The pharmaceutical industry is trying to drive the stake through the heart of Hans Ruesch’s ghost
Zurich, Switzerland–Swiss voters on February 13, 2022 crushed a proposed national ban on biomedical research using animal or human subjects by a margin of 21% for, 79% against.
Switzerland has some of the strictest animal protection laws in the world, including a law specifically protecting goldfish, and formed humane societies in Bern in 1844, Balse in 1849, and Zurich in 1856, long before the creation of the American SPCA in New York in 1866.
Switzerland was also home to the Center for Scientific Information on Vivisection [CIVIS]a now dormant but once powerful global network of organizations founded in 1974 by former racing driver, novelist and anti-vivisectionist author Hans Ruesch (1913-2007).
(See Fauci vs. the White Coat Waste Project: Did Hans Ruesch Start the Conflict?)
Proposed animal use bans fail by increasing margins
Yet Swiss ballot proposals to ban animal testing have now failed four times in 37 years and have actually lost support overall.
The first such ballot proposal, in 1985, won the approval of 30% of voters. The second, in 1992, garnered 44% support, but a similar proposal placed on the ballot a year later, in 1993, garnered only 28% approval.
Ruesch and CIVIS were in the period 1985-1993 at their height of political, economic and cultural influence.
The Ruesch-led movement imploded
Although the CIVIS chapters founded around the world in support of Ruesch were among the most active incubators of animal rights activism, they later lost much of their momentum and leadership to others. organizations, while Ruesch himself found himself embroiled in often one-sided conflicts with perceived rivals.
Ruesch ultimately lost a protracted libel suit brought by the Italian League against vivisection.
CIVIS has all but disappeared, but the Swiss anti-vivisection movement that Ruesch built persists, rebuilt in large part by vegan internal medicine specialist Renato Werndli, MD
Unlike Ruesch, a sport hunter who ate meat and vehemently distanced himself from vegan animal advocacy, Werndli puts vegan animal rights advocacy at the forefront of his anti-vivisection efforts, including as co-chair of the campaign. to put the 2022 proposal to ban animal testing and human testing on the Swiss ballot.
“We will meet tomorrow to plan the next initiative,” Werndli told media after the failed 2022 ballot proposal.
Non-human primates lose in Basel
But in addition to the national defeat, Werndli and other Swiss anti-vivisectionists also suffered defeat in Basel, Switzerland’s third-largest city, where voters rejected a local ballot measure that would have recognized the basic rights of all non-human primates in the cantonal constitution.
Historically, most Swiss electoral measures favoring animals have been passed, often with lopsided margins. But there were other votes going in the opposite direction.
In Zurich, for example, the Swiss national capital, votes in 1992 approved the appointment of a legal adviser to represent the interests of animals in neglect and abuse cases.
Thirty years later, this remains the practice in Zurich, but voters nationwide rejected the idea in March 2010, 71% to 29%.
COVID-19 is eroding AV support
The crushing defeat of the 2022 proposal to ban animal and human testing could be attributed to two factors: public anxiety over the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic, which has tended to erode attitudes historically skeptical of many Swiss towards vaccination and vaccine research, and the ever-increasing economic influence of the Swiss pharmaceutical industry.
At the heart of Ruesch’s argument against the use of animals in biomedical research was his assertion that animals are so different from humans that no amount of animal experimentation can reliably produce results that can be extrapolated to humans.
Long before Ruesch, and long before Charles Darwin’s 1855 publication of The origin of speciesthis argument is at the heart of so-called “scientific anti-vivisectionism”.
Anti-Vaccines and Creationists
“Scientific antivivisectionists” have historically made common cause with opponents of vaccination, and with creationists, who reject the idea of evolution.
A public opinion study published in 2019, two years before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, showed that while 11% of Americans thought vaccinations were generally dangerous, a high number by global standards, 22 % of Swiss respondents thought vaccination was risky, and 33% of French respondents, a surprisingly high number in the country that welcomed vaccination pioneer Louis Pasteur (1822-1895).
Public opinion figures regarding the safety of vaccination are reflected in both the Swiss vote on the proposal to ban animal testing and in COVID-19 infection rates in the United States, in Switzerland and France.
The United States, according to Worldometer data, has 238,335 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 per million population; Switzerland has 296,446 cases per million inhabitants; and France has 333,968 COVID cases per million inhabitants.
The United States, with 38 times the human population of Switzerland and five times the human population of France, is now approaching 950,000 deaths from COVID-19, with a vaccination rate of around 70%; France has so far recorded 136,000 deaths from COVID-19, with a vaccination rate of around 76%; Switzerland has recorded 13,000 deaths from COVID-19, with a vaccination rate of around 80%.
As influential as the threat of COVID-19 may have been on Swiss voters’ views on the need for animal testing, however, the biggest influence was almost certainly economic.
Summary from Wikipedia, “The pharmaceutical industry in Switzerland directly and indirectly employs around 135,000 people. It contributes 5.7% of Switzerland’s gross domestic product and 30% of the country’s exports. In 2017, Switzerland was the second largest exporter of packaged medicines in the world, with around 11% of the global total, worth $36.5 billion.”
Pharmaceutical manufacturers Abbott, Bayer, Hoffmann-La Roche, Lonza Group and Novartis all have their global headquarters in Basel.
Another major pharmaceutical manufacturer, Alcon, is headquartered in Geneva.
Legislators and even humanitarian societies are listening
Leading the opposition to the ballot initiative to ban experimentation and testing on animal or human subjects was, predictably, pharmaceutical industry lobbyist Interpharma.
The Swiss Parliament also opposed it, including the right-wing Swiss People’s Party and the left-wing Radical-Liberal Party; the National Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation; and the very conservative and traditional Swiss Society for the Protection of Animals, the largest humane society in Switzerland, founded in 1861.
All argued that the Swiss national law on the protection of laboratory animals, adopted in 2008, offers animals used in experiments adequate protection against suffering.
Data from the Swiss Federal Office for Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs indicates that around 556,000 animals were used in Swiss laboratories in 2020, including 346,000 mice, 66,000 birds and 52,000 rats.
About 60% was used in biological research; the rest in education and product safety testing.
The numbers are believed to have peaked in 2015, and have been down a cumulative 18% since then.
But at least Switzerland has mice, birds and rats; the United States does not
It should be noted that the laboratory use of mice, birds and rats is monitored and regulated in Switzerland. Laboratory use of mice, rats, and birds is specifically exempt from record keeping and other requirements of US animal welfare law.
Mice, birds, and rats were originally defined as animals not protected by law in the United States Animal Welfare Law Enforcement Regulations promulgated by the Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. American Agriculture.
The United States Court of Appeals for Washington D.C. ruled in September 1998 that excluding mice, birds, and rats violated the intent of Congress in passing the Animal Welfare Act, but a 2002 amendment to the Animal Welfare Act introduced by Jesse Helms, former U.S. Senator from North Carolina, made permanent the definition of mice, birds, and rats as non-animals for purposes of animal welfare law enforcement animals.