Ethical Review in Animal Ethics Committees
SPCA advocates for greater consistency across AECs for how manipulations are graded, guidance on grading of cumulative impacts, and the sharing of information and experiences.
Use of animals in research, testing, and teaching in New Zealand is subject to the Animal Welfare Act 1999. Research, teaching, and testing is only permitted within an institution that has an approved Code of Ethical Conduct, working under the authorisation of an animal ethics committee (AEC). The AEC is required to review applications according to criteria set out in the Animal Welfare Act, 1999 including weighing the potential benefits of the proposed research, testing, or teaching against the potential harms to the animals. Applications to use animals in research, testing, and teaching are graded based on the increasing degree of severity of welfare impact on the animals (Grades A through E; with A being the least impact and E the most). Our organisation supports increased scrutiny of all research, teaching, and testing manipulations and give greater consideration of proposed harms to animals in the cost/benefit analyses.
AECs are required to have membership that covers different perspectives on the use of animals in research, testing, and teaching. All AECs are required by law to have a representative from an approved organisation such as the SPCA. SPCA supports ongoing training of AEC members to improve the quality of ethical review.
SPCA advocates for the ongoing development of appropriate humane endpoints (HE) to minimise welfare harms for animals used in research, testing, and teaching.
Humane endpoints refer to one or more predetermined physiological or behavioural signs that define the point at which the animal is removed from the research, testing, or teaching activity. Animals may be euthanised, returned to their housing or released.
SPCA advocates for AECs to increase their scrutiny of manipulations that allow for the death or severe morbidity of animals used in research, teaching, and testing. Our organisation advocates for applicants to be required to demonstrate a critical review of proposed manipulations and provide supporting evidence to indicate that have carefully considered the 3Rs (reduction, refinement, and replacement).
Research, testing, and teaching protocols and endpoints must be designed and modified to allow for the earliest possible alleviation of welfare harms in animals. For example, in pharmaceutical research it is sometimes possible to use “mechanistic endpoints” which look for a “biomarker” of disease (such as the presence of a certain molecule in the blood) instead of phenotypic or disease-driven endpoints that would allow a disease to affect the animal. The use of strict post-approval monitoring and compliance with any experimental protocol is required to ensure that HEs are followed.
Our organisation advocates that animal technicians, veterinarians, researchers, and AECs must be involved in discussions and training regarding the application of humane endpoints prior to and during the experimentation process.