In order to carry out animal research in the UK, researchers must demonstrate that they have considered the ‘3Rs’ in the design of their experiments.
The 3Rs are:
- Replacement refers to methods that avoid or replace the use of animals in an area where they would otherwise have been used.
- Refinement refers to improvements to scientific procedures and husbandry which minimise actual or potential pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm and/or improve animal welfare in situations where the use of animals is unavoidable.
- Reduction refers to methods which minimise animal use and enable researchers to obtain comparable levels of information from fewer animals or to obtain more information from the same number of animals, thereby reducing the future use of animals.
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is one of the funders of the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), which provides a UK focus for the promotion, development and implementation of the 3Rs in animal research and testing. NC3Rs are also asked to provide 3Rs and animal welfare review of the small number of research proposals that BBSRC receives that involve the use of cats, dogs, non-human primates or members of the horse family.
BBSRC funding and animal welfare
BBSRC also funds 3Rs research directly including by encouraging researchers whose focus of research may not be the 3Rs to look for opportunities within their proposed programmes of research to improve animal welfare and/or to integrate the principles of the 3Rs. Two of BBSRC’s strategic priorities are relevant in this respect The replacement, refinement and reduction (3Rs) in research using animals and Welfare of managed animals.
BBSRC-funded researchers who use animals in their research are encouraged to keep themselves aware of developments in good practice, in animal research and animal welfare. There are a number of documents and resources available as a starting point on the NC3Rs website.