The University of Otago's Poor Excuses

We need action, not empty words and poor excuses.
March 21, 2022

At the end of last year, we ran our biggest exposé ever with the University of Otago right at the very center! Over 12 days of Christmas we exposed gruesome experiments that they had conducted on animals – from electrocuting bees to drilling holes into the heads of guinea pigs and draining blood from sheep.

This exposé gained A LOT of exposure and had the University of Otago making ridiculous excuses to the media:

“They [the University of Otago] strongly refuted claims they were not committed to reducing the amount of animals used in testing.” – from an article by Stuff.

The problem with this excuse is that when we look at how many animals, they are using for science each year, the numbers are actually increasing over time…

2015: 13,563

2016: 14,213

2017: 17,977

2018: 23,247

2019: 35,076

The information above was obtained via multiple OIA requests to the Ministry for Primary Industries.

“But the university says at least some of the society's allegations are based on old experiments, no longer performed at the university” – from an article by Newstalk ZB.

Old experiments no longer happening? Well… here’s a list of experiments recently conducted by the University of Otago that are just as gruesome as the ones exposed last year.

A few examples of experiments approved by the University of Otago’s Animal Ethics Committee that were published in 2021:

  • Healthy mice injected with cancer to investigate why a treatment has such a low success rate (in humans): Mice were injected with cancer cells. The growth was monitored, biopsied at a certain stage and after treating half the mice for 3 weeks, all were killed.1
  • Mice were made to have seizures and had electrodes implanted into their brains: Genetically modified mice had wires and a cannula implanted in their brains and were medically induced to have seizures.2
  • Genetically modified mice were killed by flushing their hearts or breaking their necks to try and study epilepsy: Genetically modified mice were bred to produce offspring with specific genetic limitations. Some were killed just for dissection; others were injected with seizure-inducing drugs before they were killed.3
  • Pregnant rats were injected to induce “schizophrenia” in their babies: Pregnant rats were injected to alter the brain development of their litters. Some pups were allowed to grow to 3 months of age, put in plastic containers, and their calls to each other were recorded.4
  • Rats were purposely bred with “diabetes”: Rats were anaesthetised, put in a stereotaxic frame, and had their skulls drilled open to inject colchicine (gout medication). After surgery, they were anaesthetised again, their hearts were perfused, and their brains were removed.5
  • Mice had brain “windows” implanted while they are awake: Transgenic and non-transgenic mice had a part of their brain-damaged and a window put into their skull to take recordings of their brains' reaction to stimuli. For at least 15 days, they were deprived of water most of the time and put into a device immobilising their head for 25min each day. Sometimes, they’d get puffed in the face with air, sometimes they had to hold a lever that would occasionally vibrate. Sometimes both. They’d get water once the session was over. In the end, all were killed.6
  • Mice were tested for “maternal motivation” by leaving 2-day old mice out in the open: Mice were put in a T-Maze Pup Retrieval Test where three foster pups (2–7 days old) were placed in an open tube for the adult mouse to retrieve. The Barrier Climbing Test was also conducted on mice where a barrier was placed between the adult mouse and three foster pups (2-7 days old) for her to retrieve. Some transgenic mice were tested for anxiety behaviour in the standard elevated-plus-maze, too.7

If the University of Otago is committed to making progress then they need to be more transparent and properly explain what they are doing to replace the use of animals for science wherever possible. We need action, not empty words and poor excuses.

With your help we can end animal experimentation in Aotearoa.