The Three Rs of Animal Research: What they Mean for the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and Why

Science and Engineering Ethics 22 (2):549-565 (2016)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee is entrusted with assessing the ethics of proposed projects prior to approval of animal research. The role of the IACUC is detailed in legislation and binding rules, which are in turn inspired by the Three Rs: the principles of Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement. However, these principles are poorly defined. Although this provides the IACUC leeway in assessing a proposed project, it also affords little guidance. Our goal is to provide procedural and philosophical clarity to the IACUC without mandating a particular outcome. To do this, we analyze the underlying logic of the Three Rs and conclude that the Three Rs accord animals moral standing, though not necessarily “rights” in the philosophical sense. We suggest that the Rs are hierarchical, such that Replacement, which can totally eliminate harm, should be considered prior to Reduction, which decreases the number of animals harmed, with Refinement being considered last. We also identify the need for a hitherto implicit fourth R: Reject, which allows the IACUC to refuse permission for a project which does not promise sufficient benefit to offset the pain and distress likely to be caused by the proposed research



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 91,164

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Environmental Research Ethics.Howard J. Curzer, Mark Wallace & Gad Perry - 2013 - Environmental Ethics 35 (1):95-114.
Why animal ethics committees don't work.Denise Russell - 2012 - Between the Species 15 (1).
The ethical judgment of animal research.Shelley L. Gavin & Harold A. Herzog - 1992 - Ethics and Behavior 2 (4):263 – 286.
Protection of animal research subjects.Czesław Radzikowski - 2006 - Science and Engineering Ethics 12 (1):103-110.
Standards for animal research: Looking at the middle.Rebecca Dresser - 1988 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 13 (2):123-143.


Added to PP

72 (#219,110)

6 months
5 (#510,007)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Howard Curzer
Texas Tech University

References found in this work

On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Practical Ethics.Peter Singer - 1979 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Susan J. Armstrong & Richard George Botzler.
The case for animal rights.Tom Regan - 2009 - In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Exploring ethics: an introductory anthology. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 425-434.
The Case for Animal Rights.Tom Regan - 1985 - Human Studies 8 (4):389-392.

View all 31 references / Add more references