Animal ethics and schools

Issue: Volume 95, Number 7

Posted: 26 April 2016
Reference #: 1H9d1U

Do you use animals in your teaching? It’s important that you are meeting your obligations under the Animal Welfare Act, explains DANA HOLT of the New Zealand Association of Science Teachers’ Animal Ethics Committee.

The Schools Animal Ethics Committee(external link) was set up under New Zealand Association of Science Educators (NZASE) in 2005 to make it easier for school students and teachers to have projects involving live animals assessed and approved.

The committee is comprised of people with a variety of expertise in animal welfare and teaching including animal welfare officers, vets and teachers. They meet four times a year to consider applications.

Who needs to apply for Animal Ethics approval?

Early childhood, primary and secondary teachers who are planning on carrying out investigations with animals may apply for a three-year approval. Biology teachers often need to apply for a three-year approval for their students’ Achievement Standard 3.1 investigations.

Students completing individual projects, including science fair projects that involve animals, need to gain ethics approval before they start their project. Once approval is given the student receives a sticker to attach to their project.

Do all projects involving animals require approval?

Not all projects require approval. The Animal Welfare Act applies to mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, octopus, squid and crustaceans such as crabs, lobster and crayfish. So a biology teacher with Year 13 students studying slaters in an investigation for Achievement Standard 3.1 would not need to seek ethics approval but a biology teacher whose students are studying mud crabs would.

A manipulation is something that interferes with an animal’s normal physiology, behaviour or anatomy, subjects an animal to unusual or abnormal practices, or deprives an animal of
usual care.

Observations of animals, taking measurements of growth or breeding animals while studying reproduction are not considered manipulations.

A primary school student studying what type of treats cats prefer would not need approval if their investigation involved treats the cat would usually consume but a student training a mouse to run through a maze would. Pet days do not require ethics approval.

The flow chart can be used to help determine if you need to apply for approval, or contact the committee directly to ask for their help.

How does the approval arocess work?

Once you have determined that your project does need approval you can download an ethics approval application form from Complete the form with as much detail as possible and return it to the committee two weeks before the next meeting date.

Meeting dates for 2016 are:

  • 23 May, 27 June, 
  • 22 August and 18 November.

The committee will consider the application and notify you if approval is given.

Contacting the committee

Contact information for the Schools Animal Ethics Committee(external link) is on the NZASE website. The committee can be contacted any time and are happy to answer questions and provide guidance to teachers and students. Ethics approval cannot be obtained retrospectively so teachers are encouraged to contact the committee if unsure of the requirements before allowing students to start their projects.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 7:19 pm, 26 April 2016

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