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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Training for Reduction in Laboratory Animal Use

Timo Nevalainen

Reduction, refinement and replacement of laboratory animals wherever possible, are the guiding principles of the Federation of European Laboratory Animal Science Associations (FELASA) education guidelines. Of these, reduction is probably the least understood. Reduction and refinement are dependent upon each other. In the reduction “axis”, there is a window of appropriate numbers of animals; too few and the experiment will lack power — too many and animals will be wasted. Reduction must be understood as the appropriate number of animals required for each experiment. The refinement “axis” is more straightforward. Better welfare is always desirable. Any factor can interfere with a study in two ways. If it changes the mean, this may not be serious, because it should do so in all groups. If it causes a change in variation, then this is far more troublesome, because this is bound to alter the appropriate number of animals for an experiment. Scientists are definitely concerned about the variation of the characters that they are working with. It is obvious that changes in variation may be study-specific, which makes the formulation of overall guidelines difficult. Indeed, instead of trying to assess the impact of housing and procedures on every possible character, it could be more productive to look at the effects of welfare indicators on variation, with the understanding that low variation here is likely to be reflected by low variation in most other characters, while aiming to achieve the most uniform welfare of the animals in the study.