The Ethical Review Process in the UK and Australia: The Australian Experience of Improved Dialogue and Communication
A study was carried out in Australia and the UK of the legislation and procedures relating to the welfare and use of animals in scientific research. In Australia, a National Code of Practice for the Care and Treatment of Laboratory Animals has been adopted and it is a legal obligation for all Institutions to adhere to the Code. Each institution has an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) responsible for ethical review and animal welfare which must include, within certain stipulated parameters, a veterinarian, a research scientist, a member of a rights/welfare organisation and an additional lay member. In the UK the situation is different, as the Home Office directly administers the law regarding the use of animals in research. In April 1999 the Ethical Review Process (ERP) was introduced; every Institution must establish an ERP which must include a named veterinarian and representatives from the Animal Care and Welfare Officers and others. In both countries great emphasis is placed on the principles of replacement, reduction and refinement in experimental research. Substantial differences in culture and ethical review structure between the two countries are identified. However, various recommendations are outlined, based on the Australian experience, to build on existing structures and further develop the UK ERP. These recommendations should be seen as long-term aims and seek to further improve animal welfare through facilitating communication, increasing accountability and creating an environment conducive to open discussion.
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