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Decrease in Animals Used for Research

18 August 2005

Decrease in Animals Used for Research, Testing and Teaching Announced

The notification of a decrease in the numbers of animals used in research, testing and teaching was released today, in the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) Annual Report.

The 2004 year saw a reduction of animals used by 23.3 percent from the previous year. This is the lowest number since 1997 when 220,990 animals were used. The 2004 figure of 246,122 animals is also below the long-term average of 273,464.

The animal types most commonly used in 2004 were mice, sheep, cattle, and rats. Mice, sheep and cattle have all been included in the four most commonly used animals since 1989.

Of the reduction in animal use, fish, cattle and possum figures dropped significantly, with drops of 59,628, 7,692 and 6,336 animals respectively. A large scale, one-year project involving 50,000 glass eels, completed in 2003, accounted for the drop in fish numbers. Several long-term projects involving large number of possums were also completed in the previous year. The reason for the 14 percent drop in cattle numbers is less obvious. There were decreases in the number of cattle used for teaching, husbandry, medical and veterinary research and an increase in cattle used for basic biological research.

A key function of NAEAC is to provide independent advice to the Minister of Agriculture on ethical and animal welfare issues arising from the use of animals in research, testing and teaching.

Chairperson, Wyn Hoadley, said all research, testing or teaching involving live animals in New Zealand must be carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and must be approved by an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC).

“The Act requires every code holder to establish and maintain an AEC, to which NAEAC provides information and advice,” she said.

The AECs are an important part of the approval process set by the Act to ensure that the use of animals in research, testing and teaching is carried out in accordance with the Act and the principles of the ‘Three Rs’.

There were 37 AECs in operation as at 31 December 2004.

Through its strategic planning, NAEAC has continued to promote the concepts of humane science and continues to pursue improvements by encouraging alternative non-animal testing when possible.

This is supported by NAEAC’s promotion of the ‘Three Rs’, which encourage: replacement of live and conscious animals in experiments with unconscious or non-living alternatives at every opportunity; reduction in numbers to the minimum; and refinement of experimental techniques so as to minimise or eliminate any suffering involved.

This is the fifth Annual Report since the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) became a statutory committee in 1999. A copy of the report is available at http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/animal-welfare/naeac/annual-report/naeac-ar-04.pdf

ENDS

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