Wednesday, 9 January 2008

The Brown Dog affair

The Brown Dog affair was a political controversy about vivisection that raged in Edwardian England from 1903 until 1910, becoming a cause célèbre that reportedly divided the country.

It involved the infiltration of London University medical lectures by Swedish women activists, pitched battles between medical students and the police, round-the-clock police protection for the statue of a dog, a libel trial at the Royal Courts of Justice, and the establishment of a Royal Commission to investigate the use of animals in experiments. The affair was triggered by allegations, vigorously denied, that Dr. William Bayliss of University College, London had performed an illegal dissection on a brown terrier dog — anaesthetized according to Bayliss, conscious according to the Swedish activists. A statue erected by antivivisectionists in memory of the dog led to violent protests by London's medical students, who saw the memorial as an assault on the entire medical profession. The unrest culminated in rioting in Trafalgar Square on December 10, 1907, when 1,000 students marched down the Strand, clashing with 400 police officers, in what became known as the Brown Dog riots.

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