Refinement can be defined as any measure that will reduce suffering or improve welfare, whether this is applied to scientific procedures, housing, transport, husbandry procedures (including marking for identification and cage cleaning), the animals’ environment (e.g. temperature and light levels), welfare assessment, humane endpoints or humane killing techniques.
There is a legal requirement to minimise suffering in the UK and EU, and refinement is the principal route towards achieving this if an alternative, non-severe model or protocol is not currently available.
Advice on refinement should be available from a number of sources within your facility. Within the EU, every establishment should have someone on-site who ensures that staff dealing with animals (including researchers) have all the information they need (this is the Named Information Officer in the UK). Other sources of information on refinement include research colleagues, animal technologists, the veterinarian and the in-house animal welfare body (AWERB in the UK). The regulator, e.g. the Home Office Inspector in the UK, should also be able to help share good practice, and national 3Rs centres such as the UK NC3Rs, Danish 3R-Center, Netherlands Knowledge Centre, 3R Research Foundation Switzerland and the Norwegian Consensus Platform for the Three Rs (Norecopa) are also valuable resources – see the European Consensus Platform website for further examples.
The scientific literature is another important potential source of refinement information, although this may be difficult to find within publications. Recent changes in publication policies, in part because of initiatives like the ARRIVE and Gold Standard guidelines, mean that 3Rs-related information should be included in research articles – but this is still not the norm. All research publications that report animal studies should include details of welfare assessment, refinements and humane endpoints in order to enable other researchers to obtain this important information, with benefits for both science and animal welfare.
Other sources of information on refinement:
- RSPCA user-friendly check sheets on housing, husbandry and care of a range of commonly-used species, plus refining cage change and humane killing, can be downloaded on our Housing, husbandry and care page
- BVA(AWF)/FRAME/RSPCA/UFAW Joint Working Group on Refinement (JWGR) reports address refinements in both procedures and housing and care
- RSPCA/UFAW Rodent Welfare Group meetings
- UFAW/RSPCA report on Refining Rabbit Care
- RSPCA resources on housing, husbandry and care of Zebra danio and Xenopus spp
- RSPCA/APHA meetings on the Welfare of Farm Animals in Research
- UK NC3Rs Resource Hub
- Norecopa 3R Guide
- Animal Welfare Institute Enrichment and Refinement Databases
See also the list of journals on the Societies, Organisations, User Groups and Journals page - your Named Information Officer and AWERB should have access to these.