Bioethics in India: Proceedings of the International Bioethics Workshop in Madras: Biomanagement of Biogeoresources, 16-19 Jan. 1997, University of Madras; Editors: Jayapaul Azariah, Hilda Azariah, & Darryl R.J. Macer, Copyright Eubios Ethics Institute 1997.

46. 4R Concept and Ethical Consideration

D. Pandey, A. Dere, S. Shaikh, K. Jha, R. Kulkarni, S. Tagade, R. Chaure & A. Hajare
Department Of Zoology, Ahmednagar College, Ahmednagar 414001, Maharashtra


Experimental research requires various animal models to extrapolate the results on human. However, the animal per-se cannot be replaced. The ethical question on the survivability and maintenance of biodiversity raises the concept of 4 R alternative viz.- Replacement, Refining, Reduction and Reproduction. We require an essential scientific inquisition to know how and why with minimum use of animals studies to fulfill our quest to knowledge. The 4 R concept is discussed.


Humans had defined the animal as a "creature other than human being " that's why within a second whenever the word animal appears, our mind excludes us from other organisms. All animal has a common behavior of showing superiority on each other. The race of superiority depends on the two factors, mind power and strength. In this race, humans are the superlative because we have got the good ratio of both factors. This benefit to human is the genesis for disturbing nature by killing animals and cutting down the trees. This human behavior has resulted in losing from nature numerous species of plants and animals. The number of tigers in India was estimated to be more than 40,000 in 1901 and now in 1990 it has been reduced to 3000. The "Rhino" has become endangered species because of the continuous killing for their horns.

These aspects and dependency on animals has become a part of our own life. It is now realized that it will be very difficult to survive in this nature independent of these animals. Apart from scientific experiments many animals are killed for nutritive purposes also.

Animals in Experiments

Most of the animals killed every year are from colleges, medical colleges, research institutes, for many experimental purposes. They are used for understanding the mechanism of human diseases caused by various microorganisms. One can not examine and study many of these microorganisms in humans hence, these are studied first on animal models which have comparatively more similar physiology to humans.

Animals are used in biomedical research and the results obtained are extrapolated to humans. During these experiments the cruelty and the pain to animal should be minimized (Worden,1993). It is the duty of an experimenter to bring about its painless death if the animal is suffering feeling pain even if the object of the experiment is not fulfilled, to avoid them from suffering pain. The Animal Anesthetic Act 1919 was enacted which states that the animal must during the whole of the experiment be under the influence of some anesthetic of sufficient power to prevent the animal from feeling pain. And it was encoded that if the pain is likely to continue after the effect of anesthetic has ceased or in any serious injury has been inflicted on the animal, it should be killed before it recovers from the influence of anesthetic.

4 R Concept

We propose the 4 R concept for minimizing the number of dissecting animals for dissection. The 4 R concept, alternatives are Reduction, Refining, Replacement and Reproduction. By these one can save some percentage of animals and maintain biodiversity in nature.

Refining and Reduction

Refining means simply purifying the process of dissection and experiments done on animals. The true rules of holding and dissecting animals should be followed. But the experimenters seldom obey these rules. Students do perform dissection without knowing the purpose and most of the time the animal used for dissection is irrelevant to practical life or day by day life. The 3 R viz. Refining, Reduction and Replacement goes simultaneously and is dependent on each other. Both Refining and Replacement lead to the reduction in the number of animals used for dissection and experimental purposes. The dissector studies and visualizes different systems like digestive, reproductive, respiratory, circulatory, excretory or nervous systems, etc. For studying these systems one practical period of three hours is needed in which only one or two systems can be dissected. This can be refined by having a practical period of a full day and all these systems can be studied in only one animal where possible. If one uses five animals for five systems this can be reduced to one or two animals i.e. we can do reduction up to 60 to 70% here the refining leads to reduction of animals.

Another thing is when practicals are conducted, the animals sacrificed are usually more than the number of students. These extra animals are unnecessarily killed. This should be avoided. If one have to talk in favour of animals, one should think of saving at least minimum number of animals. If we save one among the thousand then also it will be a great achievement. Most of the laws for the animal protection are favouring the ban on use of animals for dissection and its replacement by film or video cassette. However some argue that these moves can lower the standard of education and endanger the quality of future research. A official ban is one German Lander was made in 1993 (Abbot, 1993). In India also there is a case in pending in Madras High court where a xth std student of the Central Board of secondary education had held a case asking for the ban. Which resulted since she refused to dissect the animal for her board examination. She has good support of animal right groups.

In the United states experimentation on animals nowadays is polarized after the release of "Monkey Business" by Kalhy Snow Guillerma and "In the name of science" by F.Barbar Orlans. Both the books are written by North Americans who think that there is something wrong with the way animals are treated in research work. The "Monkey Business" traces a case of prosecution of Edward Taub. This case had set many historical firsts in the USA against animal experimentation, the first police raid on laboratory, the first scientist suspected the first scientist suspected of relating to cruelty to animals (Singer 1994).

Beside Refining and Reduction there is need for the most important alternative, Replacement. The animal in experimental research can be replaced by some mechanical and other biological methods or factors. The recent technology such as Molecular biology, Biotechnology, Microbiology, cell and tissue culture are trying to replace these multicellular organism by unicellular microbes and cells. Now most of the viruses are studied on cell line culture also the drugs.

The use of microbes in experimentation have shown a decline of 20-50% in the animal experimentation in Great Britain and Europe. British researchers had used 6 million animals in 1973 and this became 3 million in 1992. This was possible only due to the use of bacteria as an alternative (Dickson 1994).

Survey Data

A survey was conducted of about 500 students and teachers from different colleges of Ahmednagar district. Based on the questions some conclusions are drawn. There were 7 questions asked and they are shown below, with the percent of students (S) and teachers (T) who said Yes. The alternative answer was no.

1) Do you think dissection is necessary? S -76%; T - 100%

2) Do you like dissection? S - 41%; T - 50%

3) Do you like blood at the time of dissection? S - 23%; T - 75%

4) How you feel at the time of dissection? S - 36%; T - 25%

5) Do you feel same at the time of dissection an animal as well as plant? S - 5%; T - 25%

6) Are you vegetarian? S - 23%; T - 23%

7) Apart from study purpose would you like to kill animal? S - 0%; T - 0%


From the data collected it is evident that 50% of students & 50% of teachers like dissection; 77% of students and 25% teachers do not like blood at the time of dissection and about 60-75% students and teachers feel unpleasant at the time of dissection for several reasons; even though 75% students and 100% teachers want dissection to be necessary in the syllabus.

Many people look dissection of plant and animal from different angles. They feel unpleasant when dissecting animal, however both plants and animals are living beings. Apart from those animals used for experimentation, a large number of animals are killed for nutritive purpose. From the data it was observed that 70-75% peoples are non-vegetarian. That apart from study and nutritive purpose nobody like to kill any animal unnecessarily but the same human is killing them in what some believe to be unnecessary and adding new extinct species to the list of extinct animals.


According to us dissection and experimentation can not be totally avoided but it should be minimized by using available alternatives. The 4 R alternative, viz. Refining, Reduction, Replacement and Reproduction mainly leads to the minimization of animals dissected and they help in maintaining biodiversity. The experimenter should perform skillfully with knowledge and should be provided with the minimum number of animals without cruelty. Many students do the dissection only for the purpose of scoring the grades, most of the students performing dissections do not opt for medical field thus those who wish to pursue the medical field may be encouraged to do dissection and others who do not want medicine as a career may be given demonstration with one or two animals or can be provided by means of open rubber model, video cassettes or computers. However these replacements will not work with researchers and the student having enthusiasm of studying how an organ looks like, its structure, morphology, as the models are not a substitute.

Dissection of endangered species should be provided with their natural habitat. Apart from studying animal physiology now we have good and advanced technology for experimentation in drug research and disease mechanism. In Maharashtra recently catching frog calotes and scorpions has been banned for the purpose of dissection by the Government. Yet it is included in the university Curriculum.

1. Abbott A. "German University faces ban on animal test in class", Nature 365 (1993), 778.
2. Dickson D. Animal in research; Nature 368 (1994), 84
3. Singer P. "License to kill", Nature 367 (1994), 523.
4. Worden N. Alastair; Animal in Laboratory 1993.

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