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The ethics of the Three Rs principle: a reconsideration

By J. M. G. Vorstenbosch

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In the past decades the Three Rs concept, famously launched by Russell and Burch in their 1959 book The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, has gained a prominent place in the landscape of societal and ethical concern about animal use. Important scientific and institutional initiatives have been taken in order to promote replacement, reduction and refinement. It appears however, that conceptual and ethical thinking about the presuppositions and changing contexts of the Three Rs concept has logged behind the scientific and practical efforts. In this paper, first, I argue that there is a threefold argument to make for the need to reconsider the moral basis of the Three Rs concept. Second, I outline a number of standard assumptions of the traditional approach to the Three Rs and question the tenability of these assumptions. Third, I propose some elements of a new framework for the Three Rs principle and connect this to a number of developments in science and society. I conclude with four remarks on the future of the ethics of the Three Rs principle.

Date 2005
Publication Title Animal Welfare
Volume 14
Issue 4
Pages 339-345
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
Language English
Author Address Ethics Institute, University of Utrecht, Heidelberglaan 2, 3584 CS De Uithof/Utrecht, Netherlands.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Alternative methods
  2. Animal experimentation
  3. Animal research
  4. Animal rights
  5. Animal roles
  6. Animal testing
  7. Animal welfare
  8. Attitudes
  9. Ethics
  10. Laboratory and experimental animals
  11. Laboratory animal science
  12. Research
  13. Social psychology and social anthropology
  14. Studies