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.


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© Keith Mann