The majority of researchers using animals in experiments are well aware of the 3R principles of replacement, reduction and refinement and the methods that promote these. The researchers consider that it is important to apply these principles as a means of enhancing animal welfare. This was the main finding of a survey conducted by the Council on the protection of animals used for scientific or educational purposes TOKES and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry concerning the utilisation of the 3R principles in research based on animal experiments.
As yet it is not possible to altogether stop using animals in experiments as some of the information they produce cannot be obtained by any other means available today. Testing on animals is still needed as our current legislation requires the use of animals in certain cases to ensure the safety of humans, animals and the environment. We are quite far from the aim to altogether stop using animals, even if this has been recognised as the end goal within the EU.
Animal experiments can be replaced by other methods, fully or in part. Based on the survey, cell and tissue models are already in wide use in biomedical research. Often cell-level research on animals is done in connection with other studies, which means that the different methods are complementary to each other.
The survey shows that the numbers of animals used for educational purposes are very low. Techniques where live animals are utilised are taught to those who need to master such techniques.
Education and welfare groups in a key position
The use of the 3R techniques is promoted via the animal welfare groups and education at experimental animal establishments. In educating researchers the focus must be on teaching about research techniques and about principles guiding the operations, as well as on education targeted to specific fields of science and establishments. The researchers feel that they need further education, for example, in the use of cell and tissue models, animal models and statistical methods. Animal welfare groups set up by the operators follow and guide the operations in their respective units.
A total of 192 researchers who use animals for experimental purposes or have knowledge about this kind of research answered the survey of TOKES and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. This is about 10% of researchers working in Finland. The survey was based on the mandate of TOKES to monitor and promote the realisation of the 3R principles in the use of animals in experiments.
Outi Vainio, Professor of Veterinary Pharmacology, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 50 415 5251, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tiina Pullola, Senior Veterinary Officer, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, tel. +358 295 162 108, email@example.com
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