Xavier Remongin / agriculture.gouv.fr

Many INRAE scientists undertake research projects using animals as models for fundamental research (understanding biological mechanisms), or for research on animal health, genetic and reproduction, nutrition, animal welfare, agroecological livestock systems biodiversity, environmental protection and wild species conservation..

The long-term goal is to develop alternative testing methods. For cases where replacement by other approaches is not a reliable option, INRAE produced a note that recalls the French regulation – derived from the European regulatory framework overseeing the use of animals for scientific purposes. This note describes INRAE’s apparatus to ensure this regulation is strictly implemented.

The European and French regulations rely on the ethical principles of “3R”
The European regulation regarding animal experimentation, transposed into French legislation (see decree here), is based on the “3R” principles: Replace, Reduce, Refine.

  • Replace: using alternative methods to the animal model such as simulated methods (computer modeling, deep learning, etc.), in vitro (cell cultures, etc.). Several INRAE researchers are already focusing on such experiments with ticks or prion proteins.
  • Reduce: reducing the number of animals to the minimum necessary to obtain reliable results, using statistics, meta-analyses, etc.
  • Refine: respecting animal welfare and minimizing pain using analgesics, based on best available knowledge in this field.
  • Rehabilitate: a 4th “R” is under development, to place animals that have been previously used in testing in safe facilities whenever possible.

INRAE is closely monitoring the enforcement of regulations on animal experimentation and implements a constant improvement approach. The Scientific Board approved these principles in 2019.

How does INRAE foster a common culture around these principles?
A set of coordinated actions serves to support the regulatory framework.

  • The Ethical Committees(CEEA), established by the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI), are in charge of monitoring and evaluation. They deliver the experimentation permits needed for research.
  • Animal Welfare Organizations (SBEA) verify that regulations are implemented on the field. Every experimental center at INRAE features at least one SBEA, with a total number of 50 SBEA.
  • The Biological Security Delegation, in charge of regulatory compliance, produces recommendations to improve the research units’ performance. It developed an information system to share good practices among the community, featuring a Q&A platform.
  • The Sanitary Charter: this document helps to standardize best practices in health management of livestock in all experimental units. A group of local correspondents applies the Charter’s rules, securing procedures and limiting risks through self-assessment campaigns and action plans.

Every individual who uses animals for scientific ends must have participated in a specific regulatory training (one to three weeks long depending on the requested expertise), for all projects, from scientific developers to animal keepers. A complementary rolling training is also necessary in the following six years to update knowledge.
Moreover, customized trainings are organized to meet specific needs, for example on euthanasia or animal placement.

Communicating with society
Every citizen has the right to access complete and clear information on the reasons and conditions for using animals in science. Every experimental facility must annually contribute to the European database that publishes the number of animals used for every species. These figures are published on the MESRI website. Non-technical summaries for each research project are also available.

In 2020, several public and private scientific organizations, including INRAE, signed a Charter on Transparency, thus committing to share information with the public.