Animal Vivisection Sparks London Brown Dog Riots

Kathy Copeland Padden
4 min readMar 9, 2019
Photo by Euston Grove Press

On December 10, 1907, a reported 1,000 men, many medical students, marched through London defending the practice of surgery on live animals (vivisection). This demonstration ended in Trafalgar Square when the police charged the rioters on horseback, culminating in a street battle of several hours’ duration. Incredibly, all of this ire was directed at a small statue erected in memory of a dog that had died under inhumane circumstances in 1902.

The saga began when a small brown terrier was used in an illegal vivisection by physiologists Edward Starling and William Bayliss at University College London. In the presence of 60 medical students, the inadequately anesthetized animal was cut open and deprived of the function of its pancreas. Instead of being put down in accordance with the Cruelty to Animals Act, the poor animal was kept alive, wailing pitifully for weeks until it was used in a further experiment (to prove the results of the first) on February 3, 1903.

Dr. Starling cut the dog open again and inspected the results of the previous experiment, a process that took about 45 minutes. The terrier was then brought into the lecture hall and strapped on its back to an operating table. With its legs and head clamped and mouth muzzled, the animal endured another incision as it struggled helplessly against the restraints. The wound was stimulated with electricity in an effort to prove salivary pressure was independent of blood pressure.

The experiment was a failure, and a medical student, future Nobel laureate Henry Dale, put the poor dog out of its misery by putting a knife through its heart.

Unfortunately for those responsible for this cruelty, two animal rights activists from Sweden, Lizzy Lind af Hageby and Leisa Schartau, enrolled in medical school solely to expose the cruelty of vivisection. When the women exposed the doctors at UCL, they counter-sued for libel claiming they were within the law. Clearly, they were not, but they won the court case.

The battle of public opinion was another thing. The anti-vivisectionists decided to take up a collection and use the funds to erect a statue in memory of the poor little dog so ill-used in the name of medicine. Battersea agreed to provide a spot for it, and in September 1906 the memorial was…

Kathy Copeland Padden

is a music fanatic, classic film aficionado, and history buff surfing the End Times wave like a boss. Come along!