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Why are 200,000+ animal experiments secret?

Why are 200,000+ animal experiments as secret as the SIS?

The Government must lift the veil of secrecy and explain why experiments were conducted on more than two hundred thousand live animals in New Zealand last year, says Greens MP Sue Kedgley.

She made the call at a rally at Parliament today to protest at the Australia New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART) conference being held at a secret Wellington venue.

"The secrecy surrounding the present ANZCCART conference is symptomatic of the impenetrable wall of confidentiality surrounding everything to do with animal experimentation in New Zealand," said Ms Kedgley, the Green Party's Animal Welfare Spokesperson.

"The only other largely taxpayer-funded, controversial activity that is as shrouded in secrecy and lacking in public accountability or monitoring, that I can think of, is the SIS.

"Two years ago ANZCCART promised to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding animal research and introduce greater accountability and transparency. They also promised to publish summaries of all research projects involving animal experiments on a website, but that has not appeared. None of their promises have been kept.

"This means that New Zealanders still have no idea what experiments are actually being conducted on animals, whether they can be justified under the legislation that governs them and why it was necessary to subject more than 1696 animals to 'severe' suffering last year.

"For example, we have no idea why Auckland University experimented on 35 dogs last year or why a government department - DOC - experimented on 43 native Kereru pigeons and caused them severe suffering. Both these institutions are taxpayer funded; surely we are entitled to know the purpose of this research and whether our taxpayer dollars were spent wisely and ethically? And why do we allow suffering classed as 'severe' to be inflicted on animals, when most civilised societies prohibit this?"

Ms Kedgley said she had established, through papers released under the Official Information Act, that more than two hundred thousand animals were experimented on in 2004. "But that's all I have been able to discover. I have no idea why these experiments were conducted, or whether they were necessary.

"We need to remember that causing animals to suffer breaches the basic values of a civilised society and conflicts with the central principle of the Animal Welfare Act. So we have a right to ask questions and expect some accountability about such a controversial area of research.

"Even the Animal Ethics Committees which approve these experiments meet in secret. As a Member of Parliament and an Animal Welfare spokesperson, I cannot find out whether these committees work or are effective, or whether animal experiments are being wrongly sanctioned. Clearly, when even Parliamentarians cannot get answers, there is no public accountability or scrutiny whatsoever.

"Why is there such a culture of excessive secrecy surrounding even the committees which approve animal experiments? Why is it that ethics committees governing human research operate in a reasonably open and transparent way, while committees governing research on animals are as secretive as the SIS?"

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