Animal associations

Swiss voters reject animal testing ban

About 556,000 animals were used for experimental purposes in Switzerland last year, according to the Federal Office for Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs. The vast majority were mice (346,000), birds (66,000) and rats (52,000). © Keystone / Gaétan Bally

Voters clearly rejected a complete ban on experiments on living beings in Switzerland. This is the fourth time that the Swiss have rejected this problem.

This content was published on February 13, 2022 – 16:37

A first projection published by the GfS institute showed that 79% of voters said “no” on Sunday to a popular initiative to ban all experimentation on animals and humans, and to stop the import of any new product developed in using such tests.

Advocates had wanted to stop the tests, saying they were unethical and unnecessary, but faced opposition from the country’s powerful pharmaceutical lobby, which warned of the economic damage such a ban would cause. could cause.

The committee that fought the initiative rejoiced in Sunday’s resounding victory.

“The Swiss people realized that a ban would have threatened animal and human health,” Lucerne Senator Andrea Gmür told the Keystone-SDA news agency.

The result was slightly higher than expected, said Swiss People’s Party parliamentarian Martin Haab.

“It shows that people were aware of the consequences for their health if the initiative had been accepted,” he said.

Simone de Montmollin, a radical-liberal parliamentarian and member of the “No” committee, agreed that voters had been sensitive to arguments that a ban on animal experimentation would have harmed the research and health sectors in Switzerland. .

“Swiss legislation is very strict and continues to evolve,” she said.

During the campaign, public support for the initiative was very limited and the initiative committee was unable to win the support of a single major party or political organization. It was deemed too extreme by parliament, which feared it would hamper medical and scientific research in Switzerland. He argued that current legislation, which only allows animal testing if no alternative method is available, is strict enough.

Other opponents of the initiative included the umbrella organization for universities, swissuniversities, the National Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Society for the Protection of Animals.

Disappointment

Campaigners for the initiative had argued that in addition to animal suffering, animal experiments often lead to dead ends and that there are proven alternatives and better ways to gain knowledge.

Renato Werndli, co-chairman of the committee that launched the initiative, said he was disappointed with Sunday’s outcome.

“It’s a shame. Switzerland could have been the first country to ban animal testing,” he told Swiss public radio RTS.

“I don’t understand why people haven’t had more empathy for the animals that continue to suffer,” he added. “We tried to convince people with scientific facts, but they didn’t believe us.”

It was the fourth time that the Swiss rejected popular initiatives calling for a ban on animal testing; they had done it before in 1985, 1992 and 1993.

But activists say they won’t give up.

“Animals can’t defend themselves – we can’t let them down,” Werndli said. He plans to revive the issue in a few years. “We will meet tomorrow to plan the next initiative.”

Biology research

About 556,000 animals were used for experimental purposes in Switzerland last year, according to the Federal Office for Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs. The vast majority were mice (346,000), birds (66,000) and rats (52,000). The total figure represents an 18% drop from 2015, when the downward trend began.

In Switzerland, most animal experiments are carried out by companies and at universities. In 2020, more than 60% of these procedures were carried out in the context of fundamental research in biology, such as the testing of scientific hypotheses or the removal of cells and organs.

Federal animal welfare legislationExternal link, which came into force in 2008, is one of the strictest and most comprehensive in the world. Permission is required for any laboratory experiment, and for any animal confinement. Researchers must prove that the benefits to society outweigh the suffering inflicted.

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