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Robert Green Ingersoll
VIVISECTION is the Inquisition -- the Hell -- of Science, All
the cruelty which the human -- or rather the inhuman -- heart is
capable of inflicting, is in this one word. Below this there is no
depth. This word lies like a coiled serpent at the bottom of the
We can excuse, in part, the crimes of passion. We take into
consideration the fact that man is liable to be caught by the
whirlwind, and that from a brain on fire the soul rushes to a
crime. But what excuse can ingenuity form for a man who
deliberately -- with an un-accelerated pulse -- with the calmness
of John Calvin at the murder of Serviettes -- seeks, with curious
and cunning knives, in the living, quivering flesh of a dog, for
all the throbbing nerves of pain? The wretches who commit these
infamous crimes pretend that they are working for the good of man;
that they are actuated by philanthropy; and that their pity for the
sufferings of the human race drives out all pity for the animals
they slowly torture to death. But those who are incapable of
pitying animals are, as a matter of fact, incapable of pitying men.
A physician who would cut a living rabbit in pieces -- laying bare
the nerves, denuding them with knives, pulling them out with
forceps -- would not hesitate to try experiments with men and women
for the gratification of his curiosity.
To settle some theory, he would trifle with the life of any
patient in his power. By the same reasoning he will justify the
vivisection of animals and patients. He will say that it is better
that a few animals should suffer than that one human being should
die; and that it is far better that one patient should die, if
through the sacrifice of that one, several may be saved.
Brain without heart is far more dangerous than heart without
Have these scientific assassins discovered anything of value?
They may have settled some disputes as to the action of some organ,
but have they added to the useful knowledge of the race?
It is not necessary for a man to be a specialist in order to
have and express his opinion as to the right or wrong of
vivisection. It is not necessary to be a scientist or a naturalist
to detest cruelty and to love mercy. Above all the discoveries of
the thinkers, above all the inventions of the ingenious, above all
the victories won on fields of intellectual conflict, rise human
sympathy and a sense of justice.
I know that good for the human race can never be accomplished
by torture. I also know that all that has been ascertained by
vivisection could have been done by the dissection of the dead. I
know that all the torture has been useless. All the agony inflicted
has simply hardened the hearts of the criminals, without
enlightening their minds.
It may be that the human race might be physically improved if
all the sickly and deformed babes were killed, and if all the
paupers, liars, drunkards, thieves, villains, and vivisectionists
were murdered. All this might, in a few ages, result in the
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production of a generation of physically perfect men and women; but
what would such beings be worth, -- men and women healthy and
heartless, muscular and cruel -- that is to say, intelligent wild
Never can I be the friend of one who vivisects his fellow --
creatures. I do not wish to touch his hand.
When the angel of pity is driven from the heart; when the
fountain of tears is dry, -- the soul becomes a serpent trawling in
the dust of a desert.
A letter written to Philip G. Peabody. May 27, 1890.
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