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Advice & welfare

Animal Ethics Committees in New Zealand

Animals are used for research, testing, and teaching (RTT) in New Zealand for a variety of reasons such as understanding wild bird migration routes, determining the effectiveness of a drug for treating a medical condition, or facilitating learning in a course on animal behaviour.

Animal Ethics Committees

Under the Animal Welfare Act, use of animals in RTT is only permitted for an organisation or person who has a license from the Government. A licensed organisation or person must set up a special committee called an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) to review any proposed use of animals in RTT. Use of animals can only happen if approved by an AEC.

Who is part of an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC)?

An AEC consists of members that represent a range of interests and expertise. A person is nominated to the committee and serves for a period of time. The Animal Welfare Act requires four types of members to be on each AEC:

  1. A member of the public nominated from the regional or territorial authority to represent the public interest.
  2. A veterinarian who is nominated from the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA).
  3. A person nominated from the approved welfare organisation under the Animal Welfare Act.
  4. A senior member of the staff from the organisation that has a license to use animals in RTT. This person must be able to evaluate the scientific or teaching value of the proposed use of animals and the qualifications and skills of the applicant.
The first three types of members on the list are called external members because they are nominated from organisations separate from the one that has the license to carry out RTT. This is important because these members bring fresh perspectives to the committee, represent the public, and advocate for animal welfare whilst remaining independent from the organisation that has the license to carry out RTT.

Additionally, other members can include research scientists, animal welfare staff, and administration staff who all bring expertise and experience to the AEC.

What is SPCA’s role on an AEC?

As the approved welfare organisation under the Animal Welfare Act, SPCA is obligated to nominate individuals as members to each AEC. Importantly, the SPCA nominated members do not represent SPCA’s positions on use of animals in RTT when reviewing applications. Instead, the Animal Welfare Act itself provides guidance on what sorts of things all committee members must consider when reviewing an application.

So, how does an AEC work?

An Animal Ethics Committee must review any intended use of animals in research, testing, and teaching. The person who wants to use the animals must submit an application including a number of things such as justifying the use of animals, how they will safeguard the animal’s welfare, and what benefits will arise from the use of animals. The members of the AEC will evaluate the applications and either approve the use of the animals or reject the application. They typically come to a consensus in agreement to approve an application. Often, they require the applicant to meet additional conditions to protect the animal’s welfare as part of the approval.

The AEC will monitor the approved applications including how the research, testing, or teaching is progressing, if there have been any changes to the use of animals, and to follow up with any problems that have occurred.

All use of animals must be reported to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) each year and a report is then made publicly available. You can find these reports here.

Where can I find more information?

More information on how the use of animals for RTT in New Zealand is controlled under the Animal Welfare Act can be found at these websites:

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