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NAEAC issues annual report

NAEAC issues annual report

The National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) issued its 2011 annual report today.

NAEAC chair, Virginia Williams, said the committee continued its focus on liaison, with the annual visits to institutions and animal ethics committees. Members also attended the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching Conference.

“Visiting our research institutions is something that members do each year to help facilitate discussion between NAEAC and those who are responsible for conducting - and providing ethical oversight to – the use of live animals in research, testing and teaching (RTT).

“We also publish a series of occasional papers – two this year – and send out newsletters,” Dr Williams said.

Two members retired from NAEAC in 2011, and three new members were appointed.

The annual report also contains the Ministry for Primary Industry statistics for RTT animal use in 2011. Dr Williams noted the number of animals categorised as experiencing a high impact to their welfare as a result of RTT dropped.

“The involvement of many of the agricultural animals in lower impact use, such as animal husbandry and veterinary research as well as teaching, is in part responsible for the drop in both the numbers and proportion of animals experiencing “high” or “very high” impact use over the previous year – indeed the lowest number in these two categories since 2006,” Dr Williams said.

The total number of animals reported as used in RTT for 2011 was 327,674 – a 35.3 per cent increase over the previous year.

Dr Williams said the increase reflected the fact that many projects take place over a three year period and are only reported at the end of that time.

“A truer picture of the statistics over time is obtained when we look at the rolling three year average. In 2011, despite the rise in numbers, that rolling average was marginally down.”

Cattle and sheep once again made up a high proportion of animals reported as used in RTT in 2011.

“This reflects New Zealand’s agricultural focus. In contrast, the majority of RTT procedures in the UK used mice.”

NAEAC will continue to encourage the responsible use of animals, focussing on “the Three Rs,” Dr Williams said.

“That means the replacement of live animals in experiments wherever possible, the reduction in numbers of animals used to the minimum possible to achieve a statistically significant result and the refinement of experimental techniques and general husbandry to minimise or eliminate suffering.”

You can read NAEAC’s Annual Report on the web, here: http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/regs/animal-welfare/naeac/annual-reports

For more information contact:
Ministry for Primary Industries communications advisor Sid Pickering on 04 894 2465 or email: sid.pickering@mpi.govt.nz

Questions and Answers

- What is NAEAC?
The National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) is a statutory body which provides advice to the Minister for Primary Industries and to animals ethics committees on the ethical and animal welfare issues arising from the use of live animals in research, testing and teaching (RTT).

More information about NAEAC, as well as previous annual reports, are available on the web at:


- Why was there an increase in the numbers of animals used in RTT in 2011?

Most research occurs in a three year cycle and animal numbers are only reported at the end of that time. The rise in numbers in 2011 reflects the end of that three year reporting cycle.

A rolling three year average shows that numbers in 2011 are down slightly.

- Why is it necessary to use animals in RTT?

Although much work has been done to find alternatives to animal use in RTT, there are still areas where that has not yet been possible, or, in some cases, where non-animal tests have not been validated. It is one of the functions of animal ethics committees (AECs) to require applicants to justify their use of animal-based – as opposed to non-animal-based – research.

- What is the most common type of New Zealand animal used in RTT?

Cattle and sheep comprised the highest proportion of animals used in RTT, a reflection of New Zealand’s agricultural focus.

- What rules oversee RTT in New Zealand?

The use of animals for the purpose of RTT in New Zealand is regulated by Part 6 of the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

Users of animals for RTT must ensure that the physical, health and behavioural needs of those animals are met in accordance with both good practice and scientific knowledge.

- How do animal ethics committees work?

All RTT projects must be approved by one of the 34 Animal Ethics Committees throughout New Zealand.

These committees act within the scope of a code of ethical conduct approved by the Director-General of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) on the advice of NAEAC.

There is a statutory requirement that each committee must include three independent members: a veterinarian nominated by the New Zealand Veterinary Association and not associated with the research institution, a person nominated by an animal welfare organisation (such as the RNZSPCA) and a person nominated by local government.

Another important provision is the requirement for regular independent appraisals by accredited reviewers.


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