Australian AEC Membership Categories

The Animal Ethics Committee (AEC)

The following is a guide to the membership categories of the Australian Animal Ethics Committee (AEC).

Information and references are from the The Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (the Code) and the ANZCCART Information Package for Australian Animal Ethics Committee Members.
NB: Paragraph numbers in the section below refer to the Code.

Members of the AEC:

  • Chairperson

    2.2.4  Institutions must appoint a chairperson of the AEC. Institutions should consider appointing a chairperson who holds a senior position in the institution. If the chairperson is an external appointee, institutions must provide the chairperson with the necessary support and authority to carry out the role. The chairperson may be appointed in addition to Category A to D members (see Clause 2.2.2).

    Institutions should consider appointing a chairperson who is independent of the care and use of animals for scientific purposes.

  • Category A - Veterinarian

    2.2.6 A person with qualifications in veterinary science that are recognised for registration as a veterinary surgeon in Australia, and with experience relevant to the institution’s activities or the ability to acquire relevant knowledge.

    Veterinarians are members of AECs because they have specialised knowledge of animals and of advances in their care, treatment and general welfare. AECs rely on veterinarians for information on the variations between species in their reaction to procedures or drugs, on their housing needs and on their post-operative care. They can be particularly useful in helping the committee to assess the progress of a project or the impact of a specific procedure on the animals, by visiting an investigator and watching experiments. It is therefore essential that the Veterinarian is familiar with the species being used within the Institution(s) served by their committee so their advice reflects current best practice.

  • Category B - Scientist

    2.2.6 A suitably qualified person with substantial and recent experience in the use of animals for scientific purposes relevant to the institution and the business of the AEC. This must include possession of a higher degree in research or equivalent experience. If the business of the AEC relates to the use of animals for teaching only, a teacher with substantial and recent experience may be appointed.

    The role of the scientist is to assess and if necessary critique or possibly help explain the merit or demerits of an application under consideration. They are not appointed to represent the scientists’ interests, although they inevitably may have an informed opinion or possibly even an appreciation of them.

  • Category C - Animal Welfare Member

    2.2.6 A person with demonstrable commitment to, and established experience in, furthering the welfare of animals, who is not employed by or otherwise associated with the institution, and who is not currently involved in the care and use of animals for scientific purposes. Veterinarians with specific animal welfare interest and experience may meet the requirements of this category. While not representing an animal welfare organisation, the person should, where possible, be selected on the basis of active membership of, and endorsement by, such an organisation.

    Although it is not essential that this member be nominated by an animal welfare group, it is desirable as this does support their credibility as committed to animal welfare. Category C members should not be employed by or otherwise associated with the institution and should have no current involvement with the care and use of animals for scientific purposes.

  • Category D - Lay Member

    A person not employed by or otherwise associated with the institution and who has never been involved in the use of animals in scientific or teaching activities, either in their employment or beyond their undergraduate education. Category D members should be viewed by the wider community as bringing a completely independent view to the AEC, and must not fit the requirements of any other category.

    Lay members of AECs are selected to represent the interests of the general community and are independent of both the Institution and the scientific use of animals:

  • Category E - Animal Care Staff

    2.2.5  Institutions should appoint to the AEC a person responsible for the routine care of animals within the institution.

    This category is strongly recommended for all AECs at institutions with holding or breeding facilities, but not mandated by the Code.  It is however required by law in South Australia.

    Animal Care staff bring an unrivalled knowledge of the institution’s animals, their housing and care, the ways in which they are used in experiments or teaching, and the requirements of the various investigators to the AEC.

Other resources:

Members of an Animal Ethics Committee are tasked with a very important role with a high level of responsibility.  To help teach, train and support AEC members, ANZCCART has developed the online ComPass Animal Welfare Training Course