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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Ann Marston   20 July [1879]1

July 20

To the Hon. Sec. Anti-vivisection Soc.


I must decline signing the petition to which you refer, as to do so would be in my judgment a crime against mankind.2 No one, who is not quite ignorant of science can deny that the further progress of physiology depends altogether on experiments on living animals, or can doubt that physiology will lead to a great diminution of human suffering. I will at the same time add that I yield to no man in my adhorrence of any useless suffering to animals.3

C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from E. A. Darwin, 8 July 1879.
See letter from E. A. Darwin, 8 July 1879. CD had been asked to comment on a petition calling for the total abolition of vivisection. The petition was signed by several thousand people and presented to the House of Lords by Anthony Ashley-Cooper (Lord Shaftesbury) on 24 July 1879 (The Times, 25 July 1879, p. 6). For more on the several anti-vivisection petitions presented this time, see The Times, 16 July 1879, p. 6. For CD’s earlier involvement in formulating the 1875 bill to regulate vivisection, see Correspondence vol. 23.
CD and Emma Darwin had been involved in a campaign against steel vermin-traps in 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix IX). For more on CD’s interest in the humane treatment of animals, see Atkins 1974, pp. 78–84; see also Correspondence vol. 23, Appendix VI, p. 580.


Atkins, Hedley J. B. 1974. Down, the home of the Darwins: the story of a house and the people who lived there. London: Royal College of Surgeons.


Will not sign a petition, for he feels vivisection is essential to the progress of physiology.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Ann Marston
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 202: 22
Physical description
ADraftS 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11619,” accessed on 28 June 2022,