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From humble beginnings: A brief history of the Bf3R

The German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Bf3R) of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) was officially opened on September 25, 2015. But its beginnings date back much further. In 1989, the “Centre for Documentation and Evaluation of Alternatives to Animal Experiments” (ZEBET) was set up at the Federal Health Office, the predecessor authority of the BfR. The formation decree set a noble goal: to limit the use of animals for scientific purposes to the extent that is absolutely necessary and to develop alternatives to animal experiments. The ZEBET also became part of the BfR, which was founded in 2002.

Since the revised version of the Animal Welfare Act became valid in 2013, the ZEBET and the BfR were entrusted with new tasks. This includes publishing the Non-Technical Project Summaries (NTS). NTS are generally understandable descriptions of animal experiment projects, stipulated by law for all approved projects. Further tasks are the advice of authorities and animal welfare committees on animal experiments and alternative methods, as well as the cooperation with the authorities of other EU countries. Since 2021 the BfR publishes the German data of the EU statistics about the use of animals for scientific purposes.     

In 2014, the foundation stone was laid for today's Bf3R at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. According to the coalition agreement between the governing parties, research into alternative methods for animal experiments should be intensified, with ZEBET being strengthened considerably. In addition to the scientific mandate, political will and financial resources served as start-up capital to build up the Bf3R over the next few years. The ZEBET was integrated into the new centre.

Today's Bf3R is an indication of the increased social importance of laboratory animal protection and the growing scientific knowledge regarding animal experiments. It is the central contact point for registering animal experiments, it advises and helps on questions of animal welfare during experiments and it conducts research on alternatives to animal experiments and improved husbandry conditions, as well as better scientific foundations of experiments with animals. The guiding principle is threefold: Avoid animal experiments as far as possible, reduce animal numbers, improve animal welfare and develop alternative methods - just the 3Rs.



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