HERDSA: Animal Ethics
Wed, 13 Oct 1999 10:00:24 +1000
The following response to a recent posting has been posted by Di Adams,
University of Canberra.
Following the letter from Lee Andresen recently, I feel the need to
communicate to HERDSA the
arrangements in place for the humane use and care of animals in research and
teaching in Australia. These are specified in the Australian Code of
Practice for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals which is endorsed by the
National Health and Medical Research Council, the Agriculture and Resource
Management Council of Australia and New Zealand and the Australian
Vice-Chancellor's Committee. This Code first came out in the late 1970s.
Funding for research and teaching depends upon it being observed -- a very
strong inducement indeed.
Of course, the key to humane practice is what people do and how they do it.
But, there are safeguards. An important one is the presence of Animal Ethics
Committees (AECs) in every institution where animals are used. These
committees meet regularly and consider every proposal for the use of animals
in research and teaching. The work of the committees is audited. AECs
undertake regular inspections of animal houses and have an executive
officers who are the sort of people who take their responsibilities
seriously and are well qualified.
The Code specifies the composition of AECs. They must contain experts in
research, experts in animal care, a general member of the institution, an
outside member of the community and a member put there by an animal welfare
organisation. The running of AECs receives support from the Australian and
New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Training
(ANZCCART) which runs a newsletter and has other forms of informaion and
knowledge exchange for members of AECs.
Proposals put to committees are comprehensive in their details so that fair
evaluations can be made weighing the benefits of the research or teaching in
mind against the imposts on animals. The so-called three Rs were put
together by Russell and Burch in 1958 and are used in evaluation. These are
REDUCTION (Can one decrease the number of animals used?), REFINEMENT (Can
one modify procedures used to make them as gentle and non-invasive as
possible, and REPLACEMENT (Is animal use really necessary or can the
research or teaching be done in another way?).
I am taken aback that the last idea REPLACEMENT is only now being recognised
at Murdoch or is regarded as something new. Somebody has not been doing
their homework -- remember the three Rs were first published in 1958! But
this may be a little unfair to Murdoch. The slant in the letter could be an
innocent (but nevertheless ignorant) misrepresentation. Besides, I think the
following idea was the centrepiece: "The Committee agreed that Murdoch was
in a position to and should aim to conduct teaching that does not require
animals to be killed specifically for this purpose by 2005". I would like to
see the systematic evaluation that allowed such an agreement. Can you really
teach some subjects to the necessary level of Bloom's hierarchy without
using animals killed for the purpose?
I certainly endorse the need for responsibility toward animal use in
research, but a total ban is not the way to go.
Lecturer in Higher Education,
Centre for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching and Scholarship
University of Canberra
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Ph +61 2 (02) 6201 5386
Fax +61 2 (02) 6201 5172