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Darwin Correspondence Project

Vivisection: draft petition

The Petition of

Humbly Sheweth

That your petitioners are persons engaged in the study of the Biological Sciences [‘& their application to medicine’ del].

That the art of preventing & curing disease is based upon a knowledge of the nature & causes of disease: and that the increase of such knowledge is the only means by which that art can be brought to perfection.

That the knowledge of the nature & causes of disease is inseparably connected with, and dependent upon just conceptions of the physical & chemical processes which go on in [‘living animals’ del] the *living body [above del ‘animals’]; and that such conceptions can be obtained only by the aid of observations and experiments upon living animals.

That such experiments as involve the cutting of living animals, commonly called vivisection, in the majority of cases may be, and usually are, performed on animals which have been rendered insensible to pain by anasthetics or otherwise.

That the existence of the present organization of human society is to a large extent based upon the principle that it is [‘right &’ del] lawful to inflict pain upon animals for the benefit of mankind. On this principle [‘it is held to be right to kill’ del] *the killing of [interl] animals for food and their employment [above del ‘; to employ them’] in the painful labours of beasts of burden & draught *are held to be justifiable, while [interl above del ‘to expose them to lingering torture in traps or otherwise’] for the sake of destroying those which injure men’s persons or property; or *with a view to [added] obtaining those, [‘such as fur animals,’ del] which yield mere luxuries, [‘are daily a’ del] [‘That it may safely be affirmed that all the pain which ever has been inflicted upon living animals, for the sake of obtaining a better knowledge of healthy & diseased processes, is not to’ del] large numbers of wild animals are daily & hourly exposed to lingering tortures *in traps or otherwise [interl]. With reference to these practices it may be safely affirmed that all the pain that ever has been inflicted upon living animals for the purposes of investigation is not to be compared in amount to those [above del ‘that’] which result from the operations of the fur traders [‘for a season.’ del] during a single season

That your petitioners entertain the strongest objections to the wanton or needless infliction of pain upon any sentient creature, & that they would gladly see cruelty under all forms repressed & discouraged, not merely by public opinion, but by legislative enactment; and that they agree with the principles laid down in the Report by a Committee of the British Association *for the Advancement of Science [interl] at its meeting in the year 1870, appended hereto. But they venture to express that hope that in any measures which your Honourable House may think fit to take towards this end, nothing may be done to interfere with investigations undertaken by competent & responsible persons, not with the object of increasing wealth or subserving luxury, but in the well-based expectation that they may obtain such knowledge as will tend, *to benefit mankind or by elucidating [above del ‘by elucidating’] the nature of disease, *to diminish human & animal suffering [interl above del ‘to diminish the sufferings of mankind’].

And your petitioners, will every pray. 


About this article

The manuscript of the draft petition is in Cambridge University Library, DAR 139.17: 19.

This transcription has been taken from 'Darwin and vivisection', F. Burkhardt et al. eds The correspondence of Charles Darwin, volume 23 (1875), Appendix VI, pp. 584–6.  The volumes of the Correspondence are available from Cambridge University Press.