Weren't lab animals responsible for the discovery of diabetes and development of insulin?
Pro-animal experiment contingencies always cite the development of insulin as support for continued animal testing, asserting that insulin harvested from slaughterhouses saved the lives of many diabetics. This is true. But the use of animals in the search for the cause of diabetes has been overwhelmingly counterproductive.
Diabetes affects in excess of 125 million people worldwide and is a leading cause of blindness, amputation, kidney failure and premature death. Physicians in the late 18th century first linked the disease with characteristic changes in the pancreas seen at autopsy. As this was difficult to reproduce in animals, many scientists disputed the pancreas' role in the disease. When they removed the pancreas from dogs, cats, and pigs, the animals became diabetic. But their symptoms led researchers to conjecture that diabetes was a liver disease, throwing diabetes research off track for decades. In 1922, outraged scientists spoke out against the animal experiments that many were claiming had proven the existence of insulin:
"The production of insulin originated in a wrongly conceived, wrongly conducted, and wrongly interpreted series of [animal] experiments."
They pointed out that human autopsy had in fact shown the pancreas to be the vital organ in diabetes, and that in vitro research had isolated insulin - not animal experiments.
Scientists later modified the in vitro process they had used to isolate insulin, successfully mass-producing pig and cattle insulin reaped in slaughterhouses. This animal-derived insulin indeed saved lives, but not without complications. It also created allergic reactions and exposed patients to serious health risks. Had they recognised these dangers, scientists would have hastened to develop human insulin.
Insulin is only a treatment for diabetes, not a cure. The exact biochemical process through which insulin regulates blood sugar is yet to be discovered. If the funds devoted to studies had gone to human research, would we still have this plague?
Lab animal tests threw diabetes research off track for decades.