This section gives a brief overview of ethics approval in schools to help decisions over whether or not approval for a science project or teaching activity is needed; then it introduces the New Zealand Animal Welfare Act 1999 Part 6 which allows for animal use in research, testing and teaching.
Ethics approval in New Zealand schools
If you are planning to use animals as part of your science fair project or as a teaching aid in your classroom you may need ethics approval. To help you work out when you do or do not need to apply for ethics approval, the New Zealand Association of Science Educators (NZASE) has developed a simple Flowchart “Do I need animal ethics approval?” (see Resource Links below)
Submission to Animal Ethics Committees for school projects or teaching
If you do need to gain animal ethics approval for your project or teaching activity you need to submit a form to an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) – for schools; NZASE has an animal ethics committee that can approve your application. For more information visit the NZASE website (see Resource Links below).
In general the Animal Ethics Committee wants to ensure that the animals that you use will be well treated and subjected to the minimal amount of harm or disruption. All work must be carried out under the umbrella of the animal welfare principles of the Three Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement). For more information see the “Information on animal research” section of this website. There is more information on Animal Ethics Committees in the “Information for researchers” section of this website.
When you are drafting your animal ethics application make sure you outline the benefits of conducting the study and also fully consider the harm to the animal. The Animal Ethics Committee will make a risk:benefit assessment; this means that if the risk of harm to the animal is high (for example, the experiment is quite invasive) then the benefits must also be high (for example, the potential for a new medicine). However, if the risk is low (for example, playing music to your fish) then the potential benefit doesn’t need to be very high (for example, it might help you and your class better understand how well fish hear). You also need to meet the normal husbandry requirements for the animal including providing food, shelter, warmth, safety and room to behave normally (the SPCA New Zealand’s Five Freedoms). Lastly, you need to show that you have considered the Three Rs animal welfare principles in your experimental design.
Legislation on the use of animals in research, testing and teaching
Legal requirements exist to protect the animals that we interact with. This includes making sure our pets are treated well, that farm animals are taken care of and that our native species are not exploited. In New Zealand the use of animals in research, testing and teaching is controlled by the Animal Welfare Act 1999. This legislation is designed to protect animals in NZ from harmful or inhumane treatment. It covers our obligation to care for animals; who can conduct surgical procedures on animals; animal exports; humane treatment of wild animals; and codes of welfare. For more information see the “Guide to the Animal Welfare Act” which is available on the Ministry for Primary Industries website) (see Resource Links below).
Resource links on animal ethics in New Zealand Schools
The following resources are available on animal ethics in New Zealand schools:
- Animal ethics resources on TKI website
- “Do I need animal ethics approval?” NZASE Flowchart (PDF, 133 kb, 1 page)
- Download Three Rs poster (ANZCCART resource) (PDF, 6.7 MB, 1 page)
- Ethical guidelines for school students (ANZCCART resource) (PDF, 108 kb, 1 page)
- Guide to the Animal Welfare Act (Ministry for Primary Industries)
- NZ Association of Science Educators (NZASE) website on animal ethics
- The Five Freedoms (RNZSPCA website)
- Using animals in science website (produced by ANZCCART)