On Wednesday 8th July 1914, the Manchester Guardian published an editorial against the practice of force-feeding imprisoned suffragettes, as well as two petitions addressed to the Liberal Home Secretary, Reginald McKenna:
We publish to-day two reasoned and powerful pleas, the one from distinguished Free Church ministers, the other from a large number of medical men, against the practice of forcible feeding still persisted in by the Home Secretary, although the “Cat and Mouse” Bill was understood to have been passed as a substitute for a practice which public opinion rightly and with increasing urgency condemns.
Both petitions are addressed to the Home Secretary, and will, we trust, carry weight with him, and at least secure the interview for which the medical men ask and which the gravity of the case and the weight of the protest should make it difficult to refuse.
Forcible feeding, as carried out against resisting prisoners, is frankly a form of torture, and it is really as such that Mr. McKenna, so far as we understand his position, defends it. He says it is deterrent, and so it well may be, but so would be any other form of torture – the thumbscrew or the rack, or any other ancient and accredited method of inflicting intolerable pain; yet we do not now have resort to these methods, not even against women.