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Vivisection: Bad News for Diabetics
- A rebuttal of NAEAC's deceptive propaganda.
The National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee newsletter, NAEAC News, No. 22, May 2005, contains an article entitled "Diabetics' Debt to Animal Experimentation" [link to the NAEAC newsletter as a PDF], falsely attributing diagnostic discoveries as well as remedies for the disease to animal research. The article echoes a previous NZ advertising pamphlet - "Animal Research Saves Lives" - issued in 1990, claiming that without animal research, insulin would not have been discovered, that insulin-dependent diabetics would have no hope of survival, and that a cure for diabetes would be beyond reach.
The first thing that strikes the reader is that despite the millions of animal experiments worldwide, diabetes continues to affect a growing proportion of the world's population. The NZ Ministry of Health cites 4.1% of NZ males and 3.3% of NZ females affected, with diabetes accounting for 20% of deaths for Maori, 3.5% in European and 16% of Pacific people ("An Indication of New Zealanders' Health", 2002). Clearly, vivisection has not provided a solution to the proliferation of the disease. As Hans Ruesch has noted in "1000 Doctors Against Vivisection", p. 174, the two diseases involving the greatest number of animals sacrificed - cancer and diabetes - have continued their steady rise.
Vivisectionists credit the discovery of insulin to experiments on dogs carried out by Banting and Best in the 1920s, but medical historians, including M. Beddow Bayly, MRCS, LRCP ("Clinical Medical Discoveries"), have pointed out that the association of diabetes with degenerative changes in the Beta cells in the pancreas was a well-recognized clinical discovery before animal experiments in this connection were carried out. The discovery, isolation and application of insulin were achieved in 1915 by one professor Schafer, a renowned physiologist. Bayly noted that subsequent experiments on thousands of dogs proved nothing of value to human medicine since, as scientifically recognized, the dogs were not suffering from diabetes.
Medical evidence indicates that Banting's dogs suffered not from diabetes but from traumatic stress, obvious to any who have viewed photographs of his unaesthetised, depancreatised victims. Since this condition is said to resemble diabetes symptoms to some extent, vivisectors and their allies capitalised on the convenient similarities.
Far from being the life-saver it is claimed to be, insulin, the mainstay of diabetes treatment, is credited with much serious health damage. Side effects of insulin from pig and cattle pancreases include heart attacks, stroke, kidney damage and gangrene according to medical sources, eg A.L. Notkins ("Scientific American", Vol. 241, No. 5, November 1979, pp 62-73). More recent oral preparations of pure chemicals have also been attributed with causing diabetic blindness and gangrene.
Instead of acknowledging the dangers of insulin, however, the NAEAC article claims that diabetics live longer with an improved quality of life, thanks to this and other drugs developed through animal research, and that "long-term consequences of diabetes (not of insulin)" have been unmasked as "the unfortunate downside of this great success". As one would expect, the article treats "this unfortunate downside" (peripheral vascular disease, heart attack, stroke and diabetic heart failure) as an excuse for further animal research.
The NAEAC article wrongly attributes the identification of diabetes as a complex disease with a number of causes and several different forms, to animal research on numerous species including fish and non-human primates. Experiments involving any number of species only lead to greater confusion in extrapolating results to the human condition. Insulin experiments on chickens, mice and rabbits have only resulted in malformations in these species, not in medical benefits for diabetics. Medical experts have pointed out that there is no laboratory method of inducing diabetes that can reproduce the clinical condition, stressing the dangers of extrapolating from one species to another, and even from one strain to another of the same species.
The NAEAC newsletter tries to justify continued animal research to develop new drugs by arguing that insulin is not as effective in controlling blood glucose levels in type II diabetes mellitus as in type 1diabetes. The newest drug Trientine is vaunted as an "exciting development" based on experiments with rats. However, if past failures are anything to go by, one can expect this miracle cure to join its predecessors in a long history of medical disasters: Phenformin, produced by the Swiss company Ciba-Geigy, and marketed between 1959 and 1977, was withdrawn from the American market after it was found to cause about 1000 deaths annually. Nevertheless, after this had been announced in the press, the German Federal Republic allowed its own drug manufacturers one year to sell off stocks of lethal anti-diabetes drugs including Dipar, Silubin-Retard and Sindatel, thus ensuring a profit for the pharmaceutical syndicate (Hans Ruesch in "Naked Empress", p. 16). Phenformin was eventually banned in the UK also. Another anti-diabetes drug Tolbutamide, was found to cause heart disease and death, but continued to be prescribed under the brand names of Rastinon, Glyconon, and Pramidex.
The causes of diabetes mellitus remain unknown; and despite certain similarities among humans and some other species, there are basic differences in clinical manifestation, in aetiological factors, and the liability to certain long-term complications of the disease.
What is known, however, is the vital role played by diet in controlling and curing diabetes. Consumption of animal fats and sugar has been historically shown to correlate with incidence of diabetes. In "New Scientist", March 18, 1982, massive available data showed that diabetes is preventable through suitable diet; that the USA had the highest incidence of diabetes, where individuals consume on average 35% animal fats and meat, and that Japan had the lowest, with an average of 5%, and that when the Japanese took to American eating habits, they developed diabetes problems.
Ross Horne in "The Health Revolution" refers to the Pritikin Longevity Centre's diet and exercise programme and its dietary, drug-free approach, recommended by Dr James Anderson of the University of Kentucky Medical Centre as being able to restore 80% of diabetics in the USA to normal health within one to 3 months.
With regard to sugar intake, Banting himself pointed out:
" The incidence of diabetes has increased proportionately with the pro capita consumption of sugar."
An eight-year university study in the USA compared progress of two groups of diabetics, one using insulin and oral drugs, the other a remedial diet. After 5 years, it was found that none of the drugs, including insulin had any effect as the body had got used to them, but that the diet treatment worked well. This most comprehensive and meticulously controlled survey of the use of insulin has been reported in leading scientific publications.
For documented evidence of the counter-productive role of vivisection and of the health damage caused by vivisection-based diabetes drugs, readers are referred to Chapter 11 of Bette Overell's, thoroughly researched and informative, "Animal Research Takes Lives - Humans and Animals Both Suffer", published by NZAVS in 1993.
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