Stressful tests More animals being used in Swiss research

Rodents account for 72% of animals used in experiments in Switzerland.

(Keystone)

Scientific experiments using animals have been climbing: in 2015, 682,000 animals were used in Swiss research, a 12.5% increase over 2014. Experiments involving high levels of stress for the animal subjects are also on the rise.

Switzerland’s federal veterinary office said in a statement on Thursday that the increase in animal experiments was linked to studies involving large herds of animals and to species conservation projects.

According to the dataexternal link (in French), fish (+23,000 compared with 2014), amphibians (+25,000), genetically modified mice (+22,000) and poultry (+11,000) have been used in particular for these kinds of studies.

In Switzerland, the degree of stress inflicted on research animals is measured on a scale from zero (none) to three (high-stress). The chart below shows the stress levels for research animals in 2015. 

Nearly two-thirds of animal experiments in 2015 were done for basic biological research. In the field of medical diagnostics, the number of animals used decreased by a half (3,600 in total).

The report noted that no animals were used to test cosmetics or tobacco products. In addition, as parliament announced in March, Switzerland will continue to prohibit the marketing of cosmetics already tested on animals in other countries.

Weighing up benefits

To do animal experiments in Switzerland, researchers must submit a request to their cantonal authority. They must prove that the advantages that society could reap from the intended experiment outweigh the disadvantages (i.e. animal stress and/or suffering).

Researchers must also prove that there is no substitute for animals in the experiment and that the stress inflicted is minimised.  

Requests are then evaluated by a cantonal commission of experts and representatives of animal protection organisations. The veterinary office can appeal against the cantonal authorities.

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