The federal popular initiative entitled “Yes to a ban on animal and human experimentation – Yes to research methods with impetus for safety and progress” aims to ban any experiments on animals and humans, as well as the import and export of products such as drugs on which animal and/or human experiments have been carried out. The acceptance of this initiative would therefore lead to a de facto ban on medicine and research.
Ban on medicine
The initiative would prevent people and animals in Switzerland from benefiting from any future medical advances. This would mean that new treatments developed thanks to scientific and medical progress would no longer be available. These therapies could be used neither for the Swiss population nor for pets, farm animals or other animals. In the university hospitals, clinics and medical and veterinary practices, methods for diagnosis and treatment that could alleviate pain and save lives would thereby be forbidden.
Ban on research
Research with animals and clinical trials with people are a prerequisite for progress and innovation in numerous areas. The results benefit especially human and veterinary medicine, the environment and agriculture, as well as basic and behavioural research. The adoption of the initiative would render any kind of research that involves people and animals impossible. This also applies to specialist fields in human sciences, such as studies in psychology or pedagogy.
The legislation on animal testing in Switzerland is one of the most stringent in the world. The current legal framework guarantees ethically justifiable research. In experiments involving animals, the researchers are morally and legally obliged to apply the 3R principle: Replace, Reduce, Refine. This principle demands that animal testing should only be approved if no alternative method exists, the number of animals involved in the experiments is limited to the necessary minimum, and the experimental methods and housing conditions are as minimally stressful as possible. The aim of the researchers is not to work on animals but to try to understand and alleviate diseases, for example. The use of animal models remains necessary for research into serious diseases and the development of new medical treatments and procedures that can save lives and reduce suffering. In the case of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus), for example, no vaccine could or can be approved for human use without being reliably tested in animals and humans first.
The aim of medical research on humans is to understand the causes, the development and the impact of diseases, as well as to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The aim of the Federal Act on Research involving Human Beings (HRA) is to “protect the dignity, privacy and health of human beings involved in research.”. In particular, this legislation guarantees that in clinical research the interests of the individual human being should take precedence over the interests of science and society. The Helsinki Declaration was also signed by Switzerland.
In light of these considerations, swissuniversities recommends rejecting the initiative, since its adoption would result in extreme and harmful consequences for human and animal health care, research, knowledge and innovation
Additional information can be found here.