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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Edward Cardwell   29 October 1875

Oct 29— | 1875

T Ld. Cardwell

My Lord.

From the strong interest which I feel with respect to experiments on living animals in the cause both of humanity & science, I shd feel bound willingly to attend the commission, if I could give evidence of any value.1 But I have never been concerned directly or indirectly with experiments on living animals. I could only express my conviction on general grounds, (firstly, that the [important] science physiology can progress only by the aid of such experiments; secondly that all Physiology wd come judging from a wide-spread analogy to confer sooner or later great benefits on mankind; & thirdly that most experiments can be performed on animals in a state of insensibility; & that to hesitate to try experiments, on animals in this state, whether for original research or for training future physiologists, is mere folly.

On the other hand to try any experiment on an animal, which causes suffering, without full deliberation & the belief that it is necessary, seems to me a great crime

Should the Commission wish me to express those opinions viva voce, I shall feel bound to attend at any time which may be appointed, though my health would suffer considerably, & it is possible I may be incapable of attending at the specific time.2

I have the honour to remain | Your Lordship | obed & obliged Servt


CD had been asked to give evidence before the Royal Commission on vivisection (see letter from Edward Cardwell, 28 October 1875).
CD appeared before the Royal Commission on vivisection on 3 November 1875 (see Report of the Royal Commission on vivisection, pp. 233–4). For more on CD’s involvement in drafting a bill on vivisection, see Appendix VI.


Report of the Royal Commission on vivisection: Report of the Royal Commission on the practice of subjecting live animals to experiments for scientific purposes; with minutes of evidence and appendix; 1876 (C.1397, C.1397-1) XLI.277, 689. House of Commons Parliamentary Papers.


CD would feel bound to give evidence to the Royal Commission on vivisection should they ask him, but he has no personal experience of the matter. Expresses his opinions on the importance to physiology of experiments on live animals.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Edward Cardwell, 1st Viscount Cardwell
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 97: C4–6
Physical description
Adraft 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10232,” accessed on 31 July 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23