Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



The concept of the Three Rs— reduction, refinement, and replacement of animal use in biomedical experimentation—stems from a project launched in 1954 by a British organization, the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW). UFAW commissioned William Russell and Rex Burch to analyze the status of humane experimental techniques involving animals. In 1959 these scientists published a book that set out the principles of the Three Rs, which came to be known as alternative methods. Initially, Russell and Burch’s book was largely ignored, but their ideas were gradually picked up by the animal protection community in the 1960s and early ’70s. In the ’80s, spurred by public pressure, the alternatives approach was incorporated into national legislation throughout the developed countries and embraced by industry in Europe and America. Government centers devoted to the validation and regulatory acceptance of alternative methods were established during the ’90s. By 2000 the use of animals in research had fallen by up to fifty percent from its high in the 1970s.


An updated version of “Looking Back Thirty-three Years to Russell and Burch: The Development of the Concept of the Three Rs (Alternatives)” (Rowan 1994)