How do we work with animals?

EPFL promotes the use of gentle handling techniques and trains animal caretakers and experimenters to avoid tail-handling whenever possible. © Selina Slamanig, GBS St. Gallen

EPFL promotes the use of gentle handling techniques and trains animal caretakers and experimenters to avoid tail-handling whenever possible. © Selina Slamanig, GBS St. Gallen

EPFL is committed to promoting high-quality research while fully respecting and advancing current ethical and legal standards. Sensitive to the welfare of animals, we fully comply with the Swiss legal framework, one of the most stringent in the world on the matter, and implement an internal policy with strict rules based on the 3R principles (Replace, Reduce, Refine) to ensure that:

  • Animals are treated in a responsible and ethical manner according to the most up-to-date approaches and under exemplary husbandry in specialized units;
  • Alternative methods are used whenever possible, and research with animals is only conducted when absolutely necessary;
  • Every person involved in research with animals receives proper qualifying training and continuous education;
  • Experiments are carefully designed using all possibilities to reduce the number of animals and potential stress they might experience.

A dedicated EPFL Animal Welfare Team and an internal ethical committee support and oversee all research with animals involving EPFL research groups in Switzerland and abroad, and provide ethical guidance to the community.

To learn more about the 3Rs, check the Swiss 3R Competence Center’s webpage.

In Switzerland, any experiment with animals is subject to authorization by the Cantonal Veterinary Office. Every authorization request submitted to the authorities and the Cantonal committee on animal experimentation must detail the purpose of the experiment, all experimental procedures to be followed, the maximum number of animals that will be involved, and the degree of severity to which the animals will be subjected.

From an ethical point of view, the application must specify the indispensability of the proposed experiments, thus allowing for the weighing of interests between knowledge to be gained through the experiment and prospective degree of distress experienced by the animals. Therefore, researchers are obliged to demonstrate the necessity and suitability of the intended experiments on animals. 

The Cantonal committee on animal experimentation, which includes animal-protection organizations, examines the application, clarifies any questions with the researchers and gives a recommendation to the Cantonal Veterinary Office: rejection, conditional acceptance (e.g. fewer animals, protocols must be revised) or acceptance.

According to the Federal Department of Home Affairs Ordinance on Training in Animal Husbandry and Handling of Animals, individuals who carry out or supervize animal experiments, must follow an introductory course in laboratory animal science (module 1). Supervisors (Study directors) also have to attend a second course (module 2) to acquire the expertise and techniques necessary to plan and supervise experimental protocols. Additionally, all researchers have to undertake continuous education courses on a regular basis.

EPFL’s Center of Phenogenomics employs a highly qualified team of animal caretakers © Bruno Marquis

EPFL is aware of and considers society’s concern for animal research and strives to answer these concerns with the highest possible standards of animal care and scientific rigor. EPFL is committed to carrying out and advancing best practices of animal research through education and training of students, researchers and animal caretakers.

EPFL supports the “swissuniversities policy for animal research” adopted on December 14th, 2016,  and the ethical principles and directives for animal experimentation established jointly by the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences and the Swiss Academy of Sciences.

To learn more about Research ethics at EPFL : Research ethics

The following structures ensure the best practice of research with animals conducted by EPFL researchers:

  • The Center of Phenogenomics (CPG) contributes to research through tailored services in animal experimentation and ensures the welfare of laboratory animals in compliance with regulations and ethics. The CPG employs a highly qualified team of collaborators who promote and ensure use of best practice in animal research, including an animal welfare officer, a veterinarian, several husbandry managers and teams of specialized animal caretakers.
  • The EPFL Animal Research Ethics Committee (AREC) performs an ethical review of animal experiments conducted abroad by EPFL researchers.