Report on Animals ‘Used’ and ‘Killed’ for Science Highlights the Need for Govt Intervention

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has released its most recent report on the use of animals for science in NZ.
June 7, 2023

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has released its most recent report on the use of animals in science, stating that 308,872 animals were used for research, testing and teaching in NZ that year, and nearly half (47%) of these animals were killed. These figures highlight that animals are continuing to be used in harmful ways in NZ for science.

The report -  Statistics on the use of animals in research, testing and teaching - which uses 2021 statistics, also shows that:

  • An additional 178,569 animals were bred for research, testing or teaching purposes and not used but were subsequently killed. 
  • The 3-year average of animals used for science in NZ was 290,323, which is an increase of 2,846 from the previous year.

The New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society (NZAVS), the only charity in NZ dedicated to ending animal experimentation, has described the report as “an important reminder that our current research system involves animal suffering.”

Tara Jackson, Executive Director of NZAVS, says that this new report is further evidence that the animal science and research community needs better leadership from the NZ Government and now:

“We can do much better than what these figures are showing. Constant improvements in animal-free technologies are happening globally, and we need to be at the forefront of these. Especially when there is a shared desire within the science and research community in Aotearoa to reduce our reliance on animals used in science. What stands in their way, however, are policy settings and legislation that will continue to be barriers to progress until the NZ Government removes them, as many other governments around the world have done to date.”

These policy and legislative barriers include:

(1) No government funding for the animal science and research industry to help replace the use of animals in science by being able to further develop or access animal-free technologies that are available. 

(2) Firm requirements for mandatory testing on animals in NZ law, which leave no room for validated animal-free methods to be used in Aotearoa and

(3) No incentive to replace animals used in science by not phasing out the use of animals for science as technology permits.

“These mandatory requirements to test on animals, together with a lack of funding, naturally disincentives our animal science and research community from replacing the use of animals for science wherever possible, especially when there is also no agreed government vision to phase out the use of animals in favour of more robust animal-free technological advances,” Miss Jackson surmises.

The report shows that a wide range of animals are used for science in NZ. From mice, rats, rabbits and guinea pigs to cows, sheep, possums and fish. In fact, fish were the most used species (61,861), followed by cattle (57,308) and rabbits (56,187).

The report also lists examples of how animals were used in cases deemed high impact including:

  • 55,000 wild rabbits were used in a trial to assess the impact of an experimental formulation containing 1080 in carrot baits.
  • 14 rats were used in a trial that included adverse events using oral gavage (force-feeding), hypoxia (oxygen deprivation) and stereotaxic survival surgery.
  • 33 cats were used in a trial to study the acceptance of non-toxic as well as toxic baits.

According to Jackson, this is just ‘the tip of the iceberg’.

"Far too many animals are suffering in the name of science. We’re constantly discovering and exposing cruel animal experiments that have happened in NZ. But it doesn't have to be this way - we could transition to better methods.”

This MPI report is timely as NZAVS and members of the local and international animal science and research community presented to the Primary Production Select Committee last month (May) on the funding and mandatory requirements policy issues. As a result, NZAVS is asking for the NZ Government to make three commitments to help the animal science and research community make desired change:

(1) Phase out the use of animals for science as technology permits; (2) phase out the requirements in NZ legislation for animal testing and (3) allocate funding for using and developing animal-free research, testing and teaching methods.

“These requests are not only reasonable but feasible as steps forward like this are already happening across the globe. It’s now up to the government to decide if New Zealand can ‘catch up’ and therefore hold on to our ‘world-leading’ animal welfare, trading credentials and ultimately deliver better long-term health outcomes for humans and animals in Aotearoa; and faster,” Miss Jackson concludes.

With your help we can end animal experimentation in Aotearoa.