Ethical considerations

Animals should be used only if the scientific objectives are valid, there is no other alternative, and  pain and suffering are kept to a minimum. The experiment should have a high probability of meeting the stated objectives, and these objectives should have a reasonable chance of contributing to human or animal welfare, possibly in the long term.  Experiments should also conform with any National  laws relating to the use of animals in biomedical research, and such conformity should be noted.

Two British scientists, Bill Russell and Rex Burch (pictured, Bill Russell on right) introduced the “3Rs” as a framework for considering the humane use of animals. (Russell, W. M. S. and Burch, R. L. 1959. The principles of humane experimental technique Special Edition, Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, Potters Bar, England).

Russell and Burch102



Animals should be replaced in experiments by less sentient alternatives such as invertebrates or in vitro methods whenever possible.


If animal experiments can not be avoided protocols should be refined to minimize any adverse effects for each individual animal. Appropriate anaesthesia and analgesia should be used for any surgical intervention. Humane endpoints should be used whenever possible.  Staff should be well trained, and housing should be of a high standard with appropriate environmental enrichment. Animals should be protected from pathogens.


The number of animals should be reduced to the minimum consistent with achieving the scientific objectives of the study, recognizing that important biological effects may be missed if too few animals are used. Alternatively, methods should be found to obtain more information from each experiment, thus speeding up the pace of research. This can be achieved by careful control of variation and by appropriate experimental design and statistical analysis; the subject of this web.

Web sites promoting the 3Rs

The National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction (wwww.nc3rs.org.ukww.nc3rs.org.uk)

Altweb, the Alternatives to Animal Testing Web Site, was created to serve as a gateway to alternatives news, information, and resources on the Internet and beyond (altweb.jhsph.edu).

The Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) has worked with scientists since 1981 to find new methods to replace the use of laboratory animals in experiments, reduce the number of animals tested, and refine necessary tests to eliminate pain and distress. (caat.jhsph.edu)

FRAME (Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments) (www.frame.org.uk)

A guide to searching for alternatives is available on the FRAME web site

The Dr. Hadwen Trust "... opens the doors to its Science Room website at

The Norwegian Reference Centre for Laboratory Animal Science & Alternatives provides extensive additional information including two databases compiled by Karina Smith covering audio-visual alternatives and books on laboratory animal science.