The Protection of the Dignity of Laboratory Animals in Switzerland
Different Procedures? Different Standards?
The article discusses the question whether Swiss law offers an equal level of protection for animals being used in research projects and those being genetically modified and bred for these projects. To answer this question the article argues, first, that animal dignity has a sacrosanct core content which prohibits highly cruel treatments or killing methods, denial of an animal’s essential natural needs as well as exclusive instrumentalization. However, a use that does not infringe the sacrosanct core can be justified by prevailing interests, as is the case within authorisation procedures of animal experimentation. During the approval procedure, the competent authority conducts a harm–benefit assessment to define, rate and evaluate the conflicting interests. Next, the article examines the issue of the breeding of genetically modified laboratory animals being subject to laxer requirements than other animal experiments. The projects are subject to a simplified procedure that does not include a “traditional” harm–benefit assessment. The article argues that the harm–benefit assessment is the key to a sufficient protection of laboratory animals and their dignity. Due to the purely “trailed” assessment as well as potential negligence in regard to reporting obligations regarding strains suffered by the animal, the application of the simplified procedure raises certain doubts as to whether it provides a sufficient protection of animal dignity. Moreover, it is argued that the breeding of genetically modified animals exclusively for test purposes constitutes an excessive instrumentalization of these animals. The article, therefore, weighs the instrumentalization against (human) interests, but holds that even if some prevailing interests are conceivable, the severe infringement of animal dignity cannot be justified.