Animals in scientific research and alternative methods


Institutional Communication Service

29 May 2023

The first 'National Day for Laboratory Animals' will be held on 10 June 2023. In Switzerland, information stands will be set up in Zurich, Basel and Fribourg. In Ticino, the day will be a valuable opportunity to remind people of the importance of laboratory animals in scientific research. Alternative methods cannot yet replace many animal experiments. The public event "Animals in scientific research and alternative methods" will be held on 18 September 2023, from 9 am to 12:30 pm, at the East Campus Lugano in connection with the Swiss 3R Days 2023, which will be held in Southern Switzerland for the first time.

USI is a member of the Swiss 3R Competence Centre and one of the signatories of the Swiss Transparency Agreement on Animal Research (STAAR). The 3R (Replace, Reduce, Refine) principle requires that animal experiments are only approved if no alternative methods exist, if the number of animals involved in the experiments is limited to the minimum necessary, and if the experimental methods and living conditions are as stress-free as possible. Therefore, when these experiments are authorised, it means that there are no alternatives. At USI, these experiments are carried out to fight serious diseases, for example, at the affiliated Institute for Research in Biomedicine (coronavirus, influenza, ebola) and the Institute for Oncology Research (lymphomas, prostate cancer).


Animal experiments: the legal framework in Switzerland is state-of-the-art 

Switzerland has comprehensive animal protection legislation, and research in this field is strictly regulated. In the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, a Cantonal Commission for Animal Experiments examines every experiment before it is authorised, carefully weighing the benefits of the study against the discomfort caused to the animals. The Commission recommends that the cantonal veterinary office only grant the application when the benefits clearly outweigh the inconvenience. 


The objective of abandoning animal experiments must be achieved step by step, and Ticino is doing its part

Ticino is also active on the Replace front: several groups are actively involved in research projects aimed at replacing animal experiments with alternative cell culture systems (e.g. development and use of intestinal and tumour organoids, 'organs on a chip', cartilage and bone in vitro), and in-silico simulations offer promising prospects thanks to interdisciplinary approaches (combined with computational science, e.g. the creation of anti-tumour drug molecules in silico). A national research programme is underway to investigate how to reduce their number, but it is impossible to give up on them altogether.


A public event this September

On 18 September 2023, from 9 am to 12.:30 pm, a public event entitled "Animals in scientific research and alternative methods" will be held at USI East Campus Lugano. The event will feature researchers, ethicists, veterinarians and politicians to provide an overview of animal experiments in Switzerland and Ticino, the state of the art of the 3Rs at the national and international level and a round table discussion. The detailed programme can be found in the attached poster. The event is organised in connection with the Swiss 3R Days 2023, which will be held in Southern Switzerland for the first time.