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The University of Zurich conducts research involving animals to better understand health and diseases in humans and animals, as well as to develop new treatments. UZH is committed to exemplary keeping of animals, proper training of the staff involved, careful planning of experiments, and exercising every opportunity to mitigate distress for the animals.
Modern medicine has made advances that have brought great benefits to society - especially thanks to animal experiments. Without laboratory experiments on animals, the discovery of insulin and antibiotics, for example, or the development of vaccines, treatments for cancer and cardiovascular disorders, as well as modern surgical and diagnostic methods, would not have been possible. The University Medicine Zurich flyer contains information on the key principles of medical research involving animals.
Flyer: Forschung mit Tieren: Wichtig für Fortschritte in der Medizin (in German)
The University of Zurich understands that many people take a critical view of experiments on animals and that they only accept such experiments in certain circumstances. Wherever possible, UZH uses animal-free methods and only uses animals in research when other methods are not possible.
Position Statement "Research Involving Animals at UZH"
The UZH Policy on Research Involving Animals obliges researchers to adhere to strategic principles and guidelines when conducting research with animals. The respectful, knowledgeable and responsible treatment of animals as well as the consistent application of the 3R principles (Replace, Reduce, Refine) are central.
UZH Policy on Research Involving Animals
The University of Zurich understands the great responsibility that comes with any research involving laboratory animals. It promotes and demands that researchers and animal caretakers treat animals with respect, expertise and responsibility.
In 2020, 556,107 animals were used for animal experiments in Switzerland, 2.8% fewer than in 2019. According to statistics of the Federal Office for Food Safety and Veterinary Services, nearly 72% of the animals used in Swiss university and industry laboratories were mice (62.3%) or rats (9.5%). More than two thirds of the animals (70.3%) experienced no or only slight distress. 26.2% of the animals were exposed to moderate distress and 3.5% to severe distress.
Animal Research in Numbers
As is the case with all experiments on animals, the use of animals in research studies is only approved after the cantonal authorities have conducted an extensive review. The Commission on Animal Experimentation performs an evaluation of interests for every animal testing application submitted. In this evaluation, the benefits of the proposed study are weighed against the distress caused to the animals. The commission only recommends that the Cantonal Veterinary Office grant the request when the benefits prevail. In addition, the Commission on Animal Experimentation and the Cantonal Veterinary Office assess compliance with the 3Rs principle.
3Rs Principle: Replace, Reduce, Refine
Dozens of different research projects involving animals are currently underway at UZH. Some selected research projects exemplify how and why animals are used for scientific studies.
Ongoing Research Projects
In 2020, a total of 190 non-human primates were used in research projects in Switzerland. This comprises 0.03% of all animal testing and represents a decrease of almost 19% compared to the previous year.
Research Involving Primates