I've been debating about animal testing with someone who's adamant it's a moral flaw of humanity on the level of, and directly leading to, genocide. While the discussion itself has warped into a moral shaming fight, it has gotten me thinking: What would the world be like if animal testing had never existed? I've looked into the matter, but all I've found is explanations of why animal testing can't be stopped now, or what recent advances it's allowed; what I'm actually looking for is this:

  • What was/were the earliest major achievement(s) made possible by animal testing?
  • If those hadn't occurred, and assuming animal testing was fully nonexistent from that point forward, what might the world look like?
  • $\begingroup$ “what if” questions are generally too broad for this site. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Nov 19 '16 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz Hmm. Any ideas how to narrow down the question then? $\endgroup$ Nov 19 '16 at 7:49
  • $\begingroup$ We would be still hunter gatherers. And as ethical side of the question you can tell him that we where good at eliminating species other that humans at that hunter gatherer stage, as our ancestors knew nothing about big picture of the world, and they didn't care about that. We still good at eliminating species, but we begin to care about that, as we begin to see bigger picture. Eventually at some point we will discontinue animal testing, and some testing animals will just extinct because we do not need them any more. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Nov 19 '16 at 11:57
  • $\begingroup$ Because it is locked now, an answer as comment: If we only talk about animal testing (animal hunting strictly for food and survival still allowed), progress would have been unimpeded in most other sciences. Only in biology we would be struggling very hard in the fight against sicknesses because we have only two options: dead organisms or volunteering humans. Being extremely careful means that many live-saving methods and substances will be found only much later, if at all. If humans decide to take the consequences, human population would be much, much lower at each timepoint in history. $\endgroup$ Nov 19 '16 at 20:54

Humanity spread across the globe over the course of about 29,000 years, encountering terrain from deserts to tundra to tropical jungle. In each new area, they would have needed to find edible plants to forage, since the start of this expansion predated the earliest developments of agriculture by a good 31 millennia. As a starting point, they might have watched other animals to see what they ate, and then followed suit.

So, from that standpoint, it could in part be argued that without animal testing, we'd still be confined to the African Savannah. ^_~

More seriously, many of the medical and scientific advances in the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution involved experimentation with animals. For example, doctors learned about the function of various organs by literally vivisecting living animals and studying their function hands-on before their subjects inevitably died. Not really something you can get away with doing to a person.

As a specific example, there was a famous discovery in 1780 by Luigi Galvani, who observed that frog legs would twitch if exposed to an electric spark. This led to new understanding in how muscles and nerves worked, and eventually to the field of bioelectromagnetics.

And as a non-medical example, some of the early experiments that led to the discovery and isolation of oxygen involved putting mice or other critters in confined containers and then measuring how the air in the container changed as they suffocated. Comparing these results to the results produced by a lit candle in the same container led to the discovery that respiration and combustion drew on the same source.

There are probably similar examples going all the way back to antiquity, if not prehistory. Mankind has been tied to its animals for thousands of years, and we're incredibly observant, so I'm certain we've been studying and watching and experimenting with and on our animals since the first wolves decided it was easier to live with us than compete against us.

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    $\begingroup$ Luigi Galvani first observed that the muscles of a dead frog will contract if touched with a scalpel charged with static electricity, then he noticed that there is no need to charge the scalpel, it is enough for the scalpel to be connected to the metal tray on which the dissected frog was placed. His contemporary (and sometimes rival) Alessandro Volta successfully replaced the frog with a piece of paper soaked in acid -- the first electric battery. Hence our words "galvanic circuit" and "voltage". $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 19 '16 at 11:31

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