Harmonising the definition of refinement
Russell and Burch's Three Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement) remain the cornerstone for principles guiding humane experimental research. However, the concept of refinement has evolved considerably since its first inception and there have been numerous interpretations, some of which are regressive from the original definition. In this paper we examine the interpretations of refinement, and propose a harmonised progressive definition that is in line with changes in animal ethics and animal welfare science. Our definition should be applied to all aspects of refinement: those related to housing, husbandry and care, techniques used in scientific procedures, periprocedural care, health and welfare monitoring, and experimental design. We argue not only that the concept should include the avoidance or minimisation of adverse effects experienced at any time during the life of an animal destined for use in a laboratory, but also that it should be applied to the founder animals. Furthermore, we take a proactive stance and argue that refinement should include enhancing well-being through environmental enrichment. The acceptance and application of this new definition by legislative authorities and in guidelines would represent a significant step forward for animal welfare.
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