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Using dead animals for scientific purposes

You need animal ethics committee (AEC) approval to use the remains of an animal that was killed for a scientific purpose. Remains include cadavers, tissue samples, genetic material, body fluids, excreta, bones etc.

This means that if an animal is killed specifically so that parts of the animal can be used for scientific purposes, then the use of that animal, including killing it, requires AEC approval. This applies if any aspect of the animal's life or death is altered due to the subsequent scientific use of its remains (i.e. if which animal is killed, when and how it is killed or who kills it is different because of the scientific purpose).

Examples of when AEC approval is required

  • Excess mice from the breeding house that are normally killed by CO2 asphyxiation are transported to another facility or killed by another method or by a different person so that samples can be taken (how they are killed or by whom is different).
  • Dogs, rats or toads killed specifically for teaching or demonstration purposes, which would not otherwise have been killed at that time.
  • Collection of samples from animals killed during a pest animal control program that was modified to ensure certain types of animals would be sampled or that samples were taken at a particular time of year (i.e. a change in which animal was killed or when it was killed).

AEC approval is not required to use the remains of an animal if no aspect of the animal's life and death were altered for the scientific purpose. AEC approval is not required if the animal's life and death would have been exactly the same whether or not the scientific purpose occurred.

The Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (known as the scientific use code) encourages the sharing of tissues or the remains of animals in additional activities, provided the initial use and death of the animal was approved by an AEC as required. Additional use of tissues without AEC approval maximises the potential benefit from the original use of the animal with no additional welfare impact.

Examples of when AEC approval is not required

  • Use of organs or other material from animals killed as part of routine commercial food and fibre production (e.g. sourced from butchers, fish shops or abattoirs).
  • Use of cadavers or samples from animals killed at veterinary clinics or shelters for other (veterinary or management) reasons.
  • Use of samples from animal killed as part of a routine, unmodified pest animal control program.
  • Use of cadavers or samples from animals found dead (e.g. road kill).
  • Use of tissue samples stored in laboratories from animals whose care and euthanasia has already been approved and monitored as part of an earlier AEC-approved activity.

Note: Some institutions may impose their own requirements for AEC approval that are in addition to those required under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001. The use of dead animals may need to meet other requirements. For example, use of wildlife must comply with the Nature Conservation Act 1992.