The 3Rs – Research in an ethical context

Dr. Judy MacArthur Clark

The 3Rs of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement were first described by William Russell and Rex Burch in their book “The Principles of Human Experimental Technique” in 1959. Their work was sponsored by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) as a systematic study of laboratory techniques and their ethical aspects. It was published in the UK but attracted little attention beyond academic interest for over 20 years.

However in the 1980s there was an awakening of appreciation that these principles offered a rational framework for advancing our ethical use of animals in a science-led manner which could contribute significantly to animal welfare. They unify concerns for better science with causing less harm to animals and underpin the supposition that good welfare enables good science. In 1993, the First World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences was held in Baltimore, USA followed by a second conference in 1996 in Utrecht. Now a regular event, the tenth conference (affectionately known as WC10) will take place in Seattle in 2017.


A common misconception of the 3Rs is that they refer only to Replacement – what may commonly be called “alternatives” to animals. However their meaning is more far-reaching and this presentation will consider those wider implications of promoting all the 3Rs in science, including in nutritional research, and provide examples.

To find out more about Judy read her biography here

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