BOOKS: The use of Animals in Laboratory Experiments
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2002:
The use of Animals in Laboratory Experiments
by The Revd. Hugh Broadbent
Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals
(P.O. Box 7193, Hook, Hampshire RG27 8GT, U.K.), 2002.
Inquire for ordering details c/o <AngSocWelAnimals@aol.com>.
“We are a Christian organization who are trying to raise
awareness of animal welfare within the Church here in the United
Kingdom and also amongst other Christians,” Anglican Society for the
Welfare of Animals corresponding secretary Samantha Chandler wrote
to ANIMAL PEOPLE in the cover letter accompanying The use of Animals
in Laboratory Experiments.
“Sadly,” Chandler continued, “we find that Christians are
some of the most difficult people to convince about the importance of
compassion for our fellow creatures. We produced this leaflet to try
to encourage discussion on this controversial subject. Many in the
animal rights movement will probably find it too moderate, as it
gives both sides of the argument and allows the reader to form
his/her own conclusions. However, this is not a leaflet aimed at
those already involved in animal rights. Rather, it is aimed at
Christians who might not have given the subject very much thought.
We felt that if we wrote a very one-sided leaflet, it would
immediately be dismissed as propaganda.
“The leaflet received quite a lot of interest at a large
Christian exhibition and conference, particularly from teachers of
religious studies, who were pleased to find a leaflet which covered
this subject from a Christian angle,” Chandler finished.
Her description is accurate. The Use of Animals in Laboratory
Experiments succinctly summarizes the history of the anti-vivisection
movement, reviews the major arguments pro and con, and proceeds to
a theological assessment of the arguments which would probably be as
relevant to Catholics and most Protestants as Anglicans.
The painter Joseph Wright of Derby produced the cover art,
“An experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump,” in 1768, when both
scientific vivisection and anti-vivisection activism were just
According to The National Gallery in London, “A travelling
scientist is shown demonstrating the formation of a vacuum by
withdrawing air from a flask containing a white cockatoo, though
common birds like sparrows would normally have been used. Air pumps
were developed in the 17th century and were relatively familiar by
Wright’s day. The artist’s subject is not scientific invention, but
a human drama in a night-time setting. The bird will die if the
demonstrator continues to deprive it of oxygen, and Wright leaves us
in doubt as to whether or not the cockatoo will be reprieved. The
painting reveals a wide range of individual reactions, from the
frightened children, through the reflective philosopher, the excited
interest of the youth on the left, to the indifferent young lovers
concerned only with each other. The figures are dramatically lit by
a single candle, while in the window the moon appears. On the table
in front of the candle is a glass containing a skull.”
There are few more inclusive and representative depictions of
human attitudes toward animal research.