Reduce, Refine, Replace: The Failure of the Three R's and the Future of Animal Experimentation

36 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2006


The Three R's seek to reduce, refine, and replace the use of animals in experiments. The Three R's have been accepted by researchers who use animals in experiments and by animal welfare advocates who argue in favor of regulating animal use rather than abolishing it. The Three R's are incorporated into the federal Animal Welfare Act, and over the past twenty years have to a considerable degree become the primary legal and non-legal mechanism for regulating animal experimentation. This article takes a systematic and critical look at the Three R's and concludes that they are ineffective in preventing unnecessary animal suffering even if animal experimentation is generally regarded as legitimate. The Three R's fail for three main reasons. First, they do not allow for challenges to a researcher's purpose in conducting experiments that will use animals, even if that purpose is questionable. Second, loopholes in the Animal Welfare Act have allowed researchers to avoid application of the Three R's in practice. Finally, the Three R's have no application to new and emerging areas of biomedical research that have the potential to greatly escalate the use of animals in experiments, including stem cell research, cloning, xenotransplantation, genetic modification, and bioterrorism defense.

Keywords: bioethics, animal, experiment, Three R's, animal rights, animal welfare, Animal Welfare Act, regulation, stem cell, cloning, xenotransplantation, genetic modification, bioterrorism

JEL Classification: K23

Suggested Citation

Ibrahim, Darian M., Reduce, Refine, Replace: The Failure of the Three R's and the Future of Animal Experimentation. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 2006, Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 06-17, Available at SSRN:

Darian M. Ibrahim (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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