NZers comfortable with animal testing, research
DATE 13 September 2006
New Zealanders comfortable with the use of animals for research, testing and teaching
A national survey into New Zealanders’ attitudes towards the use of animals in research, testing and teaching (RTT), commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), has provided important new information about what New Zealanders really think about the use of animals in RTT.
The survey investigated New Zealanders’ awareness and interest in the use of animals for RTT purposes and the levels of support and attitudes towards this use of animals. Awareness of the regulation of the use of animals in RTT and the degree of confidence held in the Animal Welfare Act 1999 was also examined.
Overall the level of interest in RTT is low. Only 33% of respondents expressed an interest in the issue generally and the majority agreed that the use of animals for teaching (72%) and research and testing (68%) was acceptable as long as there was no unnecessary animal suffering.
“We wanted to canvas views on the use of animals in RTT and establish precisely what the New Zealand public want to know about such animal use,” says Dr Virginia Williams, MAF veterinary adviser.
“This is the first New Zealand study of this kind. It was seen as important in ensuring that current practice and legislation pertaining to the use of animals in RTT meets societal expectations for the welfare and humane treatment of animals.”
The main reason respondents were concerned was because they felt that animals would suffer, while the main reason they were unconcerned was because they felt it was necessary to protect human health. Respondents were more likely to find that animal use was justified if it was for research into life-threatening diseases such as cancers.
The regulation of the use of animals in RTT is not well understood. Only 21% of respondents declared an awareness of any rules and regulations and only 37% of those declared they knew a lot about the legislation.
While around half of the respondents felt less comfortable with RTT when they learned about the number of animals used each year in New Zealand, nearly three quarters of them felt more comfortable when the membership of an animal ethics committee (AEC) was explained to them. There was also strong evidence that respondents supported the balanced make up of the AECs and were reassured by having an SPCA representative and veterinarian on committees.
“There will always be those that do not condone the use of animals in RTT, just as there will be those that are not concerned by it. This study shows that there is a need to ease public concerns through the provision of factual information about the regulatory system in New Zealand and the realities of the use of animals in RTT,” Dr Williams said.
An independent telephone survey of 750 people throughout New Zealand was conducted between 30 June and 7 July 2005 by independent research company, UMR Research Ltd. The survey is considered to be representative of the country as a whole.
The survey was conducted in four parts. Part one collected demographic information and asked respondents whether they were, or had ever been, active supporters of an animal welfare or animal rights organisation, whether they were or had ever been a parent, had children at school and whether they had a pet. Part two collected information about awareness and interest in the use of animals for research and testing purposes and separately for use in teaching. Part three looked at attitudes to the use of animals in RTT and the level of concern or lack of concern about such use and part four explored awareness of the Animal Welfare Act 1999.