Animal experimentation: are we allowed to do that? In this thematic portal, researchers of the Swiss Laboratory Animal Science Association give answers to frequently asked questions.

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Do animals also benefit?

Hund mit Pillengläsern
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All medicines, vaccines and medical products such as implants and artificial joints registered for veterinary medicine must of course have been tested for safety in animal experiments. Domestic, farm and wild animals therefore also benefit from animal experiments and the results and medicines obtained from them: Antibiotics, vaccines, anaesthetics, and painkillers are just a few examples among many. Polio was almost eradicated thanks to a vaccine originally derived from monkey cells. The same vaccine now protects chimpanzees in the wild from this disease. In addition, vaccines and medicines have been developed that also or exclusively benefit animals, such as vaccines against rabies or canine distemper. These, too, could only be developed thanks to animal experiments.

As with human surgery, animals sometimes need blood infusions during surgery if they have lost a large amount of blood during the procedure. That is why there are blood banks for dogs, for example, for which dogs donate blood. Experimental permits are also required for these blood collections from the donor animals, as the collection of samples is also considered an animal experiment in Switzerland. Patient dogs benefit from these animal experiments.

In the area of training, some knowledge can already be imparted with artificial models (synthetic plastics for anatomical studies or examination procedures). However, this is only possible up to a certain point because an animal to be examined is alive, it breathes, it moves and reacts. It may also not behave cooperatively if, for example, a veterinarian must take a blood sample. Such situations cannot be conveyed with an artificial model but requires an animal experiment.

Experiments to improve animal housing conditions must also be carried out with living animals. If, for example, new aviaries for keeping chickens in groups are being tested with the intention of increasing the welfare of the chickens, this cannot be simulated with computers, for example. Only the chickens housed in the test housing can show by their reaction to the new equipment to be tested whether it has a positive effect on their social and laying behaviour.

The same applies to studies with wild animals. If, for example, wild animal populations are examined to check the red lists, this is done within the framework of an animal experiment license, because the health status of endangered animal species and the distribution of their population must also be monitored. According to a Federal Council resolution, the Red Lists are to be revised every 10 years in order to provide information on the development of species.