Promotional leaflet for ’The Principles’, 1959 showing a mouse in front of scientific data

December 1, 2022, by Sarah Colborne

Advocates for animal welfare

Work has just finished on an 18-month project to catalogue papers held by Manuscripts and Special Collections which chart the progress made in promoting the concept of the Three Rs, the guiding principles of Reduction, Replacement and Refinement, in regards to the use of animals in scientific research. The work was made possible by a generous donation from a private donor.  

The papers span three separate collections, all of which were gifted to the University via the agency of Michael Balls, Emeritus Professor of Medical Cell Biology at the University of Nottingham: 

  • Papers of Professor William M.S. Russell (1925-2006) relating to the Three Rs principles for the more ethical use of animals in scientific research, (Document References WCR/1 and WCR/6/1) 
  • Papers of Professor Michael Balls (b.1938), Chairman of the Trustees of the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME), (Document Reference MS 1016) 
  • Papers of Professor Michael Balls (b.1938), scientist and Professor of Medical Cell Biology at University of Nottingham, 1960-2021, (Document Reference PMB) 

A fourth collection has been created for miscellaneous material relating to William Russell from other sources: 

  • Artificial collection of materials relating to Professor William M.S. Russell, (Document Reference MS 1045) 
Cover of publication FRAME News

‘FRAME News’ celebrating the opening of Russell and Burch House, Nottingham, the headquarters of FRAME, 1995 (MS 1045/3/7)

Typescript title page of 'The Principles'

Title page of typescript of ‘The Principles of Humane Technique in Experiments on Animals’ by W.M.S. Russell and R.L. Burch (MS 1045/3/7)












The catalogues are available via our Manuscripts Online Catalogue and a series of blogs will introduce these collections, explaining how they relate to each other. Together, the collections provide a fascinating insight into changing attitudes towards the use of animals in both medical research and toxicity testing, by the scientific community and by the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. They can be used to explore the impact of activism, animal rights extremism, research, lobbying and validation of alternative test methods on policy, law-making, and on public opinion.  

The project also reveals how the publication in 1959 of ‘The Principles of Humane Technique in Experiments on Animals’ by William (Bill) Russell and his assistant, Rex Burch, would go on to influence the career of Michael Balls. Professor Balls would in turn help promote their work to an international audience, saving many animals from unnecessary suffering in the process. Professor Balls was appointed a CBE in 2002 for his contributions toward humane animal research and has received many awards and honours during his career for his work in advancing alternative methods to animal testing, for services to cell biology, for contributions to the welfare of laboratory animals and for his role in advancing the field of in vitro toxicology.

A selection of items from the collections can be viewed in our Animal Welfare Collections digital gallery. A series of issues of FRAME News, the newsletter of the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments has been scanned and is available in our Reading Room as a text-searchable PDF. Contact Manuscripts and Special Collections to book to come and explore the collections in the Reading Room at the University of Nottingham’s King’s Meadow Campus.

Rt. Hon. Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Schools and Children, with his father, Prof. Michael, Balls, at the opening of the refurbished FRAME Alternatives Laboratory, University of Nottingham Medical School, 2007 (MS 1016/12/2/58)

Rex Burch and Bill Russell at the Sheringham Conference

Rex Burch and Bill Russell at the European Centre for the Validation of Alternate Methods (ECVAM) Conference in Sheringham, ‘The Three Rs – The Way Forward’, 1995 (MS 1045/3/7)

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