The Three R's

​​Justification and Responsibilities

Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes, 8th Edition, 2013 (the Code). The Code is available at www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines/publications/ea28 emphasises a duty of care that demands a genuine commitment to the welfare of the animals used in research, a respect for the contribution the animals make​​​​ to research, and a desire to promote the well-being of animals.

The Governing Principles as stated in the Code are:


1.1 Respect for animals must underpin all decisions and actions involving the care and use of animals for    scientific purposes. This respect is demonstrated by:

 (i) ​using animals only when it is justified
 (ii) supporting the wellbeing of the animals involved
 (iii) avoiding or minimising harm, including pain and distress, to those animals
 (iv) applying high standards of scientific integrity
 (v) applying Replacement, Reduction and Refinement (the 3Rs) at all stages of animal care and use:
 (a) the Replacement of animals with other methods
 (b) the Reduction in the number of animals used
 (c) the Refinement of techniques used to minimise the adverse impact on animals
 ​(vi) knowing and accepting one’s responsibilities.

1.2 The care and use of animals for scientific purposes must be subject to ethical review.

1.3 A judgement as to whether a proposed use of animals is ethically acceptable must be based on 

information that demonstrates the principles in Section 1.1, and must balance whether the potential 

effects on the wellbeing of the animals involved is justified by the potential benefits.


1.4 The obligation to respect animals, and the responsibilities associated with this obligation, apply 

throughout the animal’s lifetime, including acquisition, transport, breeding, housing, husbandry, 

use of the animal in a project, and provisions for the animal at the conclusion of their use.​


Section 1 also outlines the importance of accepting responsibilities:

1.31 Institutions, AECs, and people involved in any aspect of the care and use of animals for scientific 

purposes must be aware of and accept their responsibilities (see Section 2), and act in accordance 

with the Code.


1.32 All activities, including projects, that involve the care and use of animals for scientific purposes must:
 (i) be subject to ethical review, approval and monitoring by an AEC
 (ii) commence only after approval has been granted by an AEC
 (iii) be conducted in accordance with the AEC approval
 (iv) cease if approval from the AEC is suspended or withdrawn.


The​​​ Three R's

The DPIPWE AEC applies the Code to all animal research applications. An important component of the AEC assessment is whether the application incorporates the major principles of the Code, the 'Three R's' - Replacement, Reduction and Refinement.

Encapsulated in the Code is the need in scientific and teaching activities to consider:
  • the Replacement of animals with other methods;
  • the Reduction in the number of animals used; and
  • the Refinement of techniques used to reduce the adverse impact on animals.

Repl​​​​acement

1.18 Methods that replace or partially replace the use of animals must be investigated, considered and, 

where applicable, implemented.


1.19 Before the use of animals is considered, all existing information relevant to the proposed aim(s), 

including existing databases, must be examined. Replacement techniques that must be considered 

include the use of epidemiological data; physical and chemical analysis; computer, mathematical 

and inanimate synthetic models; simulations; in vitro systems; non-sentient organisms; cadavers; 

and clinical cases.


1.20 Opportunities to replace the use of animals must be kept under review during the lifetime of 

a project. Where relevant and applicable, the outcome of this review must be implemented in 

current projects and taken into account in planning future projects.

Reduc​​​tion

1.21 The number of animals used in a project must be the minimum necessary to achieve the proposed 

aim(s) and to satisfy good statistical design. The use of too few animals may invalidate the 

experimental result and result in wastage of animals.

 

1.22 The number of animals used may be reduced by the appropriate re-use of individual animals. 

The benefits of reusing animals must be balanced against any adverse effects on their wellbeing, 

taking into account the lifetime experience of the individual animal. Re-use of animals requires 

particular justification and specific AEC approval.

 

1.23 Activities involving the use of animals must not be repeated within a project or between projects 

unless such repetition is essential for the purpose or design of the project (e.g. sound experimental 

design, statistical analysis, corroboration by the same or another investigator).

 

1.24 Reducing the number of animals used should not result in greater harm, including pain and 

distress, to the animals used.

 

1.25 All possible steps must be taken to reduce factors that are not part of the experimental design of 

the project and are known to contribute to variability of experimental results, including the use 

of animals of known genetic, biological and behavioural background. Reduction of experimental 

variables may result in reduced animal use.

 

1.26 Where practicable, tissue and other biological material from animals being killed must be shared 

among investigators or deposited in a tissue bank for subsequent distribution.

 

1.27 Breeding of animals must be managed to avoid or minimise the production of excess animals. 

A new line of animal should not be generated if a similar suitable animal line is available to the 

investigator. When a new animal line is generated, the colony should be made available as a 

source for other investigators as appropriate.


R​efinement

1.28 Steps must be taken at all times to support and safeguard animal wellbeing. The effectiveness of 

strategies for supporting and safeguarding animal wellbeing must be kept under review during the 

lifetime of activities, including projects. Where relevant and applicable, the outcome of this review 

must be implemented in current activities and taken into account in planning future activities, 

including projects.


1.29 People who care for and use animals must ensure that
(i) procedures are performed competently
(ii) they are competent in the procedure they perform or
(iii) are under the direct supervision of a person who is competent to perform the procedure.

1.30 The duration of activities must be no longer than required to meet the aim(s) of the project, and 

must be compatible with supporting and safeguarding animal wellbeing. Animals must not be held 

for prolonged periods as part of an approved project before their use without AEC approval.




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