At UCL, we are committed to the principles of the 3Rs: replacing animal research with alternatives, reducing the number of animals used and refining experiments to minimise harm and discomfort to the animals.
We strive to replace animal research with alternative methods where possible. These include human medical imaging, computer modelling, human volunteer studies, tissue culture, genetic and statistical studies. UCL is pioneering the use of human stem cells to study diseases, and was recently awarded £900,000 to develop a model for dementia that uses stem cells instead of animals.
Experiments are always designed to use as few animals as possible to answer the scientific question being investigated.
Scientists will record as much data as possible from each experiment so that the experiments do not need to be repeated as often. Researchers also re-analyse data from past experiments using modern techniques to avoid using animals again.
We are also reducing the number of animals kept in our breeding facilities, for example by freezing mouse embryos until they are required for a procedure. Embryos remain healthy and viable for decades after being frozen, reducing the need to keep strains of mice for breeding until they are needed.
Animals are raised and housed under strictly controlled conditions and all scientific procedures are carried out as humanely as possible. The impact of an experiment on animal welfare is a consideration from the planning phase right through to the end of the procedure. Research is designed to minimise the use of invasive or distressing procedures where possible, and anaesthetic is always used where appropriate.
Striving to apply the 3Rs is not simply a box-ticking exercise or a token gesture. Encouraging the 3Rs is in everyone's best interests for a number of reasons:
- It is against the law to use animals if alternatives are available
- Staff who look after the animals are legally responsible for their care and welfare
- People who choose to work with animals usually do so because they are animal lovers and want to give the best care possible
- Stress and discomfort can affect the results of scientific research, so it is in scientists' best interests to ensure that animals are well cared-for
- Due to the strict regulations on animal research, it takes significantly longer to get approval for research that requires animals
- Keeping animals is incredibly expensive, so there is a strong financial incentive to use as few as possible