Ferdowsian HR and Beck N. Ethical and scientific considerations regarding animal testing and research. PLoS ONE 2011; 6(9): e24059. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024059
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In 1959, William Russell and Rex Burch published the seminal book, The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, which emphasized reduction, refinement, and replacement of animal use, principles which have since been referred to as the “3 Rs”. These principles encouraged researchers to work to reduce the number of animals used in experiments to the minimum considered necessary, refine or limit the pain and distress to which animals are exposed, and replace the use of animals with non-animal alternatives when possible. Despite the attention brought to this issue by Russell and Burch and since, the number of animals used in research and testing has continued to increase, raising serious ethical and scientific issues. Further, while the “3 Rs” capture crucially important concepts, they do not adequately reflect the substantial developments in our new knowledge about the cognitive and emotional capabilities of animals, the individual interests of animals, or an updated understanding of potential harms associated with animal research. This Overview provides a brief summary of the ethical and scientific considerations regarding the use of animals in research and testing, and accompanies a Collection entitled Animals, Research, and Alternatives: Measuring Progress 50 Years Later, which aims to spur ethical and scientific advancement.