According to Wikipedia, the earliest references to animal experimentation appear in Greek writings of the 2nd and 4th Century BC1. Needless to say, we have come a long way in the intervening years. Animal experimentation is now regulated by law in many countries. ‘Animal ethics committees’, typically made up of lay people, scientists and vets, are required to undertake a cost–benefit analysis for proposed projects, weighing up the likely benefit to society against any harm and suffering animals may experience. Furthermore, the ethical framework first described by William Russell and Rex Burch in their seminal 1959 publication2 – the so-called 3Rs: the use of non-animal methods to achieve the same scientific goals (replacement), or where this is not possible, that researchers use methods which cause the minimum pain and suffering (refinement) while also obtaining the best information possible from the fewest number of animals (reduction) – is now also a legal requirement in many countries. Thanks in part to initiatives such as the UK's National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), recent years have seen a massive increase in the number of techniques developed which aim to replace the use of animals in research, teaching and testing, an achievement which should be celebrated.

This content is only available as a PDF.