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About the Bf3R

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) performs the function of the “German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Bf3R)” by conducting its own research and coordinating nationwide activities with the aim of:

  • Reducing animal experiments to the necessary minimum and
  • Ensuring the best possible protection for laboratory animals.

For this purpose, the work of the centre intends to develop and refine applicable methods in accordance with the 3R principle, as well as to stimulate research activities worldwide and to promote scientific dialogue.

What does Bf3R mean?

The name Bf3R is a combination of the abbreviations BfR for the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and the 3R principle, which William Russell and Rex Burch developed in 1959. The goal of scientific animal welfare will be achieved through the following components of the 3R principle:

  • Replace – Replacement of animal experiments by using alternative methods wherever possible
  • Reduce – Reduction of the number of laboratory animals used to a minimum
  • Refine – Reduction of the laboratory animals’ suffering

Since the foundation of the BfR, the protection of laboratory animals in accordance with the 3R Principle has been an integral part of its scientific work through the Centre for Documentation and Evaluation of Alternatives to Animal Experiments (ZEBET). With the amendment of the German Animal Welfare Act in 2013, the BfR was also given additional laboratory animal protection tasks. The increased requirements led to the opening of the German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Bf3R) at the BfR in 2015, into which ZEBET was integrated.

The Bf3R is an integral part of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. Due to its legal mandate, it provides advice to the competent authorities, citizens and scientists, as well as it conducts research. The Bf3R receives advice concerning its scientific mandate by the Bf3R Commission.

The 3R Principle

In 1959 the British scientists William Russell and Rex Burch published the 3R Principle as a tenet of their experimental scientific study in the book The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique.

The aim of the 3R Principle is to avoid animal experiments completely (Replacement) and to limit the number of animals (Reduction) and their suffering (Refinement) in experiments to the absolute minimum.

Today, the 3R Principle forms the basis for animal welfare policy and the practice of modern research approaches in many countries.

With the European Directive 2010/63/EU for the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, the EU legally acknowledged the internationally recognised 3R Principle for the first time in 2010. The provisions of the European Directive, and hence also the 3R Principle, were implemented in German law in 2013 with the amended Animal Welfare Act (TierSchG) and the Animal Welfare Laboratory Animal Ordinance (TierSchVersV).

Specifically, this means that every scientist who is planning an animal experiment and applies for an official permit, must answer the following questions in the permit application and provide scientific justification for their answers:

  • Are there ways of avoiding the planned animal experiment by using other methods?
  • Will the number of laboratory animals used be reduced to the absolute minimum?
  • Are the stresses to which the animals are exposed minimised as far as possible?

The state authorities that are responsible for the approval of animal experiment applications check whether these questions have been answered in accordance with the current standard of knowledge.

The 3Rs Principle and its legal recognition is associated with the great goal of completely replacing animal experiments as soon as this becomes scientifically feasible.



Publications - Flyers

Date Title Size
Printed extract from BfR2GO 1/2018
Fields of research for more animal welfare 1.6 MB
Printed extract from the BfR Annual Report 2015
Alternatives to Animal Experiments 1.4 MB



Date Title Size
Bf3R Remit, Objectives and Areas of Competence 72.6 KB



Date Title Size
German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals 111.5 KB



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