Nov 2011

Review of the Australian code of practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes

The Australian code of practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes provides an ethical framework and governing principles for the use of animals for scientific or educational purposes. All Australian States and Territories have variously incorporated the Code into their animal welfare legislation. The current 7th edition of the Code was published in 2004. It is now being reviewed, and public comments sought. The Deadline is 5pm AEST, Friday 2 December 2011.

Relevant documents, including the draft of the next edition of the Code, are available here, from which people can reach the online submission page (preferred option). But submissions can also be emailed to the address given there.

The Code is perhaps the most advanced and progressive policy of its kind, internationally. Nevertheless, several features give rise to major concern, including: the possibility that invasive animal surgery may be conducted by those who have not undergone veterinary surgical and anaesthesia training, the broadening of animal ethics committees to include additional employees of the research facility, thereby potentially biasing ethical decision-making, the allowance of procedures resulting in long-lasting pain, suffering or distress, those deliberately inflicting neurological impairment (e.g. spinal cord damage), those resulting in death as an end point, those deliberately exposing prey animals to predators, the production of monoclonal antibodies by the ascites or other in vivo methods (given the availability of non-animal bioreactors for this purpose), and a clause that makes it likely that educational institutions will misrepresent their opinions about the necessity of certain animal use to students as facts, thereby decreasing legitimate student requests for humane teaching methods. Several of these are discouraged, but unfortunately they remain permissible under the Code. However, such procedures and clauses may no longer reasonably be considered ethically acceptable.

Interested parties are encouraged to provide submissions addressing these and other points. A more detailed analysis designed to assist such people is available on request.