ORI Introduction to RCR: Chapter 4. The Welfare of Laboratory Animals
There is a range of views about the morality of animal experimentation. Antivivisectionists hold that humans have no right to place their own welfare above the welfare of animals and therefore all animal experimentation is immoral. Many animal welfare organizations find that some scientifically necessary experimentation is acceptable, but that it should be kept to a minimum and conducted on animals low on the phylogenetic scale, in ways that minimize pain and suffering. Many scientists feel that extensive animal experimentation is necessary and moral, provided it is based on sound scientific practices and utilizes quality animal care, along with minimization of pain and distress.
To help researchers and IACUCs make decisions about the responsible and appropriate use of animals in research, the Federal government has adopted nine Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals used in Testing, Research, and Training (see box, next page). These principles specify requirements for planning and conducting research and are useful to investigators and IACUCs. When questions arise, PHS policy and USDA regulations provide further criteria for researchers and IACUCs to consider in assessing protocols.
Further practical advice on ways to assure appropriate respect for animals can be found in the “three Rs of alternatives” devised by Russell and Burch in 1959:
- Replacement—using non-animal models such as microorganisms or cell culture techniques, computer simulations, or species lower on the phylogenetic scale.
- Reduction—using methods aimed at reducing the numbers of animals such as minimization of variability, appropriate selection of animal model, minimization of animal loss, and careful experimental design.
- Refinement—the elimination or reduction of unnecessary pain and distress.
Although PHS Policy is not explicit in addressing refinements,the requirements to use appropriate animal models and numbers of animals and to avoid or minimize pain and distress are, for all practical purposes, synonymous with requirements to consider alternative methods that reduce, refine, or replace the use of animals. USDA animal welfare regulations require a written narrative of the methods used and sources consulted to determine the availability of alternatives.
Knowing the concerns society has about the use of animals in research, researchers should be prepared to explain why they are using a particular species in their research; why pain or discomfort cannot be avoided; why it may be necessary to sacrifice the animals; and why non-animal options cannot be used to gather the same information or to achieve the same ends, based on the principles set out in the U.S. Government Principles and other sources of guidance.