The History of Anti-Vivisection in New Zealand

A Brief History of Anti-Vivisection in New Zealand.

The following is excerpted from Mobilise! 43, November 1995, (the newsletter of the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society). The article was written by Bette Overell.

The 17-year performance of NZAVS unfolded like a sensational drama, the opening scene of which took place in 1978, when in an attempt to assist in abolishing animal experiments, as distinct from furthering their entrenchment and acceptance in legislation by asking for bigger cages, and fresh water on Sundays, the writer founded BUAV (Wellington). The New Zealand public was ready and receptive and by 1980, thriving, the Society became autonomous as NZAVS. In 1979 BUAV (Auckland), formed in 1932, folded. Its President, with whom the writer worked in harmony suggested the Wellington Society take over the failed Auckland Branch. Though tempted, wary and overly mindful of the massive weight of work involved in assuming the mailing list of a fully-fledged organisation of 47 years the writer declined the offer. Subsequently BUAV (Auckland) after its lapse reformed and emerged as Save Animals From Experiments.

From its inception, whilst vigorously insisting its abolitionist policy on the one hand, on the other SAFE simultaneously, through its various leaders, relentlessly adopted a strategy which made no threat to the establishment or to the vivisectors. On the contrary SAFE in the following years was to do all in its power to assist the latter by conducting major public campaigns attacking NZAVS’ policy of abolition and waging war in the media against the “unreasonableness” of its two Petitions.

Petition 1

1984 was a momentous year for NZAVS. With a watertight case and meticulously planned brief, it petitioned Parliament for Abolition of the LD50 Test. NZAVS had been supported by evidence in the form of submissions from doctors and scientists all over the world, and the Petition had been referred back to the Government with the extremely high Recommendation for Favourable Consideration. About this time the RSPCA and SAFE commenced pushing for the setting up of ethics committees to determine which experiments are ethical. Immediately the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee was up and running the Government advised NZAVS it had “placed the decision on the LD50 Test under the auspices of the NAEAC”. SAFE accepted the invitation (from the RNZSPCA on behalf of the NAEAC) to place its representatives on various ethics committees. NZAVS refused and attacked the ethics committee principle as being of course antipodal to the abolitionist constitution.

Petition 2

NZAVS Petition to Abolish Vivisection In New Zealand: With 100,640 signatures achieved between 24 April 1987 and 24 April 1989, when it was presented to Parliament with hundreds of quality submissions, NZAVS’ team was a force to be reckoned with. In sheer desperation, under imminent threat of the Petition lapsing, with a reluctant and slippery promise to hear witnesses, a decision which the Secretary of the Primary Production Committee unashamedly informed the writer was motivated by the wish “to get this petition out of the way” delegates were eventually tricked into accepting a bogus “hearing”. The writer’s efforts to get the justice due to 100 640 petitioners, for a petition which had strictly adhered to government regulations every step of the way, had taken one month short of two years.


In 20 March 1991 the Primary Production Select Committee Chairman was Ross Meurant who had been leader of the notorious Red Squad at the time of the 1981 Springbok Rugby Tour, organiser and participant in vicious physical attacks against peaceful anti-apartheid protesters. Without flicker of interest, sign of comprehension or animation he resurrected from his supine state whilst the first NZAVS witness was in mid-speech to ask “how much longer it would be”, coming to life again during the second witness’s delivery for as long as it took him to mumble that “he had to go”. To this day the remaining eight witnesses have never presented their so carefully-prepared briefs. Shortly after this “hearing” Meurant was exposed in explosive headline news for conducting illicit arms dealing operations with overseas powers, only escaping dismissal from government by a whisper. In early 1995 he was banished from his key positions to the back bench in punishment for involvement in other equally nefarious affairs which ran counter to his position in government.


  • For twelve consecutive years from 1980 to 1992 NZAVS organised flamboyant marches through the city centre of Wellington.
  • In November 1990 the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture began a bulk mailing of the booklet Animal Research Saves Lives. The producers of this booklet also included the Cancer Society of New Zealand, New Zealand Heart Foundation, Medical Research Council, and the Agricultural Chemical and Animal Remedies Manufacturers’ Association. The lies contained in their propaganda were all demolished using fully- sourced scientific evidence in Bette Overell’s Animal Research Takes Lives – Humans and Animals Both Suffer
  • In 1995 a report was found in the Parliamentary archives. The report contained the decision of the Government on the NZAVS Petition to Abolish Vivisection. We could go into a point-by-point rebuttal of the report but all the information is contained in the Submission in Support of NZAVS Petition to Abolish Vivisection (available from NZAVS, refer to Materials), which the Select Committee seem to have ignored in the same manner that they refused to listen to NZAVS witnesses at the Select Committee ‘hearing’ in 1991. The report further strengthens the opinion that vivisection will never be abolished by appealing to politicians through legitimate parliamentary channels and makes it inevitable that direct actions against vivisection will increase in intensity. When legal channels have been blocked what options are left?


1992 NZAVS World Day for Laboratory Animals protest march

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