2015 data show decline in numbers of animals used for research, testing and teaching

The Ministry for Primary Industries has released the latest figures for the use of animals in research, testing and teaching in  2015.

The data are recorded in Statistics on the Use of Animals in Research, Testing and Teaching in New Zealand in 2015

They show 225,310 animals were used in research, testing and teaching in 2015, 84,977 fewer than the previous year – a 27.4 per cent decrease. The rolling three-year average, at 253,215, is at its lowest under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

Paul Daniel, Director Animal and Animal Products at the ministry, said the strict controls around the use of animals for research, testing and teaching are designed to prevent unnecessary pain and distress to animals and ensure any cost to the animals must be outweighed by the potential or actual benefits to be gained from the work.

“The Animal Welfare Act 1999 requires a code of ethical conduct be approved by MPI. In 2015, 26 institutions had codes of ethical conduct approved.

“Each project must be scrutinised and approved by an animal ethics committee that has been established under the code.

“These committees assess a range of considerations guided by the three Rs”, the internationally accepted principles of humane experimental technique,” he says.

The three Rs are:

reduction in the numbers of animals to the minimum necessary to achieve a result

replacement of animals with a less sentient or non-sentient alternative wherever possible

refinement of procedures as well as of animal environments to minimise pain or distress.

“These controls recognise that although compromised care and some pain and distress may result in significant benefits to people, other animals or the environment, such use carries with it significant responsibilities and strict legislative obligations,” says Dr Daniels.

The data show:

• The most commonly reported species in 2015, as it was in 2014, was cattle, making up 63.0 per cent of the farm animals used, and 26.3 per cent of the total number.

• Mice were again the second most common species in 2015, making up 21.5 per cent of the total.

• Fish (18.1 per cent) and sheep (10.4 per cent) were the third and fourth most commonly used species.

• In terms of species groupings, production animals (cattle, sheep, deer, goats and pigs) made up 41.8 per cent of the total, with rodents and rabbits together accounting for 27.2 per cent.

• The fall in numbers in 2015 was reflected in all species except other birds, reptiles, amphibia, fish, pigeons, guinea pigs, rabbits, horses and pigs.

• Veterinary research (39.5 per cent), animal husbandry research (20.2 per cent), teaching (19.5 per cent) and basic biological research (18.3 per cent) were the main reasons for using production animals, accounting for 91,654 animals.

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