Animal Ethics Committee Membership
In accordance with the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (the Code), an AEC must comprise at least four persons, one from each of the following categories:
Category A: Veterinary surgeon with experience relevant to the activities of the institution
Category B: Scientist or teacher with substantial recent experience in animal based research or teaching
Category C: a person with demonstrable commitment to, and established experience in, furthering the welfare of animals and who is independent of the institution
Category D: Layperson who has never engaged in animal experimentation beyond their under-graduate education and who is independent of the institution
It is recommended, but is not mandatory, that a senior member of the animal care staff be a member of the AEC, known as a Category E member. To further assist the AEC to function effectively, institutions may appoint as members, people with skills and background of value to the AEC. The AEC may also invite people (non-members) with specific expertise to provide advice as required.
The Code states that, if the Committee has more than four members, Categories C plus D should represent no less than one third of the members. Although few AEC decisions are made by majority decision, this stipulation protects AECs from perceptions of bias in favour of the institution or other parties. Members additional to the Categories A, B, C and D may be appointed as voting or non-voting members.
- consider and discuss the purpose and likely benefits of the proposed research;
- consider the need for the use of animals, the number requested, evidence of use and consideration of alternatives, and reasons for rejection of known alternatives;
- discuss the invasiveness of procedures, repetitive procedures, analgesia, anaesthesia, endpoints, euthanasia, and other matters which affect the day-to-day existence of the animals and consider refinements wherever possible;
- consider meeting procedures, executive power, decision-making procedures, dispute resolution procedures and so on, to ensure that all AEC activities are fair and reasonable;
- ensure that scientific details are presented and explained in a manner which is understandable to lay members of the AEC;
- regularly inspect the animal holding and laboratory areas, and examine and advise on caging/housing, feeding rosters, monitoring rosters and records, bedding, lighting, environmental enrichment and other aspects of animal care;
- consider annual and final research reports;
- finally, consider whether proposals are justified weighing the scientific or educational value of the study against the potential effects on the welfare of animals.