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Ethical Objection by Students to Use of Animals and Animal Products in Coursework Subjects Policy

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Section 1 - Purpose of Policy

(1) The University is committed to recognising the diversity of values held by students at the University and seeks to provide avenues for students to complete their chosen field of study without compromising conscientiously held ethical, religious or cultural views.

(2) The University, through the Animal Ethics Committee, has a responsibility to ensure that animals are only used for teaching purposes when ethically justified and must therefore balance whether the potential effects on the wellbeing of the animals involved is justified by the potential benefits.

(3) This Policy provides a framework for recognising and responding to students' ethical or religious objection to animal use in coursework subjects at the University.

(4) It should be noted that animals may only be used in teaching if approved in advance by the Animal Ethics Committee, and all such use must be in accordance with the Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes 2013 (‘the Code’) and the Animal Research Act, 1985 (NSW).

(5) It should also be noted that in some subjects and courses animal use may be unavoidable and students need to carefully consider their study choices in such cases.

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Section 2 - Application and Scope

(6) This Policy applies to the use of animals, animal tissues or animal products in undergraduate coursework subjects.

(7) This Policy does not apply to the use of animals, animal tissues or animal products in post-graduate research or coursework, or as part of research-only activity; use of animals in these circumstances will require separate approval by the Animal Ethics Committee.

(8) Where animals, animal tissues or animal products are to be used in teaching, this will be made known in course descriptions available to students prior to enrolling. Students with conscientious objections to that use should carefully consider their options, before enrolling.

(9) Application of this Policy does not extend to undergraduate activities that are not related to a subject or course in which the student is enrolled.

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Section 3 - Policy Principles

(10) The University recognises that some students conscientiously hold ethical, religious or cultural beliefs that entail avoidance of teaching or assessment activities involving animals, animal tissues or animal products.

(11) The University will make reasonable efforts to accommodate the values of those students referred to in clause 3.1. by providing alternative teaching and assessment activities where possible. In some circumstances, such accommodation will not be possible.

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Section 4 - Roles and Responsibilities

Responsibilities of Academic Units

(12) Academic units are advised that under the Code, there is an obligation to ensure that methods that replace or partially replace the use of animals must be investigated, considered and implemented wherever applicable.

(13) Academic Units in which teaching involving animals, animal tissues or animal products occurs will identify the use of animals, animal tissues or animal products in the Subject Outline. Where completion of a subject involving the use of animals, animal tissues or animal products is required to meet minimum course requirements, the course handbook and other relevant course materials should state this.

(14) Academic units must make reasonable efforts to provide students or potential students with additional information upon request on matters relevant to their decision as to whether to proceed with a subject or course. Such information may include, for example, details regarding the source of animals, animal tissue or animal products.

(15) Academic units will advise students in writing in the Subject Outline of their rights to conscientiously object to teaching and assessment activities involving the use of animals, animal tissues or animal products, and the availability of alternative teaching and assessment activities, where possible. This advice will be included in student information and subject materials for all such subjects by the end of the first week of formal contact for each subject.

(16) Academic staff involved in teaching in relevant academic units may inquire into the basis for a student's objection and its scope, but should not interrogate the student in a manner that is disrespectful of the student's conscientiously held beliefs.

(17) Where students are granted exemption from teaching activities or assessment tasks on grounds of conscientious objection, the Subject Coordinator may determine alternative teaching activities or assessment tasks at his or her discretion. Alternatives to teaching or assessment activity should have similar pedagogic goals that meet the identified subject learning outcomes, should be of comparable difficulty, should require a similar amount of time and effort, and should be assessed as rigorously as the activity which they replace. At the same time, the provision of alternative teaching and assessment arrangements should not be unreasonably burdensome with respect to academic workloads.

(18) Research project supervisors must ensure that any student who is required to attend to the care and welfare of animals outside of normal office hours is willing to provide emergency welfare interventions if required. If a student objects to any immediate and necessary welfare interventions (eg humane killing) then that student shall not be rostered to attend outside of those hours where immediate assistance is available from technical or supervisory staff.

Responsibilities of Students

(19) Students who seek to avoid a particular learning activity on the basis of conscientious objection to the use of animals, animal tissues or animal products, should notify the Subject Coordinator in writing as early as possible, not later than the end of Week 2 of the session. 

(20) Students must agree to respond to reasonable requests from relevant academic staff regarding the basis of their objection and its scope.

(21) Individual cases will be referred to the Associate Dean Education for consideration.

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Section 5 - Definitions

Word/Term Definition (with examples if required)
Animal Any live non-human vertebrate (that is, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals encompassing domestic animals, purpose-bred animals, livestock, wildlife) and cephalopods. (As per the Code)
Teaching Undergraduate coursework, honours projects, assessment tasks and other activities engaged in by undergraduate students primarily of an educational nature and forming a formal part of the program in which they are enrolled.
The Code National Health and Medical Research Council Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes 2013
The University University of Wollongong
Use of Animals This includes any use of animals (including animals killed for purposes not directly related to the proposed use in teaching), animal tissues or animal products.