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Swiss Supreme Court rules against researchers in landmark case for the protection of primates


Press release - 16 October 2009

Swiss Supreme Court rules against researchers in landmark case for the protection of primates

The Swiss Supreme Court ruled this week against the Polytechnic School of the University of Zurich, which was appealing a decision to deny them the license for two scientific projects involving the use of primates.

The two neurological projects using macaques were aimed at studying learning processes and involved maximum suffering of the animals on the Swiss scale of severity. Originally submitted in 2006, the projects did not have any direct benefit for human health.

The researchers were planning to severely restrain the monkeys, deny them any access to water for 12 hours and implant devices into their brains before killing them.

The Zurich Cantonal Committee on Animal Experimentation lifted the researcher's authorisation in 2006, on the basis that the cost to the animals (pain, injury, intensive fear, significant disturbance of general condition) did not balance the benefits for humans. A three year legal battle followed, but at each stage the Swiss courts ruled in favour of the Cantonal Committee, until the Supreme Court finally halted the scientists' proceedings this week.

The Swiss Constitution and the Swiss Animal Welfare Act protects the dignity of animals. This concept protects them from unjustifiable suffering, but also humiliation and excessive use as research tools. This ruling practically bans the use of primates in basic research in Switzerland.

Animal Defenders International applauds the decision and calls on the EU to follow Switzerland's lead. A new Directive on animals in experiments is currently being discussed by the Council of Ministers. The European Parliament's report on the Directive, drafted by Neil Parish MEP, shamefully removed all restrictions on primates in experiments in May 2009.

In September 2007, the European Parliament adopted a Declaration co-originated by ADI calling for bans on the use of wild-caught primates and great apes, along with a timetable for phasing out the use of all primates in experiments. 55% of MEPs signed the Declaration, making it the most supported on an animal protection issue ever.

Jan Creamer, ADI Chief Executive, said: "This is a critical time as Europe decides on animal experiments. Our investigations have shown the terror that monkeys experience as they are torn from the wild, the grim conditions in the centres that provide primates for research, and the horrendous experiments that these animals endure in laboratories around the world. We welcome this key decision by Switzerland and urge the EU to act decisively to protect lab animals."


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