, calling his theology thereon ‘rather erratic’ and his signing of an 1891 petition to refuse the Institute of Preventive Medicine a vivisection licence ‘narrow and short-sighted’. McClelland, Vincent A., Cardinal Manning: His Public Life and Influence 1865-1892 (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), 209-211 . Edward Norman’s account of Edward Bagshawe does not mention his anti-vivisectionist activities. Norman, Edward, The English Catholic Church in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), 197-198 .

4 Stevenson, Lloyd G., ‘Religious Elements in the Background of the British Anti-Vivisection Movement’, Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 29 (1956): 125-157 ; Li, Chien-hui, ‘Mobilizing Christianity in the Antivivisectionist Movement in Victorian Britain, 1870-1918’, Journal of Animal Ethics 2 (2012): 141-161 .

5 Dombroswki, Daniel A., ‘The Jesuits and Zoophilists, Again’, Irish Theological Quarterly 51 (1985): 232-241 ; Turner, E.S., All Heaven in a Rage (London: Michael Joseph, 1964), 163-166 .

6 French, Richard D., Antivivisectionism and Medical Science in Victorian Society (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), 345-372 ; Chien-hui Li, ‘Mobilizing Christianity’, 141-57; Kean, Hilda, Animal Rights: Politics and Social Change in Britain since 1800 (London: Reaktion Books, 1998), 18-19 , 24, 110, 138.

7 French, Antivivisectionism and Medical Science, 345-6.

8 Chien-hui Li, ‘Mobilizing Christianity’, 154.

9 Holger-Maehle, Andreas, Animals and Human Society (London: Routledge, 1994), 230-231 .

10 The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary Volume II, P-Z (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 3648; Thomas, Keith, Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England, 1500-1800 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 41 , 154, 174-76, 178.

11 Bates, A.W.H., Anti-Vivisection and the Profession of Medicine in Britain: A Social History (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2017), 15-16 ; Turner, All Heaven in a Rage, 148.

12 Ryder, Richard D., Animal Revolution: Changing Attitudes toward Speciesism (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2000), 103, 105-107 ; Bates, Anti-Vivisection, 16-17, 26; Gold, Mark, Animal Century: A celebration of changing attitudes to animals (Chipping Norton: Jon Carpenter, 1988), 3 .

13 Caird, Mona, ‘The Inquisition of Science’, in Susan Hamilton, ed. Animal Welfare & Anti-Vivisection 1870-1910: Nineteenth-Century Woman’s Mission 2: Anti-Vivisection Writings (London, Routledge, 2004), 84-85 ; Ryder, Animal Revolution, 112; Bates, Anti-Vivisection, 27; Louisa Lind-af-Hegeby, ‘Selections from The Shambles of Science: Extracts from the Diary of Two Students of Physiology’, in Hamilton, ed. Animal Welfare & Anti-Vivisection, 246.

14 Zoophilist, 2 November 1896, 131; Bates, Anti-Vivisection, 27; Caird, ‘Inquisition of Science’, 87-8.

15 Dinwiddy, J.R., ‘The early nineteenth-century campaign against flogging in the army’, The English Historical Review 97 (1982): 308-331 , at p. 330; Turner, James C., Reckoning with the Beast (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 19-38 .

16 Lederer, Susan, ‘Controversy in America, 1889-1914’, in Nicolaas A. Rupke, ed. Vivisection in Historical Perspective (London: Croom Helm, 1987), 247 ; Jean Bittel, Carla, ‘Science, Suffrage, and Experimentation: Mary Putnam Jacobi and the Controversy over Vivisection in Late Nineteenth-Century America’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 79 (2005): 664-694 at p. 680; Clark, Brett and Bellamy Foster, John, ‘Henry S. Salt, Socialist Animal Rights Advocate: An Introduction to Salt’s A Lover of Animals ’, Organization and Environment 13 (2000): 469 ; Gold, Animal Century, 11; Ryder, Animal Revolution, 150-53; Kean, Animal Rights, 108-11; Bates, Anti-Vivisection, 14-15.

17 Bates, Anti-Vivisection, 28.

18 The Zoophilist, November 1911, 115.

19 Kean, Animal Rights, 98-111; Carla Jean Bittel, ‘Science, Suffrage, and Experimentation’, 679-92; Sally Mitchell, Frances Power Cobbe: Victorian Feminist, Journalist, Reformer (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2004), 276-86; Nicolaas Rupke, ‘Pro-Vivisection in England in the Early 1880s: Arguments and Motives’, in Nicolaas Rupke, ed. Vivisection in Historical Perspective, 188-205.

20 Turner, All Heaven in a Rage, 216-18; French, Antivivisectionism and Medical Science, 405, 408-9; Bates, Anti-Vivisection, 14; Harriet Ritvo, ‘Plus Ça Change: Anti-Vivisection Then and Now’, Science, Technology, & Human Values 9 (Spring 1984): 62; Kean, Animal Rights, 141; Turner, Reckoning with the Beast, 113-21.

21 Ryder, Animal Revolution, 121, 163; French, Antivivisectionism and Medical Science, 392-405; Bates, Anti-Vivisection, 28; Bernard E. Rollin, ‘Animal Rights as a Mainstream Phenomenon’, Animals – Open Access Journal of Animal Science and Animal Welfare (2011) [https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/1/1/102 (Accessed 31 January 2019)]: 104; ‘Speaking of Research: Animal Research Regulations in the UK’ [https://speakingofresearch.com/facts/animal-research-regulations-in-the-uk (Accessed 31 January 2019)].

22 See Cobbe in The Zoophilist, 1 April 1889, 218; Mona Caird, ‘A Sentimental View of Vivisection’, in Susan Hamilton, ed. Animal Welfare & Anti-Vivisection, 136; Chien-hui Li, ‘Mobilizing Christianity’, 154-56.

23 Lloyd G. Stevenson, ‘Religious Elements in the Background of the British Anti-Vivisection Movement’, 134.

24 Zoophilist, 1 October 1895, 242.

25 See Zoophilist, 1 March 1904, 214.

26 See Henry N. Oxenham, ‘Moral & Religious Estimate of Vivisection’, The Gentleman’s Magazine 243 (July-December 1878), 713-736; also Oxenham’s obituary in The Zoophilist, 1 May 1888, 8.

27 Zoophilist, 1 February 1892, 230.

28 Lloyd G. Stevenson, ‘Religious Elements in the Background of the British Anti-Vivisection Movement’, 131; Zoophilist, 1 February 1892, 230.

29 Zoophilist, 1 February 1892, 231.

30 Zoophilist, 1 April 1887, 234-5.

31 Dwyer, J. J., ‘The Catholic Press, 1850-1950’, in George A. Beck, ed. The English Catholics 1850-1950 (London: Burns Oates, 1950), 485 .

32 Zoophilist, 1 June 1882, 76; 2 February 1885, 200.

33 John S. Vaughan, ‘The Ethics of Animal Suffering’, Dublin Review 19 (January-April 1888), 176.

34 George Tyrrell, ‘Mediaevalism and Modernism’, Harvard Theological Review 1 (July 1908), 308.

35 Joseph Rickaby S.J., Moral Philosophy, or Ethics and Natural Law (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1889), 248-50.

36 Zoophilist, 1 June 1896, 26.

37 Gaffney, James, ‘Can Catholic Morality Make Room for Animals?’, in Animals on the Agenda: questions about animals for theology and ethics, eds. Andrew Linzey and Dorothy Yamamoto (London, SCM, 1998): 100 ; Kane, Paula, ‘“The Willing Captive of Home?”; The English Catholic Women’s League, 1906-1920’, Church History 60 (September 1991): 331 n.2.

38 J.S. Vaughan, ‘The Ethics of Animal Suffering’, 173; Rickaby, Moral Philosophy, 250-1.

39 Zoophilist, 1 April 1887, 235.

40 Zoophilist, 1 March 1892, 251.

41 The Animals’ Friend 2 (1895-96), 97.

42 Zoophilist, 1 February 1892, 230.

43 J.S. Vaughan, Thoughts For All Times (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1900), 401n.1, 413-14.

44 Zoophilist, 1 April 1887, 235.

45 Vaughan, Thoughts For All Times, 384-385; Joseph Rickaby S.J., Political and Moral Essays (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1902), 268.

46 Ryder, Animal Revolution, 153; see also Chien-hui Li, ‘Mobilizing Christianity’, 151.

47 Zoophilist, 1 April 1887, 235.

48 McClelland, Cardinal Manning, 22.

49 Tablet, 7 April 1894, 537; ibid., 5 May 1894, 696.

50 Zoophilist, 1 May 1894, 5.

51 Zoophilist, 1 April 1889, 218.

52 Zoophilist, 1 December 1892, 236; ibid., 1 November 1892, 176; ibid., 1 December 1893, 188; see Chien-hui Li, ‘Mobilizing Christianity’, 153.

53 ‘Rev. Wilfrid Lescher’, in ‘Forgotten Victorians’, [https://williamgray101.wordpress.com/tag/father-wilfrid-lescher (Accessed February 28, 2018]; ‘Father Lescher’, Zoophilist, March 1917, 129-130; Wilfrid Lescher, ‘The Practice of Vivisection’, in Anonymous, The Church and Kindness to Animals (London: Burns and Oates, 1906: reprinted by Leopold Classic Library), 167; Zoophilist, 2 July 1894, 41; ibid., 1 March 1894, 286-287.

54 Zoophilist, 1 December 1894, 188; ‘Archbishop Bagshawe’, in Anonymous, The Church and Kindness to Animals, 153-56, 153.

55 Bates, Anti-Vivisection, 18-19, 30; Kean, Animal Rights, 102-103; ‘Calumnies Against Hospitals’, British Medical Journal (hereafter BMJ) 1 no. 2475 (1908), 1381; Edward Berdoe, ‘Calumnies Against Hospitals’, BMJ 1 no. 2476, 1460; Caird, ‘A Sentimental View of Vivisection’, 130-131; Maria Louise Ramé (Ouida), ‘The Future of Vivisection’, in Susan Hamilton, Animal Welfare and Anti-Vivisection, 253, 257; see also Bagshawe in Zoophilist, 1 December 1898, 188, and in Zoophilist and Animals’ Defender (hereafter ZAD), 1 November 1901, 159.

56 Zoophilist, 1 September 1897, 96; J.S. Vaughan, Thoughts for All Times, 389.

57 White, Paul S., ‘Sympathy under the Knife: Experimentation and Emotion in Later Victorian Medicine’, in Fay Bound Alberti, Medicine, Emotion and Disease, 1700-1950 (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006), 108 ; Turner, All Heaven in a Rage, 212; Richard Hutton, ‘The Anti-Vivisection Agitation’, in Susan Hamilton, Animal Welfare & Anti-Vivisection, 173-4; Caird, ‘A Sentimental View of Vivisection’, 127.

58 White, ‘Sympathy under the Knife’, 110-13; Bates, Anti-Vivisection, 30-1; Jed Mayer, ‘The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Laboratory Animals’, Victorian Studies 50 (Spring 2008): 408-409.

59 Vaughan, Thoughts for All Times, 376.

60 Vaughan, ‘Ethics of Animal Suffering’, 167.

61 Vaughan, ‘Ethics of Animal Suffering’, 167-8; Clarke, Robert F., ‘The Vivisection Controversy’, The Dublin Review 115 (July 1894), 103-4n .; see Jed Mayer, ‘The Expression of Emotions in Man and Laboratory Animals’, 403-7.

62 Zoophilist, 1 May 1894, 5; see also Joseph Rickaby, Political and Moral Essays (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1902), 271-5.

63 Zoophilist, 1 February 1892, 231; ZAD, 1 January 1904, 174; Tablet, 21 April 1894, 618; ZAD, June 1901, 33; Zoophilist, 1 October 1888, 98-9; Zoophilist, 1 November 1899, 147-8.

64 Tablet, 19 December 1903, 976.

65 Zoophilist, 1 December 1893, 188; ibid., 1 November 1898, 143; ZAD, 1 January 1900, 189; ibid., 1 June 1901, 36.

66 Zoophilist, 1 April 1887, 236, 237.

67 Lescher, ‘The Practice of Vivisection’, 165-8.

68 Robert F. Clarke, ‘The Vivisection Controversy’, The Dublin Review 115 (July 1894), 115-116.

69 W. Lescher, ‘Why I Oppose Vivisection’, The Animals’ Friend 2 (1895-96), 216.

70 Robert F. Clarke, ‘The Vivisection Controversy’, 105, 114.

71 Vaughan, ‘Cruelty to Animals and Theology: A Reply’, The Humane Review 4 (1903-04), 147.

72 Lescher, ‘Why I Oppose Vivisection’, 216.

73 Vaughan, Ethics of Animal Suffering, 173; John Gerard S.J., ‘The Rights of Animals’, in Vaughan, Thoughts for All Times, 404-5.

74 Lescher, ‘Why I Oppose Vivisection’, 216.

75 George Tyrrell, S.J. ‘Zoolatry’, The Month 85 (September 1895), 2-3, 6.

76 Tyrrell, ‘Zoolatry’, 9-10.

77 Clarke, ‘The Vivisection Controversy’, 118-120.

78 Animals’ Friend 2 (1895-1896), 75-76; The Freethinker, 15 March, 1896, 167; Zoophilist, 1 June 1901, 36.

79 Lescher, ‘Why I Oppose Vivisection’, 215-6.

80 ZAD, 1 June 1901, 36.

81 ‘Animals’ Rights: Some Replies to Bishop Bagshawe’, The Animals’ Friend 2 (1895-1896), 97.

82 ‘Animals’ Rights’, The Animals’ Friend 2 (1895-1896), 129; The Freethinker, 15 March 1896, 167.

83 The Animals’ Friend 2 (October 1895), 6.

84 Tyrrell, ‘Zoolatry’, 11.

85 BMJ, 9 November 1895, 1185.

86 Rickaby, Political and Moral Essays, 281, 283, 275-6.

87 The Month 102 (1903), 214.

88 Tablet, 12 May 1894, 738.

89 Animals’ Friend 2 (November 1895), 30-1.

90 Zoophilist, 1 January 1898, 160.

91 See Tablet, 21 April 1894, 618; ibid., 19 May 1894, 776-777; Zoophilist, 1 December 1899, 172.

92 Tablet, 7 October 1899, 582; Zoophilist, 1 June 1896, 20; ibid., 1 December 1899, 170.

93 McLeod, Hugh, Religion and Society in England, 1850-1914 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), 184 .

94 ZAD, April 1916, 140; Zoophilist, 2 September 1895, 232.

95 Zoophilist, 2 July 1894, 31; Tablet, 21 April 1894, 617.

96 Tyrrell, ‘Zoolatry’, 2.

97 Tablet, 5 May 1894, 696; ibid., 12 May 1894, 737-8.

98 Vaughan, ‘Cruelty to Animals and Theology: A Reply’, The Humane Review 4 (1903-04), 142-146; M.A.R. Tuker, ‘Cruelty to Animals and Theology’, Humane Review 4 (1903-04), 2-3. Newman was invoked by both sides in the vivisection debate. Vaughan quoted from Newman’s 1857 Dublin sermon that ‘we have no duties towards the brute creation; there is no relation of justice between them and us... into our hands they are absolutely delivered. We may use them, we may destroy them at our pleasure, not our wanton pleasure, but still for our own ends... provided we can give a rational account of what we do.’ Newman, Sermons Preached on Various Occasions, by John Henry, Cardinal Newman (Longman, Green, and Co., London 1892), pp. 79-80 quoted in Vaughan, Thoughts for All Times, 379-380. In 1907 the pro-vivisectionist Stephen Paget quoted Newman’s 1851 attack against anti-Catholic prejudice, likening it to current prejudice against vivisectors, which called from Stephen Coleridge a quotation from another Newman sermon, in which the Cardinal had drawn an analogy between the sufferings of Christ and the sufferings endured by vivisected animals. In 1895, however, the Zoophilist pointed out that the latter sermon had been preached when Newman was still an Anglican, while the abovementioned Dublin sermon had been preached after his conversion to Rome. Stephen Paget, Experiments on Animals (New York: William Wood and Company,1907), 371-375; ZAD, June 1910, 28; ibid., 1 October 1895, 235.

99 Zoophilist, 1 October 1898, 114; M. Tuker, ‘Cruelty to Animals and Theology’, 6, 8-9.

100 Henry N. Oxenham, ‘Moral & Religious Estimate of Vivisection’, The Gentleman’s Magazine 243 (July-December 1878): 723.

101 ‘Hermits and Animals’, Animals’ Friend 3 (1896-97): 127; ZAD, 1 March 1901, 257; ibid., 2 November 1903, 133.

102 Lescher, ‘Why I Oppose Vivisection’, 215; ZAD, August 1908, 61.

103 ZAD March 1917, 130.

104 ZAD, 1 October 1903, 112.

105 ZAD, 21 December 1903 (Special Number), 185.

106 Tablet, 27 August 1904, 328-9.

107 ZAD, September 1915, 53.

108 See ZAD, 2 November 1903, 141.

109 See above, pp. 462, 469, 468-69.

110 Lescher, ‘Why I Oppose Vivisection’, 215.

111 ZAD, 1 November 1898, 143.

112 McClelland, Cardinal Manning, 23; Holmes, Derek, More Roman than Rome: English Catholicism in the Nineteenth Century (London: Burns & Oates, 1978), 182-183 ; Doyle, Peter, ‘Family and Marriage’, in V. Alan McClelland and Michael Hodgetts, eds. From Without the Flaminian Gate (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1999), 197-198 ; Michael J. Walsh, ‘Catholics, Society, and Popular Culture’, in ibid., 350, 352; Rickaby, ‘A Commentary on the Encyclical Letter of May 15, 1891, on The Condition of the Working Classes’, The Month 91 (May 1898), 481-91.

113 Julie Hanlon Rubio, ‘Animals, Evil, and Family Meals’, Journal of Moral Theology (hereafter JMT) 3 (June 2014): 36.

114 Camosy, Charles C. and Kopp, Susan, ‘The Use of Non-Human Animals in Biomedical Research: Can Moral Theology Fill the Gap?’, JMT 3 (2014): 65 .

115 James E. Helmer, ‘Speaking Theologically of Animal Rights’, JMT 3 (June 2014): 119.

116 Berkman, John, ‘From Theological Speciesism to a Theological Ethology’, JMT 3 (2014): 32 ; Camosy and Kopp, ‘The Use of Non-Human Animals in Biomedical Research’, 69, 58, 70-1; Rollin, Bernard E., ‘The Regulation of Animal Research and the Emergence of Animal Ethics: A Conceptual History’, Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 27 (2006): 299-303 .

117 John Berkman, ‘Theological Speciesism’, 24-25; Lescher, ‘The Practice of Vivisection’, 166-167; Zoophilist, 1 April 1887, 235.

118 Berkman, ‘Theological Speciesism’, 24; Tyrrell, ‘Zoolatry’, 12.

119 Berkman, ‘Theological Speciesism’, 25.

* I wish to acknowledge and thank Dr. Betsy Bowen, Dr. R. James Long, and Dr. Ralph Coury for examining and commenting upon earlier drafts of this article.

Keywords

The British Catholic debate over vivisection, 1876 – 1914: a common theology but differing applications

  • William M. Abbott (a1)

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