Animal Research in Switzerland in 2020

November 12th 2021

We have translated the statistics for animal research conducted in Switzerland in 2020 and these data are summarized below. Overall, there were 556,107 animals used in research and animal testing in Switzerland in 2020 — a 2.8% decrease compared to 2019.

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The collection of statistical data on animal use are undoubtedly useful for some purposes but they also have major limitations with respect to informing meaningful and serious consideration of the ethical use of animals in research. Switzerland’s 2020 statistics are a good example of this. Why did the number of amphibians and reptiles used in Switzerland increase by 1049% compared to the previous year? No explanation is provided by the FSVO.

Most of these animals were involved in basic research (58%), with “discovery, development and quality control” being the next most common (20%). The remainder were used for other reasons including disease diagnosis, education and training and protecting the environment. Mice were again the most prevalently used species (61%).

87% of the animals used in research and testing was conducted on mice, rats, fish, and birds, similar to other European countries. Primates (190), cats (1472) and dogs (4594), which often receive special attention in the media and by the public, together accounted for 1% of all research animals, with an overall increase of 3725 animals from 2019 for these species.

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Severity in Switzerland works in the follow way (Translated definitions of the severity grading procedure for animals used in experiments in Switzerland):

The following four categories are used for constraints on animals resulting from procedures or measures in the context of animal experiments:

  • Severity grade 0: no constraint: Procedures and actions performed on animals for experimental purposes that do not inflict pain, sufffering or harm on the animals, engendr fear or impair their general well-being;
  • Severity grade 1: mild constraint: Procedures and actions performed on animals for experimental purposes that cause short-term mild pain or harm or mild impairment of general well-being;
  • Severity grade 2: moderate constraint: Procedures and actions performed on animals for experimental purposes that cause short-term moderate or medium-long term mild pain, suffering or harm, short term moderate fear or short to medium-term severe impairment of general well-being;
  • Severity grade 3: severeconstraint: Procedures and actions performed on animals for experimental purposes that cause medium to long-term moderate pain or severe pain, medium to long term moderate harm or severe harm, long-term severe fear or a severe impairement of general well-being
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Pain, suffering and harm, were also measured and classified under four grades of severity; 0, 1, 2 and 3. In 2020, 42% of experiments were Grade 0, 28% were Grade 1, 26% were Grade 2 and 4% were Grade 3. These numbers are relatively consistent across time, with on average 70% of all animals being exposed to no or minor short-lasting pain and distress.

According to the Federal Veterinary Office, the BLV:

The increasing development of Severity 3 has been observed since 2013. As of 2018, it is partly due to the fact that severity levels in individual trials are rated higher than before. Of all animal experiments in this category, around 94 percent are research into diseases in humans.

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There was a steady downward trend in the number of animals used in research in Switzerland from 1983-1995, with numbers remaining reasonably constant thereafter.

3 thoughts on “Animal Research in Switzerland in 2020

  1. Dear Speaking of Research team,

    I’m the coordinator of the Swiss Animal Facilities Network and I follow your activities with great interest. I congratulate you on the work you are doing with Speaking of Research.
    I read with interest your last article on animal research in Switzerland and I would just like to come back to this comment you made:
    The collection of statistical data on animal use are undoubtedly useful for some purposes but they also have major limitations with respect to informing meaningful and serious consideration of the ethical use of animals in research. Switzerland’s 2020 statistics are a good example of this. Why did the number of amphibians and reptiles used in Switzerland increase by 1049% compared to the previous year? No explanation is provided by the FSVO.
    Actually, the FSVO mentioned this increase in its report and give an explanation for it (unofficial translation):
    In contrast, the number of amphibians used increased by 28,000 (all with a severity grade of 0), but this increase was due to a single experiment conducted in the field of nature conservation.
    The report is available here (in French, German and Italian).
    I hope you will take note of this clarification and add it to your article. I remain at your disposal if you need any further information.

    Sincerely,

    Anne Planche

    1. Anne,

      We read both the news link as well as the official statistical report in German and cannot find the information that you mention.

      https://www.tv-statistik.ch/de/statistik/index.php
      https://www.blv.admin.ch/blv/de/home/dokumentation/nsb-news-list.msg-id-84895.html

      If you could point us to that information, we would consider updating the article. It is worth also reflecting though, that if we could not easily find that information on the BLV website, other interested parties might not be able to.

      Best Wishes,
      Jeremy Bailoo

      Reply

      1. Dear Jeremy,

        Thank you for asking back.

        Here is the link to the FSVO webpage on animal experimentation:
        https://www.blv.admin.ch/blv/de/home/tiere/tierversuche.html
        Then click on “Bericht Tierversuchsstatistik 2020”. You can find the information regarding the increase of the number of amphibians under the point “Weniger Mäuse in Tierversuchen eingesetzt”:
        “Hingegen wurde ein Anstieg von rund 28 000 Amphibien (alle im Schweregrad 0) beobachtet. Dieser Anstieg ist allerdings auf einen einzigen Versuch im Bereich des Naturschutzes zurückzuführen.”

        It is true that you cannot find this information in the press release (to which the link you put in your answer refers), but only in the report, which presents more detailed figures.

        Thank you for your consideration and best regards,

        Anne

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