The Evolution of the Three Rs
Whilst the whole world is celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his renowned book, The Origin of Species, another anniversary should not be forgotten — the publication of The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique by W.M.S. Russell and R.L. Burch. The concomitance of the anniversaries of the two publications is not a coincidence, since, as reflected by the numerous quotes chosen by Russell from Darwin’s masterpiece, numerous analogies can be found between the two works and the new ideas they describe. From a discrete birth, and after decades of struggle, the Three Rs concept can now celebrate its 50th anniversary, the result of its evolution through harsh selection and adaptation. The emergence of new types of techniques, in combination with the descent of modified old ones, testify to the undeniable change in our society toward a more efficient and more ethical science, through the progressive replacement of animal models. Both Darwin and Russell would no doubt have welcomed such progress, not only in terms of science, but also of moral values. One could also expect that, if Russell could have foreseen the incredible technological advances achieved 50 years later, where Replacement becomes a reality, as illustrated by some edifying examples, The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique would have probably been defined as the One R concept.