Animal Ethics Committees
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 requires that institutions conducting research using animals comply with the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes 2004 (the Code) and nominate an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) to oversee the conduct of the institution's care and use of animals for scientific purposes.
Section 2 of the Code details the responsibilities of institutions and their AECs. It is important that prospective and existing AEC members are familiar with Section 2 of the Code; specifically, the terms of reference, operating procedures, membership for AECs, assessment of proposals, and monitoring and reporting requirements.
The Role of an AEC
The primary responsibility of AECs is to ensure that all care and use of animals is conducted in compliance with the Code. AECs apply a set of principles that govern the ethical conduct of people whose work involves the use of animals for scientific purposes. The role of the AEC is to ensure that the use of animals is justified, provides for the welfare of those animals and incorporates the principles of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement (the 3Rs).
The 3Rs are defined in the Code as:
- Replacement - techniques that replace the use of animals must be sought and used where possible
- Reduction - each project must use no more than the minimum number of animals necessary and
- Refinement - projects should be designed to avoid pain and distress in animals.
Further details on the 3Rs may be found in the Code and on the 3Rs implementation strategies and techniques page of this site.