The University of Bremen and its researchers are committed to the so-called 3 Rs principle, which provides the ethical framework for planning and conducting research involving animal experiments and is also the basis of the German Animal Welfare Act. The 3 Rs stand for:
Avoidance of animal experiments by using alternative methods.
Wherever possible, research topics are investigated using methods that do not involve animal experiments. In order to avoid animal experiments, alternative methods are always used if they are available, and work is carried out on the development of alternative methods if they are not yet available but appear to be achievable in principle. The German Animal Welfare Act, which regulates the legal framework for the execution of animal experiments, only allows animal experiments to be carried out if the scientific issue raised cannot be investigated by non-animal methods.
It is important to note that alternative methods are also always the result of scientific research. Suitable alternative methods often allow research questions to be investigated more quickly and with less effort and, for a variety of reasons, are also preferred by the scientific community to methods based on animal experiments. However, they are only preferred if they are actually suitable for the investigation of a scientific question. This is the case in some areas of biomedical research: today, for example, vaccines can essentially be produced with the aid of suitable equipment and procedures, whereas in the past animals had to be used for this purpose. However, incomprehensible physiological processes, such as the effect of a new type of vaccine in the body and the investigation of possible side effects, cannot be simulated on a computer, but depend on suitable animal models. Research into organ systems and how they interact with each other is also not possible without suitable animal models.
Reduction of the number of animals used for animal experiments.
If the research of a scientific question absolutely requires the use of animal experimental methods, the number of animals used for this purpose must be limited to the indispensable minimum. For this purpose, biometric methods are used, for example, with which the number of animals to be used can be calculated or estimated in advance in order to be able to statistically safeguard the issue to be investigated. This avoids using more animals than necessary.
Improvement of husbandry and experimental methods in order to limit the stress on the animals to the indispensable minimum.
The animal experimental methods and procedures used for researching scientific questions are in constant development. This also includes the objective of counteracting the stress on animals associated with the application of a particular method. Such methodological improvements relate to all levels of handling of the experimental animals. They start with the housing conditions of the animals, include training programs that, for example, allow blood sampling with the cooperation of the animal and thus reduce the stress associated with this, and include the concrete experimental methods that are improved in such a way that they minimize the stress associated with them. Refinement approaches may also aim to extract more knowledge from the data obtained, for example, by using novel data analysis approaches or complex statistical methods. Thus, they can also directly serve to reduce animal testing.
The measures to be taken into account within the framework of the 3 Rs principle are the subject of applications for animal experiments and are examined in detail when animal experiment applications are approved.