What man would he be who accepted the offer to be healed and kept alive by means which necessitated the torture of certain animals? Would he feel himself a gentleman—walking the earth with the sense that his life and conscious well-being were informed and upheld by the agonies of other lives?
'I hope, sir, your health is better than it has been?'
'Thank you, I am wonderfully restored—have entered in truth upon a fresh lease of life. My organism has been nourished with the agonies of several dogs, and the pangs of a multitude of rabbits and guinea-pigs, and I am aware of a marvellous change for the better. They gave me their lives, and I gave them in return worse pains than mine. The bargain has proved a quite satisfactory one! True, their lives were theirs, not mine; but then their sufferings were theirs, not mine! They could not defend themselves; they had not a word to say, so reasonable was the exchange. Poor fools! they were neither so wise, nor so strong, nor such lovers of comfort as I! If they could not take care of themselves, that was their look-out, not mine! Every animal for himself!'
There was a certain patriotic priest who thought it better to put a just man to death than that a whole nation should perish. Precious salvation that might be wrought by injustice! But then the just man taught that the rich man and the beggar must one day change places.
'To set the life of a dog against the life of a human being!'
No, but the torture of a dog against the prolonged life of a being capable of torturing him. Priceless gain, the lengthening of such a life, to the man and his friends and his country!
That the animals do not suffer so much as we should under like inflictions, I hope true, and think true. But is toothache nothing, because there are yet worse pains for head and face?
Not a few who now regard themselves as benefactors of mankind, will one day be looked upon with a disapprobation which no argument will now convince them they deserve. But yet another day is coming, when they will themselves right sorrowfully pour out disapprobation upon their own deeds; for they are not stones but men, and must repent. Let them, in the interests of humanity, give their own entrails to the knife, their own silver cord to be laid bare, their own golden bowl to be watched throbbing, and I will worship at their feet. But shall I admire their discoveries at the expense of the stranger—nay, no stranger—the poor brother within their gates?
Your conscience does not trouble you? Take heed that the light that is in you be not darkness. Whatever judgment mean, will it suffice you in that hour to say, 'My burning desire to know how life wrought in him, drove me through the gates and bars of his living house'? I doubt if you will add, in your heart any more than with your tongue, 'and I did well.'
To those who expect a world to come, I say then, Let us take heed how we carry ourselves to the creation which is to occupy with us the world to come.
To those whose hearts are sore for that creation, I say, The Lord is mindful of his own, and will save both man and beast.
Taken from the chapter, "The Hope of the Universe" in The Hope of the Gospel by George MacDonald.