Concept Fatigue with the Three R’s
The three R’s as defined by Russell and Burch have come to occupy a central position in animal research. A careful examination of the original definitions and aims shows these to be a product of their time, no longer in line with contemporary perspectives. A particular point of interest is the reliance on the concept of “humanity.” This is contrasted with more recent ideas about “speciesism” and the moral status of nonhuman animals. As a case study, I focus on the use of nonhuman primates in basic neuroscience research; the historical analysis illustrates how the changing context implies a changing perspective on the ethical validity of research. Yet, the three R’s fail as guidelines to translate the changes in context to commensurate changes in conduct.
KeywordsAnimal ethics Replacement Reduction Refinement Historical analysis
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