What are the 3Rs principles?

The 3Rs are the guiding principles for animal experimentation in Switzerland today.

The 3Rs stand for Replace, Reduce, Refine and represent a responsible approach to animal testing. The goal is to replace animal experiments whenever possible. In addition, the aim is to keep the number of animal experiments as low as possible and to only use the necessary number of animals. Lastly, it is vital to ensure that the distress inflicted upon the animals is as low as possible.

  • Replace: Replacing an animal experiment to the greatest possible extent, as long as adequate alternatives are available.
  • Reduce: The reduction of animal experiments and the number of laboratory animals to the greatest possible extent. In so doing, it is important to use as many animals as are needed to obtain a statistically significant outcome. An adequate number of animals is required for the results to be sufficiently significant.
  • Refine: The methods and treatment of the animals during the experiments, and with regard to the way they are kept, should ensure that the distress caused to them is minimised to the greatest possible extent and that their well-being is taken into account as far as possible.

All three pillars are of equal importance in the 3Rs principles. Moreover, the experiments should be designed to cause as little distress as possible, by using or developing alternative methods (additional information is available in the section on the 3Rs principles). Anyone working, or conducting research with laboratory animals is obliged to comply with the 3Rs principles. Examples pertaining to all these three pillars can be found in the section on the 3Rs principles.

There are other Rs that are important in the field of animal experimentation:

  • Reproducibility: As a matter of principle, test results must be reproducible.
  • Relevance: This concerns the transferability of animal tests. For example, if only one sex is used in animal experiments, usually male animals, are the results transferable to the other sex?
  • Responsibility: This relates to the responsibility of any persons involved in the experiment for the well-being of the animals and for the proper conduct of the experiment.
  • Respect: This refers to the respect anyone involved in the experiment is required to show for the creatures involved.