02 April 2024 | Story André Damons
Maricél van Rooyen
Maricél van Rooyen, Research Ethics Adviser and Project Manager for the Research Information Management System (RIMS) in the Directorate Research Development (DRD), UFS.

The Pan-African Network for Laboratory Animal Sciences and Ethics (PAN-LASE) will host a webinar next month to launch and share its most recent publication, Guidelines for the Establishment and Functioning of Animal Ethics Committees (AEC), co-authored by an ethicist from the University of the Free State (UFS).

The guidelines were published last September in the accredited journal Laboratory Animals from Sage Publishers. The PAN-LASE Steering Group is hosting a webinar on 16 May 2024 to share and discuss the guidelines.

Maricél van Rooyen, Research Ethics Adviser in the Directorate Research Development (DRD), is a co-author of the publication. The guidelines were written and completed during the five-day workshop in 2019, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the publication could only be finalised during 2022/2023. The initial project was hosted by the National School of Veterinary Medicine of Sidi Thabet (ENMV) in Tunisia, in conjunction with the Africa Regional Committee of the International Council for Laboratory Animal Science (ICLAS), the South African Association for Laboratory Animal Science (SAALAS), and the University of Leeds.

Ensuring ethical treatment of animals in scientific research

Van Rooyen says the publication was an initiative of PAN-LASE to establish guidelines for institutional animal ethics committees. The initiative was a significant step towards ensuring the ethical treatment of animals used in scientific research across Africa.

The publication and webinar will assist and equip institutions to attract international funding for animal research, establish an animal ethics committee at institutions without such a committee, ensure best practice, promote the humane care and use of animals for research and teaching across Africa, and allow questions to be asked and discuss how all stakeholders can work together to implement the guidelines across Africa. All parties involved and interested in animal research are invited to attend the free webinar.

“SAALAS invited me to be the representative of South Africa due to my expertise in ethics. I was part of the Technical Experts Team as well. The draft guidelines were discussed and established during the five-day workshop with delegate experts from 12 African countries.  We have created an Africa-centric practical guide to facilitate and establish appropriately functioning institutional animal ethics committees across Africa. I assisted Dr Bert Mohr and Dr Dave Lewis with editing the final version for publication,” says Van Rooyen, who is also Project Manager for the Research Information Management System (RIMS) in DRD.

Promoting ethical standards

The publication was written to consider cultural, religious, political, and socio-economic diversity across Africa. It aims to improve the well-being of animals in scientific research by promoting standards for their care and use. It also contributes to raising societal awareness about animal welfare issues.

By promoting ethical standards, explains Van Rooyen, the publication of the guidelines supports the advancement of research while safeguarding environmental and societal interests. The guidelines encourage African institutions to align with existing national legislation and standards where relevant, and ensure compliance with legal requirements, while also promoting consistency and coherence in ethical review processes.

“It is a great and exciting experience to be part of the project. It is a continuous project that contributes to knowledge and best practices in many African countries. I learned so much from colleagues in Africa. Dr Dave Lewis and Dr Bert Mohr, who drive the project, are excellent mentors.”

“Research ethics is my passion, and as ethicist, this was an excellent opportunity to share my knowledge and contribute to establishing animal ethics committees in Africa.  It is also an excellent opportunity to collaborate with our African colleagues who share the same passion and commitment to animal research,” says Van Rooyen.

The Technical Experts Committee in Scientific Animal Ethics was composed of the following members: Dr Bert Mohr (South Africa, chairperson), Prof Sohair Fahmy (Egypt), Prof Francis Fakoya (Nigeria), Prof Khadiga Gaafar (Egypt), Dr Josiah Kantiyok (Nigeria), Prof Farida Khammar (Algeria), Dr Sarrah Mbarek (Tunisia), Dr Lawrence Mugisha (Uganda), Dr Hany Sleem (Egypt), Prof Ouajdi Souilem (Tunisia), Dr Alemayehu Toma (Ethiopia), Ms Maricel van Rooyen (South Africa), and Dr Henry Zakumumpa (Uganda).

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