Reporting the Implementation of the Three Rs in European Primate and Mouse Research Papers: Are We Making Progress?
It is now more than 20 years since both Council of Europe Convention ETS123 and EU Directive 86/609/EEC were introduced, to promote the implementation of the Three Rs in animal experimentation and to provide guidance on animal housing and care. It might therefore be expected that reports of the implementation of the Three Rs in animal research papers would have increased during this period. In order to test this hypothesis, a literature survey of animal-based research was conducted. A randomly-selected sample from 16 high-profile medical journals, of original research papers arising from European institutions that featured experiments which involved either mice or primates, were identified for the years 1986 and 2006 (Total sample = 250 papers). Each paper was scored out of 10 for the incidence of reporting on the implementation of Three Rs-related factors corresponding to Replacement (justification of non-use of non-animal methods), Reduction (statistical analysis of the number of animals needed) and Refinement (housing aspects, i.e. increased cage size, social housing, enrichment of cage environment and food; and procedural aspects, i.e. the use of anaesthesia, analgesia, humane endpoints, and training for procedures with positive reinforcement). There was no significant increase in overall reporting score over time, for either mouse or primate research. By 2006, mouse research papers scored an average of 0 out of a possible 10, and primate research papers scored an average of 1.5. This review provides systematic evidence that animal research is still not properly reported, and supports the call within the scientific community for action to be taken by journals to update their policies.