Brown Dog affair

From Academic Kids

The Brown Dog affair was a controversy and cause célèbre for a brief period in Edwardian England, from 1903 to 1910, and revolving around vivisection and a statue erected in memory of a dog killed in the cause of medical research. The Brown Dog affair provoked riots the size of which were not repeated in the United Kingdom until the poll tax riot of March 1990.

The antecedents of the Brown Dog affair lay in a libel suit brought by Dr. William Bayliss of the Department of Physiology at University College London, against the Hon. Stephen Coleridge Honorary Secretary of the National Anti-Vivisection Society. Coleridge provoked the suit by claiming in a speech that Bayliss had broken two laws in his handling of a dog which was killed after vivisection in February 1903. Although Bayliss prevailed in the courts and was awarded damages of £2000 to be paid by Coleridge (a six-figure sum in today's currency), the latter achieved his aims of widespread press coverage of the subject of vivisection, which led to the Daily News newspaper launching a fund to cover the damages, which raised £5,735 within four months.

Members of affiliated anti-vivisection organisations then took it on themselves to raise a subscription for a memorial to the dog at issue in the Bayliss versus Coleridge case. The group turned to the borough of Battersea, known as one of the more radical in London, for a location in which to install the memorial; the council provided a space near the newly completed Latchmere Estate. The memorial was in the form of a drinking fountain (for people and dogs) surmounted by a bronze of the dog in question.

Medical students at a number of London teaching hospitals were outraged at the inscription on the memorial, and organised protests and attempts to damage or destroy the statue. From this point on the memorial in effect became the fulcrum for a very heated public debate about the merits and demerits of vivisection, which from time to time led to mass protests, riots, and civic disobedience.

The statue was removed in 1910, after local elections in the borough tipped its political balance, and is presumed destroyed. A modern replica was installed in Battersea Park in 1985.


The Brown Dog Affair - Peter Mason, 1997, Two Sisters Publishing. ISBN 0-9529854-0-3

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