Reduction, Replacement or Abolition?
Position paper on 3R concept
In 1959 the British scientists W. Russel and R. Burch presented the so-called 3R Concept. The principle is based on the assumption that animal testing is per se a sensible method that might be improved by replacement with systems incapable or less capable of suffering, by reduction of the number of animals or by refinement, e.g. decreasing pain suffered by the animals. This concept does not envisage turning away from animal experiments altogether.
For Doctors Against Animal Experiments, the Rs »Reduction« und »Refinement« are out of the question. Animal experiments are as a matter of principle an unsuitable method for gaining meaningful insights in medical research, and beyond that morally reprehensible. Measures that reduce the number or suffering of animals are merely cosmetic corrections of a wrong system of science.
Even replacement is only acceptable to a limited extent.
- »Replacement« implies that animal experiments are principally suitable and that they need only be replaced in order to deliver results relevant to humans. This is, however, not the case. In fact, animal experiments must not only be rejected for moral reasons, but also because they are scientifically unsound methods that deliver false or non-transferable results. This critical scientific aspect is not taken into account by the 3R philosophy. The term »alternative method«, which encompasses both animal-free and reduced-suffering methods, is misleading. This is because animal-free methods, for instance with human cell cultures, have an inherent scientific value and deliver results relevant to humans, unlike animal experiments. So-called »alternative methods« on the other hand are often merely an adaptation of animal experiments, and correspondingly deliver medically or scientifically useless results.
- »Replacement« can not lead to an end of all animal testing, as such a replacement is only possible and useful in certain areas, such as toxicology or training. However, a greater part of animal experiments can not and need not be replaced, being simply superfluous. Such experiments are to be found especially in the area of basic or pure research. This research is mostly without purpose and serves mainly to promote the prestige and personal careers of individual experimenters and to quench researchers’ curiosity. For instance, no-one needs to know how cats’ or monkeys’ brains work. Such experiments could be abolished without replacement. In medical research too, a mere replacement of animal experiments would lead nowhere. A wrong system is not made better by a little touching-up. Medical research must be entirely re-oriented, away from crude »models« of human ailments and their makeshift suppression of symptoms by drugs fraught with side-effects.
- The 3R Concept is unsuitable for initiating and implementing the long overdue paradigm change in medicine and research. On the contrary, adhering to 3R would more likely lead to animal experiments being poured in concrete for all times to come, as it does not question of animal experiments as such. Animal experimentation is an unnecessary method of testing that deserves no place in the 21st century. Doctors Against Animal Experiments demand an abolition of animal testing, in order to clear the way for human-oriented medicine and research, in which scientific test methods, cause study, clinical research and disease prevention come first and foremost. This is the only way medicine can achieve true progress.
Doctors Against Animal Experiments are convinced that all animal experiments could be abolished immediately without causing the health system to collapse. On the contrary, it would boost true medical progress in the interest of human beings. Seen realistically, however, such a halt to animal experiments will not come overnight. In fact, each small step is accompanied by setbacks and only achievable by tenacious struggle. Each measure that goes towards reducing suffering and the number of animals can be regarded as one step on the way to total abolition of animal experiments. Each animal that dies in a laboratory is one animal too many. Yet each step that saves an animal from a terrible death is a small step in the right direction. Thus 3R measures may be seen in this context at the most as intermediate steps. Of course, this cannot lead to losing sight of the ultimate goal – the permanent abolition of the animal-based research system.