|1. What is the South African Medical Research Council's ethics policy on animal experimentation?
1.1 General policy
1.1.1 The MRC recognises the moral dilemma posed by the use of sentient animals (i.e. animals which can feel sensations and experience emotions) for research, teaching and testing. It subscribes to the ethic of only supporting studies which promise to contribute to the understanding of biology and environmental principles and to the acquisition of knowl-edge that can reasonably be expected to benefit humans, animals or the environment.
1.1.2 It recognises that all vertebrate animals are protected by law in South Africa (Animals Protection Act No. 71 of 1962) and that it may be an offence in terms of this law to kill or interfere with the well-being of an animal for scientific or educational purposes without justification which is ratified by a formal process of ethical review.
1.1.3 It insists that animals may only be used when the researcher's best efforts to find a non-sentient alternative have been unsuccessful.
1.1.4 It requires optimal standards of animal health and care to be observed to provide good-quality results that enhance credibility and reproducibility.
1.1.5 It requires the 'three R' principles of 'replacement, reduction and refinement' to be adhered to in the planning and conduct of animal stud-ies. These uphold the principles and practice of using the most humane methods on the smallest number of animals that will permit valid scientific information to be acquired.
1.1.6 It accepts that the use of animals in science critically depends on maintaining public confidence in the mechanisms and processes used to ensure that animal experiments are justified and humane.
1.1.7 It recognises that laboratory animals are protected by law in South Africa, and that their use for education, testing and research must be justified.
2. For whom the Guidelines are intended
These guidelines apply to the use of sentient animals for research, teaching and testing within the South African Medical Research Council. They are applicable to all Medical Research Council (MRC) staff who are occupationally involved with the production, care and use of laboratory animals, and to scientists and educators whose research, teaching and testing on animals is done in collaboration with MRC staff or with financial or other support from the MRC and its employees.