3R principles: careful regulation of animal testing or exit plan?
Are the 3R principles a tool for regulating animal testing so that the minimum amount of harm is caused to the animals? Or are they really about bringing an end to animal testing entirely? Nico Müller is leading a project that seeks to answer these questions.
What is the objective of the 3R principles? Is it to achieve optimal regulation of animal testing so that the minimum amount of harm is caused to animals (as was presumably the original intention of 3R formulators William Russell and Rex Burch in 1959)? Or is the long-term goal to bring about a complete end to all animal testing, or to carry out experiments in such a way that no animals are harmed? In other words, are the 3R principles actually a phase-out plan?
This important question remains essentially unanswered to this day, even though it has major implications – both ethical and political. In September 2021 the EU Parliament voted in favour of a plan to phase out animal testing, so Switzerland will have to engage with this issue sooner or later. Should there be a similar plan here in Switzerland? And if so, how should it look? These are the questions that Nico Müller from the University of Basel will be examining.
“This project takes us into new territory in the area of animal testing ethics,” says Müller. “We aim to investigate how the 3R principles relate to the ambition of preventing any harm to animals in the scientific sphere. We also plan to analyse what measures would be ethically desirable and politically legitimate as part of a phase-out plan, and how such a plan could take appropriate account of the interests of all the various stakeholders.”
3Rs and the Ethics of Transition