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The three Rs

The welfare of animals used in research is very important. There are good ethical, scientific, legal and economic reasons for making sure that animals are looked after properly and used in minimum numbers. The people who work in laboratories scientists, vets, animal carers are human beings like everyone else and have no desire to mistreat animals. For many of them it is their primary responsibility to look after the animals, and they work with laboratory animals because they are animal lovers. Many are also actively involved in developing scientific methods to reduce the need for animals or replace them entirely. Good science and good animal welfare go hand in hand. If an animal is suffering stress or pain it could affect the results of the research. So it makes good scientific sense to house animals in the best possible conditions and make sure they get the best possible care from skilled and experienced carers. What animals need is not always the same as what people think they need, so scientists are studying which environments different animals prefer. The guiding principles underpinning the humane use of animals in scientific research are called the three Rs. Any researcher planning to use animals in their research must first show why there is no alternative and what will be done to minimise numbers and suffering, ie:

Replace the use of animals with alternative techniques, or avoid the use of animals altogether. Reduce the number of animals used to a minimum, to obtain information from fewer animals or more information from the same number of animals. Refine the way experiments are carried out, to make sure animals suffer as little as possible. This includes better housing and improvements to procedures which minimise pain and suffering and/or improve animal welfare.

Combining the three Rs In some cases it is possible to develop a whole new way of conducting a test involving fewer animals. For example, the LD50 test was used for many years to find out how toxic chemicals

are. Scientists developed better tests, to do the same job but using fewer animals and designed so that none intentionally received a fatal dose. The LD50 is now banned in the UK. And a recent review conducted by the pharmaceutical industry showed that much of the data from single dose acute toxicity tests in rodents can be collected from other tests, meaning that fewer rodents are required in the development of new medicines.

Myths and facts


Here we list more than 20 common misconceptions about animal research and provide some facts to help you make up your mind on where you stand. See also our FAQs.

Research on animals is not relevant to people because animals are different from people. Animal research on animals is not relevant because people and animals suffer from different illnesses. Animal testing doesnt work and causes drug side effects. Medicines that work in people are toxic to animals and vice versa. There is an endless list of drugs that have to be withdrawn because of side effects and these side effects are a major cause of hospital deaths. The side-effects and subsequent withdrawal of the arthritis treatment Vioxx were due to animal tests. Animal research doesnt work and hasnt made any contribution to medical progress. The clinical trial tragedy (testing the medicine TGN1412) at Northwick Park shows that animal tests don't work. 25 years of primate research has failed to find vaccines, cures or treatments for AIDS. Systematic reviews demonstrate that animal studies are meaningless for human health.

Animals dont need to be used in research because there are alternatives. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can now be used on humans to get the same level of information as invasive brain studies in animals. Microdosing can replace animal safety tests. Vaccines and antibiotics have achieved nothing. Public health measures such as clean water and good sanitation are the solution to the problem of infectious disease. Many pointless, unnecessary animal experiments are carried out. Animal research is a cheap and easy option and is carried out for profit. Most research animals are cats, dogs or monkeys. There are no laws or regulations protecting laboratory animals. Researchers do not care about the well-being of laboratory animals. Laboratory animals suffer great pain and distress. Animals are used for testing cosmetics.

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Myths and facts


Here we list more than 20 common misconceptions about animal research and provide some facts to help you make up your mind on where you stand. See also our FAQs.

Research on animals is not relevant to people because animals are different from people.

Animal research on animals is not relevant because people and animals suffer from different illnesses. Animal testing doesnt work and causes drug side effects. Medicines that work in people are toxic to animals and vice versa. There is an endless list of drugs that have to be withdrawn because of side effects and these side effects are a major cause of hospital deaths. The side-effects and subsequent withdrawal of the arthritis treatment Vioxx were due to animal tests. Animal research doesnt work and hasnt made any contribution to medical progress. The clinical trial tragedy (testing the medicine TGN1412) at Northwick Park shows that animal tests don't work. 25 years of primate research has failed to find vaccines, cures or treatments for AIDS. Systematic reviews demonstrate that animal studies are meaningless for human health. Animals dont need to be used in research because there are alternatives. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can now be used on humans to get the same level of information as invasive brain studies in animals. Microdosing can replace animal safety tests. Vaccines and antibiotics have achieved nothing. Public health measures such as clean water and good sanitation are the solution to the problem of infectious disease.

Many pointless, unnecessary animal experiments are carried out. Animal research is a cheap and easy option and is carried out for profit. Most research animals are cats, dogs or monkeys. There are no laws or regulations protecting laboratory animals. Researchers do not care about the well-being of laboratory animals.

Laboratory animals suffer great pain and distress.

Most animal research involves mild procedures such as taking a blood sample, giving a single injection, or having a change of diet. If more invasive procedures are necessary, then anaesthetics and pain relief will be given whenever appropriate. It is in researchers interests to make sure animals suffer as little as possible; stressed animals are less likely to produce reliable results. All animal research must pass an ethical evaluation which weighs up its pros and cons and decides whether it is justified. The research then has to be approved by Home Office Inspectors, who are all doctors or vets and who ensure that high welfare standards are applied. Any animal suffering undue pain or distress that cannot be alleviated must be put down immediately and painlessly: this is the law.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can now be used on humans to get the same level of information as invasive brain studies in animals.

Functional MRI (fMRI) measures blood flow in different parts of the brain. It can be used in human volunteers without ill effect. But it does not give anything like the same level of detailed information that can be achieved by painlessly inserting electrodes into brain tissue in animal or human studies

Animal testing doesnt work and causes drug side effects.

Medicines are only tested on animals after extensive screening by computer and test tube methods. Animal tests show how the medicine reacts in the living body and detect toxic effects before it is given to human volunteers. Problems that will not be revealed by test tube results will often show up in animal tests. For instance, a medicine given by mouth may be altered by digestion, becoming less effective or more toxic. The animal tests aim to reveal major undesirable effects such as liver damage, raised blood pressure, nerve damage, or damage to the fetus. The results will give a strong indication of what the effects in people are likely to be. It is obviously important, and is required by law, to find out about potential problems before medicines are given to human volunteers and patients in clinical trials. The new medicine will be tested on around 15 times as many human volunteers as animals. Human clinical trials will involve testing a potential drug on 3-5,000 human volunteers and patients. If a side effect (affecting say 1 in 10,000 patients) shows up only after this stage, then it is difficult to see how it could have been spotted before.

Animals dont need to be used in research because there are alternatives.

We cannot yet reproduce complex diseases in a cell culture, get a computer to cough, or examine a whole beating heart in a test-tube. By law, animals must not be used in a research project if viable non-animal techniques are available. Most research is already carried out using these other methods. But we still need to use animals at some point. The living body is much more than just a collection of its parts; we need to understand how they interact. Humans can only be used in limited situations. Scientists have strong ethical, economic and legal obligations to use animals in research only when necessary. Thus the number of research animals used annually in the UK has almost halved in the last 30 years. As science progresses, it may be possible to reduce further the numbers of animals used in some areas. In other areas, the numbers of animals may increase. The guiding principles in animal research today are called the three Rs: Refinement, to make sure animals suffer as little as possible; Reduction, to minimise the number of animals used; Replacement, to replace animals with non-animal techniques wherever possible;

FAQs
What is the scope of Understanding Animal Research? Understanding Animal Research engages in the UK public debate about the use of animals in medical research. We do not get involved in related issues such as cosmetics testing (which is no longer carried out in the UK), GM foods, human cloning, use of animals for dissection in schools etc. Where does Understanding Animal Research get its information from? We try to make sure that all our information comes from reliable sources. We believe it is very important to get the facts right, because the facts should form the basis for debate. For information on advances in science and medicine, we usually refer to peer-reviewed original research papers in the scientific and medical journals, rather than secondary sources such as review articles or books, which can be misleading. We also refer to the very detailed figures on the use of animals in research that are published every year by the UK government. Why are animals used in research? There are three main reasons:

To advance scientific understanding, to develop solutions to medical problems, to protect the safety of people, animals and the environment.

Animals are used when there is a need to find out what happens in the whole living body, which is far more complex than the sum of its parts. It is very difficult, and in most cases simply not yet possible, to develop non animal methods to replace the use of living animals. Who uses animals in research? Most people carrying out the research are doctors, scientists, vets or trained animal carers, working in universities, hospitals, research institutes and pharmaceutical companies. Everyone who uses animals in research must have the necessary skills and training, and the research must be carried out in licensed premises. Is animal research necessary? We would be very unlikely to achieve many significant advances in scientific understanding or the prevention and treatment of diseases without animal research. We also need to use animals in safety testing to protect people, animals and the environment. Are animals too different from people for animal research to be valid? Obviously there are differences between animals and people. But under the skin, the biology of humans and other animals, particularly mammals, is remarkably similar. We have the same organs, controlled by the same nerves and hormones, as many other species. Where there are differences, researchers know about them, and such differences can actually help scientific understanding of a particular problem.Many animals suffer quite naturally from the same diseases as humans, and can be used to study those diseases. In other cases, researchers can use an 'animal model' of a disease which is close to the human condition. Has animal research contributed to medicine? Almost every major medical advance has depended on the use of animals at some stage in its research, development or testing. Examples include antibiotics, anaesthetics, insulin for diabetes, organ transplants, hip replacements, etc. Are there alternatives to using animals in research and testing? It has proved very difficult to develop non-animal methods to replace the use of animals in research and testing. Most progress has been made in the replacement of animals in safety testing. Once non-animal methods have been developed and validated, and are accepted by the regulatory authorities world wide, then they must be used in preference to the animal tests.Animal experiments are just one method in biological and medical research - research can also be done using cells, tissues, people, and high tech equipment. Some people regard these methods as alternatives, but they are really complementary methods that are used alongside

animal research to answer different sorts of questions. Animal research and testing accounts for a small propoortion of all biomedical research and testing. How is animal research regulated? Laws around the world vary. Usually they depend on either a local system (which may be voluntary) or on national controls administered by the government. The UK is the only country in the world to have both systems running at the same time. The strict controls under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 were added to in April 1999 with the introduction of the Local Ethical Review Process for animal research. There are also international regulations such as the European Directive 86/609. How is animal welfare protected in the laboratory? Researchers have good ethical, scientific and legal reasons to treat laboratory animals well and use them in minimum numbers. All animals must be properly housed, fed and cared for. Pain and distress must be minimised and the UK controls state that there must be a vet on call at all times. These controls also make sure that any animal suffering severe pain which cannot be alleviated is put down immediately. What are the three Rs in animal research? The three Rs are the guiding principles in animal research.

Reduction means that numbers of animals are minimised. Replacement means that non-animal alternatives are used whenever possible. Refinement means that animals are looked after properly and any pain or distress minimised.

What animals are used in research? Over three quarters of animals used in research are rodents - mice and rats. Fish, amphibians, birds, rabbits and larger mammals such as pigs and sheep are also used. Cats, dogs and monkeys together make up only about 2 in every 1000 research animals. How many animals are used in research? In 2010 (the last year for which figures are available) a total of 3.64 million animals were used in the UK. This is slightly less than the number of procedures (3.72 million) as animals are sometimes allowed to be used more than once. It is estimated that worldwide up to 60 million animals are used in research every year. Do animals suffer in research? Most animal research involves little more than injections, taking small blood samples, feeding or breeding studies. If animals undergo surgery, they get anaesthetics just like human patients. Pain

killers are given where appropriate and pain must always be minimised. But, if you are studying diseases such as cancer or arthritis which cause pain and suffering for patients, sometimes the research will cause animals to suffer. Is it ethical for humans to experiment on animals? Most people accept that, if animals are looked after properly in laboratories, and used in minimum numbers only when necessary, then it is ethically acceptable to use animals in medical research. If we stopped using animals, then it is difficult to see where the solutions to today's medical problems are going to come from. Is it right to deny these treatments to the patients who are suffering now and in the future? That would be the result if animal research were to be abolished immediately as called for by the animal rights groups. Do animals have rights? There are some people who believe that animals have equivalent rights to human beings. This would rule out their use as food, for clothing, in circuses etc. Some animal rights activists even believe that keeping animals as pets is like slavery. Clearly, as about 90% of people in most cultures eat meat, most do not believe that animals have such rights. Most people accept that animals have a right to be treated humanely, and that people have responsibilities towards animals to make sure they are properly cared for. This acceptance of the animal welfare ethic is quite different from giving animals equivalent rights to humans. Was thalidomide tested on animals? Animal rights groups often blame the thalidomide tragedy on animal testing. At that time (in the 1950s) it was not known for a drug to affect the fetus without affecting the mother. So thalidomide was never tested on pregnant animals before being prescribed to pregnant women. If it had been, the same birth defects would have shown up in the animals - as they did subsequently - and thalidomide would never have been used by pregnant women. Is penicillin toxic to guinea pigs? No, not at doses equivalent to those taken by people. Early studies showed that very large doses of impure penicillin caused toxic effects in guinea pigs, hence the animal rights claim that penicillin is toxic to guinea pigs. In fact, the toxic effects seen in guinea pigs after very large doses are very similar to an effect sometimes seen in patients on long-term penicillin, so guinea pigs and humans react in very similar ways. Why can't animal testing eliminate drug side effects? Safety testing of new drugs involves non-animal tests, animal tests and human trials. The animal tests provide vital information which prevents the poisoning of human volunteers who take part in trials. Drugs are usually tested on many more people than animals. If side effects show up only after the drug has been marketed and prescribed to hundreds of thousands of people, it is

because they are very rare. So rare that the human trials on several thousand people would not discover them. What do most doctors and scientists think about animal research? All properly-conducted surveys of doctors and scientists show that the vast majority agree that animal research is vital to advance medicine and protect our safety. Where can I find different views about animal research? We recognise there are different views in the public debate about animal research. We believe it is right that people should hear all sides before making up their minds, so we have provided a page of links including the web sites of animal rights groups, animal welfare groups, groups developing replacement methods, regulatory authorities etc When did animal experimentation start? The famous Greek doctor Galen (AD129-200) studied animals. William Harvey used animals 400 years ago to discover how blood circulated in the body. The 'modern' era of animal research started about 150 years ago with the rise of physiology as a science. But it was very different then - there were no anaesthetics or effective pain killers, so the animals suffered a great deal, as did patients. Imagine having your leg amputated (which was not uncommon - infections could be very serious before antibiotics) without anaesthetic. What does vivisection mean? The literal meaning of the word vivisection is cutting living flesh. It is not a very accurate description of animal research, as most animal research does not involve surgery. The literal definition could even apply to human surgery. However, many abolitionist groups use the word vivisection to mean all research involving living animals. Why do only one third of experimental animals get anaesthetics? Anaesthesia is used to prevent suffering. Most procedures (69% in the UK) are so mild that giving an anaesthetic would mean more suffering than the experiment itself. Are pets stolen for research? There is absolutely no evidence that stolen pets are used in research in the UK. All cats and dogs used in research must be specially bred by licensed breeders. In fact nearly all animals used in research must be obtained from licensed breeders and suppliers.