Animal ethics committees

The primary responsibility of an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) is to ensure that all research and teaching using animals is conducted in compliance with the Australian Code of practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (the Code).

AECs apply a set of principles, outlined in the Code, that govern the ethical use of animals for scientific purposes. The role of the AEC is to make sure that the use of animals is justified, provides for the welfare of the animals and incorporates the principles of the 3Rs - replacement, reduction and refinement.

In South Australia, AECs are appointed by the Minister and consist of at least five people appointed to each of the following categories:

Category A: a person with qualifications in veterinary science and with experience relevant to the activities of the institution.

Category B: a suitably qualified person with substantial recent experience in the use of animals in scientific or teaching activities.

Category C: a person with a demonstrable commitment to, and established experience in, furthering the welfare of animals. This person is not employed by or otherwise associated with the institution.

Category D: a person who is both independent of the institution and who has never been involved in the use of animals in scientific or teaching activities.

Category E: a person responsible for the routine care of animals from within the institution.

External review of Animal Ethics Committees

In accordance with the recommendations of the Code, a formal external review of each AEC is carried out every three years. The Animal Welfare Unit in DEWNR assists with conducting these reviews.

The purpose of an external review is to ensure that AECs and research institutions are complying with the legislation and the Code, and to make any recommendations to improve their procedures and effectiveness.

External reviews include:

  • review of paperwork, eg:
    • AEC terms of reference
    • proposals for scientific and teaching activities
    • procedures, minutes and reports
    • previous review reports
    • approved standard operating procedures
    • records of monitoring animal welfare
  • attendance at the AEC meeting to view the normal meeting protocols
  • inspection of the animal teaching, research and animal holding facilities
  • discussions with the chairperson and members of the AEC and scientific and animal care personnel.

An external review report is provided to the chair of the AEC, who may decide to provide the report to the institutional licence holder and to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation.

The External Review Report describes any corrective actions required, and if necessary, makes recommendations for improvements in standards.

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