In 1959, a landmark book, The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, was published by William Russell, a zoologist, and Rex Burch, a microbiologist. As a foundation for the principles set forth in the book, the authors assert that, "it is widely recognized that the humanest possible treatment of experimental animals, far from being an obstacle, is actually a prerequisite for successful animal experiments." The book broke new ground by introducing the concept of "The 3R's" - replacement, reduction and refinement - to the treatment of animals in research:

  • Replacement refers to achieving a research goal or objective without conducting experiments on animals. Methods are employed whereby animals are replaced with suitable alternatives.
  • Reduction refers to the use of methods that allow researchers to obtain comparable levels of information using fewer animals.
  • Refinement refers to practices that reduce or eliminate the animals’ pain, stress and discomfort - not only during experimental procedures, but in relation to the animals’ daily social and physical environments, as well.


Around the world, among those who accept the tenant that humane treatment is a prerequisite to successful experiments - as well as a moral obligation - the 3R’s have been embraced as guiding principles for the conduct of research, testing and teaching.

The U.K.’s Universities Federation for Animal Welfare funded the work conducted over five years by Russell and Burch that ultimately led to publication of the book.  AWI’s founder, Christine Stevens, provided helpful recommendations to the authors and is acknowledged in the preface. In addition, AWI provided funds to make possible a later reprint.

The full text of the book can be found on the website of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Citation: Russell, W.M.S. and Burch, R. L. (1959). Charles C. Thomas Publishing, Springfield.