University of Vermont

Research and Animal Welfare

The "3 R's" of Russell & Burch

The "3 R's" refers to a study published in 1959 by a zoologist, W.M.S. Russell, and a microbiologist, R.L Burch, in which the authors systematically reviewed ethical aspects and "the development and progress of humane techniques in the laboratory."

The 3 R's are referenced in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals as an "internationally accepted approach for researchers to employ when deciding to use animals in research."

  • Replacement: Has the scientist considered the use of a non-sentient model, such as "lower" organisms (e.g. metazoans, microorganisms or higher plants) or cell cultures to reach the scientific objective?
  • Reduction: Does the study obtain the best quality and most precise information obtainable using a minimal number of animals? This involves careful experimental design and consultation with a statistician.
  • Refinement: Does the research utilize methods to reduce or eliminate distress experienced by the animals (examples are the appropriate use of post-operative analgesia, or use of non-invasive imaging techniques to make experimental measurements).

Reference: Russell, W.M.S. and Burch, R.L., The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, Methuen, London, 1959.

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