Animals and Art

What exactly do you mean by "research" and "animal"?

According to the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research:

“The concept of research is broad and includes the creation of new knowledge and/or the use of existing knowledge in a new and creative way so as to generate new concepts, methodologies, inventions and understandings. This could include synthesis and analysis of previous research to the extent that it is new and creative”.

An animal is any live non-human vertebrate (that is, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, encompassing domestic animals, purpose-bred animals, livestock, wildlife) and cephalopods according to the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes, as well as adult decapod crustaceans such as crabs and crayfish.

At ANU, all research involving human participants or animals has to go through a process of ethics review. This means you need ethics approval for projects that are for an Honours or postgraduate thesis, books or book chapters and journal articles.

Other projects, like an exhibited artwork or art performance, may also need ethics approval. It's hard to define where 'art' and 'research' overlap. Some general guidance is provided below.


When do you need ethics approval?

Any of the following activities raise potential animal welfare concerns, meaning you need to get animal ethics approval:

  • using or interacting with animals for the purpose of research and publication, including articles in academic journals, books and chapters, honours and postgraduate theses, etc.
  • using live animals as part of an artwork/performance (e.g., Jannis Kounellis, Untitled (12 Horses), 1969).
  • interacting with animals for an artwork (including killing them, handling them, influencing the habitat of an animal, making spaces or objects for animals)
  • collecting biological samples (e.g., blood) directly from animals,  or using animal cadavers
  • using a privately owned animal for a university project (research or artwork)

There are some uncertain areas where ethics approval might be required, depending on the specifics of your project. If in doubt, contact the Ethics Office for advice on areas such as:

  • observing, photographing, or filming animals without interaction/with minimal interaction (e.g., wildlife photography)
  • collecting things animals have left behind (snakeskin, shed feathers)

Potential animal welfare concerns

  • disrupting or modifying an animal's normal behaviour
  • placing an animal in a new environment for a project
  • modifying an animal's usual environment (includes new humans present in a natural environment)

The responsibilities of the researcher, the University and any other involved parties (e.g., owners, caretakers, vets) regarding any animals need to be clearly agreed upon beforehand.

Submitting an animal ethics application will also ensure your project plan is consistent with all relevant animal welfare legislation.


Other permits

Other permits may be required under other legislation in the states and territories to:

  • access National Parks and Nature Reserves
  • collect material, animal or otherwise from roadsides, National Parks or Nature Reserves
  • display an animal

If in doubt, always ask the Ethics Office for advice. 

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