Does vivisection still happen in NZ?
Yes, on average 300,000 animals are used for research, testing and teaching in NZ every year. This figure doesn’t include animals used for breeding or that are bred and then not used in vivisection. After carrying out research on the numbers bred by facilities in NZ we estimate that if these animals were included, the number of animals used every year would be doubled.
What do you mean animals in breeding facilities aren’t counted?
The reality is that only a portion of the animals bred, confined and killed in NZ facilities are even used. Many spend their short lives in a small plastic container in a vivisector’s breeding unit before being killed and disposed of as they are excess to requirements. Their lives aren’t even counted by the government as only the numbers used in experiments are reported to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
Note: From the 1 January 2018, facilities will have to report the killing of animals that were bred, but not used for research, testing and teaching (RTT) purposes in their annual statistical returns due to the changes made by the Animal Welfare Amendment Act 2015.
How do we know how many animals are used in NZ?
Up until 2014 NAEAC (National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee) released an annual report which stated how many animals were used for research, testing and teaching in NZ, what the animals were used for and who did the testing for the previous year. As of 2015 this report no longer includes the annual animal use statistics. They are now published separately on the MPI website. The information for 2015 can be found here
Each year, by the end of February, every facility in NZ that uses animals for RTT has to provide the MPI with a report stating the number of animals that they used that year (along with several other details). NZAVS then send out Official Information Act requests to the government to get copies of the animal manipulation forms that each facility has to give the government annually. These forms contain info such as:
- The source of the animals used
- The status of the animal (i.e. normal/conventional, diseased, unborn/pre-hatched etc),
- The reason for manipulation (i.e. teaching, species conservation, medical research, testing etc)
- If the animals had been used before
- The level/grade of impact the animals experience (varies from no impact to very high impact)
- What happened to the animals if they were alive at the end of the experiment and the reason for death if the animals died.
We can then send another Official Information Act request to facilities that we are interested in to obtain copies of their application forms to their animal ethics committee. This lets us see slightly more detail on individual experiments involving animals at each facility.
Note: Facilities that are privately owned are not subject to the Official Information Act. We therefore don’t know a lot about the research going on in these facilities, and can only speculate from the facility’s annual report.
What are Animal Ethics Committees?
Every facility in NZ using animals for research, testing and teaching (including privately owned facilities), has to have a Code of Ethical Conduct and either an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC), or an arrangement with another facility to use their AEC.
The code of ethical conduct has to be approved by MPI and it is essentially a list of things that a facility promises to do. Only once a code of conduct is put in place can a facility then use animals for research, testing and teaching. Then each facility needs to establish an Animal Ethics Committee or find another facility that will allow them to use theirs. There are approximately 120 facilities with approved codes of ethical conduct in NZ, but only approximately 30 ethics committees, so there are quite a few facilities sharing Animal Ethics Committees (Note: some facilities have a code of ethical conduct but don’t use animals. Some of the reports given to NAEAC annually have a null return, but this is a small minority).
Every time a facility wants to use animals for RTT (research, testing & teaching), they have to get approval from their Animal Ethics Committee by submitting an application and getting it approved. These applications basically include what individuals are wanting to do with the animals and why. (There is no consistent application for every Animal Ethics Committee). This is one of the problems with Animal Ethics Committees. They aren’t asking for, or considering, the same things.
Each Animal Ethics Committee consists of at least 4 members including: an independent vet, a lay person nominated by a local body, and a nominee of an approved animal welfare organisation (the only such approved organisation being SPCAs). According to the MPI website, their purpose is “to weigh the benefits of the proposed RTT against the welfare cost to animals in considering applications, stipulate appropriate conditions, monitors compliance with approvals and monitor animal management practices and facilities“.
Animal Ethics Committees are overseen by NAEAC (National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee). NAEAC is appointed to provide independent advice to the Minister of MPI, MPI, AECs and others relating to the use of animals in RTT. NAEAC is made up of a chairperson and up to 9 other members. Members are chosen for their expertise and need a range of knowledge and experience in the use of animals for research.
Who uses animals for RTT in NZ?
A total of 128 facilities/individuals used animals for research, testing or teaching in 2015. These include both private and government owned facilities.
This is the list of facilities who have an Approved Code of Ethical Conduct or have Notified Arrangements to Use an Approved Code (According to the NAEAC Annual Report 2015):
Aoraki Polytechnic; Argenta Manufacturing Ltd; Aroa Biosurgery Ltd; Arotec Diagnostics Ltd; Auckland University of Technology; Auckland Zoological Park; Baker and Associates Ltd; Bay of Plenty Polytechnic; Bayer New Zealand Ltd; Biocell Corporation Ltd; Caledonian Holdings Ltd; Carne Technologies Ltd; Cawthron Institute; Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology; Cognosco, Anexa Animal Health; Connovation Ltd; Cropmark Seeds Ltd; CRV Ltd; CuroNZ Ltd; Dairy Production Systems Ltd; DairyNZ Ltd; DCS Animal Health Studies Ltd; Department of Conservation; Dermvetonline; Diatranz Otsuka Ltd; Duirs NZ Ltd; Eastern Institute of Technology; Elanco Animal Health; EquiBreed NZ Ltd; ES Plastics Ltd; Estendart Ltd; Eurofins AgroScience Services NZ Ltd; Eurofins SCEC Pty Ltd; FarmSense (NZ) Ltd; FIL (New Zealand) Ltd; GE Healthcare Tauranga Ltd; Grace, Neville; Haywood, Ursula; Herdwash Ltd; Hillcrest High School; Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd; InterAg; Jurox Pty Ltd; Kahne Ltd; Karori Sanctuary Trust; Knowles,Garry & Rohloff, Brent; Landcare Research New Zealand Ltd; Lawrence, David; LIC Deer Ltd; Life Technologies NZ Ltd; Lincoln University; Livestock Improvement Corporation Ltd; Living Cell Technologies NZ Ltd; LWT Animal Nutrition Ltd; Malaghan Institute of Medical Research; Mason Consulting; Massey University; Matamata Veterinary Services Ltd; Medical Plus New Zealand; Merial NZ Ltd; MetriKlenz Ltd; MPI Investigation and Diagnostic Centre; National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd; National Trade Academy; Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology; New Zealand Association of Science Educators; New Zealand National Fieldays Society Inc; New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Ltd; New Zealand Leather and Shoe Research Association (Inc); Oamaru Veterinary Centre; On-Farm Research Ltd; Oritain Global Ltd; Otago Polytechnic; Ottman, Garry; Parnell Corporate Services Pty Ltd; PGG Wrightson Consulting; PGG Wrightson Seeds; Pharmfirst Ltd; PharmVet Solutions; PJM Scientific Pty Ltd; Quantec Ltd; SBScibus Ltd; Schering-Plough Animal Health Ltd; SciLactis Ltd; Sirona Animal Health Ltd; South Pacific Sera Ltd; Southern Institute of Technology; Stemvet New Zealand Ltd; Synlait Milk Ltd; Techion Group Ltd; The New Zealand King Salmon Company Ltd; The Vet Club; Totally Vets Ltd; Towers Consulting; Trinity Bioactives Ltd; Unitec Institute of Technology; Universal College of Learning; University of Auckland; University of Canterbury; University of Otago; University of Waikato; Vet Nurse Plus; Vet Resource Ltd; Vet Services Wairarapa Ltd; Veterinary Enterprises Group; Veterinary Health Research Pty Ltd; VetLearn; Vetlife Ltd; VetPlus Solutions Ltd; VetSouth Ltd; Victoria University of Wellington; Virbac New Zealand Ltd; Waikato Institute of Technology; Wanganui Veterinary Services Ltd; Wellington Institute of Technology; West Coast Vets Ltd and Zoetis New Zealand Ltd.
What are animals used for and how many are used? (From the 2015 data set):
Basic biological research: 63 222
Veterinary research: 47 125
Teaching: 29 410.
Animal husbandry research: 20 268
Medical research: 26 291
Testing: 19 191
Environmental management research: 14 195
Species conservation: 3 336
Production of biological agents: 2 016
Development of alternatives: 0
The definitions of these purposes (taken from the MPI Report -Statistics on the Use of Animals in Research, Testing and Teaching in New Zealand in 2015):
Teaching: Animals used for teaching or instruction, at any level.
Species conservation: Work directed towards species conservation. The species to be conserved may or may not be directly involved, e.g. nutrition studies using more common species can benefit an endangered species.
Environmental management: Environmental management, including the control of animal pests and research into methods of reducing production of greenhouse gases.
Animal husbandry: Animal husbandry, including reproduction, nutrition, growth and production.
Basic biological research: Basic biological research.
Medical research: Research aimed at improving the health and welfare of humans, but not research on human subjects.
Veterinary research: Research aimed at improving the health and welfare of production and companion animals.
Testing: Animals used for public health testing or to ensure the safety, efficacy or quality of products to meet regulatory requirements for human or animal products, either in New Zealand or internationally.
Production of biological agents: Animals used for raising antibodies or for the supply of blood products.
Development of alternatives: Work aimed at developing methods to replace or reduce the use of live animals in research, testing and teaching.
Other: Manipulations for purposes other than those listed above.
Note: The main reasons for animal testing globally are generally for product safety testing and biomedical research (developing new drugs and medicines). The exception is in NZ, where approximately half of the animals used in 2015 (the last available data set) for research, testing and teaching are used for the purpose of enhancing the agricultural industry in NZ.
What are the most common animals used for RTT (research, testing and teaching) in NZ?
The most commonly used animals for RTT in NZ over the past three most recent available years:
Are there any laws in NZ put in place to reduce animal testing?
Medsafe are the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority and, as such, are responsible for the regulation of medicines and medical devices in New Zealand.
Medsafe have nothing in their regulations that specifically asks for animal data. In practice, however, it is highly unlikely that they would accept anything that doesn’t have animal data available.
It is very difficult for a new medicine or drug to progress to the clinical trial stage, (human trials), without animal trials first happening in NZ. This is not due to any set regulations but simply because of convention.
This doesn’t mean that medical students, for example, have to use animals in the developmental stage on their research. Medsafe are mainly concerned with safety/toxicity and efficacy testing after a potential treatment has been developed, not what the research is fundamentally based on.
Internationally it is different; the FDA in America has a requirement to see animal data (they specify that two species of animals are to be tested on). A new treatment or medical device being exported from NZ to America has to have animal data to show that the product is safe (even though we know that this isn’t actually what animal-based experiments show). Again, this absolutely does not mean that research needs to be based off an animal model.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also set out regulations that many countries around the world, including NZ follow. The OECD was developed in 1961 to “promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.”
The OECD helps prevent the repetition of testing via MAD, an international agreement that was developed as an attempt to standardize regulatory testing for drugs.
They also have a series of guidelines for regulators to make safety testing systems for substances (chemicals, drugs etc).
Ultimately, the regulations set out by the FDA and the OECD create the skeleton by which countries adhere their regulatory systems to. The FDA and the OECD play a big part in the continuation of animal-based research.
What do we need to do?
There is not straightforward path to abolishing vivisection. There are many different factors that influence and permit vivisection.
It therefore makes sense that we need to target these different areas simultaneously to make a difference!
NZAVS, along with many other anti-vivisection and pro-human-based research organisations around the world, collectively work together to:
- push the Government to be more accepting of non-animal based methods for safety testing and encourage them to promote non-animal based methods more (i.e. providing more incentives for researchers) and also to put more funding into these methods.
- Push the Government to help decrease the lack of transparency with information around animal experimentation and to enforce tighter regulations regarding the use of animals used in research to ensure that non-animal methods are being sought at all times. In NZ, this mainly comes down to the Animal Ethics Committees and their lack of knowledge around non-animal based methods of research.
- Spread public awareness on the issue of vivisection and the scientific limitations involved when doing animal-based research.
- Educate researchers and facilities that use animals for research, testing and teaching that there are better, more humane and relevant methods.
- Put pressure on companies and industries that directly profit from animal-based research, like pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies, and also on researchers etc.
Why does outreach and educating the public matter?
If everyone knew how scientifically flawed animal-based research is, then it would quickly lose its social license.
Researchers doing animal-based research, government representatives and members of the general public often believe that animal-based research is necessary to save human lives. They believe this with little or no evidence, simply because that is what they are taught by the industry.
To abolish vivisection, we need to teach more people the truth about vivisection and inform them that there are many other, more relevant and reliable non-animal methods that could either be used or developed in place of cruel and outdated animal-based tests!
That’s a big part of our job at NZAVS!
NZAVS can make more of a difference, the more help we have. You can support our work here