Franco, Nuno Henrique Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular, e Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde, Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal.
Last reviewed:August 2019
- Historical perspective
- Animal rights movement
- Replacement, reduction, and refinement
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The use of live nonhuman animals for scientific research and experimentation. Animal testing has been a cornerstone of biomedical research, having contributed greatly to the understanding of human biology, to the unraveling of the complex underlying causes and effects of disease, and to the development and testing of effective and safe means of diagnosis and treatment. However, the use of sentient beings as disease models and test subjects (Fig. 1) raises a significant ethical dilemma between animal harm and human benefits. Faced with this dilemma, the mainstream ethical, social, and political stance has been to deem it acceptable only when no alternatives are available, if aimed at answering meaningful scientific or medical questions, and provided animal harm is minimized. Some individuals, however, advocate that no animal use in science is morally justified, regardless of any potential benefits. Further fueling the discussion, the medical value of animal experiments has been increasingly challenged. Scientists, companies, regulators, and funders are responding by improving transparency regarding why and how animals are used in science, while working continuously to raise standards and make animal experiments more reliable, humane, and relevant. With this as a background, the 3Rs principle for replacement, reduction, and refinement offers a meaningful and ever-improving approach to ease the pressing ethical and scientific challenges at hand. See also: Bioethics; Biology; Biotechnology; Experiment; Medicine; Pharmaceuticals testing; Scientific methods
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