About the 3Rs Centre Utrecht (3RCU)

Group of persons

The Animal Experiments Act states that animal experiments are not permitted in the Netherlands, unless the intended result cannot be achieved in any other way (Replacement). If a researcher still wishes to carry out an animal experiment, it should be designed in such a way that as few animals as possible (Reduction) suffer as little as possible (Refinement). The 3Rs were first described in 1959 by two British researchers, W.M.S. Russell and R.L. Burch, and are important starting points for shaping laboratory animal research.


The term Replacement is appropriate when talking about the way laboratory animals are used, but essentially excludes animal-free methods that do not directly focus on replacement. This realisation has led to an increase in the use of the more inclusive non-animal methods or new approach methods (NAMs). NAMs are all methods that do not use laboratory animals, including methods that are not directly aimed at replacing existing laboratory animal use.

Animal testing is unfortunately still necessary in many research areas because there are no suitable animal-free methods (yet). When conducting an animal experiment, researchers and other parties must always weigh up the societal interest (for example: finding a medicine for a disease) against the interest of the animal (for example: not undergoing a painful experiment). It is the responsibility of the researcher to treat laboratory animals properly, to develop animal-free methods and to use suitable methods that are already available. This is not optional, because all these components are tested and evaluated in the application procedure.


The 3Rs Centre Utrecht (3RCU) is part of the Utrecht Animal Welfare Body (Instantie voor Dierenwelzijn Utrecht), a body of Utrecht University and the University Medical Center Utrecht, which monitors the welfare of laboratory animals and the quality of animal experiments in research and education. 3RCU stimulates the development, application and acceptance of animal-free methods. The centre does this by advising, informing and facilitating researchers. The 3RCU also participates in the Proefdierkunde (Laboratory Animal Science) course and in relevant master programs, aimed at anyone who will set up research with laboratory animals.

In addition, there is a strong relationship with the Population Health Sciences department of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University. This department deals with animal welfare issues and human-animal interactions, in the broadest sense of the term, and informs both scientists and the public about these issues.