3R Principle

In 1959, British scientists William Russel and Rex Burch published the book “The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique” in which they defined  the 3R Principle, a framework for experimental scientific work.

The goal of the 3R Principle is to avoid animal experiments altogether (Replacement), to limit the number of animals (Reduction) and their suffering (Refinement) in tests to an absolute minimum.

The 3R Principle now provides a road map for laboratory animal protection policies of many countries.

With the European Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, the internationally recognised 3R Principle was legally recognised for the first time in 2010. The provisions of the European directive and hence also the 3R Principle were implemented in German law in 2013 in the form of the amended Animal Protection Act and the Animal Protection Act for Test Animals.

In concrete terms this means that every scientist planning an animal experiment and applying for approval from the competent authorities must answer the following questions as part of the approval process:

  • Are there methods or strategies not entailing the use of animals ?
  • Is the number of used test animals reduced to an absolute minimum?
  • Is animal suffering kept to the very lowest level possible?

The competent authorities of the federal states responsible for authorising animal experiments check whether these questions have been answered in accordance to the current state of knowledge.

The 3R Principle and its recognition pursue the final goal of replacing animal experiments completely, as soon as this is scientifically feasible.


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