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JAMA 100 Years Ago
September 15, 1999

ZOÖPHILISM AND DEGENERACY.

Author Affiliations
 

Edited by Jennifer Reiling, Editorial Assistant.

JAMA. 1999;282(11):1020D. doi:10.1001/jama.282.11.1020

Undue love for animals (zoöphilism) such as so frequently finds expression in antivivisection fanaticism, has frequently been found associated with various forms of degeneracy and especially with its mental expressions in connection with suspicional and persecutory conceptions.

As the JOURNAL pointed out some time ago, the suspicional world-betterers whose cruelty marred the French Revolution were all of them zoöphilists whose love for animals contrasted markedly with their severities toward human beings. The fanatics who were guilty of such brutalities during the East Indian mutiny were intensely opposed to the taking of animal life. Very frequently the suspicional ideas are especially extended toward blood relatives. The mother of Savage, the poet, who persecuted him with such malignity, was very fond of cats and lap-dogs. The fifth (or "wicked") Lord Byron, the immediate predecessor of the poet, was notorious for his dueling propensities, for his disregard of major and minor morality, for his cruelty toward his kin, and for his brutality toward his servants. Having built mock forts on a lake in his park, and put a fleet of toy gunboats on the water, he used to amuse himself with mock-fights of a naval character, the toy ship firing away at the forts, which returned the fire in gallant style. When he was weary of this ridiculous game, the old man used to lie on the ground and gossip with the crickets, whom he loved far more than his descendants. When the crickets were troublesome, he used to whip them with a wisp of hay. The crickets are said to have left the Abbey in a body as soon as their one friend of humankind was dead, and never to have returned thither. The same feature appears in the wife and daughters of Claude Bernard, the French physiologist. According to the recent life of Claude Bernard, by Sir Michael Foster, the physiologist married a woman of degenerate stock, descendant from the French aristocracy of the pre-Revolutionary epoch. This woman had suspicional and persecutory ideas of that systematized type which so often occurs in degenerates prior to the full development of paranoia. After making Bernard's life miserable, his wife took her daughters and left him, alleging as a reason his experiments in vivisection. One of the daughters carried her antivivisectionism so far as to interrupt physiologic lectures, and was arrested therefor more than once, but the offense was condoned because of the manifest mental disorder present in her. There was evidence to show that her zoöphilism took at times a sexually abnormal direction. In a will, which was subsequently modified by the court as in violation of the French laws governing wills, she left large sums for a hospital and asylum for dogs and cats.

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