Animal Ethics Committees
The Animal Research Act 1985 was introduced to control the use of animals in research and teaching activities. The Act ensures proper ethical consideration of how and why animals are used. It reflects a general community view that animal use should be considered and humane. It is based on the underlying principles that people wishing to use animals for teaching or research should strive towards 'the 3 R's', that is:
- reducing the number of animals used;
- refining the procedures involving animals, to make the procedures more humane;
- replacing the use of animals with the use of non-living alternatives wherever practicable.
These principles are spelt out and given legal force in the Code of Practice in the Animal Research Regulation.
Animal Ethics Committees (AECs), representing research and animal welfare interests, are central to the operation of the legislation. NSW DPI has four AECs to oversee educational and research activities across the state. They have responsibility for initial approval and ongoing monitoring of these activities, and also provide advice on proposed activities. AECs are located at EMAI (Menangle), Orange, Port Stephens (for fisheries research) and West Pennant Hills (forestry research).
The Animal Research Act also establishes the Animal Research Review Panel (ARRP) as the central body responsible for overseeing the overall operation of the legislation and the development of policy recommendations. The ARRP determines whether institutions are complying with the legislation by evaluating applications for accreditation and through site inspections. The Animal Welfare Unit (AWU) provides executive support to the ARRP. AWU veterinary officers have powers as inspectors under the Act.
An overview of how animal research legislation operates, including policies and guidelines published by the ARRP, is available on the Animal Ethics Infolink site at www.animalethics.org.au