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In their 1959 publication, The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, William Russell and Rex Burch introduced the “3Rs” concept—reduction, refinement and replacement of animal use—as a noble effort to advance animal welfare standards and reduce animal use in science.
They proposed that researchers considering animal use in experimentation should make every effort to:
- Reduce the number of animals used in each experiment;
- Refine experiments so that they minimize animal pain and suffering; and
- Replace the use of animals with non-sentient alternatives.
Those in the scientific community generally use the term “alternatives” synonymously with Russell and Burch’s 3Rs.
The first two of the 3Rs should not be expected to be ends unto themselves. Reduction and refinement should only be viewed as steps taken toward the overall goal of replacement of animal use. Even if we reduce the number of animals used in experimentation and refine methods to make them more humane, many scientists conducting biomedical research are relying on animals to model human biology—and this is a problem.
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NAVS founded the International Foundation for Ethical Research more than thirty years ago to support graduate student scientists developing alternatives to the use of animals in product testing, biomedical research and education. Click here to learn more.