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The Moral Issue

Cabbages and Kings

By John D. Leonard

The New England Anti-Vivisection Society stands just across from the State House on Beacon Street--one office in a framewood series of jewelry stores and antique shops.

"Formed by God--Deformed by Man" reads the caption to a photographic display of mutant canines and scientic "torture" techniques in the plate glass window.

Inside, there is no display, only a single room domain staffed by three unmarried elderly ladies. Tables are piled with stacks of envelopes and green file boxes, and leaflet literature lies scattered on the floor.

The latest issue for concern was the dog in the Russian satellite. "I think it's simply horrible," one of the ladies said, and wrung her hands abstractedly. "That poor puppy, whining, lonely, and petrified by the dark. And then they poison her." She wrinkled her nose.

"Has the Society petitioned the Russian government?"

"You'll have to ask Mr. Farnum. Mr. Farnum is the President of the Society." She gestured vaguely at a portrait on the wall. "He should be here presently. In the meantime, you might read our monthly, Living Tissue, if you'd like."

President George R. Farnum, LL.B., LL.M., Litt.D., is a modest man in his late fifties. He wore a gray, double-breasted suit and top coat and blue knit tie, with horn-rimmed glasses and a black scarf. He arrived in a rush, and delivered an interview standing in the center of the room, pausing in his remarks only for a sporadic swipe at the glasses with a white handkerchief.

"Of course," he said, in measured Beacon Street tones, "the whole Russian business is a horrible, shocking thing. I understand that the ASPCA has asked the State Department to lodge an official protest, and the Canine Defense League of London intends to march on the Soviet embassy. But actually, petitioning Russians is a waste of time."

He selected several leaflets and brandished them as he spoke. "What we can do is protest the frightful, cruel, and revolting practices of our own government. Did you know that the Army used live goats as targets for high-powered rifles? That we subject dumb animals to fall-out and shoot monkeys up in rockets?

"Why, I read in Life magazine that the government bombards animals with gamma rays. They imprison monkeys and mice in cramped cages. They starve cats to death and chill dogs in freezing tanks of water. I ask you--do such practices promote human welfare?"

Farnum frowned at the sound of a passing automobile. "Young man," he said, "it is particularly disturbing to learn how often women participate in these atrocities. I mean, you would think. . ." He paused thoughtfully.

"Our purpose is to create public opinion, to recruit crusaders to preach our humane gospel, to oppose legislation such as this recent pound bill in Massachusetts. In-fighting and politicking."

He picked up a magazine. "Living Tissue reaches 50,000 people, even though we've only 13,000 members. I usually lead off each issue with some spiritual stuff." He smiled, and pointed out a photograph of himself, his wife, and their dog.

Then he was suddenly quite serious. "The clever fellows may argue eternally about the utility or inutility, the reliability or unreliability of vivisection. The real issue is the moral issue. It is a godless action, to cut apart these pathetic animals who cannot speak to save themselves. It is a godless action, and it bespeaks a godless people."

And with a summary sweep of his hand he turned to his pamphlets and paper-work, and the pressing business of opposition.

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