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.

Image: kwanchaift,

Who is responsible for animal welfare?


Who is responsible for the welfare of animals at research institutes?

Institutions that carry out animal experiments are required by law to employ animal welfare officers. These officers help researchers plan experiments or improve research methods so that the animals are subjected to as little stress as possible. The animal welfare officers support those conducting the experiments with their experience and knowledge, for example when it comes to questions about how to correct keep, handle or treat animals. They also monitor individual experiments and the housing of the animals and check whether the terms specified in the permits as well as the laws and ordinances are being followed. The animal welfare officers in Switzerland form a network to ensure an optimal exchange of experience and knowledge.

Do researchers know how to take care of animals?

All those who work with animals in experiments need training that is specific to each species. During their training, researchers learn about the behaviour of the species and how to handle the animals. They also learn to recognise whether an animal is doing well or if it is suffering. Those who want to perform complicated procedures require additional training.

A researcher may only carry out experiments and interventions for which he or she has been trained. All institutions where animal experiments are carried out have access to a veterinary service or external veterinarians who provide medical care for injured or sick animals. If necessary, veterinarians themselves perform interventions to ensure that the procedure is carried out in a professional manner.

Can people who carry out animal experiments like animals at all?

Definitely. It is actually very important that someone who works with laboratory animals has empathy for animals. Animal research personnel very often have an emotional relationship with the animals. Since larger animals such as dogs or cattle are closer to humans than, for example, mice, the bond with these animals is often closer. The emotional bond can also be a burden for the staff in some situations, particularly when animals must be killed for an experiment or if procedures must be performed that are stressful for the animal.

Apart from that, good science is based on good results. And good results are based on adequate animal husbandry and respectful treatment of the animals.