When submitting an animal use protocol, one factor that can be somewhat confusing is the need to conduct an alternatives search. The requirement specifies that pain categories D and E require a search to be documented in the protocol. This guide will help to contextualize the requirement for an alternatives search, walk you through the steps of effective searching and lead you to knowledgable search experts (librarians) who can assist with structuring a search.
The term 'alternatives' is used in this context to describe other methods of achieving similar research aims. There are three categories of 'alternatives' that were introduced by authors Russell and Burch in The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, initially published in 1959. These are commonly known among veterinary and animal research communities as the three Rs; replace, reduce, and refine. Please find brief definitions below.
Replace - use different methods such as an animal tissue culture or a model, that does not require a sentient animal.
Reduce - limit the number of animals used in the procedure(s).
Refine - lessen the stress and discomfort on the animal and promote wellbeing; this may include housing, analgesia, handling, or alternate lab techniques to name a few.