Improving Animal Welfare

Rats in a cage with bedding and a shelter

Researchers have refined these rats’ habitat by providing bedding material, shelter, and a chew toy. Image Understanding Animal Research.

In 1959, William Russell and Rex Burch published The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique. In it they suggested that researchers can make their experiments more humane by taking the following steps:

  • Reduce the number of animals: Researchers should study the minimum number of animals needed to obtain statistically valid results.
  • Refine the procedure: Researchers should improve research techniques to make them less painful or distressing to animals.
  • Replace animals with non-animal methods: Whenever possible, researchers should answer scientific questions using non-animal methods such as computer models, cell cultures, or chemical tests.

Researchers practice reduction, refinement, and replacement as much as possible but sometimes animal research is the only way to answer a particular scientific question.

Want to learn more?