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A new anti-vivisection book – do read!

2018 February 26

A cover image of Anti-vivisection

I have recently read with much interest a new book Anti-vivisection and the Profession of Medicine in Britain by Alan W.H.Bates in the animal ethics series published by Palgrave. It came out last year at the reasonable hardcover cost of £20.

Although the book is organised in discrete chapters and particular bibliographies (rather than a collective bibliography and broad source file) it interestingly covers the topic over a range of issues leading from the nineteenth century to the post-second world war period. Other than simply referring to activists such as Frances Power Cobbe it draws upon interesting people including Lewis Gompertz of the SPCA and Josiah Oldfield. Oldfield was not only a lawyer but a fruitarian and vegetarianist. Good discussion covers both the national and Battersea anti vivisection hospitals, the former being described as ‘ quite possibly the world’s first anti-vivisection hospital’ . The unusual Oriolet Vegetarian Hospital was also set up in Loughton.

The impact of anti vivisection upon people’s lives is covered far more interestingly than conventional approaches to the topic. There is good discussion of the Research Defence Society’s hostile approach to the thousands of people campaigning against dog petitions to parliament in the 1920s. There is also interesting discussion of the ambiguous approach of the London and District Anti-Vivisection Society in the 1930s and 40s.

I have previously read much of the archival material discussed and am pleased that this detailed work of the time is used clearly and carefully for new discussion. Even if you have already read my article on ‘ The smooth cool men of science: the Feminist and Socialist response vivisection’ in History Workshop Journal vol 40, October 1995 do turn your attention to this new book.

The work is well written, accessible and engaging. Please consider purchasing the book of around two hundred pages to get to a wide range of ideas on this important topic.


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