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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Preparing for Science Week

While it supports the promotion of good science, FRAME believes that the current scale of animal experimentation is unacceptable. It understands that an immediate end to animal testing is impossible, but campaigns for change by advocating the Three Rs strategy – Replacement, Reduction, Refinement.


Wherever possible, current testing on animals should be replaced with other methods that do not use animals.  If there is no effective and reliable alternative, FRAME believes the numbers of animals involved should be reduced as far as possible, and the procedures applied should be refined to minimise the pain and distress experienced by those that are used. 


There is no worldwide agreement that protects the welfare of animals either in the wild or those involved in research and testing. While UK law says that alternative methods should be used if they are available, there is no specific legal requirement to look for those alternatives. 


FRAME carries out office-based research and has its own laboratory in collaboration with the University of Nottingham Medical School, where studies into valid alternatives to animal testing can be investigated. Research funded by FRAME has already made a significant contribution to reducing the number of animals used in research and testing. 


Home Office statistics show that more than 3 million animals were involved in scientific procedures during 2007 (the latest official figures) — an increase of almost 200,000 on the previous year.  That figure included more than 3,000 monkeys.


FRAME is opposed to the use of primates (monkeys and apes) in scientific research, because of the degree of suffering they undergo simply by being out of their natural habitat, even before any tests are carried out on them. These highly intelligent animals have been shown to be self aware, and so probably understand what is happening to them in a similar way to humans. 


Chairman of the FRAME Trustees, Professor Michael Balls, said: “While we support the good work that National Science Week does in encouraging interest in science, we hope that the ethical questions of animal research will be taken into consideration at the same time. Until experiments on animals can be avoided altogether, every effort should be made to minimise the suffering of those that are still used in experiments and to develop new, non-animal methods of research and testing.”


FRAME promotes a moderate, but determined, approach by encouraging a realistic consideration of the ethical and scientific issues involved in the use of laboratory animals, and the adoption of the Three Rs strategy. The Three Rs strategy (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement) was first suggested by zoologist William Russell and microbiologist Rex Burch in 1959 with Replacement being the ultimate goal.   


National Science Week is an annual celebration of science, engineering and technology, organised by the British Science Association, to be held this year from 6 - 15 March.   Last year around 1.4 million people attended more than 3,500 events across the UK.  


Total number of animals involved in scientific procedures in 2007 was 3,201,581 including 3,125 primates. The 2006 total was 2,946,624. (Home Office National Statistics HC933)


Archived March 2009