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Animals used for scientific purposes

Retrieval and provision of information on the "Three Rs" and alternatives

Accessing accurate, relevant and up-to-date information on the Three Rs is a challenge for all those involved in the care and use of animals.

Information, especially on an area which is overwhelmed with rapid and continuous scientific developments, is never static. The environment of data sources and providers are constantly evolving. New players and tools appear while existing ones disappear, are superseded or are no longer maintained. This makes it particularly challenging to ensure that the latest information on the "Three Rs" reaches the right audiences, in the right format and at the right time.

Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes requires, as a legal obligation, to apply the Three Rs in all aspects of the care and use of animals. Furthermore, a number of roles under the Directive have a specific responsibility in ensuring information on the Three Rs are made available for those who need it. Equally, several categories of personnel as well as Animal Welfare Bodies or National Committees, should take the opportunities to capture and disseminate new Three Rs innovations for the benefit of the wider user community, science and animals.

To address these challenges, the EU Member States together with all key stakeholder organisations were tasked by the Commission with investigating practical ways in which the obligation for application of the "Three Rs" can be fully realised. The objectives were to develop an understanding of the responsibilities of different persons as a source for, or as a receiver of information and the obligation to disseminate Three Rs information at all levels from global to European as well as at national, regional, local, establishment and individual level.

The outcome is a "Working Document on the Availability of Information on the Three Rs" presenting "Three Rs" information sources and search tools, offering good practice on reporting, communication exchange and information sharing, as well as identifying recommendations for future work.

The main conclusions of the report include:

  • Education and training of personnel involved in the care and use of animals should include guidance on how and where to search, obtain and share up-to-date information on the Three Rs.

  • All those with responsibilities under the Directive need to keep up to date on Three Rs developments and promote and apply their uptake as appropriate within their establishment.

  • Systems should be in place from information providers to ensure that information is easily accessible, regularly updated and relevant information disseminated to appropriate personnel. This may be facilitated within an establishment by the person responsible for ensuring staff have access to relevant information, and by the Animal Welfare Body.  National Committees should consider how to ensure information on the Three Rs is best made available, perhaps through a national centre or repository.

  • Although there are extensive databases on alternatives, particularly in the field of toxicology and other safety evaluations, information on the remaining two Rs (Reduction and Refinement) should be further developed. Similarly, improved databases for Three Rs within fundamental research would be helpful.

  • Information on new developments and applications of the Three Rs should be more widely available, and scientific publications and funding bodies should be encouraged to report these.

Presentations given during the Expert Working Group meeting

Roles under the Directive

Other presentations