Who was Frances Power Cobbe?
The anti-vivisection movement in the period 1860 to 1910 was one of the strongest debates of the time. Following protests against vivisection the Government set up a royal commission to examine regulating the process, leading to the Cruelty to Animals Act, and in the following year Frances Power Cobbe set up the National Anti-Vivisection Society. A journalist, she supported women’s political rights and social reform.
What is the leaflet about?
Cobbe’s views on anti-vivisection spread over into antagonism towards the perceived arrogance of the medical profession and the blind pursuit of science. In this environment medical and zoological scientists were named and attacked in pamphlets (Huxley, Wells’s tutor, was one of those attacked), and the British Medical Association was named as a vivisector.
In this publication, and in others such as The Right of Tormenting and Bernard’s Martyrs, Cobbe attacks the work of scientists such as Magendie, Mantegazza, Bert and Bernard, experimenters who used vivisection extensively. Specifically in this leaflet she reproduces illustrations from ’the standard works of the most eminent physiologists’, to show the nature and extent of vivisection in use; it is a ‘naming and shaming’ process since she states each image is ‘a Vivisector’s own picture of his own work’.
Cobbe’s relentless use of illustrations was felt by some to be extreme, and based on emotional arguments, but in this pamphlet she is careful to point out that the illustrations come from the scientists’ own textbooks. The selection of extreme examples served to maintain the momentum of the campaign to abolish rather than limit vivisection.