Nearly 120 years ago, the fate of one small brown dog caused rioting in the streets of London, to say nothing of the protest marches to Trafalgar Square and questions asked in parliament.
London 1903: Rumours abounded about the barbaric experiments taking place within London’s medical schools. This is the story of the public vivisection of a stray dog carried out by Dr William Bayliss led to riots in 1900s Britain.
THE VIVISECTION OF A LITTLE BROWN STRAY DOG
Onto the stage strode Doctor William Malcolm Bayliss, the distinguished academic, physiologist and star of the evening’s demonstration. His voice a booming, classically trained baritone. ‘Gentlemen. Welcome, welcome to you all. It’s most humbling to see so many here. He gestures to his technicians, waiting in the wings, who wheel on a tall metal trolley. Upon it lies a small terrier dog, a young adult. He lies on his side, strapped down with leather leashes by the neck. His front and back paws are lashed together, his mouth muzzled. The technicians unbuckle him and unceremoniously dump him onto the operating table. They untie the limbs, place him on his back, and re-secure the leather straps to four metal rings at each corner of the table, placing his skull into a head-holder. Once satisfied the dog could not escape under any circumstance, the men leave the stage, shuffling backwards, almost genuflecting as they go. Suddenly, the dog appears to shudder and you can see the vicious, painfully red, criss-cross scars of earlier operations on his shaved stomach and flank.
A RECONSTRUCTION OF BAYLISS OPERATING ON THE DOG
‘Without further ado I’d like to re-introduce you to our star specimen, dear Rufus here.’ He gestures at the dog’s prone body, unaware, or unconcerned, that the dog appears to be trembling. ‘If any of you were present at earlier demonstrations, or my esteemed colleagues’ lectures perhaps, you may recognise the little fellow. He’s become quite the celebrity.’ Bayliss suddenly notices movement in the dog. He frowns slightly and gestures as if to recall the technicians. Glancing up at the clock on the far wall, he frowns again, quickly shrugs off any misgivings and carries on. He wields his scalpel aloft in his right hand. ‘And now, gentlemen, to work…’ The audience shouts and claps encouragement. ‘I’m now cutting into the abdomen. You may recall the earlier surgery where we ligated the animal’s pancreatic duct. This new incision is to inspect that work and monitor healing.’ He looks at his enthralled, wide-eyed audience with a satisfied smile. ‘A warmup, shall we say, to the main act of the evening’s performance.’ As he continues to cut, the body trembles.
STEPHEN COLERIDGE’S SPEECH
On the 1 May 1903, Stephen Coleridge, Secretary of the National Anti-Vivisection Society, gave an angry speech about the dog to the annual meeting of the National Anti-Vivisection Society at St James’s Hall in Piccadilly, attended by 2,000–3,000 people. Coleridge accused the scientists of torture: “If this is not torture, let Mr. Bayliss and his friends … tell us in Heaven’s name what torture is.”
BROWN DOG MEMORIAL
Anna Louisa Woodward, founder of the World League Against Vivisection, raised £120 for a public memorial and commissioned a bronze statue of the dog from sculptor Joseph Whitehead. The statue sat on top of a granite memorial stone, 7 ft 6 in (2.29 m) tall, that housed a drinking fountain for human beings and a lower trough for dogs and horses.
It also carried the inscription “In Memory of the Brown Terrier Dog done to death in the Laboratories of University College in February, 1903, after having endured vivisection extending over more than two months and having been handed over from one Vivisector to another till death came to his release. Also in memory of the 232 dogs vivisected at the same place during the year 1902. Men and women of England, how long shall these things be?”
Battersea council agreed to provide space for the statue on its Latchmere Recreation Ground. The statue was unveiled on 15 September 1906 in front of a large crowd, with speakers that included George Bernard Shaw.
THE BROWN DOG RIOTS
Medical students were angered by the provocative plaque on the statue which led to frequent vandalism and on one notable occasion, a group of UCL students attacked the memorial with crowbars and hammers. Ten of the students were arrested and fined as a result.
The rioting reached its height on 10 December 1907. A thousand medical students marched through central London waving effigies of the brown dog on sticks, clashing with suffragettes, trade unionists and 400 police officers, one of a series of battles known as the Brown Dog riots.
DEMONSTRATION AGAINST VIVISECTION
THE STATUE WAS REMOVED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
The statue was quietly removed before dawn on 10 March 1910 by four council workmen, accompanied by 120 police officers. Nine days later, 3,000 anti-vivisectionists gathered in Trafalgar Square to demand its return, but it was clear by then that Battersea Council had turned its back on the affair. The statue was at first hidden in the borough surveyor’s bicycle shed, according to a letter his daughter wrote in 1956 to the British Medical Journal, then reportedly destroyed by a council blacksmith, who melted it down.
DEMONSTRATION AT TRAFALGAR SQUARE TO PROTEST THE STATUE’S REMOVAL.
Little Brown Dog By Paula S. Owen
THIS IS ‘THAT’ LITTLE DOG’S STORY
When friends Lena and Eliza hear rumours of barbaric experiments being conducted under the guise of scientific progress, they infiltrate the closed ranks of elitist, male dominated academia to help expose the callous truth. What they witness horrifies them and they swear to bring the perpetrator, a celebrated physician William Bayling to justice. The women enlist barrister Stephen Coleridge to help fight their cause, but woefully underestimate the tactics Dr Bayling and his Establishment allies will employ against them. An infamous court case, class warfare, a statue that incites an insurrection, and riots in London streets follow. How much will Lena and Eliza risk in their fight against intolerable cruelty? What are they prepared to lose their loves, their future, their freedom? Based on events that shook Edwardian London society and sent shock waves across Britain, Little Brown Dog is a deeply emotive, at times humorous, and agelessly important story that resonates with modern dilemmas regarding our careless treatment of nature.
This enthralling book is available at Little Brown Dog