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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How many animal experiments are conducted?

Are there fewer animal experiments today than in the past?

Compared to the 1990s, the number of animals used for animal experiments today is much lower (see animal testing statistics). It is still not possible to replace all animal experiments, but more and more alternative methods are being developed. The number of licences is increasing because more research is being carried out in Switzerland overall. At the same time, however, fewer animals are being used per license today. Around two thirds of animal experiments are approved for basic research.

Die 3R-Prinzipien zeigen Wirkung: Die Anzahl Tiere in Tierversuchen hat stark abgenommen
Die 3R-Prinzipien zeigen Wirkung: Die Anzahl Tiere in Tierversuchen hat stark abgenommenImage: BLV/OSAV/FSVO

Will the number of animal experiments decrease in the coming years?

No, because research cannot do without the use of animals. As it looks today, this will not change in the future. Researchers must adhere to the 3Rs principle and use alternative methods, which already exist today and deliver reliable results. In addition, new methods are being developed all the time. However, there are scientific questions that are so complex that animal experiments are necessary. The number of animals used in experiments may even increase somewhat in the future because more and more research is being carried out overall, and new experimental methods such as genetically modified animals provide new approaches to investigate certain questions for the first time. In certain areas, such as safety tests, legal regulations still require the use of animal experiments. This is true in drug development as well as in ecotoxicology. It is therefore currently not foreseeable that the number of animal experiments will decrease in the next few years.

In recent years, changes in inclusion criteria and classification may have contributed to certain increases in the number of animal experiments in the annual statistics. Until some time ago, for example, the observation of wild birds with mini-tags or the capture of fish and tadpoles for marking and sampling (skin swabbing) were not counted as animal experiments. These wildlife studies serve nature conservation purposes and help us for example understand how many aquatic animals live in a particular body of water. These projects now count as animal experiments and the data are included in the animal statistics. This has led to a sharp increase in numbers in certain cantons.