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The origins of the concept of "alternatives" to the use of animals in research may be traced back to the 1800's and the furore about using live animals in surgical and other experiments. Some of the animal protection societies in England were prepared to accept animal experimentation provided it was performed under anesthesia. Even Dr. Marshall Hall, who championed the spread of experimental medicine in 19th century England, considered it necessary to control and prevent unwarranted, inept and cruel experimentation (French, 1975). The concept of alternatives has developed in the 20th century to encompass not only the reduction (prevention) of painful experimentation, but also the reduction and/or total replacement of animal use in research (Russell & Burch, 1959).

This booklet is a review of the scientific and technical aspects of "alternatives". It does not attempt to debate the ethical questions surrounding animal experimentation nor provide a catalogue of cases of animal research. It provides a relatively brief introduction to the potential and limitations of the concept of alternatives--a concept which could ultimately lead to the resolution of the longstanding conflict between those opposed to painful experiments and those seeking to improve human and animal health.