Swiss voters strongly rejected a plan to make Switzerland as the first country to ban animal testing; according to the findings, 79 percent of voters opposed the ban.
Switzerland’s voters rejected a push to make it the first country to ban animal testing on Sunday.
According to official estimates, 21% of voters supported to ban animal testing, while 79% opposed the move.
On Sunday morning, polling places for in-person voting opened for two hours, although most people had already voted by mail.
The poll was part of the country’s direct democracy system, which sees several topics addressed to the voters each year.
“We are delighted with the clear rejection of this harmful initiative,” CEO of lobby group Interpharma Rene Buholzer said.
“It shows that the Swiss population recognise the central role of research for people’s health and for prosperity in Switzerland.”
Indeed, on Sunday, voters were asked to decide whether to increase financial assistance for local media and tighten cigarette regulations.
The outcomes of the referendums might have a substantial influence on two of the country’s key industries: pharmaceuticals and tobacco firms located in Switzerland.
Only 21% vote to ban animal testing
The initiative received 44% of the vote, with 21% in favor and 79% opposed.
If the decision had gone the other way, Switzerland would have been the first country to ban animal testing entirely.
Although the nation is not a member of the EU, its law is frequently aligned with that of the EU in order to ease commerce through membership in the single market.
The EU Cosmetics Regulation prohibits the sale of cosmetics containing substances that have been tested on animals. The identical legislation was enacted by the Swiss government in 2017.
Switzerland features a direct democracy-based political system in which voters vote on particular policy proposals, making it unique among affluent nations where representative democracy is more frequent.
“The rejection of the initiative in no way equates to approval of animal testing,” said Julia Baines at NGO PETA UK. “The Swiss initiative was not a simple referendum on animal testing but collectively sought a ban on human clinical trials and the manufacturing, export and import of products tested on animals.”
She stated that restricting access to animal-tested items imported into Switzerland was a “major concern” for the voting public.
“The number of animals used in tests across Switzerland has remained stagnant for almost 20 years,” said Dr Baines. “So we urge the Swiss government to work in parallel with the European Commission in developing an action plan to actively phase out animal testing in Europe, with coordinated milestones and ambitious yet achievable objectives that will incentivise change.”
Marina Pereira of NGO Humane Society International said, “Initiatives such as the referendum and the nearly unanimous European Parliament resolution to phase out animal testing show that this is a topic of great concern for the general public. The end of animal experiments is indeed something many scientists, animal advocates and members of the public would like to see.”
What exactly is the proposal to ban animal testing?
Voters were urged to approve a proposal to ban animal testing, which, if enacted, would have made Switzerland the first country in the world to implement the proposal.
Campaigners for animal welfare obtained enough signatures to place the question on the ballot.
Supporters of the ban argued the practice was needless and unethical, calling it “inexcusable.”
They suggest that researchers may develop new techniques for testing drugs and substances without using animals.
Opponents of the proposal to ban animal testing, including the Swiss parliament, claimed it would have far-reaching consequences for the discovery and manufacture of new drugs, vaccines, treatments, and chemicals.
Animal testing, according to pharmaceutical behemoths Roche and Novartis, is still required for the development of novel pharmaceuticals. Opponents of the proposal to ban animal testing have stated that if the legislation is passed, significant corporations may opt to leave Switzerland.
Every year, around 500,000 animals, including mice, rabbits, rats, and others, are murdered in labs in Switzerland.
Chemicals strategy of the EU
Animal rights groups are concerned about the possibility of more animal testing in the EU as a result of the European Commission’s chemicals policy, which includes increased Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) disclosure requirements. Among the measures include expanding REACH chemical safety assessment to compounds registered in yearly amounts ranging from 1 to 10 tonnes and revising REACH registration standards to allow for the identification of endocrine disruption.
They accused the Commission of “astonishing bias” in its public consultation on the modification of REACH in January, claiming that it requires respondents to acknowledge that non-animal testing is incompatible with human and environmental health.
The Commission answered that the consultation aims to gather input from stakeholders on how to best combine health and environmental protection with the need to ban animal testing.
Meanwhile, there is a continuous discussion regarding what European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) should do to increase regulatory usage of non-animal test techniques. Cosmetics Europe, a trade organisation, has encouraged the agency to engage in more communication with stakeholders about alternative testing methodologies and their regulatory acceptability.
According to a Pew Research Center poll, 52% of individuals in the United States reject the use of animals in scientific research, and other studies reveal that those who do tolerate animal testing do so primarily because they feel it is vital for medical development.
In 2008, despite continuous resistance from animal rights organizations, Switzerland established a federal legislation on animal protection.
It is hailed as “one of the strongest and most thorough” rules in the world, requiring approval for every scientific experiment and any animal captivity.
According to the legislation, researchers must demonstrate that the benefits to society outweigh the harm caused.
At least three states in the United States have enacted legislation prohibiting the use of animals in cosmetics testing. When an alternate test for cosmetics and personal care goods was available, California became the first state to eliminate animal testing in 2002.
India was the first country in South Asia to prohibit animal testing in the cosmetics industry in 2013.
According to a Down to Earth study, India abolished numerous animal tests in 2012, including the acute oral toxicity limit test and the oral mucosal irritation test, since they “may simply be replaced by computer models and testing on human or animal cells.”
In 2010, Israel passed legislation prohibiting the import and distribution of cosmetics that had been tested on animals. In 2013, a similar rule on the marketing of cosmetics tested on animals went into force in 27 European Union countries.