Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees: A Flawed Paradigm or Work in Progress?

In his challenging article, Steneck (1997) criticized the creation of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) system established by the 1985 amendments to the Animal Welfare Act. He saw the IACUC review and approval of biomedical and behavioral research with animals as an unnecessary “reassignment” of duties from existing animal care programs to IACUC committees. He argued that the committees are unable to do the work expected of them for basically three reasons: (a) the membership lacks the expertise in matters relevant to animal research and care, (b) there exists an inherent and disabling conflict of interest, and (c) the committee’s operational base of authority is alien to academic culture and violates essential aspects of academic freedom. In addition, he found that the system is burdensome, requiring enormous expenditures of time and money that inappropriately diverts resources away from the business of scientific discovery. We dispute several aspects of Steneck’s historical account and the coherence of his proposals. We believe his proposals, if followed, would be a step back into a failed past.

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