This historical study of early 19th-century opposition to vivisection suggests that the moral persona of the vivisector was an important theme. Vivisectors claimed they deliberately suppressed their feelings to perform scientifically necessary experiments: Where there was reason, there could be no cruelty. Their critics argued they were callous and indifferent to suffering, which was problematic for medical practitioners, who were expected to be merciful and compassionate. This anthropocentric debate can be located within the virtue ethics tradition: Compassion for animals signified a humane character. The 1876 Vivisection Act facilitated experimentation by separating the practice of vivisection from that of medicine.

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