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DEATH BY COMMITTEE: New Zealand’s ‘secretive’ animal testing regime

NZAVS believes 'secretive' committees are set up to favor research institutes, and the system is designed to continue animal experimentation rather than replace the use of animals.

ROB MITCHELL: ‘The New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society (NZAVS) revealed that, among a number of animals, 10 dogs were fed poisoned possum in a series of tests at Lincoln University. All survived but were later “put down”. And Victoria University has been in the media over its use of the forced swim test, in which mice are placed in water-filled containers, and their reaction to the threat of drowning observed as part of research into depression. MPI’s most recent publicly released figures from 2016 show close to 300,000 animals are “manipulated” in this country for research, testing and teaching each year, with 15 per cent suffering moderate to high impact as part of that process, and rodents and rabbits taking the brunt of those impacts.

According to those figures, 98 per cent of mice used in testing died or were euthanised, 96 per cent of guinea pigs, 90 per cent of rabbits, 89 per cent of pigs, 87 per cent of rats and 75 per cent of possums. The overall figure is likely to rise dramatically, after a 2018 law change made it mandatory to include, for the first time, animals killed for tissue or organ samples as a manipulation… NZAVS claims many other animals have been killed or harmed in other “barbaric” experiments… “Our core belief is that animals are sentient, not commodities,” says NZAVS executive director, Tara Jackson. “We wouldn’t support any industry that exploits animals”…

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is at the heart of everything within the animal research industry: it plays a key role in writing and overseeing the rules that govern not only the members of the many Animal Ethics Committees (AEC) that make life-and-death decisions; it runs the rule over the reports from those doing the testing and research; it can commission independent reviews into entities and individuals involved in that research, even writes the rules and sets the accreditation for those reviewers; and MPI is the convener of compliance and prosecution for any breaches…

Committees are tasked with considering every research request and weighing both the impact on the animals and the possible benefits of that work. Manipulations are graded from A – “No impact or virtually no impact” – to E, or “Very high impact”, which can include intense, prolonged pain and even death. The great majority of research has little or no impact and involves feed, productivity and other tests on the nation’s livestock and pets. Other animals are used to study human disease, injury, development, psychology, and anatomy and physiology. Testing for the cosmetics industry was banned in 2015…

According to Jackson, that includes implants surgically placed into animals’ brains, the “hot water tail-withdrawal assay”, and animals being fed methamphetamines and other drugs to study addiction… Jackson believes the “secretive” committees are set up to favour the research institute, and the system is “designed to continue animal experimentation rather than replace the use of animals”… “I’m not confident that there is enough of the voice [supporting animals] in that process, and the reason I’m not confident is the type of experiments that are approved; there are horrific things that still happen to animals that a AEC has approved”.’  SOURCE…

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