Animal experimentation is widely used around the world for the identification of the root causes of various diseases in humans and animals and for exploring treatment options. Among the several animal species, rats, mice and purpose-bred birds comprise almost 90% of the animals that are used for research purpose. However, growing awareness of the sentience of animals and their experience of pain and suffering has led to strong opposition to animal research among many scientists and the general public. In addition, the usefulness of extrapolating animal data to humans has been questioned. This has led to Ethical Committees' adoption of the 'four Rs' principles (Reduction, Refinement, Replacement and Responsibility) as a guide when making decisions regarding animal experimentation. Some of the essential considerations for humane animal experimentation are presented in this review along with the requirement for investigator training. Due to the ethical issues surrounding the use of animals in experimentation, their use is declining in those research areas where alternative in vitro or in silico methods are available. However, so far it has not been possible to dispense with experimental animals completely and further research is needed to provide a road map to robust alternatives before their use can be fully discontinued.
Keywords: 4Rs principle; Animal experimentation; Animal model; Animal welfare; Bioethics.
©2022 Pacini Editore SRL, Pisa, Italy.