BIO 664: The 3Rs and the Ethics of Animal Research

BIO 664: The 3Rs and the Ethics of Animal Research

Dates 19 & 20 October 2022, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

The acknowledgement of animals’ moral standing comes with the responsibility to respect their intrinsic value and interests and puts certain ethical limitations on animal use.

This is reflected in the current legislation regulating animal research, which requires animal experimentation to comply with the 3R principle - Replacement, Reduction, Refinement.

The 3R principle is one of the cornerstones within research project evaluation and animal research oversight.


• The goal of Refinement is to perform procedures with the least possible amount of suffering for the animal and to promote animal welfare (e.g. with post-surgical analgesia).

• Reduction aims at minimizing the numbers of animals used (e.g. with improved experimental design).

• The goal of Replacement is to substitute animal use for non-animal alternatives whenever possible (e.g. in vitro or in silico methods). The 3R principle is important for animal welfare but also for high scientific quality.

The second cornerstone within legal project evaluation is the so-called Harm-Benefit-Analysis (HBA), which evaluates the appropriateness of a research project and weighs the inflicted harms on the animals against the potential benefits. Only if expected benefits outweigh the harms, a project proposal is considered permissible. The HBA with its weighing of different constitutionally protected interests (i.e. animal welfare and freedom of research) is based on consequentialist moral theory. This consequentialist normative framework is often criticized by other moral theories, e.g. deontological ethics, virtue ethics, animal rights views or contract theories.

Understanding of these different ethical concepts is crucial for students and animal researchers for critical reflection of and ethical conduct in animal research. Besides providing information on these paramount principles, we will discuss theoretical ethical conflicts in research as well as the participants` own opinions and experiences with ethics and animal use in research.

Content • Introduction to animal research legislation
• Introduction to ethics and ethical theories in animal research
• Ethical conflicts of animal use
• The 3R and 3V principle, their rationale and practical implications for animal research
• The Harm-Benefit-Analysis, its rationale and implications for animal research
Instructor Dr. Paulin Jirkof, 3R coordinator (UZH) & Dr. Matthias Eggel, Post-Doc in Animal Ethics (UZH)
Location tba
ECTS 1.0

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