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The Three Rs

The Three Rs (3Rs) strategies of replacement, reduction and refinement of the use of laboratory animals

are key guiding principles for everyone involved in animal research and testing, and they permeate all

aspects of the work of ERBs. This chapter explains each "R", with examples; and examines how ERBs

can help to support and promote their application.

The 3Rs principles of humane experimental

technique were first set out by Russell and Burch

in 1959 and are now widely accepted in the

international scientific community and translated

into associated laws and guidelines. The 3Rs

have to be actively addressed, and the work of

the ERB can be pivotal in creating a "culture of

care" that provides a driver and fosters progress

in this respect.

Applying the 3Rs thoughtfully and consistently is

not only an ethical imperative to reduce or avoid

animal suffering, but is also vital in ensuring the

quality of science (see box below). As Russell

and Burch (1959) point out: treating animals in

the most humane way possible "is actually a

prerequisite for successful animal experiments".

Good animal welfare is essential for good science

The Three Rs (3Rs)

Replacement: methods or strategies that replace or

avoid the use of animals in research and testing.

Reduction: reducing the numbers of animals used to

the minimum necessary to achieve the scientific

objectives, for example by improving experimental

design and statistical analyses.

Refinement: refining scientific procedures and other

factors affecting animals (for example, transport,

housing, restraint) to reduce suffering and improve

the animals" welfare at every stage of their lives.

Good animal welfare is vital not only because of its positive effects on the animals, but because it is essential to

good science. This emphasises the importance of all the functions of the ERB.

When animals are stressed, they may appear outwardly normal but their physiology may be affected in a

number of ways (e.g. changes in heart rate and the levels of "stress" hormones in the blood). This can influence

the variability, reliability and reproducibility of scientific data.

Reducing animal suffering and improving welfare increases the reliability and reproducibility of data, which helps

to reduce the likelihood that experiments will have to be repeated, and can reduce the variability of results,

allowing smaller group sizes to be used.

What lay members should expect

Different ERBs may approach the 3Rs in different ways, but they key tasks are to:

 review how well the 3Rs are applied in project applications

 encourage and promote 3Rs initiatives and activities throughout the institution, encompassing all aspects of

laboratory animal care and use

 collect and disseminate 3Rs information within institutions and more widely.

At an institutional level, this may be done by the ERB itself or there may be one or more nominated individuals and

groups (active champions) where scientists, animal care and other staff with relevant expertise take responsibility

for leading on the 3Rs, working together to advance their implementation and provide information and advice to

others, keeping staff up to date with developments in good practice (see also RSPCA/LASA, 2010).


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