The Beginning: 1982

The foundation was created on the private initiative of the two namesakes, Hildegard Doerenkamp († 2011) and Prof. Gerhard Zbinden († 1993), then head of the Institute for Toxicology of the Federal Institute of Technology and the University of Zurich in Schwerzenbach/Zurich.

For a long while H. Doerenkamp had already been looking for a starting point through which she could become pro-active in animal protection and science. In 1982 she happened to see a televised interview with G. Zbinden, a renowned toxicologist
and co-founder of the subject. In this report, Prof. Zbinden criticised the legal requirement of determining the so-called lethal dosage (LD50) of every new medication. As a toxicologist he rejected the painful killing of hundreds of mice and rats in order to test the safety of new drugs and also some chemicals. He argued that these procedures carried only little weight in the appraisal of the dangers of active substances and chemicals.

Touched by this interview, H. Doerenkamp contacted G. Zbinden and told him of her wish to donate part of her wealth towards the improvement of the experimental animals’ lot. As she had always stood in close contact with animals throughout her long life and it was her goal to give something of her positive experiences with animals as companions back to them in the form of directed protection of animals in research.

G. Zbinden felt the elimination of all animal experiments could not be achieved politically and could not be ratified scientifically. Instead, he was looking for support and help in preventing foolish, superfluous and predictably unproductive animal experiments and to reduce animal suffering in necessary experiments.

Subsequently, H. Doerenkamp began to support toxicological research at Prof. Zbinden’s institute financially, to observe the experiments and to discuss the aims and purposes behind them with the scientists, especially G. Zbinden. These intense discussions between the two benefactors of the foundation, the lay-person and the scientist, resulted in new perspectives for the scientist, e.g. that animals which are under stress or feel pain show different patterns of behaviour and performance than under conditions of a stable, calm and safe environment.

After a few years, the mutual understanding had grown so much that H. Doerenkamp and G. Zbinden agreed to enter their individual “assets” into a common foundation: H. Doerenkamp gave her emotional will and intuitive perception, as well as her capital, G. Zbinden entered his vast scientific and experimental experience and his organisational talent.