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Research Involving Animal Subjects

Rhodes University Animal Research Ethics Committee is registered with the National Health Research Ethics Council (NHREC) and for your research to be reviewed it must involve animal participants (animal is defined as: live, sentient non-human vertebrate, including eggs, foetuses and embryos, that is; fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, and encompassing domestic animals, purpose-bred animals, farm animals, wildlife (see 3.28) and higher invertebrates such as the advanced members from the Cephalopoda and Decapoda; SANS 10386: 2008. p6). An application is also required if your study involves invertebrate subjects. Ethics approval is still required if carcasses are used. 

You do not need to complete this application if your study involves:

  • Laboratory experiments where there is no use of animal or human biological materials, e.g. radio astronomy, cosmology, nuclear or solid state research, research involving the synthesis of chemicals, microorganism isolation and culturing, molecular and morphological identification, enzymatic properties. 
  • Geological and plant surveys.
  • Screening of test compounds against enzymes and biological targets/markers where the enzymes and target molecules are obtained from commercial sources.
  • The selection of sites and the establishment of a working relationship with interest groups (e.g. government departments and NGOs) prior to commencing with a specific project.
  • Data for a study is extracted from the public domain, e.g. data from national or international bodies such as the World Health Organisation.
  • Literature reviews.
  • Mathematical, theoretical research or computation programming or modelling where data is obtained from the public domain e.g. NCBI.
  • Mapwork using GIS and satellite imagery (provided no sensitive data is included)
  • Animal and insect cell lines obtained from commercial sources.

Important information on animal use:

1. Moral philosophy: The ethical review of proposed animal experiments is predicated upon the acceptance by the University that, nonhuman animals are organisms fully worthy of moral concern and as such, their interests must be protected as far as possible in their use for advancement of biological knowledge and for the promotion of the health and welfare of animals and humans and protection of the environment.

2. Animal interests: In the use of animals for research, teaching and testing, animal interests obligate scientists and educators to:

  • not allow animals to be used for research and/or to be killed for trivial, irrational, unjustified or inappropriate reasons.
  • permit animals to live, reproduce and grow under conditions that are comfortable and reasonably natural to their species.
  • keep animals free from disease, parasitism, injury and pain by prevention, rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  • allow animals to be able express normal behaviour through providing as far as possible sufficient space, proper facilities in which to live and in the company of the animal's own kind, recognising the inherently social nature and hence the necessity of a social relationship for many species.
  • protect animals from fear, deprivation, stress, distress and pain by ensuring that their living conditions, handling and treatment will be such that it will either minimise or eliminate the causation of these states upon those animals which are used for research, teaching and testing.
  • not unnecessarily repeat animal experiments the outcome of which is already known or is predictable

3. Humaneness: The principles of humane experimental technique proposed by Russell & Burch must be followed in the planning and conduct of animal experiments.

4 Rs 

Replacement of animals with nonsentient research models or systems, i.e. researchers should strive to avoid the use of animals if alternative methods can yield the data they need.

Reduction of the numbers of animals in experiments by design strategies that facilitate the use of the smallest number that will allow valid information to be obtained from the study and that will not be implemented at the expense of greater suffering of individual animals.

Refinement of animal sourcing, animal care practices and experimental procedures are to be adopted to minimise or remove physical and psychological distress and when this is not avoidable to counter those effects by the use of ataractics (tranquillisers), neuroleptics (dissociative agents), anaesthetics, analgesics and other effective strategies.

Responsibility, everyone using animals, whether for experimentation, testing diagnosis, teaching or sourcing of tissues or body fluids is responsible in their personal capacity for assuring that the animals
which they use are afforded the highest levels of welfare and protection from abuse, and violations of the interests accorded to them.

4. Animal protection:
Animals should be protected from research designs which involve pain, illness, isolation, mutilation (whether by surgery or otherwise) and/or premature death until such research can be demonstrated to be absolutely imperative and related to health, welfare and environmental problems which are potentially catastrophic in nature and for which alternative designs using non-sentient systems are not feasible.

5. Relevance:
Animal-based teaching and research must address an important question relevant to the University's objectives in advancing knowledge, education, science and human and animal welfare through research, be based on plausible hypothesis and have a reasonable prospect of yielding good results.


Step-by-step guides

For step-by-step instructions on how to produce an Annual Report on ERAS, please download the manual below:



Research Policy on Animal Ethics

RUAREC Terms of Reference
Terms of Reference of the RUAREC

South African relevant legislation
SOPs and Guidelines

Last Modified: Fri, 23 Jun 2023 14:23:41 SAST