Go to UC Davis Search UC Davis  
  California National Primate Research Center Contact Us   |   Text Size   Enlarge text size   Reduce text size
Alternatives to Animal Use
Hot summer days can bring some cool swimming pool entertainment for the rhesus monkeys.
Hot summer days can bring some cool swimming pool entertainment for the rhesus monkeys.
We have all likely benefited from the results of animal research. The polio vaccine, for example, and other vaccines preventing devastating childhood diseases would not have been possible without testing in animals. At its peak in the 1950s before vaccinations became available, polio paralyzed or killed an estimated half a million people a year. Today, polio has been virtually eradicated in much of the world.

Most major medical advances of the past century are due, in part, to research with animals.

However, many serious diseases still threaten our well-being: AIDS, Alzheimer's, cancer and Parkinson's disease, to name a few. Research toward developing ways to treat and prevent these and other ailments likely will involve the use of animals before the treatments are used in humans.

Today more than ever, researchers understand the responsibility that comes with the privilege of working with animals. Their work involves not only a duty to provide a humane environment for their animal subjects, but to minimize the number of animals used, to make their involvement in research as comfortable as possible and to look for alternatives to their use in scientific studies whenever possible.

These principles were published in a 1959 book called The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique. The authors William Russell, a zoologist, and Rex Burch, a microbiologist, were the first to introduce the concepts of reduction, refinement and replacement, also known as the "Three R's." Although perhaps not known specifically by Russell and Burch's label, the Three R's are widely accepted today as the basic principles of good laboratory animal practice.

Reduction refers to methods to reduce or minimize the number of animals used in experiments to acquire necessary information. Refinement refers to improved experimental techniques that eliminate or reduce animal stress and discomfort. Replacement refers to methods that allow a research goal to be achieved without conducting experiments on animals.

This web site is dedicated to promoting a greater awareness and understanding of the Three R's among the research community, the news media and the general public. The Three R's and their history are discussed in greater detail on subsequent pages.

The California National Primate Research Center is committed to the humane care and use of animals used in research and endorses Russell and Burch's concepts of the Three R's. Research proposals using animals provided by the CNPRC address the Three R's. Studies using animals require prior approval by UC Davis's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), which ensures that the project also meets all federal laws governing animal care and use.

In addition, the UC Davis campus, which includes CNPRC, is accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC), a private, nonprofit group that promotes the humane treatment of animals in science through voluntary accreditation. UC Davis is one of more than 770 research institutions and other organizations that have earned AAALAC accreditation, demonstrating its commitment to responsible animal care and use.