The use of animals in experiments is well documented. Its history and evolution can be traced through to contemporary techniques. Centuries ago, the ancient Greeks and Romans first began exploratory surgery on animals to discover the inner workings of living things. However, until now there has never been a simple way to track the developments in non-animal methods that have gone on at the same time.

As a result of requests from various universities, FRAME has created an Alternatives Timeline that will provide information that is easy to access, visually appealing and content rich. It is being developed on the FRAME website and a simple, printed version will be distributed to delegates at the 9th World Congress on Alternatives to Animal Use in the Life Sciences in Prague later this year.

The Roman physician Galen of Pergamon (ca 130–201) investigated the complexities of the respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems by dissecting living animals. He has been subsequently labelled as the father of vivisection. By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, experimentation on animals within a wide variety of disciplines was popularised. With it, the debate originated as to whether these techniques were morally, religiously and scientifically right. Defenders of vivisection believed that the purpose of animals on Earth was to serve man in whatever means necessary.

The effectiveness of these techniques, however, has been questioned for hundreds of years. Many academics and large proportions of the public alike have not been convinced of the validity, economic rationale and necessity of experimentation on animals. Arguably, the most important question that has been raised is, “are animal models representative of human systems?”

Before Russell and Burch first proposed the concept of the Three Rs in 1959, scientists and researchers had already developed successful alternatives to the use of animals in experiments. FRAME realises that, although alternatives exist, it is relatively difficult and time-consuming to discover and learn about them. The timeline will
— act as a review of effective alternatives
— provide a primary resource for researchers
— raise the profile of FRAME and the pursuit of the implementation of alternatives
— provide a database of definitions and ongoing research
— cross-reference ineffective animal models and their alternatives
— define when, where and who were involved in formulating the alternative
— define which of the Three Rs is in practice.

Although in its very early stages the Timeline is already being visited by researchers. Eventually it will provide a platform for anyone with vested interest in improved science and animal welfare, who wish to gain a better understanding of how to shift research focus away from animal models and towards non-animal ones.

Click here to see the Timeline