Animal welfare and research 3Rs symposium

Scientists at the University of Bristol’s second Animal Welfare and Research 3Rs symposium, held earlier this year, had the opportunity to find out about current research and share best practice of the ’3Rs’: Replace, Reduce and Refine.

The principles of 3Rs, developed over 50 years ago as a framework for humane animal research, are embedded in European and UK law. When researchers at the University use animals, they always commit to the ‘3Rs’ - aiming to replace them, where possible, with alternatives; to reduce the number of animals used and to refine their experiments to minimise any adverse effects.

At the event, the winners of the University’s 3Rs competition were announced and presented by a representative from an animal care products and equipment supplier, who sponsored the prizes. The judging panel included the University’s Veterinary Officer, a Named Animal Care and Welfare Officer and a representative from the UK’s National Centre for 3Rs.

The prize winning research projects were:

1st - ’Techniques, taste and TLC - reducing animal numbers and improving welfare’ - Bristol Medical School: Translational Health Sciences;
2nd - ’Three little pigs: designed with welfare in mind’ - Services Unit;
3rd - ’Applying the 3Rs to HPA axis dynamics studies’ - Bristol Medical School: Translational Health Sciences;
4th - Highly commended - ’Refinement of drug administration improves animal welfare as well as maintaining scientific outcome’ - Bristol Medical School: Translational Health Sciences.

The research group that won first prize investigate the effects of kidney disease using several different animal models and procedures. The group has refined its practices to improve animal welfare and experimental outcome and has developed new techniques and surgical skills to reduce its use of animals. The judges considered the project to be an excellent example of using several refinements to minimise the impact of a disease model on the wellbeing of the animals.

The second prize was awarded to members of the Services Unit who designed a pig and sheep unit that improves the animals’ welfare, along with a pig transport trolley that has a hydraulic floor. The panel commended the group for its animal housing design that tackled the welfare needs of the animal while providing an easy to clean facility that addresses the health and safety issues experienced when handling large pigs and sheep.

The third prize was awarded to a research team that improved a surgical procedure to reduce the risk to the animal, has implemented the use of mathematical modelling to predict experimental outputs, and has developed an in vitro system that can replace and reduce the use of animals.

The highly commended prize was awarded to a group that validated and subsequently adopted a zero-stress method for the oral administration of drugs in stress related studies. This method was developed and originally presented by another research group at last year’s 3Rs symposium and, as such, is a great example of how this symposium is facilitating improvements in the 3Rs across the university.

Dr Nicola Watts, Director of the Services Unit, said: "The University of Bristol is committed to a culture of care and the welfare of its animals is a top priority. All our scientists who work with laboratory animals at the University are committed to the 3Rs and events like this symposium enable the sharing of good practice.

"Wherever possible, our researchers use methods that do not involve animals. However, these are not suitable in every instance. That’s why, when absolutely necessary, the University support the principle of using animals in research to advance our understanding of health and disease."