Animal testing

© Aurel Märki / SNF

Animal research provides essential insights that may lead to the development of new treatments in the long term. When conducting experiments, researchers must comply with the 3R principles (“replace, reduce, refine”).

Animal testing is the subject of much debate both among the public and in the research community. Research sheds light on basic biological processes, thus providing an indispensable basis for the subsequent development of new medical treatments. The insights gained benefit humans and animals alike. The SNSF funds high-quality research based on the latest advances in science and technology. Projects are not funded if they use outdated methods or are based on animal models that are unsuited to answering the research question. To enable meaningful conclusions, the animals' natural behaviour needs to remain as uninhibited as possible.

By setting such high standards for research projects, the SNSF is acting in accordance with the 3R principles. This guideline, issued by the research community itself, stipulates that researchers should, wherever possible, seek alternatives to animal testing (“replace”), use as few animals as possible (“reduce”) and minimise the distress of animals (“refine”). The research community is continually working on improvements, with the aim of conducting as few experiments involving animals as possible.

Stringent Swiss standards

Animal protection laws in Switzerland are very strict compared with other countries. Each individual animal to be used in an experiment needs to be approved. Cantonal animal testing commissions have been mandated by parliament to weigh the probable suffering of the animals against the possible benefits to humans of the knowledge gained from the experiment. The SNSF only finances projects for which an animal experiment permit has been issued.

For animal testing conducted abroad, the SNSF also requires appropriate, country-specific approval that is comparable to Swiss standards. At the same time, it supports the continuation of animal testing in Switzerland as preferable to outsourcing these experiments to research institutions abroad.