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Govt. covers up animal suffering

23 September 2008

Govt. covers up animal suffering

The Government is covering up animal welfare and other concerns about AgResearch's genetic engineering facility at Ruakura by refusing to answer any parliamentary questions about the research, says Greens Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

Research, Science and Technology Minister Pete Hodgson has declined to answer a raft of written parliamentary questions; for example, "How many genetically modified deformed foetuses have been created by AgResearch in the past eight years?", "How does AgResearch quantify `long-term' in its press release of September 4, 2008 'long term suffering to the mother' and 'long-term suffering to the recipient is highly unlikely'?" and "How many genetically modified calves suffering from respiratory conditions have been created by AgResearch in the past eight years?"

"It is unacceptable that Mr Hodgson is refusing to answer any Green Party questions by claiming '...it is an operational manner for the Board of AgResearch'," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"The public have a right to know how many genetically engineered and cloned animals have been created in a Crown-owned research institute, and funded by taxpayers. GE and cloning have significant animal welfare and ethical implications."

In its sanitised annual reports to the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) AgResearch lists numbers of births and deaths of calves and deformities, and includes a section by its own Ruakura Animal Ethics Committee, which over the past two years has included more information about deaths and deformities of GE animals. However very little detail is included and attempts by Green Party members to obtain more have been unsuccessful also.

"Government departments and Crown research institutes are expected to be held accountable for other aspects of their work, so why aren't they accountable for work which may cause serious suffering for animals involved? Why is AgResearch trying to shroud aspects of its taxpayer-funded research in secrecy?" Ms Fitzsimons says.

"We know that 19,825 animals used in experiments and other research and teaching around New Zealand last year were forced to endure 'severe' or 'very severe' suffering, according to the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC). Most are believed to involve rodents, but we don't know if any were due to genetic engineering at AgResearch. It is also impossible to find how many animals have suffered from specific deformities either as GE calves or by mothers carrying deformed GE offspring over the past eight years of AgResearch experiments and how long the suffering has lasted.

"In an appendix to an AgResearch press statement on September 4, the Crown research institute inadvertently referred to a less than 9 percent live birth rate, aborted deformed foetuses, deformed calves, gangrenous udders and `animals suffering from respiratory conditions', but won't give further detail of these."

AgResearch has submitted a new series of applications, including to genetically engineer for "outside containment" llamas, alpacas, sheep, cows, pigs, goats, buffalo, deer and horses. Public submissions on the applications are being made via the website www.ermanz.govt.nz and close on October 31.

ENDS

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