When I was a medical student in the late 1940s, we did weekly laboratory exercises in physiology and pharmacology. Each group of four students would anesthetize a cat or dog and do an experiment, investigating blood pressure or respiration or recording electrical activity from the brain. That was where we learned how complicated a live animal is, where we learned to cut and sew up skin, where we learned to control the loss of blood, and where we got over some of our squeamishness at the sight of blood. After the experiment was over, we killed the animal with a lethal dose of the same anesthetic, and from the beginning to the end of the experiment the animal felt nothing but a needle prick.

The cats and dogs were strays, picked up by the hundreds from the streets and taken to the pound. If unclaimed after a waiting period, they...

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