What Is 3Rs Research?

The tasks and goals of 3Rs research in overview

Fifty years ago two British scientists, zoologist Bill Russell and microbiologist Rex Burch, proposed the ”3Rs” principle as a guideline to alleviating the suffering of lab animals and, hopefully, decreasing or even eliminating animal experimentation:

  • Replace animal experiments by animal-free methods
  • Reduce both the number of experiments requiring animals and the number of animals per experiment
  • Refine research methods in a manner that minimises distress suffered by animals and optimises the results yielded by the experiments

Following this concept, legislators, industry, research and animal welfare organisations develop and implement alternative and complementary methods throughout the field of animal experimentation. The three main areas of 3Rs research are:

  1. Obligatory animal tests required by law e.g. in the approval of pharmaceuticals or chemical substances or the routine testing of vaccines
  2. Developing animal-free methods for basic research
  3. Teaching and propagating animal-free methods