The 3Rs

MPI and the government encourages the principles of humane experimental techniques – the 3Rs – when animals are being used in research, testing or teaching. Find out more about the 3Rs, and an annual award offered to promote them.

The 3Rs are guiding principles

New Zealand promotes the use of the 3Rs in animal research, testing, and teaching:


Replacing animals with non-animal alternatives. Computer models can sometimes be used for teaching instead of live animals.


Using as few animals as necessary.


The way experiments are carried out should be refined to reduce pain or suffering as much as possible, for example, by using painkillers, or the most advanced scientific methods.

The concept of the 3Rs is to replace and reduce the number of animals used in research, testing and teaching, and refine experimental techniques to minimise pain or distress. — NAEAC Deputy Chair Dr Peter Larsen.

3Rs must be considered when evaluating proposals

Animal ethics committees must take the 3Rs into account when they are considering proposals for research, testing or teaching. This means that animals should only be used when there are no alternatives, and that any harm to animals must be weighed up against the benefit to humans or other animals, and those harms must be minimised.

Scientific advances also have an important bearing on the use of animals in research. Recent developments have enabled researchers, in certain situations, to reduce the number of animals used and to refine methods to minimise or eliminate pain and distress.

Annual award offered to promote the 3Rs

The New Zealand government and the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) are committed to promoting the 3Rs to the scientific community involved in research, testing and teaching.

NAEAC runs an annual award, recognising an individual's or institution's achievements in implementing the principles of replacement, reduction and refinement – the cornerstones of the ethical use of animals in research, testing and teaching.

Details about the award, application process and past winners are available by contacting:

New Zealand 3Rs

MPI and ANZCCART (Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching) are also partners in a New Zealand-specific 3Rs programme to:

  • promote understanding and application of the 3Rs in New Zealand
  • profile New Zealand's 3Rs contributions
  • network and liaise with other 3Rs centres internationally

Who to contact

If you have questions about animal research, testing, and teaching email

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