I have been researching the life of Frances Power Cobbe for an article for Welsh Country Magazine and I came across this unusual and forgotten story from the early twentieth century. Here is just a brief introduction to the Brown Dog Riots.
It all began with a vivisection which was performed on a brown dog in front of some medical students at University College London by Professor William Bayliss in February 1903. However the operation was also witnessed by a two Swedish feminists and anti-vivisectionists who had infiltrated the lecture.
There was some dispute about whether the animal was properly anaesthetized, with witnesses adopting well-entrenced positions. When the procedure was condemned as unlawful by the National Anti-Vivisection Society, Professor Bayliss anxious to preserve a scientific reputation based upon his work discovering hormones, sued for libel and won. There was rejoicing by medical students in the public gallery, though the press disapproved of their rowdy behaviour during the trial, accusing them of “medical hooliganism.” The Anti-Vivisectionists responded by erecting a bronze drinking fountain in memory of the dog in Battersea in 1906 with a lower trough for dogs and horses which displayed the phrase “Men and women of England, how long shall these Things be?”
Medical students, angered by what they regarded as a deliberately provocative plaque, vandalised the memorial and there was twenty four hour police surveillance against more attacks by those who became known as anti-doggers. In December 1907 medical students marched through central London waving effigies of the brown dog on sticks, clashing with suffragettes, trade unionists and police officers, in the first of what became known as the Brown Dog riots. In March 1910 Battersea Council sent four workers accompanied by 120 police officers to remove the statue under cover of darkness, after which it was reportedly melted down.