Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Great Anti-Vivisectionist

Walery,(active 1884-1898). published by Sampson Low & Co
Henry Edward Manning (1808-1892), Roman Catholic Cardinal-archbishop of Westminster. July 1889
Carbon print on card mount,
9 7/8 in. x 7 1/8 in. (250 mm x 181 mm)
The National Portrait Gallery, London

The question of vivisection - the use of live animals in scientific experimentation - was a hotly debated question in Victorian England in the years 1850 -1890.

Darwin, while opposing unnecessary vivisection- approved of it in limited circumstances where it could be adequately demonstrated that there was more than a possibility of scientific advance as a result of such proper experiments. Otherwise he was of the view that vivisection "deserved detestation and abhorrence"

For a recent interesting article on the controvery and Darwin`s views see The Dispersal of Darwin‘s Guest Post – Defending the Sensible: Charles Darwin and the Anti-Vivisection Controversy.

During this time one of the leaders of the Anti-Vivisection Movement who was implacably opposed to any form of vivisection and under any circumstances was Henry Cardinal Edward Manning (1808–1892), the English Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster.

He was one of the founders of the leading lobby of the day, the Victoria Street Society for the Protection of Animals from Vivisection (now known as the National Anti-Vivisection Society) whose leaders included Lord Shaftesbury, Wilberforce, Lord Coleridge (the Lord Chief-Justice) and many others of the Great and the Good

The organisation of which Manning was a part was extremely successful.See Geoffrey Rivett, History of the NHS: Defining problems and debating solutions - 1860 -1889

Manning`s speeches against Vivisection can be read on the website of Catholic Concern for Animals here

They are filled with genuine passion on the subject.

He regarded it as a quintessential moral issue.

HIs attempts to change the official Vatican line on the matter met with no success. On 13th November 1891 he wrote to an acquaintance:

"As to Italy and Rome, I hardly know to whom to turn. My old friends are dying off. Some years ago I tried toget them to understand vivisection ; but they were imposed upon by surgeons and empirics."

The "official" view was that Man owed no duties to animals as animals were not capable of having rights. Whilst accepting this view he saw it differently. In a letter to Miss Cobbe, one of the leaders of the English Anti-Vivisection Movement, he wrote:

"on Vivisection to say that man owed no duty directly to the brutes, but he owed it to God, whose creatures they are, to treat them mercifully. ...The highest counsel is always the safest and best, cost us what it may. We may take the cost as the test of its rectitude. I hope you will go on writing against this inflation of vainglory calling itself Science."

He proposed the following syllogism:

"Truth of Nature must be sought only by methods in harmony with the perfection of Nature`s God. Mercy is one of the perfections of God. Vivisection is not in harmony with perfect Mercy. Therefore Truth must not be sought by vivisection."

In The Zoophilist 1st April 1887 he expressed his view in this way:

"It is perfectly true that obligations and duties are between moral persons, and therefore the lower animals are not susceptible of the moral obligations which we owe to one another; but we owe a seven-fold obligation to the Creator of those animals.

Our obligation and moral duty is to Him who made them and if we wish to know the limit and the broad outline of our obligation, I say at once it is His nature and His perfections, and among these perfections one is, most profoundly, that of Eternal Mercy.

And therefore, although a poor mule or a poor horse is not, indeed, a moral person, yet the Lord and Maker of the mule is the highest Lawgiver, and His nature is a law unto Himself.

And in giving a dominion over His creatures to man, He gave it subject to the condition that it should be used in conformity to His perfections which is His own law, and therefore our law"

Since Manning, the Catholic position on the treatment of animals has advanced. It does not embrace Manning`s absolutist position. But it is accepted that Man does in effect have duties towards animals. This is clear from the Catechism :

"Respect for the integrity of creation

2415 The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man's dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.

2416 Animals are God's creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.

2417 God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image. Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives.

2418 It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons"

See also Deborah M Jones Animal Rights: Another Perspective  in FAITH Magazine March-April 2004