A vote aiming to make experimentation on animals and humans illegal has passed the first official hurdle. Late last week, the administration gave the initiative a green light after validating 123,640 signatures, a number exceeding the 100,000 minimum.
Launched by a group in the canton of St. Gallen in 2017, the initiative aims to make animal testing a crime under Swiss law. In addition, it aims to ban the import and export of any products resulting directly or indirectly from such testing.
An exception would be made if the experiment is likely to benefit the animal or human being experimented on.
Currently, animal testing is only allowed if no alternative is available. According to the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO), Switzerland has some of the most comprehensive rules on animal welfare in the world. Each individual animal experiment applied for is examined by a cantonal committee on animal experimentation. Researchers must demonstrate that the benefits to society are greater than the distress suffered by the animals involved.
According to some, such as swissuniversities, an association of Swiss universities, the initiative is extreme and will put the brakes on research and stand in the way medical advancement.
While, for ethical reasons, research based on computer modelling and in vitro testing is used where possible, certain fields such as oncology, neuro-rehabilitation and immunology still require animal testing, says the association.