Veterinarians and Institutional Animal Ethics Committees


  • The role of veterinarians within the Animal Ethics Committee’s sphere of activities and institutional animal welfare extends well beyond the formal ethics meetings.
  • Training of investigators and technical staff is an important function carried out by veterinarians in many institutions using animals. This training usually includes formal instruction on compliance with the Code and relevant legislation, and extends to practical workshops in animal handling techniques, routine research procedures, anaesthetic methods, euthanasia techniques and general or specific surgical skills. This may be done in conjunction with training provided by research group leaders. The ongoing monitoring of animals and animal facilities is another essential role.
  • The veterinarian is the ideal person to monitor pain and distress and instigate alleviation measures when necessary. As the Animal Ethics Committee is required to provide comment on the building or modification of animal facilities the veterinarian also has a central role to play in assisting the committee to determine the appropriateness of the housing environment.
  • The concept of genetic modification of animals, while enabling scientists to concentrate on specific genes essential to the disease process, has brought with it a whole new set of potential welfare issues to those entrusted with the monitoring of research using animals. Veterinarians, conversant with this discipline acting in conjunction with animal technical staff and investigators, are well-positioned to assess the welfare and genetic stability of newly created genetically modified animals. They are also best able to institute special care when necessary and to implement measures where increased susceptibility to disease is involved.
  • Given the sometimes sensitive nature of particular research protocols, and the unique role of veterinarians within institutions and their Animal Ethics Committees, veterinarians are often required to act as de facto "information or publicity officers" with potential for interaction with the media and the general community in public forums. The veterinarian's role may also include that of an independent complaints officer for concerns and issues raised by staff, students and members of the general community relating to the care and use of animals for research or teaching purposes.
  • The veterinarian who is a member of an Institutional Animal Ethics Committee has, by nature of his or her training and experience, a unique and significant role in being able to provide beneficial advice to the Animal Ethics Committee, the investigators and/or teachers, and the institute itself whilst facilitating the accumulation of scientific knowledge in the most humane manner.
Last modified: Monday, 4 June 2012, 9:00 AM